Syngonium Podophyllum Care: How To Grow Butterfly Plants

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You may have heard of Syngonium podophyllum without realizing it. This semi-tropical plant (hailing from Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, South America, and West Indies) is commonly known as the Arrowhead or butterfly plant.

Butterfly plants belong to the Araceae family and are only winter hardy in Florida in the US, but they grow well as houseplants in every state. They also thrive in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 to 12

one of the popular varieties syngonium white butterfly (goosefoot plant)Pin

The low-maintenance arrowhead plant is an interesting and versatile houseplant. It is available in various colors, and the attractive foliage changes shape as the individual leaves change from juvenile to mature.

Other common names include:

  • Arrowhead vine
  • Butterfly plant
  • Tri-Leaf Wonder
  • Nephthytis
  • African Evergreen
  • Green-Gold Nephthytis
  • Goosefoot Plant
  • Five Fingers

Hardy evergreen white syngonium plants are enthusiastic climbers but can be pruned to create a compact tabletop plant.

When left unpruned, the arrowhead plant can grow about 3′ – 6′ feet tall and 1′ – 2′ feet wide and look lovely when trained to climb or cascade over the sides of a hanging basket or pot.

Syngonium Podophyllum Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Syngonium Podophyllum
  • Common Name(s): Arrowhead, Butterfly plant, Arrowhead vine, Tri-Leaf Wonder, Nephthytis, African Evergreen, Green-Gold Nephthytis, Goosefoot Plant, Five Fingers
  • Synonyms: N/A
  • Pronunciation: sin-GO-nee-um pod-uh-FILL-um
  • Family & Origin: Araceae family, native to tropical regions of Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, South America, and West Indies
  • Growability: Easy to grow
  • Grow Zone: 9-11
  • Size: Can grow 3′ – 6′ feet tall and 1′ – 2′ feet wide
  • Flowering: Rarely flowers indoors
  • Light: Medium to low light settings and thrives in indirect, bright light
  • Humidity: Prefers high humidity
  • Temperature: 60° to 80° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Soil: Well-draining, rich potting mix
  • Water: Keep soil moist but not waterlogged
  • Fertilizer: Feed with balanced liquid houseplant food regularly during the spring and summer growing season
  • Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to spider mites, scales, aphids, and mealybugs; prone to bacterial leaf spot and root rot
  • Propagation: Can be propagated through stem cuttings
  • Plant Uses: Great as trailing, climbing, or hanging vine for adding greenery to indoor spaces, air-purifying properties; also makes a great plant gift

In this article, we will discuss the growing, use, and arrowhead plant care (Syngonium). Read on to learn more.

Caring For Syngonium Plants

Flowers: It is unusual for the arrowhead plant to produce flowers indoors. When flowers do appear, the greenish/white blooms look something like Peace lily blooms with a thicker spandex (the central shaft that bears the individual flowers and berries). The tiny flowers develop into brownish-black or red berries.

Syngonium variety called White ButterflyPin
Syngonium white butterfly

Foliage: Leaves vary in color depending on the plant variety. On all varieties, leaves transform from small, ovate leaves to long, lobed leaves. Color and markings also change throughout the lifespan of the leaf.

When leaves first emerge, they are relatively arrow-shaped and often display silvery variegation.

When the leaves on the arrowhead plant age, they attain the arrow-shaped leaves that give them their common name. As the leaves further mature, they grow from about 5″ inches long to about 14″ inches long.

Colors: Leaves are usually heavily variegated when young. The variegation tends to fade as the arrowhead plant leaves mature. Leaves come in attractive shades of green and white, silver, cream, pink, and even purple.

Syngonium Light Requirements: The arrowhead plant does well in medium to low light settings and thrives in indirect, bright light. They do not like exposure to direct sunlight.

If you are only able to provide medium to lower light conditions, you may do better with one of the deeper green cultivars. These tend to do better in shaded conditions.

Water: The soil mix should be kept lightly moist during spring | summer and slightly drier during the fall and winter months. Don’t let it become completely dry.

The plant is undemanding when it comes to watering, but does prefer high humidity, so it’s a good idea to place container plants on a bed of wet pebbles. Mist hanging baskets frequently. Water moderately throughout the growing season and reduce watering during cooler months. [source]

Temperature: As a semi-tropical vine, arrowheads prefer warm, humid conditions ranging from 60° to 80° degrees Fahrenheit. Try not to allow temperatures to drop below 60° degrees Fahrenheit.

Soil: Use a rich potting mix that offers superior draining and aerating capabilities. Always plant in a pot with a drainage hole. Soil holding excess moisture leads to root rot.

Houseplant Fertilizer: Feed using a balanced liquid houseplant food on a regular basis during the spring and summer growing season. Follow package directions closely.

Problems: These hardy plants have no pests or disease problems when cared for properly. Maintain a moderate watering schedule and provide the right type of substrate to prevent:

All of these can be problematic on over watered plants, but should not plague healthy plants.

Pruning: If you want to keep your plant compact and bushy, prune or pinch new growth on a regular basis. Wear gloves when pinching as the plants’ sap can cause skin irritation.

Propagation: It is easy to root Syngonium from a cutting during the growing season. Cut sections of stem containing root nodes and place them in clean water to grow roots. If you see that your plant has developed aerial roots on the stem, you can be certain that stem section will root easily.

Taking Cuttings From Arrowhead Plants

The plant also spreads rapidly in the soil, so it is a simple matter to divide one plant into two or more whenever you repot.

