Among the less common of this popular family of tropical plants, the Philodendron squamiferum is nonetheless a stunning addition to any household, and if you are fortunate enough to be able to get hold of one, you should certainly be aiming to look after it in every way. They are beautiful, elegant plants and not too hard to take care of.
These plants need well-draining soil in a reasonably large container, and they can grow very big. You may need to provide higher humidity levels than naturally occur in your home, and avoid placing it in direct sunlight, or its beautiful green leaves may burn.
Indoor vs Outdoor Growing
In the wild, these plants grow up rainforest trees, branching up to get some light, although they do tend to grow best in indirect sun. Direct sun will often cause the leaves to burn and the plant to die back, so it’s best to grow them away from windowsills.
However, they do still need plenty of light, and you shouldn’t try to grow a Philodendron squamiferum in a dark room; it will likely not grow well at all.
They also dislike very dry rooms, so you’ll need to boost the humidity of your home a bit in order to help your plant grow – we’ll go into more detail on that later. Remember, they are rainforest plants and there’s a lot of humidity in rainforests, so you’ll need to simulate a similar environment for them.
If you already grow some rainforest plants, you’ll likely have a good setup for a Philodendron squamiferum. If not, you may have to spend some time creating the ideal conditions. These are climbing plants that will go up and up and up if you let them, so bear that in mind when choosing a position.
Best Location For Your Philodendron Squamiferum
You can grow a Philodendron squamiferum in any room of your home, but remember to minimize the direct sunlight that the plant receives. Ideally, you want a reasonably large room with plenty of height.
Philodendron squamiferums are often sold at around fifteen inches tall, but they can get much, much taller than that. Even their leaves can become massive, possibly up to around eighteen inches each, so you don’t want to be trying to crowd your plant into a tiny room.
Usually, Philodendron squamiferums are regarded as floor plants, and require a good portion of your room space. Don’t put your Philodendron squamiferum on a bathroom shelf (even if it will fit!) or in a dark, cramped corner.
Instead, try to choose a position that gives it plenty of room to spread out and bush up, but without direct light on its leaves, especially in summer. It will usually tolerate the fluctuating levels of light between summer and winter, so you’re unlikely to have to move it once you’ve found a good spot for it.
Soil For Philodendron Squamiferums
Philodendron squamiferums are epiphytes, which means that their roots are designed to grip onto trees and other foliage, and they do not like being swamped by heavy potting material. They do not want to be choked by muddy, clogging compost. You need coarse, light material to let them grow properly.
Perlite is an ideal material for giving your plant good drainage and aeration, while coconut coir or sphagnum moss will help to keep dampness available to the roots and prevent you from having to water too often.
You can buy a dedicated potting mix, or mix your own with the various ingredients.
They like to be in slightly acidic soil, between 5.1 and 6.0, and prefer to be reasonably well-drained. The roots do not like sitting in water.
Sandy soils and clay soils are not suitable for your Philodendron squamiferum, but it does like to have plenty of nutrients available. Many people also feel that adding partially composted pine bark is a good way to improve the soil for these plants.
Make sure that your pot has good drainage holes and don’t over-water your Philodendron squamiferum – which is what we’ll cover next. Keeping its potting medium reasonably dry is an important part of its care.
Watering Your Philodendron Squamiferum
Many aeroids will cope reasonably well with being over-watered, but not your Philodendron squamiferum. These plants do not appreciate having constantly wet roots, and will suffer from root rot and poor growth if you water them too much.
Prolonged excessive watering could lead to the death of the plant, and fungal infections of the roots are not uncommon if the plant is constantly damp.
To avoid this, you need to water your Philodendron squamiferum only when it is starting to get dry. How much water the plant needs and how often will vary depending on your environment and the size of the plant, the potting medium, etc.
As a rule of thumb, once the top three centimeters or so of the soil have dried out, the plant is ready for more water. You can test this by pushing the tip of your finger into the soil and checking that it is dry.
If you think your Philodendron squamiferum has been watered too much, let it dry out before you add more water. In general, plants tolerate drought better than flooding, so this shouldn’t do it any harm. Allow a few days for the potting medium to get dry, and then water it.
You may find that your plant wants water about once a week in summer, and once every ten days to two weeks in winter. Obviously, if you live in a very hot or very cold environment, you will need to make the relevant adjustments for that.
Any sign of rotting on the stem or leaves should encourage swift investigation. If your plant has got seriously waterlogged, consider removing it from its pot and completely repotting it with a new medium once its roots have been allowed a little time to dry out.
