If you are looking for a gorgeous statement plant for your home or office, Rhaphidophora decursiva could be the perfect plant for you! These beautiful plants are definitely a statement maker with their large leaves and dramatic fenestrations.
Learn all about Rhaphidophora decursiva care in this guide.
Introduction: What is Rhaphidophora decursiva?
Rhaphidophora decursiva is a tropical aroid that is native to tropical rainforests in Southeast Asia and India. Here it grows up to 50 feet tall and its leaves can reach over 20 inches wide and 40 inches long!
This tropical plant is an epiphyte, which means that it grows on other plants, usually trees. The sturdy trunks of the trees are what allows the plant to grow so tall and have such large leaves even though they have a rather fragile stem.
Commonly kept as a statement plant in homes and offices, R. decursiva is relatively easy to care for when its basic needs are met. Simply follow our Rhaphidophora decursiva care guide and your new plant should flourish.
How to Care for a Rhaphidophora decursiva
Rhaphidophora decursiva is most often kept as a houseplant, and we wrote this care guide with that in mind. If you plan on keeping your plant outdoors, it can do well in growing zones 9-11, as long as it is brought inside before temperatures drop below 50 degrees.
Temperature and Climate
Rhaphidophora decursiva thrives in warm humid climates. Temperatures between 60-85 degrees are ideal, so most areas of your home should work fine, but if you get noticeable drafts in the winter you may consider insulating your windows to keep your, plant comfortable.
For humidity, misting isn’t usually recommended, but if you notice the tips of the leaves of your plant are drying out and turning brown, it could be due to low humidity. Adding a humidifier is the ideal solution to low humidity, but if you have a smaller plant, creating a water basin can work as well.
To create a water basin, find a shallow bowl that your pot can fit in. Fill the bottom with rocks and then add water. Be sure to keep the water level below the top of the rocks and then place your R. decursiva plant on top. As the water evaporates, your plant will get the humidity it needs.
In its native habitat, Rhaphidophora decursiva lives in the understory of the forest. Here it thrives on the filtered light that makes it through the tree canopies. This evolutionary trait makes it a perfect houseplant.
R. decursiva thrives in indirect light, so placing it a few feet from a south or east-facing window should keep it happy and thriving. If you notice your plant has burn marks on the leaves, it may be from too much sunlight. To remedy this, remove the damaged leaves and move the plant a little further from the window.
If your plant is not getting enough light, it will tell you by slowing its growth, absorbing less water, and/or by putting out leggy growth toward the nearest light source. If your plant is exhibiting these symptoms, moving it closer to a light source should be enough to make it happy again.
If you don’t have a good source of light, or want to place your plant somewhere without a good light source, a grow light could be the perfect solution. Most big box stores sell simple grow light bulbs that you can place in a lamp of your choice. This allows you to make the fixture as simple or as extravagant as you like and gives your plant the light it needs.
One of the most important parts of houseplant care is having a regular watering schedule. Keep your plants too wet and they won’t spend energy growing their root systems. Keep your plants too dry and they could lose leaves or have stunted growth.
When your plants know you will water them on a schedule, they will utilize the water they have in a healthy way, keeping them happy and thriving in your home.
As a tropical plant, R. decursiva needs regular watering to thrive. We water ours roughly twice a week during the growing season and once a week in the winter when they are more dormant.
Before watering you always want to check your soil. If it’s still saturated from the last time you watered, it may mean that your pot is too big or that your plant isn’t getting enough sunlight. Wait another day or two and check back. The soil should be almost dry, but not completely parched before you water.
Letting your soil completely dry out can cause it to become hydrophobic. This means instead of absorbing the water for your plant to utilize, it will repel it. You can usually rehydrate the soil by placing the pot in a bucket or bowl and then filling it with water halfway up the pot. The water will absorb through the drainage hole at the bottom and will move all the way to the soil at the top.
Bottom watering is also one way to regularly water your plant if it is on the small side or if you want to get it thoroughly saturated.
Top watering is the recommended method of watering in most cases and allows you to fertilize as needed.
Once a month or so, you will also want to give your plant a nice shower. This will clean its leaves and simulate a natural rainstorm which plants seem to enjoy. You can either do this outside on a nice day with a hose or inside in your shower.
Rhaphidophora decursiva prefers a soil that is nutrient-dense, but well-draining and slightly acidic. For my plants, I use a mix of 1 part Fox Farms Ocean Forest to 1 part vermiculite or perlite. This keeps the soil airy and allows plenty of oxygen to get to the roots.
For best results, it is recommended to fertilize your R. decursiva once a month during spring and summer and every 2-3 months during fall and winter. Spring and summer are when the plant is actively growing and the fertilizer is needed most. Once fall arrives, the plant will enter dormancy and stop growing until spring.
