Rhaphidophora Decursiva: Care Guide

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Are you looking for a houseplant that would be easy to maintain and that will enliven your living space with its tropical beauty? You are in the right place! Meet the Rhaphidophora decursiva, an evergreen tropical rainforest plant.

Here you will learn about the main characteristics of this plant. What interests you the most, caring for the plant is described in detail here to make sure that this way you can become a real expert in growing Rhaphidophora decursiva.

We will also deal with the problems you may face and finally the interesting details that must not be left out of the whole story of this vining plant.

So let’s go on an adventure.

Quick Guide

BOTANICAL NAME

Rhaphidophora Decursiva

NATIVE HABITAT

India, Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos), and Southern China

MATURE SIZE

In the wild 50 feet tall

ABILITY TO CLIMB

With the help of aerial roots.

LEAVES (MATURE)

Dark-green in color and deeply-lobed 

FLOWERING TIME

Spring and summer

FLOWER

Yellowish color

LIGHT

Bright indirect sunlight

TEMPERATURE

55 to 85 °F (13 to 30 °C)

HUMIDITY

50 – 60 %

WATERING

After the first 2 inches of soil dry out.

SOIL TYPE 

Clay to Sandy Loam

SOIL pH

5.5 – 6.0

FERTILIZER

Houseplant fertilizer once a month through spring and summer.

TOXICITY

Toxic to children and pets

 

Rhaphidophora Decursiva Essentials

Learn about the main characteristics of the plant.

Classification

  • Clade: Tracheophytes
  • Clade: Angiosperms
  • Clade: Monocots
  • Order: Alismatales
  • Family: Araceae (aroids or arum family)
  • Genus: Rhaphidophora
  • Species: Rhaphidophora decursiva
It is classified as an epiphyte due to its way of growth. Epiphytes (air plants) are not bound to the ground. These plants grow by relying on other plants, but not as parasites. That is to say, they do not take water or nutrients from their host.

More precisely, Rhaphidophora decursiva is a hemiepiphyte (lives one part of their lives as epiphyte and the other part of their lives is rooted in the ground).
 

Leaves

See the description of the young and mature leaves of this plant.

Juvenile Leaves

Oval-shaped, small and pointed leaves are a feature of the young plant. They are bluish to greenish in color.

Mature Leaves

Later on, as Rhaphidophora decursiva matures, the leaves become dark green. Besides, they split developing deep lobes that reach nearly to the midvein. 

Outdoors the leaves become gigantic to dimensions of 40 inches (1 meter) in length and 20 inches (0,5 meters) wide. However, at home, they will be smaller.

Stems

The young plant has slim stems. However, as the plant grows, the stems thicken to 1.1 to 2 inches (3 to 5 cm).

Recommendation: When your Rhaphidophora decursiva starts to grow, guide stems so you can set them in the desired direction.

Aerial Roots

These roots grow outside the soil. They develop from nodes located on the stem of Rhaphidophora decursiva above the soil.

The role of aerial roots is to provide the plant with stability in the air (outside the soil) and by attaching to a tree or some nearby structure, such as walls to climb the plant to higher altitudes.

Flowers

The flowering time of Rhaphidophora decursiva is in spring and summer. However, blooming is usually possible only outdoor.

 Spadix looks like corn, and around it is curved bract, known as spathe. This flower range in color from cream to yellow to green.

 The spadix is characteristic of plants from the Araceae family. It is an inflorescence consisting of a fleshy axis that bears small apetalous, unisexual flowers.

 In a natural habitat, Rhaphidophora can reach a height of higher than 50 feet tall (15 Meters). Therefore, it is known as the giant climber.

 On the other hand, indoor Rhaphidophora decursiva can grow up to 5 feet (1.5 Meters). Also, aerial roots help the plant absorb moisture and nutrients from rainwater.

Fruits

Raphidophora decursiva fruit represents the sticky pulp on the spike. The color of the fruit can be dark green, creamy, yellowish, or even orange.

Remark: Pay attention to the fact that fruits and all other parts of the plant are poisonous.

Native Habitat

These plants can be found in evergreen forests, and monsoon rain forests as they crawl on the ground and climb trees.

 Rhaphidophora decursiva is native to India, Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos), and also Southern China in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Care

Find out how to care for your plant in the right way.

Plant Pot

We must give the root enough space for its growth and development, in order for Rhaphidophora decursiva to thrive.

