There’s nothing quite like sharing your home with a little bit of nature, especially when it comes to a houseplant that’s as unique and stunning as the Philodendron squamiferum.
The Philodendron squamiferum stands out among its houseplant peers thanks to its lush foliage adorned with red, fuzzy petioles. The hairy extensions along each petiole, or stem, are called pubescence, and they keep the plant from losing water through transpiration.
Not only is Philodendron squamiferum a unique and visual treat, but it’s also a breeze to care for, making it an ideal addition to your houseplant collection. So, if you’re ready to get acquainted with this extraordinary green companion, you’ve come to the right place.
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Philodendron Squamiferum Plant Care Guide
History, habitat, and characteristics
Philodendron squamiferum, or red bristle philodendron, as it’s commonly known, hails from countries like Brazil, Ecuador, and Colombia. This friendly plant grows as an epiphyte in the understory of the rainforest, starting its journey on the forest floor before climbing up trees as it matures.
This vining, prolific climber features distinct, lobed leaves reminiscent of monstera that become more defined as the plant grows. Its hairy stems give it the nickname hairy philodendron.
Fun fact: Unlike many houseplants, the red bristle philodendron is a true Philodendron species, meaning it’s not a hybrid created for indoor environments. You’re really bringing home one of nature’s original masterpieces!
The distinct hairy stems of this species aren’t just for show — they’re actually an important feature that has helped these plants thrive in nature. These fine hairs deter predators (small herbivores and insects) from feeding on the plant. They also trap evaporating water during transpiration, allowing the plants to create their own microclimate . . . which makes them a little more hands-off than some other Philodendrons.
Lastly, these trichomes help anchor Philodendron squamiferum to other plants and trees (or your moss pole), letting them really live their best epiphytic life.
Let’s briefly cover two Philodendron squamiferum varieties you might see, both of which are exceedingly rare.
Philodendron squamiferum ‘Magic Mask’ features bright yellow variegation with deep green hues and patterns that remind one of a tribal mask. As with other squamiferum varieties, stems are covered in reddish-brown, hair-like trichomes. More striking variegated plants will often fetch a higher price, and they do require more bright light than greener plants.
Philodendron squamiferum ‘Variegata’ really runs the full range of variegated looks. Some look very close to the ‘Magic Mask’ with sharply divided yellows, while others feature creamy white variegation. We’ve seen some for sale online, but haven’t yet noticed them in any local nurseries.
They appear to be very, very fragile to changing conditions, and in some cases do revert in lower light. Each plant is one-of-a-kind, and they’re notoriously difficult to propagate, so you’ll often see prices running into the thousands of dollars.
Red bristle philodendrons like bright, indirect light. A perfect spot for your squamiferum plant would be near a north-facing window or a few feet away from east- or west-facing windows. South-facing windows work, too, just keep it about 4 to 6 feet away or use a sheer curtain to protect the leaves from the harsh afternoon sun.
In its natural habitat, this tropical plant grows up tree trunks, with parts in sunlight and parts in shade, so simulating filtered light at home is ideal. Consider using grow lights for around 14 hours a day to give your Philodendron squamiferum plants the perfect lighting conditions.
If your Philodendron squamiferum isn’t getting enough light, you might notice stunted growth and leggy leaves that reach toward any available light. In that case, it’s time for a brighter spot or some extra artificial lighting.
On the other hand, too much light can cause issues as well. You’ll see scorched or brown leaves and loss of the deep green color. To fix this, remove any damaged leaves and adjust its lighting to match the filtered light it would get in the rain forest.
Our lighting tips:
- Keep your squamiferum plant near east- or west-facing windows but off to the side to replicate filtered light.
- For south-facing windows, place your Philodendron squamiferum plant 4 to 6 feet away.
- In north-facing windows, incorporate a grow light up to 14 hours a day to give your plant enough light.
- Keep direct sunlight at bay to prevent leaf scorching and burning.
Your hairy philodendron needs just the right amount of water to maintain healthy growth and look its best. This tropical plant loves moisture, but not too much — or too little.
Water your Philodendron squamiferum when you can feel with your finger that the soil has dried out. Give it enough water that you can see it flow out of the drainage holes. It’s important that you keep an eye on the drip tray to make sure your plant is not in standing water, which can cause root rot.
You might need to adjust the watering frequency depending on the type of planter your red bristle philodendron is in. Ceramic pots will hold water longer than a terracotta pot, for example. Remember, over-watering is the quickest and most common way to kill a plant.
In such cases when your Philodendron squamiferum is not getting enough water, the oldest leaves (those at the bottom) will turn yellow or curl up. In this case, step up your watering game. And don’t forget to remove any dying or dead leaves to keep pests and diseases at bay.