Humidity For Your Philodendron Squamiferum
Most rainforest plants love high humidity levels, and the Philodendron squamiferum is no exception to that rule. You may wish to get a hygrometer to measure humidity. Most home environments are much drier than outdoor ones, and therefore it can be important to increase the humidity levels.
Philodendron squamiferum plants will usually still grow even if the humidity is below their liking, but about 40% humidity is their preference. If your bathroom is light enough for the plant, it can be the perfect place for them; the steam from the shower will help to keep them damp.
If your plant does not get enough humidity, you might notice that the tips of its leaves turn brown and dry.
You can increase the humidity by spraying the soil around your plant with a spray bottle full of water from time to time, or you can buy a humidifier and turn it on for a few hours each day.
Another alternative is to get a tray (without holes) full of pebbles. Pour in water so that it is just below the level of the pebbles, and then place the plant pot on top of the pebbles. The water will slowly evaporate, humidifying the air (and the plant) as it does so.
Too much humidity can contribute to rotting in both the stems and the leaves, and it can also leave plants more vulnerable to pest infestations, so this is a careful balancing act that will be made easier with a hygrometer. On the whole, though, you should be fine to estimate humidity levels; your plant will probably adapt!
Fertilizing Your Philodendron Squamiferum
Philodendron squamiferum plants do not grow quickly. They are much slower growing than, for example, the Monstera delicosia, and they do not need a lot of fertilizer on the whole – and in fact, too much could be bad for the plant.
You will probably rarely need to fertilize your Philodendron squamiferum, but if you do want to, you can give it a small splash of fertilizer every month and a half or two months. It is best not to fertilize too close to the roots, but instead to spread fertilizer in a ring about six inches away from the plant.
This will allow it to disperse evenly throughout the potting medium and ensure the roots don’t get too much fertilizer all at once.
You can also use a slow release fertilizer approximately three times a year. You can buy fertilizers that are specifically designed for Philodendrons. It’s a good idea to occasionally flush excess salts from the soil using water, as these will stress the plants by clogging up the roots.
You don’t need to fertilize during the winter if you don’t want to, as most plants slow their growth during the colder and darker months, or even become totally dormant. It is better to feed during the hot months, when the plants are more likely to be growing vigorously, than when they are slow.
Philodendron plants are very toxic to both people and pets, so you should keep your Philodendron squamiferum away from pets and young children. Ingestion could in extreme cases be fatal, so this is not something you should take lightly, especially if you have children or animals that like to eat plants.
Philodendron leaves often look very tempting; they are glossy and large, and could easily attract interest from a child. It is best to keep philodendrons out of reach of small hands, although this may be tricky given how big the plant can get.
Philodendron squamiferum plantscontain oxalate crystals, which can be fatal if swallowed. In less serious cases, they may cause stomach upsets and stomach aches or swollen tongues and a burning sensation. If you notice any of these symptoms in a child, consult a medical expert immediately to get advice on how to proceed.
If you love your Philodendron squamiferum, the chances that you might like to propagate it are high. Luckily, it is very easy to propagate this species, so you should have no problem getting baby Philodendron squamiferum plants!
You can either propagate via the seeds or the stems, and both methods should see you get a successful, healthy plant. However, if you are having problems, you may find a cutting is easier to propagate as you can watch for clues as to what is going wrong, whereas seeds may simply refuse to germinate.
To propagate using the seeds, you will have to wait until after your Philodendron squamiferum has flowered, and then collect the seeds from its flowers. These should be dried, and then they can be placed in some damp potting medium while you wait for them to germinate.
It is much easier to take a cutting, however, and you can do this at any time, provided your plant is healthy. To take a cutting, all you need to do is to remove a part of the plant that has a root node. Ideally, cuttings should be about two to three inches long, and have one or more of these nodes.
Taking the cutting should be done using a sharp knife or secateurs, and the tools should be cleaned before use to avoid any chance of transferring an infection to the plant.
Once you have your cutting, it can be placed in some fresh water or root medium. If you place it in fresh water, wait for roots to start appearing, and refresh the water frequently to prevent it from turning stagnant.
Once you have established roots, the plant is ready to be potted up, just like an adult plant. That’s essentially all there is to it!
You can also create root growth while the cutting is still attached to the main plant. All you need to do is gently wrap a little sphagnum moss around the stem, over a root node. This will trick the plant into thinking that it has met with soil there, and it will begin producing roots to take advantage of the nutrients in the soil.