Repotting: Generally, you should refresh the potting soil in the springtime and repot every other year; however, because these plants are fast-growers you may need to repot annually. Frequent repotting will result in even faster growth! Consider growing them up a moss pole.

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In their natural habitat, the arrowhead plant is a vigorous climber that start out as under-story forest plants in low lighting and grow up into the leaves and branches of the tropical forest to get more sun and fresh air.

As with most living things, you will get the best results from these plants when you take steps to replicate their natural circumstances.

Provide a tropical forest environment by keeping your arrowhead plant in a warm, humid setting with the kind of bright, indirect sunlight you would find in a jungle.

Try providing your plant with a branch or moss covered pole to climb.

Interesting Syngonium Varieties and Cultivars

In its natural habitat, there are over thirty species of Syngonium. The one we see most often in cultivation is the podophyllum type, which comes in an impressive number of varieties. Here is a collection of the 10 most popular and attractive of these:

Berry Allusion Nephthytis: This plant features light green leaves with tinges of pink and cream. It grows very well in a low-light setting.

Bold Allusion Nephthytis: The leaves of this plant are creamy green with pink veins. This is a slow-growing plant, so it may be better for smaller spaces.

Cream Allusion Nephthytis: This very compact variety features mid-sized, creamy green foliage infused with traces of pink.

Strawberry Cream: This plant does best and looks best in bright, indirect light. The leaves are an attractive shade of pink that is especially attractive on new growth.

Pink Allusion: This is a compact plant. The leaves are pale green with pink veins and dark green edging.

Julia Allusion Nephthytis Plant: The leaves of this plant are pale green with a flush of coppery pink coloration.

Exotic Allusion Nephthytis: The leaves of this plant are very pale green with tinges of creamy white.

Syngonium White Butterfly Plant: The leaves of this very popular plant are greenish-white with dark green edging.

Holly Nephthytis: This dramatic plant has white leaves with green veins and green edging.

Painted Arrow Head Plant: The creamy green leaves of this plant sport spatters of light green.

pink syngonium plantPin
pink syngonium arrowhead plant

Companion Planting

There are many types of indoor house plants that have similar requirements and look great when planted alongside these pretty plants. Here are three good examples:

Red Aglaonema are colorful, compact house plants that can work well as a thick, bushy base surrounding a trellis filled with climbing goosefoot plant.

Golden and Marble Queen Pothos Plants are classic houseplants that is easy to come by and adds variety and interest to climbing, hanging or trailing Arrowhead plant.

Philodendron is another pretty, climbing or trailing tropical house plant that does very well when planted with Syngonium. Its pretty green and yellow variegated, heart-shaped leaves add contrast and interest to your planting.

Is Syngonium Invasive?

The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC) has declared this plant to be a Category 1 Invasive species. This means that its vigorous growth habits allow it to displace native plant and animal species and alter the structure of native plant communities.

It may also be capable of hybridizing with native plants. All of this is very problematic for the health and well-being of local flora and fauna.

If you live in the state of Florida or a similar climate, do not keep these plants outside. You should not plant stems or put a cutting directly into the ground. If you notice that Syngonium has naturalized on your property, you should take steps to eradicate it.

This can be a real challenge and will take a combination of pulling and use of herbicides. Pulled plants should be burned or disposed of in carefully sealed black plastic bags.

The idea is that heat will build up in the bags and kill the plants so that they will not be able to take up residence in your local landfill.

Remember to wear gloves, long sleeves, and eye protection to prevent irritation from plant sap. [source]

Toxicity: While you may have heard of “anti-inflammatory properties of Arrowhead plant” it is most likely that this was a reference to Sagittaria cuneata, which is an entirely different plant that also goes by the name “Arrowhead Plant.” This plant is a native to the northern US and has been used extensively by Native Americans for medicinal and food purposes.

It is very important to note that Syngonium is not the benign “Arrowhead Plant” used for medicinal purposes. According to the ASPCA, Syngonium podophyllum is toxic to dogs, cats, horses, and people. [source]

The arrowhead plant contains insoluble calcium oxalates that cause painful lips, tongue, and mouth swelling.

When ingested, it causes difficulty swallowing, gastric distress, excessive drooling and (in cats, dogs, and humans) vomiting. Equines (horses and their relatives) are not able to regurgitate, so the results of ingesting this plant are even more dire for them.

The sap of the arrowhead plant is an irritant, so gardeners should wear gloves when handling and pruning.

Be advised that every part of the Syngonium Arrowhead plant is toxic or poisonous. If you have house pets, take care to keep the plant out of reach. The plant tends to drop leaves, so be vigilant about keeping shed leaves picked up.

If you think that your pet may have eaten Syngonium leaves, contact your vet or call the ASPCA’s poison line: APCC (888) 426-4435.

Add Interest To Your Indoor Garden With Arrowhead Syngonium

If you are seeking a houseplant that grows quickly and is very easy to care for, you can’t go wrong with the Syngonium arrowhead plant.

Arrowhead vines are easy to grow and do well growing indoors in a low-to-medium light as a trailing, climbing, or hanging vine. It can also be kept pruned for a more bushy appearance.

With many varieties, cultivars, and colors to choose from, these foliage plants coordinate well with any decor and add interest in variegated shades of green and white, silver, cream, pink, or even purple.

Syngonium care is easy making these plants good gifts, and the perfect choice for inexperienced gardeners.

They do very well in most indoor settings, and can also do nicely as container plants growing up a moss stick on a protected porch or balcony.

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