To check the soil moisture, use a bamboo skewer, your finger, or a moisture meter. If you’re still unsure, give the pot a little lift to see if it feels light, which could mean your plant needs a drink. And if the soil has begun to break away from the sides of the pot, your plant is probably pretty thirsty.
If your plant is getting too much water, yellow or brown leaves might appear, accompanied by mushy stems and consistently moist soil. Leaves with brown and black spots could indicate root rot, which means you should cut back on watering and let the soil dry out.
Our watering tips:
- Allow the top few inches of soil to dry out between waterings.
- Water thoroughly, until water flows out of the bottom of the pot.
- Prevent rot by making sure the plant’s roots aren’t sitting in water.
- Be alert for over- or under-watering signs, such as discolored or curling leaves, and adjust as needed.
Temperature and humidity
Most Philodendron species, including Philodendron squamiferum, can adapt to a range of temperatures, from as low as 50°F to a comfortable 80°F. Keep in mind that this tropical plant is sensitive to cold drafts, so avoid placing it close to windows, vents, or doors that might let in chilly air, especially during winter.
If you notice wilting or drooping leaves, the temperature might be too low or too high for your philodendron squamiferum plant.
Humidity plays a significant role in the health of your philodendron species. Although Philodendron squamiferum thrives in 60%-65% humidity, it can still tolerate lower levels down to 50%.
If you notice curling, brown leaf tips, the humidity might be too low. Common ways to increase the ambient humidity around houseplants include installing a humidifier nearby or placing the pot on a drip tray filled with pebbles and water.
Leaves that wilt or develop soft, wet spots indicate humidity that is too high. To prevent mold and fungus growth, ensure proper air circulation around the plant, especially if the humidity is above 60%.
Our temperature and humidity care tips:
- Maintain the temperature for Philodendron squamiferum in the 50-80°F range, keeping it away from cold drafts.
- Aim for indoor humidity levels of 60%-65%, but understand the plant can adapt to as low as 50%.
- Use a humidifier or pebble tray filled with water to maintain ideal humidity levels.
- Ensure good air circulation around the plant to discourage fungus and mold growth.
Soil and planting
The ideal soil mixture for this epiphytic species gives it sufficient aeration and drainage while still holding moisture and nutrients. A base of standard potting soil mixed with coco coir and perlite, as well as orchid bark or partially composted pine bark, should do the trick.
Since Philodendron squamiferum is a natural climber and an aroid epiphyte in its native habitat, providing support is essential for healthy growth. Encourage vertical growth by using a sphagnum moss pole, trellis, or other support structure. This allows your slow-growing plant to maintain its natural growth patterns as it matures.
Repot your Philodendron squamiferum when it outgrows its original pot. You can tell it’s ready to repot by lifting it gently out of its pot and checking for root growth along the sides and bottom. If you can see roots, you might have a mature plant ready for a bigger pot.
Choose a pot only slightly larger than the previous one, and always make sure it has adequate drainage holes. Repotting is an excellent opportunity to check the root health and provide fresh soil, helping your plant continue to flourish. Most plants don’t like to be repotted too often, however, so make sure it’s ready.
As a naturally slow grower, Philodendron squamiferum does benefit from regular fertilization. Use a mix of organic fertilizers like kelp, worm castings, or an inorganic alkaline fertilizer. Fertilize Philodendron squamiferum twice a month during spring and summer for best results.
Over-fertilizing your Philodendron squamiferum can lead to leaf burn, yellowing, wilting, or even root damage. If you notice any of these signs, consider reducing the frequency and strength of your fertilizer applications. Flush the plant’s soil with water to remove excess fertilizer salts and ensure that you’re using a properly diluted solution in the future.
Follow our easy step-by-step guide on how to propagate Philodendron squamiferum, and you’ll have baby Philodendron squamiferums in no time . . . or maybe just a month or so.
Philodendron squamiferum propagation with stem cuttings:
- Look for a stem with at least two happy, oak-shaped leaves and visible nodes, little bumps that will become roots. They’re the star of the show here.
- Grab sterilized gardening shears or a sharp knife and cut the stem between two nodes. Leave a couple of inches of stem below the lowest leaf for new roots to sprout and enough foliage for the cutting to thrive.
- Pop your stem cutting in water or some moist coconut coir. If you’re going the water route, keep it fresh by switching it up every few days. If moss is more your style, make sure it’s damp but not drenched.
- Your cutting will love a humid environment, so create one by placing it in a terrarium, an open, clear plastic bag or a sliced-open soda bottle. It’s like a tropical vacation for your little Philodendron!
- Let those roots do their thing. It’ll take a few weeks, but those nodes will start sprouting roots. Keep your cutting in a bright spot with indirect sunlight during this time.
