How to Grow and Care for Philodendron Rugosum

Philodendron Rugosum close-up in the interior

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Adding a philodendron to your indoor plant collection is sure to provide exotic flair without testing your houseplant care skills too much. There are lots of low-maintenance types of philodendron to choose from, but if you're looking for one that stands out from the crowd, why not try the rare and unusual Philodendron rugosum?

This large, fast-growing tropical aroid works fantastically as a trendy statement plant with its large, waxy, dark green foliage and stand-out veins. It's also known as the sow's ear philodendron because of the thick texture and shape of the leaves. If you squint, the foliage, which gathers wrinkles at the plant's stem, almost resembles a pig's hide-like ear. A tall, vining plant, you can train your Philodendron rugosum to grow up a trellis or pole or have it cascading from a hanging basket.

Just make sure you keep this plant away from curious nibblers. As with all philodendrons, the rugosum is toxic to pets and humans if ingested.

Common Name Pigskin philodendron, Sow's ear plant
 Botanical Name Philodendron Rugosum
 Family Araceae
 Plant Type Vine, Perennial
 Mature Size Up to 15 feet tall outdoors
 Sun Exposure Sun, Partial Shade
 Soil Type Well-drained
 Soil pH Acidic, Neutral
 Bloom Time Spring (but rarely flowers indoors)
 Flower Color White
 Hardiness Zones 9-11 (USDA)
 Native Area South America
Toxicity Toxic to pets and people

Philodendron Rugosum Care

Like many species in the genus, the Philodendron rugosum is an excellent beginner houseplant. It's adaptable, forgiving, and relatively low-maintenance. It's also a popular bathroom plant because it can handle lower light conditions.

Light

One of the big selling points of the Philodendron rugosum is its adaptability to a variety of light conditions. While you shouldn't set it in a spot with too much direct sun, it can handle low light. But, if you want to encourage the most attractive, large foliage and fast growth, set it in an east-facing window where the plant gets bright, indirect sunlight. Filtering the light is best if you locate your plant directly in a south-facing window.

A low-light bathroom can work, but growth will be markedly slower and the foliage is likely to be less impressive.

Soil

This robust plant adapts well to various soils, providing they drain well. There are plenty of good aroid mixes, or you can make your own. A rich blend of orchid bark, perlite, and peaty soil works well. If you need to up the drainage, chuck in some gravel.

Water

While your Philodendron rugosum will appreciate more consistent moisture than some species in the genus, watch out for over-watering. It leads to root rot, one of the major killers of this plant. Check that the top couple of inches of soil is dry before irrigating. Use the simple finger test rather than judging by eye or going with a strict schedule. Water thoroughly, but don't let the soil get soggy.

Watering from the bottom rather than the top ensures the soil is consistently moist throughout, not just superficially on the surface.

Temperature and Humidity

Part of the reason the Philodendron rusgosum is such a popular houseplant is its ability to handle a wide range of temperatures. Anywhere between 55 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit promotes healthy growth. Just keep the plant away from drafts and chilly rooms—it isn't a cold hardy species.

It can handle humidity levels from 40 percent, but higher humidity promotes lusher, larger leaves.

Fertilizer

Regular feeding during the plant's growth phase helps promote impressive foliage. A dose of diluted liquid fertilizer monthly is a good place to start, especially if you position your plant in a bright spot. Don't go in with a full-strength mix as you risk burning the plant's roots and lay off feeding during the dormant phase during winter.

Propagating Philodendron Rugosum

You're spoilt for choice when it comes to propagating your Philodendron rugosum. It's possible to create new plants via division, or air layering, but the most popular option is propagating from stem cuttings. To maximize your chances of success, try following these steps:

  1. Select a healthy stem from a mature plant and, using a sterile knife or shears, take a cutting of around 4 inches long.
  2. Ensure the cutting has at least a couple of leaves at the top of the stem and two exposed nodes on the bottom end.
  3. Allow the base of the cutting to callus over before placing it in the potting mix—this can take a week or two.
  4. Insert the stem into the potting mix—do this by making a hole with a pencil or just your finger. Make sure the soil covers the node.
  5. Make sure to fill in around the hole with soil to secure the base of the stem.
  6. Pop the container in a spot with bright but indirect light and ensure the soil stays consistently moist.
  7. Wait for a new root system to establish. Once you see signs of new growth, you can transfer the cutting to a larger pot if needed.

Potting and Repotting Philodendron Rugosum

The fast-growing Philodendron rugosum will need repotting more regularly than some species in the genus. To encourage a tall, healthy plant, you don't want it to be restricted and root-bound. If growth slows or you spot roots poking out the drainage holes, it is likely time to move up a pot size or two. This will typically be every one to two years, depending on your plant's position, conditions and health.

Avoid going for a pot that's considerably larger than the old size. An overly large pot means excess moisture can gather in the soil rather than being absorbed by the plant. This can quickly lead to root rot.

Fill the new pot with the well-draining mix until it is around 1/3 full. Pop the plant in the pot and then fill in gaps around the root and stems, filling the pot to just below the pot's rim.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

While these plants are easy to care for, they can still be bothered by some common pests. The most common culprits are spider mites and mealybugs. You can nip both in the bud by treating them with insecticidal soap or organic neem oil.

Common Problems With Philodendron Rugosum

Your Philodendron rugosum might be a forgiving species, but to make the most of its fantastic foliage, you'll want to alter light, water, or humidity levels if you spot signs your plant isn't happy. Keep an eye out for the following problems.

Yellowing Leaves

Consider light, water, and fertilizing schedules if those glossy dark green leaves turn yellow. Too much direct sunlight, overly dry conditions, and excessive feeding can cause unsightly discoloration of the foliage.

Curling or Droopy Leaves

Curling leaves tend to be a sign your plant is thirsty and needs more regular watering. If the foliage is droopy, it can also indicate the same thing. Sometimes dropping leaves might mean you are overwatering, so always do the finger test to check whether the soil is dry, and watch out for leaving the soil too soggy.

Brown Tips

Browning foliage is typically a sign of underwatering or inadequate humidity. If you want to be sure you're offering the right humidity levels, invest in a meter to get accurate readings. You can then use a humidifier or sit your plant in a tray filled with pebbles and water to up moisture levels.

Also, watch out for plopping your plant in a window where it's getting too much direct sun. This is likely to lead to brown scorching.

FAQ
  • Is Philodendron rugosum a climber?

    Like many species in this genus, the Philodendron rugosum is a vining plant. As it grows, you will likely need to provide support in the form of a pole or trellis or allow it to trail from a shelf or large hanging basket.

  • Is Philodendron rugosum an indoor plant?

    If you live in a region with a year-round warm climate, you can grow your Philodendron rugosum outdoors. However, this tropical plant isn't cold-hardy, so it is best grown as a houseplant in most regions.

  • Is Philodendron rugosum rare?

    The Philodendron rugosum is endangered in the wild and isn't the sort of plant you will find widely in your run-of-the-mill retailers. You will likely have to source it from a specialist nursery or online seller, paying a premium for the privilege. However, if you find one, you'll be rewarded with a talking point plant that, with the right care, you should appreciate for many years.

Article Sources
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  1. Heartleaf Philodendron. ASPCA,

  2. Dieffenbachia and Philodendron. National Capital Poison Center.