I prefer to use liquid fertilizer on my plants. I simply mix the fertilizer to the recommended strength in my water can and then pour it on the roots. If you don’t have the time to use a liquid fertilizer or you are afraid you will forget, fertilizer pellets are another great option.
To use fertilizer pellets, simply measure out the recommended amount from the bottle and place them on the dirt around your plant. When you water, small amounts of the fertilizer will be washed down to the roots. Pellets generally last about 6-9 months, so the best time to apply them is in the spring.
The best time to repot R. decursiva is in the spring. Chose a pot that is roughly 1 size bigger than the current pot. Rhaphidophora decursiva doesn’t like being rootbound but is also prone to root rot, so finding a pot that is slightly bigger without being too big is ideal.
You will also want to make sure that you are using a pot with a drainage hole. If the decorative pot you want to use is too big or doesn’t have a drainage hole, you can layer rocks at the bottom of the pot before adding your soil. This will keep the soil from becoming oversaturated and potentially causing root rot.
For optimal growth, you will also want to have a moss pole in your pot. You can purchase these online, or make your own with sphagnum moss and PVC coated hardware cloth. Moss poles will emulate the support your plant would naturally get from trees in the wild and allow them to grow taller without breaking its stems.
Propagating R. decursiva is relatively easy and there are two methods that have worked well for me.
The first method is the water propagation method. This is the method I use with most of my aroids. Simply make a cutting of the plant below a node and place the cutting in water until it begins to root. Once it has started rooting, you can move it to a pot. Sometimes the transition from water to soil can be rough on plants, so you will want to keep the soil wetter than normal for the first week or two, slowly transitioning to your regular watering schedule.
The second method is the air method. For this method, you will need some sphagnum moss and plastic wrap. Apply the moss to a node of the plant and then wrap it with plastic wrap. Be sure to keep the moss damp and, in a few weeks, you should start to see roots forming. Once there are roots, you can cut the new plant from its parent and place it in its own pot.
Not much pruning is needed for R. decursiva. If you want a fuller-looking plant, you can create cuttings and add them back to the original pot. Otherwise, you will just need to remove yellowed or damaged leaves as they appear.
Common Pest (and Diseases)
The most common pests you may find on your R. decursiva are scale, mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites. Common signs of these pests are yellowing or dull leaves and drooping.
I recommend spending time with your plants once per week to give them a once over and check their overall health. This is a great time to make sure there aren’t any pests on your plants and that they appear healthy.
The most important thing to do if you see harmful insects on your plant is to isolate it from your other houseplants, then you can start to treat them.
Aphids, Mealybugs, and Spider Mites
To get rid of aphids, many plant keepers start by manually removing any visible bugs with a cotton swab covered in alcohol. Then apply a generous layer of neem oil to the plant weekly for a month.
An alternative is to release ladybugs in your house since they feed on aphids. While this can take care of an aphid infestation, I don’t recommend it. Once the aphids are gone, the ladybugs will likely die in your house or escape into an environment where their exact species may not be native.
To effectively get rid of scale is tricky. For light infestations, you can manually remove the bugs or use neem oil on the plant. However, this only works for light infestations. For heavily infested plants, you will need to remove affected leaves and then either treat the plant with insecticidal soap, or neem oil.
If you live in a tropical area or if the weather is suitable where you are, you may be able to simply place your plant outdoors and late nature take care of the pests for you. I have only had a few run-ins with pests, but when I have placed them outside for a few weeks, it has always done the trick. Be sure if you are going to do this that you don’t place the infected plant near any of your outdoor plants.
Is Rhapidophora decursiva rare?
Though Rhapidophora decursiva can be a challenging plant to find in stores, it is not extremely rare. Cuttings and small plants are usually available on Etsy, eBay, and in speciality plant shops.
Is Rhapidophora decursiva a Monstera?
While the Rhapidophora and Monstera families do share quite a few similarities, they are two separate families of aroids and do require slightly different care. Monstera deliciosa tends to be a bit easier to grow and to get than Rhapidophoa decursiva, so if you are new to plants it may be best to start with a Monstera.
Is Rhapidophora decursiva a slow grower?
Compared to other common house plants such as Golden Pothos, Rhapidophora decursiva could be considered a slow grower. In reality, it has a moderate growth rate. If you want your plant to grow faster, adequate light and fertilization are key.
Do Rhapidophora decursiva climb?
Rhapidophora decursiva is a climbing plant from the aroid family that can reach up to 50 feet tall in its native environment. It’s unlikely to reach this size indoors but will appreciate a moss pole or trellis to climb on.