It's no wonder philodendrons are such popular houseplants. These species are prized for their tropical-looking foliage and low-maintenance care characteristics. There are many types of philodendrons to choose from, but if you're an enthusiast searching for something a bit more unusual, why not look out for a Philodendron squamiferum?
If you're a fan of the large-lobed leaves of monstera species, this plant might bring them to mind. Mature vining Philodendron squamiferum often have large dark green, textual foliage that grows up to 18 inches long. The hairy stems, known as petioles, develop a red hue once they mature, and this is where the plant gets its common name: the red bristle philodendron.
Mature plants given a prime floor spot and a pole or trellis to climb up are sure to stop any visitors in their tracks. However, there are more pet-friendly houseplants if you have kids or four-legged family members prone to nibbling on your collection. Like other philodendrons, the squamiferum is toxic to pets and humans.
|Common Name||Red bristle philodendron|
|Botanical Name||Philodendron squamiferum|
|Plant Type||Vine, Perennial|
|Mature Size||Up to 15 feet tall|
|Sun Exposure||Sun, Partial Shade|
|Soil pH||Acidic, Neutral|
|Bloom Time||Rarely blooms indoor|
|Hardiness Zones||9-11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||South and Central America|
|Toxicity||Toxic to pets and people|
Philodendron Squamiferum Care
If you find one of these elusive plants, it's a perfect exotic-looking, showstopping beginner houseplant. Like most philodendron species, it's resilient, versatile, and pretty forgiving of rookie plant care errors.
As you'd expect of a tropical native commonly found under rainforest tree canopies, your Philodendron squamiferum does best in bright but indirect light. Too much light will discolor those stunning dark leaves.
Popping your plant within a few feet of an east or west-facing window is typically a perfect position. If you have no choice but to sit them beside a sunny south-facing window, use a sheer curtain to filter the light.
Your Philodendron squamiferum is an epiphytic species that can absorb moisture and nourish from aerial roots. Growing in a container, they appreciate a loose, well-drained potting mix. Combining the likes of equal parts orchid bark, perlite, and peaty soil (with some gravel thrown in if needed to up the drainage) is a good blend. Alternatively, there are plenty of ready-made commercial aroid mixes to choose from.
While not wholly drought-tolerant, it's unlikely to be a disaster if you are occasionally a bit tardy with your watering schedule. Overwatering your Philodendron squamiferum, however, is a common killer. These plants don't like wet feet, which leads to root rot and pest infestations.
Rather than having a strict schedule, assess when to water your plant by sticking a finger into the soil. It's best to wait until at least the top few inches of soil feel fully dry before watering again.
Temperature and Humidity
It shouldn't be surprising that this tropical native likes higher-than-average indoor humidity levels—dry air isn't this plant's friend. That means you might have to use a humidifier, group alongside plants with similar requirements, or place the container on top of a pebble and water-filled tray.
They're going to do poorly in chilly, drafty rooms too. You want to select a spot where temperatures don't drop too low—ideally between 50 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
The slow-growing Philodendron squamiferum isn't a heavy feeder, but fertilizing a couple of times a month during the spring and summer can help to promote large, glossy foliage. Gentle, organic options, like a fish emulsion, work well, or you can try using a diluted water-soluble or slow-release product.
While the Philodendron squamiferum is a slow grower, mature plants can get pretty tall. By pruning or pinching back regularly, you can help keep its form more compact, full, and bushy. Just remove dead or dying leaves if you want a tall, vining plant.
Propagating Philodendron Squamiferum
Part of the popularity of philodendron species is their ease of propagation. You might have success attempting to grow them from seeds, but sourcing seeds can be challenging, and the process is much longer and more tricky. So, if you want to gift some rare Philodendron squamiferum to your plant-loving friends and family, consider propagating by stem cuttings.
Follow these steps to increase your chances of success:
- Use sterile, sharp pruning shears or scissors and take a healthy, mature 3-5 inch stem cutting with at least 4 leaves.
- Get rid of the bottom leaves (leaving just 2 or 3 leaves at the top) and ensure there are healthy, exposed nodes at the bottom of the cutting.
- Fully submerge the nodes in a clear jar of water or plant in well-draining potting soil in a position with bright, indirect light.
- Either change the water every few days or keep the soil moist but not soggy.
- Once you see roots around 1 inch long or the cutting stays put when you gently tug it, the roots are sufficiently established for you to repot and treat as you would a mature plant. This typically takes 2 to 4 weeks.
Potting and Repotting Philodendron Squamiferum
Even though the Philodendron squamiferum is relatively slow-growing, its vigorous root system will eventually outgrow the pot. Typically you'll need to repot every few years—look out for roots starting to poke out the drainage holes.
Rootbound plants will appreciate being moved to a pot at least a couple of inches wider than the current one. Don't go too big or you risk overwatering and causing root rot because the moisture in the soil won't be absorbed quickly enough.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
Thankfully, these easy plants don't suffer from too many diseases, and pests aren't usually a major worry. However, fungus gnats can appear if you are guilty of overwatering. Underwatering and dry conditions can invite spider mites, although spraying with water and wiping away with insecticidal soap or neem oil can nip them in the bud.
Common Problems With Philodendron Squamiferum
Don't think that because philodendrons can be forgiving they will let you away with being a truly neglectful plant parent. If you want to continue to see impressive foliage, you'll need to keep an eye out for common problems that signify you need to tweak your Philodendron squamiferum's care.
Leaving your Philodendron squamiferum dry for too long or with wet feet will eventually kill it. But before that happens, yellowing leaves are often your plant's way of telling you to evaluate your watering schedule.
Infestations of common pests, like spider mites, can also result in leaf discoloration, so make sure you tackle them before things get out of control.
Curling or droopy leaves tend to indicate your plant needs hydration and that you might need to up your watering schedule. If the leaves start dropping, it could mean the opposite: you are overwatering.
If the room you keep your Philodendron squamiferum in isn't humid enough, one of the first signs that this is a problem is browning, crispy leaf tips. Fungal infections can also cause black or browning tips, so promote good air circulation and try not to splash the foliage when watering.
Is the Philodendron squamiferum rare?
While it might not be the rarest plant in the genus, the Philodendron squamiferum isn't likely to be one you'll find in your run-of-the-mill plant retailer. You'll need to go to a specialist supplier and expect to pay a premium.
Is Philodendron squamiferum a fast grower?
If you're looking for a philodendron that will fill a tall space in your home quickly, don't pick the squamiferum. This is a relatively slow-growing species, although, once mature, it can reach heights of over 10 feet.
How big does Philodendron squamiferum get?
It's not unheard of for the Philodendron squamiferum to reach heights of over 15 feet tall in its native tropical South and Central American environments. It would be rare for it to reach those heady heights when kept as a houseplant, but with the right conditions and time, it might reach close to 10 feet tall.