Philodendrons are among the most popular houseplants, thanks to their varied appearances and climbing or trailing growth habits.
These members of the Araceae family can have vastly different care needs, although none are challenging to grow.
One less common species is Philodendron squamiferum (fil-oh-DEN-dron skwa-MEE-fer-um), better known as the hairy philodendron.
This curious perennial is native to Brazil, French Guiana, and Suriname.
Still, it has since spread throughout Central and South America and even parts of Africa, Australia, and Asia, thanks to plants that have escaped gardens.
The good news is that these plants have no bans on them in the US, making it possible to grow one outdoors and indoors.
Hairy Philodendron Care
Size And Growth
Details on this plant can get a little fuzzy (no pun intended) because most indoor growers prefer to keep the plant pruned to a smaller height.
Generally speaking, this Philo is known to grow to a modest 5′ to 6′ feet tall indoors, but some growers claim theirs are even taller, which is possible if you can get close enough to its natural conditions.
Outdoors, the plant can get far taller, although there’s no hard data on its full height.
However, based on similar philodendrons, a height of 10′ to 12′ is likely when grown in a garden with proper support.
As with many types of philodendrons, this hairy philodendron is an epiphyte, meaning it climbs trees in nature without harming them.
To get a good height, it is thus necessary to provide the plant with a bamboo pole, moss pole, trellis, or similar support structure.
It’s a pretty slow grower, so keep that in mind if you’re pruning for size. The above-ground portion of the plant has four main components.
The central vine wraps itself around trees, climbing towards the forest canopy in its natural habitat.
Aerial roots grow from nodes along the vine and cannot only grasp surfaces but also draw moisture and nutrients from the air.
The petioles, often mistakenly called stems, branch off from the central vine and support the leaves, which are the fourth component.
The petioles have a reddish tinge and are covered in tiny red hairs, where the plant gets its common name.
However, the leaves these petioles hold up get the most attention.
Each leaf is thick with a leathery but glossy texture and may vary in its green hue.
A mature leaf can be as long as 18″ inches, and the shape will change from roughly oval to something more oak-shaped with five lobes.
Flowering And Fragrance
Philodendrons are rather notorious for refusing to bloom in captivity, although their inflorescence is often a disappointment even when you do get them to flower.
Hairy philodendrons appear to break with this tradition, as many growers have claimed to enjoy successful blooming periods in late spring to summer.
The spathe is an attractive burgundy with a white tip, while the spadix is covered in insignificant white flowers.
If fertilized, the flowers will give way to inedible pink berries with viable seeds.
Light And Temperature
In their natural habitat, this plant has adapted to a life of dappled sunlight.
Thus, when growing it in your home or outdoors, it’s essential to avoid direct exposure to the afternoon sun, which can easily scorch the leaves.
Dappled sunlight is a great way to go, but this isn’t always possible unless you have a lot of trees on the property.
Instead, you can aim for a spot (indoors or out) where the plant gets direct access to some morning or evening sun but is shaded in the afternoon.
Another option is to put it in a southern window but protect it with a sheer curtain.
Finally, you can simply stick it to one side of a south-facing window where it will get all the benefits of the sunlight without being hit by the sun’s rays.
The plant can survive partial shade conditions, but this will stunt an already slow growth rate and may prevent the leaves from reaching their full size.
Aim for a humidity level of 40% to 60% percent, as this moisture-loving plant is at an increased risk of stem or root rot if you set humidity levels above that range.
Grouping this plant with others can help raise the humidity, like a humidifier or pebble tray.
However, you should avoid misting, as this has little effect and can easily lead to fungal infections on this plant.
While growing this plant indoors is far more common, it can be planted outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11.
Indoors, you should keep the plant in a range of 65° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit, with 70° to 80° degrees Fahrenheit ideal.
Any hotter than that and the plant could get stressed, while lower temperatures will push it into dormancy.
Anything below 50° degrees Fahrenheit will harm or potentially kill your plant.
Finally, be sure to keep it away from any sources of sudden drafts, such as an air conditioner, vent, or frequently opened door, as these changes can stress the plant.
Watering And Feeding
Watering this plant is a cinch with the soak-and-dry method.
Here’s how you can do this method:
- Stick your finger in the soil, and if it’s dry 2″ inches down, it’s time to water.
- Use room temperature water, preferably rainwater or distilled water, to avoid shocking the plant.
- Pour slowly and evenly around the plant, making sure not to get the foliage wet.
- It’s time to stop when you see moisture seeping from the drainage holes, or the surface is no longer absorbing the water at the same rate you pour.
A common mistake people make is to give this plant fertilizer in the hopes it will grow faster.
However, hairy philodendrons are light feeders even in nature, and too much fertilizer can lead to chemical burns.
Instead, use a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer cut to half strength and apply once per month from April through September.
Avoid feeding the rest of the year as the plant will be dormant.
Soil And Transplanting
Loamy, well-draining soils are best for this plant.
In the garden, mix some organic compost and perlite with already loosened soil before planting to get a good medium.
Indoors, a standard potting mix with home perlite and orchid bark added can be a cost-effective option.
Another soilless option is an equal mix of coconut coir, perlite, and either peat or sphagnum moss.
Remember, peat moss increases acidity, while sphagnum is more neutral.
Warning: Many sites claim this plant needs a soil pH of 5.1 to 6.0 and refer to this as “slightly acidic” to “neutral.”
However, slightly acidic soil is rated at 6.1 to 6.5, and neutral is 6.6 to 7.3, so it seems apparent that one site mistyped and others followed.
If you try to grow your plant between 5.1 (strongly acid) to 6.0 (moderately acid), you’ll harm the plant’s roots.
Instead, the proper pH range to aim for is 6.1 to 7.0.
You might not think this plant often needs repotting because of its slow growth, but this isn’t entirely true.
If you see roots poking out of the drainage holes or potting the medium’s surface, it’s time to repot and give the plant a larger container.
However, you should repot this plant every 2 to 3 years even if it’s not rootbound.
This gives you the chance to check for disease and provide the plant fresh potting medium.
Unless it’s an emergency, try to repot in the spring or summer when your hairy philodendron is most active to recover more quickly.
Also, remember to skip a feeding session while the plant gets used to its new soil.
Grooming And Maintenance
Your hairy philodendron will occasionally need a gentle wiping of its leaves to remove dust.
However, it needs very little maintenance, and pruning is usually reserved for controlling size, shape, or removing damaged leaves.
Also, be warned that pruning too much can harm the plant due to its slow growth.
How To Propagate Philodendron Squamiferum?
The most common method of propagating hairy philodendrons is through stem cuttings, which can be nurtured in either soil, a soilless mix, or water.
However, those with more patience or an adventurous spirit can also grow them through air layering or seeds.
Hairy Philodendron Pests Or Diseases
As with other plants in the genus, this Philo is relatively resistant to pests and disease.
However, occasionally, you might run into the following pests:
- Fungus gnats
- Spider mites
Erwinia blight, bacterial leaf spot, and root rot are the three most serious diseases you might face, although fungal infections and other forms of rot can arise if the plant is wet for too long.
Philodendrons contain large quantities of calcium oxalate, which is toxic to both humans and pets beyond tiny amounts.
The plant has also been known to cause skin irritation in sensitive individuals.
Philodendron Squamiferum Uses
This Philo makes an excellent accent for a table or small plant stand when smaller.
However, when it gets older, it looks great in corners and climbing up the sides of bookshelves.
Outdoors, it’s a lovely accent for walls or trellises.