 Therefore, the container should be 10 to 20 inches (25 to 50 centimeters) in diameter, and 10 inches (25 centimeters) deep.

Soil

Hands in soil

The Rhaphidophora decursiva soil should be rich in nutrients and well-draining so that oxygen can reach its roots.

It is recommended that the soil be slightly acidic (PH range 5.5 – 6.0). This can be reached by spraying the soil with diluted vinegar (in a gallon of water 2 drops of vinegar). The potting mix should be airy and well-draining.

Homemade Potting Mix

You can also make a mixture at home:

  • one part peat moss
  • one part vermiculite
  • one part coco coir
  • one part perlite
  • 0.5 part sphagnum moss

Fertilizing

In order for Rhaphidophora decursiva to be additionally nourished and the beauty of its leaves to come to the fore, houseplant fertilizer should be used once a month through spring and summer.

However, when it gets cold in fall and winter, the use of fertilizers should be reduced to a minimum. Moreover, it is best to turn it off completely during that period.

Spray the fertilizer at a distance of 7 inches from the stem.

The Difference Between Potting Soil and Potting Mix

Potting Soil

  • can be with or without garden soil
  • can contain pathogens (fungi or other diseases)

Potting Mix

  • does not contain soil
  • there are no pathogenic organisms, which makes it a sterile environment and certainly safer for plants.
  • it contains components that affect better drainage and aeration: sphagnum moss, peat moss, aged bark (pine bark), coir (from coconut husks), vermiculite, and perlite.
  • it may also contain fertilizer

Note: Make sure that all the listed components are in the product (check on the bag). Otherwise don’t buy it.

Light for Your Rhaphidophora

The natural environment for this plant is in the shade of rainforest, protected from direct light.

 So at your home, Rhaphidophora decursiva also does not tolerate direct light, but on the other hand, it does not like too dark surroundings. Therefore, a south-facing window is the best place for your houseplant, with bright indirect light.

 Using LED lights (like this one on Urban Leaf) in the spring can be beneficial for the growth of your Rhaphidophora.

Water

Indoor Watering

Once a week in the summer, and once in two weeks or less during the rest of the year – this would be the best watering option for your plant.

The watering indicator is when you feel with your finger that the top 2 inches of soil are dry. Provide the plant with a sufficient amount of water, so that the water reaches the roots.

If water remains in the plate under the pot, be sure to throw it out. If your plant is constantly sitting in water, there may be a reduced supply of oxygen to your Rhaphidophora decursiva, root rot, and eventually decay of the plant.

The water you use to water the plant should first stand for some time at room temperature. Cold water can shock your plant.

It is recommended that you periodically wipe the leaves with a damp sponge to remove dust. Also moisturizing the leaves contributes to their well-being.

Outdoor Watering

After Rhaphidophora decursiva is planted, it should be watered regularly for the first year.

Water the plant well and not so often. Provide your Rhaphidophora decursiva with enough water so that the roots are saturated.

 With container-grown plants, water so much that water flows through the drainage holes. However, with in-ground plants, water should pass through approximately 6 inches of soil.

To save water it is best to water early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
Water conservation methods should also be considered, such as mulching, drip irrigation, and xeriscaping.

Overwatered Rhaphidophora

Be careful not to over-water the plant, because this can lead to its damage and decay. We can see that for example by yellow and also dropping leaves and very wet soil.

Underwatered Rhaphidophora

Dry soil, yellowing of leaves, brown and crispy edges of the leaves, and slow growth tell us that our plant is thirsty.

Drought Tolerance

Rhaphidophora decursiva can withstand a long time without water. Days may pass that we forgot to water it, yet it survives. However, keep in mind that you water your plant regularly during the growing season.

Temperature

This plant tolerates temperatures in the range of 55 to 85 °F (13 to 30 °C). So on colder days, it is better to bring your Rhaphidophora decursiva inside and also remove it from the window to a warmer place.

Humidity

It is very important to ensure the optimal level of humidity of your plant, which is 50-60%.

 When Rhaphidophora decursiva is exposed to low humidity, its leaves begin to turn yellow and dry gradually. Remove the plant if it is near air vents or radiators.

It is best to place the pot on the tray in which you previously put damp pebbles.

Here are other ways you can provide Rhaphidophora decursiva with adequate humidity:

  • put the plant in the bathroom or kitchen.
  • place a bowl of water nearby.
  • place other plants near your Rhaphidophora decursiva.

Climbing Structure for Your Rhaphidophora

Plants that are outside grow creeping around a large tree or some nearby larger structure, such as a wall.

