Rhaphidophora Decursiva Care: Growing The “Monstera” Decursiva

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Rhaphidophora decursiva (ra-fid-OH-for-a) is a very large climbing plant with interesting fringed leaves. This tropical plant is epiphytic and hails from Southeast Asia, the forests of the Himalayas, Malaysia, and Africa. 

It is a member of the Araceae family of plants, and there are about a hundred separate species. All of them produce flowers and enjoy scrambling up trees and other climbing structures. 

Rhaphidophora decursiva growing in the wild
Image: CasliberCC 4.0

The plant’s genus name, Raphidophora, is Greek and means “needle bearer.” The reason for this is that the fruit of this plant has sharp points. In modern times, it may also reference the fact that the plant’s sap contains calcium oxalate crystals that can be toxic and are pretty sharp. 

The specific epithet, decursiva, means “downwards. ” This is a reference to the fact that the leaves tend to dangle.

Synonymous names of this plant include:

  • Philodendron decursiva
  • Rhaphidophora insignis
  • Rhaphidophora affinis
  • Scindapsus decursiva
  • Monstera minima
  • Pothos decursiva

You may hear the plant commonly referred to as Monstera, or Split Leaf Philodendron, or Pothos. 

Rhaphidophora Decursiva Care

Size & Growth

In the wild, these epiphytes attach their aerial roots and can climb to a height of 50′ feet. Kept as a houseplant, you can expect them to top out at 5′ feet or so.

However, if you have the space and environment for it, you can train your Monstera to cover a wall. Of course, this type of growth depends on providing the plant with the ideal (jungle-like) sun, temperature, and humidity levels.

During cooler weather, Split-Leaf Philodendron needs a resting and dormancy period. This down-time allows the plant to conserve energy. During the autumn and the winter, the plant will stop growing but will remain attractive and interesting.

Mature leaves of Monstera are frond-like. Young leaves are like typical philodendron leaves, but as they mature, they develop deep lobes that make them very interesting.

The mature lobed leaves are quite large. On outdoor plants, they may grow to be 20″ inches wide and 40″ inches long.

Young leaves are bluish-green, but as they grow larger and more mature, they become dark green. 

Flowering & Fragrance

Split-Leaf Philodendron blooms during the springtime and the summer, producing spathe and spadix inflorescence at the ends of its long branches.

Light & Temperature

These plants can do well in indirect sunlight, filtered sunlight, and bright sunlight. The best situation provides full morning sun and some protection from the harsh rays of the afternoon sun.

Indoors, it is best to place the plant in an east-facing or north-facing window. West facing and south-facing windows deliver sunlight that is too harsh.

Split-Leaf Philodendron also does very well with fluorescent lighting, so it makes a good office or kitchen plant.

These tropical plants like a consistently warm temperature ranging from 60° to 80° degrees Fahrenheit. Protect the plant from extremes in temperature.

They may be kept outside year-round in USDA hardiness zones 9B through 11.

Watering & Feeding

Generally, these tropical plants like to be watered a couple of times a week during the growing season. However, in the autumn and winter, you can reduce watering to once weekly. 

Use the soak and dry watering method. When the soil is dry, water thoroughly and wait until the top couple of inches of soil are dry before watering again.

Although most tropical plants need a humidity level as high as 80%, Monstera can do well in a low humidity setting. It will do better when kept with a humidifier, pebble tray, and/or misted daily.

Give your plant a monthly feeding with a standard houseplant fertilizer mixed according to packaging directions during the growing season. Do not feed during the autumn and winter months.

Soil & Transplanting

These epiphytic plants grow best in slightly acidic, rich, very well-draining soil. Strive for a pH level between 5.5 and 6.0.

To create a good potting mix, use a standard cactus mix or use regular potting soil tossed in some orchid mix.

It’s important to report your Split-Leaf Pothos annually in the springtime. These plants do not do well if they are root-bound. 

Choose a pot that is a couple of inches larger around than the plant’s current pot. Remove all old soil from the root ball and replant in entirely new fresh soil.

Grooming & Maintenance

Prune your Monstera regularly for fuller and more attractive growth. Pinch or trim away dead and dying leaves and unruly tendrils. You can use cuttings to create new plants.

Other Rhaphidophora To Collect and Grow

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma resembles a miniature Monstera deliciosa

Rhaphidophora cryptantha – shingling vine

How To Propagate Rhaphidophora Decursiva

This plant grows quite eagerly through stem cuttings. When you trim away errant tendrils, you can pop them into a container of water. Allow them to grow roots and then pot them up. 

You can also start cuttings in damp potting soil, air-layering or divide your split-leaf Philodendron when you repot your plants.

Rhaphidophora Decursiva Pests and Diseases

If you can get the right balance of sunlight, temperature, good drainage, water, and humidity levels, your Monstera should be relatively pest and disease-free. 

If your plant is overwatered, overcrowded, or kept in the dark, you may have trouble with:

  • Spider Mites
  • White Flies
  • Mealybugs 
  • Thrips
  • Scale 

Unfavorable conditions can cause problems with root rot and stem rot.

You should also be aware that this plant sometimes contracts Mosaic Virus, which causes yellow markings and lesions on the leaves. When this happens, you must prune away the affected areas with a sharp, sterile cutting implement. Be sure to sterilize the blade before using it on any other plant. 

Is The Plant Considered Toxic Or Poisonous To People, Kids, Pets?

As mentioned earlier, the sap of this plant contains sodium oxalate crystals which are pretty toxic. Keep your Rhaphidophora decursiva out of the reach of pets and kids, as ingestion can cause swelling of the lips, mouth, and throat along with gastric distress. Contact with the sap may also cause dermatitis.

Is The Plant Considered Invasive?

While not formally listed as invasive, Split-Leaf Philodendron could easily become quite invasive in a tropical or semi-tropical setting. When growing it outdoors in such a setting, take great care to keep it contained.

Suggested Rhaphidophora Decursiva Uses 

Monstera is an excellent addition to any home, office, or garden setting that has the space for it, and it does well as a groundcover, clambering up a tree, fence, or trellis or planted in hanging baskets.

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