Plant profile: Rhaphidophora tetrasperma
Mini monstera, mini split-leaf, Ginny philodendron... Rhaphidophora tetrasperma goes by many misleading names and is having a huge moment in the spotlight currently, thanks largely to social media. Search this plant on eBay, and you might find an unrooted cutting with one leaf for $50 USD. Post in a buy/sell/trade plant group on Facebook, and your messenger will blow up. They are all the rage right now due to their cute split leaves, ease of care, and fast growth rate. R. tetrasperma bares a striking resemblance to a Monstera deliciosa at first glance, and it's often incorrectly referred to as a Philodendron species. However, this plant is neither a Monstera or a Philodendron, although they are all in the same family Araceae (plants in this family are often referred to as "aroids"). Rhaphidophora tetrasperma in a a totally separate genus than those two plants, and is endemic to a separate part of the world! While Monstera and Philodendron species are native to Central and South America, R. tetrasperma is found in Southern Thailand and Malaysia. And surprisingly, the Rhapidophora genus isn't closely related to the other two genera it's often mistaken for. More information about R. tetrasperma can be found here at the Exotic Rainforest page, which is one of my favorite reputable aroid sources.
I wanted to write this care guide because there's not a lot of solid information on the internet about it's care, and it's so wonderfully easy to grow. My R. tetrasperma and I have been through a lot together. I purchased it last November online right before the craze hit and was pleased with it's steady growth rate even in the dead of winter. Then a spider mite infestation hit it, and I had to cut back some of the badly damaged leaves. I did everything I could to save it, because I was not about to lose this plant! It grew back nicely once spring rolled around - I gave it a bigger pot, fresh soil, and a proper trellis to climb. It absolutely love the hot, humid Tennessee summers. Then another disaster hit: I literally burned my RT from the inside out with too much systemic insecticides. Yep. I used way too much. This was two months ago and I STILL cringe when I think about it. In fact, I couldn't even talk about what happened for a good month, because I was so upset. Most of the leaves were completely destroyed and I felt like such a fool for letting something like this happen. Lesson learned, I'll tell ya! After cutting 3/4 of it down, it's growing back again nicely, even fuller than before! Sometimes I think about how big it would be if I hadn't had to chop it down twice, but I try to push those thoughts away and appreciate how HARDY this plant is. No matter what you throw at it, R. tetrasperma wants to grow and will put up a fight. This is not a fussy fern or begonia, this plant has a serious will to live. For that reason, it is among my top favorite plants in the whole world. Can't wait to see where I'll be with this plant in another year! (Fingers crossed.)
Lighting: Rhaphidophora tetrasperma requires bright, filtered light. Indoors, direct sun is fine; outdoors, a little bit of dappled sun is fine as well. In my case, I keep it near a west-facing window (northern hemisphere), and outdoors I keep it in bright shade that gets a touch of morning sun. R. tetrasperma is decidedly NOT a low light plant - it will grow slowly and will produce small foliage if placed in an area with too little light.
Watering: Rhaphidophora tetrasperma likes to stay pretty moist, at least during growing season. I've personally noticed faster growth with regular waterings and not leaving it too dry for too long. That said, this plant won't pout if you forget to water it now and then, and is more sensitive to overwatering if anything. I typically water when the potting medium is dried down 1-2" and I don't let the root ball dry out. In the winter, you can cut down watering.
Humidity + temperature: This plant can tolerate standard household humidity (typically around 30-40%), but it will absolutely love added humidity! If you can place it near a humidifier or group it with other plants, it will greatly benefit. Temperature wise, it's like most other aroids and doesn't like temperatures that are too cold (nothing below 55 degrees) or too hot (100+ degrees). In the thick of summer where I am in Tennessee, I've noticed R. tetrasperma get a little wilty in temperatures over 95, and it will perk right up if I bring it indoors for a bit or at night when temps dip a little.
Soil + fertilizer: A chunky, well-draining substrate is KEY. You want a mix that is going to have plenty of aeration and stay moist, but never soggy. I use a mix I make myself, the same one I use for all of my Philodendron and Monstera species. It's a base of potting soil with equal portions of perlite/pumice, pine bark, finely shredded spaghum moss and horticultural charcoal. As far as feeding, these do well with a balanced or high-nitrogen fertilizer monthly during growing season. Cut down fertilizing drastically - or completely - during colder months when growth slows down.
Repotting + pruning: R. tetrasperma is a vigorous grower and will need to be repotted every year, possibly twice a year. I've had mine for less than a year and I've already had to repot it twice! Also make sure you give these plants support to climb - a moss pole or totem works well, so does a trellis. I've seen these as hanging plants, but I honestly don't believe that they make good hanging baskets in the long run. Leaving them to hang can result in leggy growth, smaller leaves, and leaves without splits.
Common problems: As evidenced by my story above: spider mites. :( Otherwise, it doesn't seem susceptible to pests more than any other plant. I would be wary of letting it sit in water or using a potting mix that is too dense, as that can lead to root rot.
Propagation: These are fairly easy to propagate. Take a stem cutting with a node and root in water, soil, perlite, or spaghum moss! They can sometimes be a bit slow to take off in water.