Therefore indoor plants should be provided with a climbing structure. You can just place a simple wooden pole covered with peat moss.

 The aerial roots help Rhaphidophora decursiva to climb and by stimulating the natural climbing ability of this plant, it accelerates its growth and progress.

 Climbing structure gives your Rhaphidophora beautiful stable support and allows it to grow as in nature.

Propagation of Rhaphidophora Decursiva

There are two methods that encourage the propagation of your plant: the stem cutting method and “air layering.”

Stem Cutting Method 

Using Soil
  • Put the potting mix in the pot in which you want the new Rhaphidophora decursiva plant to grow. Then moisten it.
  • You need to find a node on the stem.The node is at the place where the two stems separate. There is a thickened tissue and it can often be seen that the aerial root has already started to grow from there.
  • Use a sharp sterilized knife to cut the stem 8 inches long, with 2 or 3 aerial roots.
  • Remove the leaves from the lower end of the cutting.
  • To boost growth you can apply rooting hormone gel or powder.
  • Make a hole in the soil and plant your Rhaphidophora decursiva so that the aerial roots are below the soil surface.
  • Once again water a little bit during the cutting.
  • Put your plant in a place with indirect light and optimal temperature.
  • It takes a little patience for new roots to grow, in about 4 weeks. The new stem will grow in about 6 weeks.
Water Medium

A plant with roots in a glass jar

You can use water medium instead of soil. Put the cutting in a glass of water. It is best to change the water 2 to 3 times a week to keep your plant growing well. If you don’t have time to change the water, it’s okay to just add it.

 It is very important to periodically clean the roots. Rhaphidophora decursiva can live in an aqueous medium for months if you take good care of it. This means cleaning the roots, changing the water regularly and when it grows, moving the plant to a larger container.

 You can plant the cutting when it grows 5 roots a few inches long.

“Air Layering”

This method encourages the plant to quickly develop new aerial roots. Follow the next steps:

  • Wrap moistened horticultural moss around the stem and fix it with twine. New aerial roots will soon begin to develop.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut the stem under the moss so that the main stem will still remain in the pot, and you will plant the cutting in a new pot.
  • For the first few days, moisten the soil daily, and then continue with the usual watering of the plant.

Repotting Rhaphidophora Decursiva

It is time to re-pot this plant if:

  • the roots started coming out from the drainage holes.
  • its growth and development have stopped.
  • if the new leaves are tiny.
  • if the clump of roots thickens significantly.

Procedure

Consider repotting Rhaphidophora decursiva into a new larger pot approximately every year or two. The new pot should be 2 inches larger than the previous one.

 To make repotting easier, water the plant a few hours before. Fill the new pot with fresh soil. Use a knife to separate the roots from the pot. Start watering your Rhaphidophora decursiva a few days after repotting.

Prunning

When this plant is provided with climbing conditions, it will thrive and grow quickly. In order for the size of your Rhaphidophora decursiva to match the home environment, you need to prune it from time to time.

 So the goal is to reduce the size of the plant by pruning, but also to remove the yellowed dried leaves. In this way, the remaining leaves will become larger and the beauty of your plant will come to full expression.

Growth Zone for Rhaphidophora Decursiva

It is recommended that this plant be located on patios in a range of USDA growth zones from 4a to 11. However, outdoors should be only in zones 9a to 11. 

Potential Problems

The Ruined Appearance of the Plant

  • Small leaves -if the progress of your Rhaphidophora decursiva has slowed down so that the leaves do not grow much, it would be best to repot the plant.
  • Bleached leaves– this is due to sun damage. Move the plant out of direct sunlight to prevent further damage to the leaves.
  • Yellow leaves– here is the case of overwatering of the plant. Rhaphidophora decursiva should be repotted if the soil does not drain water properly.
  • Soft stems – this is about rotting the roots of the plant. In this case, the cause is excessive moisture, which can result from overwatering of the plant or improper drainage. Therefore, in addition to pruning rotten roots, the watering of the plant should be reduced or, in another case, the plant should be transplanted using high-quality soil. 

Pests

Red spider mite on strawberry plantPests rarely attack Rhaphidophora decursiva. However, they can appear on the plants if we overdo it with watering. Therefore, the advice is to water your plant in a balanced way, that is, in case of overwatering to reduce it.

 The most common pests that can occur on Rhaphidophora decursiva are spider mites (see the image), mealybugs, scale, and thrips.