Once the roots are established, you can cut that piece of the plant off and simply pot it up in a new pot. You have a brand new Philodendron squamiferum. Treat it with great care while it is a baby plant, and gently mist it as you would an adult. Do not over-fertilize it or put it in direct sunlight.
As with pretty much any plant you might grow, you will need to repot your Philodendron squamiferum from time to time. These plants do not like constriction around the roots and will grow much more slowly if they are root bound.
You can check if your plant is root bound by tilting the pot to view the underside. If you can see root hairs protruding from the drainage holes, it likely needs a bigger pot. Similarly, if you lift it out of the pot and you can see roots pressed against the edges of the container, it is root bound.
Growing in cramped conditions can make your Philodendron squamiferum grow much more slowly, but can also stunt its growth. It may not achieve a good height no matter how long you keep it if its roots don’t have enough space.
A further issue is that the plant will dry out much faster, because it won’t have much potting medium to the ratio of its roots, so there won’t be much to hold the water. There will also not be enough water going into the pot for the size of plant you’re watering.
If you notice your Philodendron squamiferum is growing slowly or poorly, or that it seems to need watering all the time, consider repotting it.
You should choose a larger container than the one it is in, and make sure it has good drainage holes. This will help to keep the roots from rotting and stop the plant becoming waterlogged.
Lift your Philodendron squamiferum out of its current pot, and if its roots are tangled tightly around each other, gently tease some apart. If you don’t take a bit of time to do this, it may not “realize” it is now in a bigger container, and its roots might keep growing in a restricted shape.
Carefully adjust some of the roots so that they will point outward into the new potting medium, and then prepare your new pot. You should use the same materials mentioned earlier, using something to help with water retention, and something that will improve drainage. This is the best way to mimic the damp but not marshy conditions of the Philodendron squamiferum’s rainforest home.
Ideally, you should aim to repot your Philodendron squamiferum in spring or summer, as a plant that is growing very slowly or has turned dormant may not appreciate being repotted. It might struggle to repair any root damage that occurs, and won’t be able to take advantage of the new pot and nutrients properly until it starts to grow again anyway.
Always handle your plant gently when repotting it, and then water lightly and place it in a shady spot for a while. This gives it time to recover from the shock.
Here are a few things you might wonder about Philodendron squamiferum plants and the process of growing them.
Why Are The Leaf Tips Of My Philodendron Squamiferum Crispy?
This could be a sign of too much sunlight, too little water, or too little humidity. If you notice the tips of your Philodendron’s leaves curling and turning dry and crunchy, you need to check whether it is getting too much sun. Sun damage is usually seen on the tops of leaves, on the side of the plant closest to the sun.
If it’s not sun damage, check whether your plant needs a drink. Give it some water and move it to a shady spot for a little while (not too long) so it can recover. If it is already in a shady room, don’t worry about moving it.
If neither of these things solves the problem, you could try increasing the humidity levels. Gently mist the soil around your plant’s base, or try the trick with the tray and pebbles mentioned earlier, or purchase a humidifier for your plant. This should take care of crispy leaves.
What Pests Are Likely To Attack A Philodendron Squamiferum?
There are a few different pests that may attack your Philodendron squamiferum. Spider mites are a common nuisance, and can be detected by checking the undersides of leaves for traces of web. The mites themselves are often too small to spot, but spraying your Philodendron squamiferum with water should be enough to take care of them.
If the soil of your plant is too wet, it may have a fungus gnat infestation. This will require you to repot your plant in a clean, uninfected pot and new growing medium.
You may also spot aphids (given away by sticky sap on your plant’s leaves and the visible bugs crawling around), which can be washed away or treated with neem oil or soap and water. Mealybugs are another common pest, and can be treated in similar ways. They will usually appear on the undersides of leaves and can be hard to spot, but will be visible if you look closely.
Philodendron squamiferum are usually fairly pest resistant, but if you notice any signs of these bugs or your plant is looking sickly, check it for infestations.
Should I Prune My Philodendron Squamiferum?
Yes, you may sometimes wish to do so to maintain its shape or remove old or dying leaves. The commonest reason for pruning is to control its size, however. While they are slow growing plants, they can reach incredible heights, so to keep them under control, you may have to cut them back occasionally.
What Causes Brown Leaves?
There can be many causes of brown leaves, but the commonest is too much fertilizer. If this occurs, flush out your plant’s soil with fresh water and allow it to dry thoroughly before you water it again (the top three centimeters at least should be allowed to dry out).
Avoid fertilizing again for a longer period of time, remembering that these plants grow slowly and don’t require a lot of food.