- When your cutting has roots a couple of inches long, it’s time to transplant it into some well-draining aroid soil. Remember to pamper your newly potted plant with bright, indirect sunlight and regular care, like proper watering and lots of humidity.
If you notice one or more of these issues, it’s not a sour reflection of your houseplant care. It happens to everyone! Here are a few common issues you might encounter with your Philodendron squamiferum.
Crispy leaf tips
This usually happens because of exposure to direct sunlight. In its natural habitat, this tropical plant enjoys plenty of indirect or filtered sunlight. So, when you first welcome your Philodendron squamiferum home, place it somewhere with ample indirect sunlight to avoid that unwanted “tan.”
If your plant buddy is already sporting some burnt leaves, you can help it bounce back! Give it a little trim by snipping off any damaged leaves. This has the added benefit of inspiring new growth. Find a spot with bright, indirect light (maybe near a north or east-facing window) to protect it from harsh sunlight.
Inadequate pH levels in the water or soil, overwatering, or a lack of nutrients could be the culprits here. To start, test your water and soil’s pH levels and adjust as needed. Hairy philodendron likes a soil that is slightly acidic to neutral. If your soil is more alkaline, adding coffee grounds to the soil can help lower the pH.
If fiddling with pH doesn’t do the trick, check for signs of overwatering. Keep an eye out for yellowing leaves and soggy or waterlogged soil. Let the soil dry before watering again and make sure your pot has proper drainage holes. Lower your watering frequency during the winter months as well.
While you’re at it, consider treating your plant to a dose of balanced liquid fertilizer to replenish those nutrients and bring back that lovely green hue, especially during the growing seasons when it might need a little extra oomph.
Pests and diseases
Spider mites and fungus gnats are the most likely pests to infiltrate your Philodendron squamiferum.
To rescue your plant from spider mites, start by isolating it from your other tropical plants. Then, grab a damp cloth and gently wipe off the tiny bugs and their equally tiny webs. Don’t forget to check both sides of the leaves and the stems.
Once that’s done, get some insecticidal soap, like neem oil, or whip up a mix of water and dish soap (trust me, it works), and give your plant a thorough treatment. Keep an eye on your slow-growing plant’s progress and check it regularly for signs of reinfestation.
For many houseplant collectors, fungus gnats are par for the course. To rid a plant of fungus gnats, the most important step is to let the soil dry out. If that doesn’t work, you may need to repot the plant in fresh potting soil. Preventing fungus gnats, while not an exact science, involves following a careful watering regimen.
Root rot usually rears its ugly head when we overwater our plants or provide poor drainage.
If your plant’s roots are mushy, slimy, or discolored, that’s a sure sign of root rot. To save your plant, remove it from its pot, trim away those sickly roots (remember to sterilize your cutting tools before and after), and repot using fresh, well-draining soil. You might want to add some perlite, pine bark fines, or pumice to the mix for better aeration.
And — say it with me folks — make sure your pot has drainage holes!
Pro tip: To give your plant an extra hand in the root rot battle, mix 1 part of 3% hydrogen peroxide with 10 parts water and use it to water your plant just once. After that, go back to using regular water and make sure you let the top 2 inches of soil dry out before you water again.
That’s it for our Philodendron squamiferum care guide!
With its captivating appearance and relatively easy care requirements, adding a Philodendron squamiferum to your plant collection will bring a piece of nature’s artistry into your living space.
Our Philodendron squamiferum care summary:
- Provide your plant with bright, indirect sunlight, and consider using grow lights if needed.
- Water thoroughly when the top 2 inches of soil has dried out.
- Maintain the temperature between 50-80°F and aim for indoor humidity levels of 50%-65%.
- Use a well-draining potting mix and fertilize your plant twice a month for optimal growth.
We hope this guide helped you and that you’ll enjoy the beauty and charm of the Philodendron squamiferum as it flourishes in your home. If you have any questions we didn’t cover or need more assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Is Philodendron squamiferum rare?
While it may not be the most common houseplant you’ll find at your local nursery, it’s not exactly scarce, either. You’re looking at a plant that’s somewhere between common and exceptional. So, while you might need to do a bit of searching, Philodendron squamiferum isn’t necessarily a unicorn.
Is squamiferum a climber?
Indeed, it is a climber! In the enchanting understory of the South American rainforests, it begins its life on the ground before venturing upwards, gracefully ascending trees as it grows. Giving your squamiferum a moss pole or some sort of support will encourage its climbing nature.
Is Philodendron squamiferum toxic?
Yes, according to the ASPCA, Philodendron squamiferum is toxic. Be sure to place it out of reach of curious pets and young children.