In case pests are already there, move the plant away from other plants you have. You can remove pests by rubbing the affected parts of your Rhaphidophora decursiva with insecticidal soap or neem oil. After a week, clean the parts of the plant again.

Plant Diseases

Rhaphidophora decursiva can be attacked by the mosaic virus.

 In this case, the veins on the leaves turn yellow, jagged spots appear on them, and the leaves themselves become deformed. Moreover, the growth and development of the leaves are slowed down.

 The disease of your Rhaphidophora occurs when tools contaminated with this virus are used. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this. Just cut the diseased leaves.

Interesting Details

Popular Names for Rhaphidophora Decursiva

  • Monstera decursiva
  • Rhaphidophora affinis
  • Philodendron decursiva 
  • Philodendron Ginny 
  • Palm leaf Monstera 
  • Mini Monstera 
  • Rhaphidophora insignis
  • Scindapsus decursiva
  • Pothos decursiva 
  • Creeping philodendron 
  • Dragon Tail

Note: Most of these names are incorrectly labeled.

Epipremnum Pinnatum vs. Rhaphidophora Decursiva

Epipremnum Pinnatum plant in a potVery often there is confusion between Rhaphidophora decursiva and the plant Epipremnum pinnatum (image on the right). Namely, both plants come from the Araceae family, but from different genera.

 The young leaves of both plants are regularly shaped and smaller. However, Rhaphidophora has oval leaves, and Epipremnum has elliptical to arrow-shaped leaves.

The mature leaves of both plants are deeply fenestrated. However, Rhaphidophora has slightly larger leaves, and Epipremnum has thicker, smaller leaves with small perforations.

 

Air Purification

Rhaphidophora decursiva has the ability to purify the air, which of course contributes to the cleanliness of the space in which we live.

Toxicity of Rhaphidophora Decursiva

It is important to know that all parts of this plant are poisonous.

 Keep the plant out of the reach of children and pets. The mouth, lips, and tongue can swell if part of Rhaphidophora decursiva is eaten or even chewed. Contact dermatitis may also occur.

The Araceae Family

The Araceae family consists mainly of tropical plants. They usually have spiky flowers of various colors.

 Favorite houseplants belonging to the family Araceae are Colocasia, Philodendron, Arrowhead plant, Pothos, Monstera, ZZ plant, and Aglaonemas.

Explanation of the Term Hemiepiphytes

There are primary and secondary hemiepiphytes.

 In primary hemiepiphytes, their seeds germinate in the tree canopy. Their way of life is then epiphytic. The roots of these primary hemiepiphytes grow and descend to the ground and at one point the roots attach to the ground.

 Secondary hemiepiphytes (root climbers) begin to live on the ground, climb slowly toward the tree canopy, and then the connection to the ground is severed. After that, they can send down their roots to the ground.

Antimalarial Compounds from Plant Rhaphidophora Decursiva

“Bioassay-directed fractionation led to the isolation of 14 compounds, six of which possess antimalarial activity, from the dried leaves and stems of Rhaphidophora decursiva.”

Work Cited

Pezzuto, JM. “Antimalarial compounds from Rhaphidophora decursiva.” PubMed, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11421741/. Accessed 21 December 2021.

Use of the Plant Rhaphidophora Decursiva

There is evidence that this plant has been used in some Chinese communities to treat colon cancer.

  “The stems and leaves are used medicinally for treating traumatic injuries, fractures, swellings, colds, lumbago, snake bites, coughs, and bronchitis.”

Work Cited

“Rhaphidophora decursiva (Roxb.) Schott.” GBIF, https://www.gbif.org/species/5329707. Accessed 26 December 2021.

The Origin of Name

The word Rhaphidophora comes from the Greek word “rhaphis” which means “needle” and “phoreus” which means “bearer”. It refers to calcium oxalate crystals present in the tissue of all Aroids.

 The word Decursiva means “running downward”. It refers to the way the parts of the leaf hang downward.

The Final Word

In conclusion, Rhaphidophora decursiva is great to grow both in your home and outdoors in your garden. Of course, keep in mind that due to its toxicity, it should always be out of the reach of children and pets.

 Easy to maintain, this tropical plant will respond to your efforts around it very quickly with its beautiful appearance. It’s young, newly grown bluish-green leaves will eventually grow into large, deeply divided leaves.

 So, if you want the spirit of tropical forests in your home, then Rhaphidophora decursiva is the right choice for you.

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