If it looks like a mini monstera but is called a philodendron, what is it really? That’s the intrigue of the Philodendron Minima. Here’s the kicker: it’s neither! So what exactly is it?
Philodendron Minima, also known as Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma, is a tropical houseplant belonging to the ‘Rhaphidophora’ genus. It is a distant relative of Monsteras and Philodendrons under the same Arum/Araceae family. This is why they share certain characteristics and care.
Below, I elaborate more on the plant’s origins, common misconceptions, and its essential care guide:
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Table of contents
- Is a Philodendron Minima a Monstera Plant?
- How Do You Care for a Philodendron Minima?
- 1. Provide Plenty of Indirect Sunlight, Away from Direct Sun
- 2. Plant in a Well-Draining Soil Mix with Perlite or Vermiculite
- 3. Water Every 10 Days When The Top 2-3 Inches of Soil Dries Out
- 4. Use an All-Purpose Fertilizer Once a Month in Spring and Summer
- 5. Ensure the Temperature is Consistently Above 55F/12C with an Average of 50-60% Humidity Level
- 6. Train the Plant up a Moss Totem Pole or Stake to Support its Vertical Growth
- Helpful Additional Care for a Philodendron Minima
- Final Words
And if you love Philodendrons and would like to see some cool varieties, check out these:
Is a Philodendron Minima a Monstera Plant?
Even though it is from the same Araceae family, a Philodendron Minima is not a Monstera plant. As mentioned in the introduction, it belongs to the Rhaphidophora subfamily. In human terms, they’re basically cousins of Monsteras.
Philodendron Minimas are often called Mini Monsteras because that’s exactly what they look like when they’ve matured, minus the holes like in a Swiss Cheese plant. As a young plant, it resembles more like a vining philodendron. As time goes by, the whole leaves gradually develop fenestrations, i.e., splits up. So you can see how the confusion came about. It’s a real ol’ jamboree when it comes to botany taxonomy.
Another plant commonly misidentified as a Philodendron Minima is the Epipremnum Pinnatum. Although to be fair, this plant does look reasonably similar to any Rhaphidophora plants. Lucky for you, I wrote an article distinguishing their differences here.
Is a Philodendron Minima similar to a Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma?
A Philodendron Minima is another name for Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma. The name comes from how the plant looks like a philodendron plant in its juvenile stage. As it matures, it resembles a mini version of the Monstera plant with split leaves but no holes. Despite their similar features, a Philodendron Minima doesn’t belong to the Monstera or Philodendron genus.
How Do You Care for a Philodendron Minima?
1. Provide Plenty of Indirect Sunlight, Away from Direct Sun
Place them in a bright area away from the harsh sun, preferably near a window with translucent curtains. You want to ensure it doesn’t get toasted under the direct sunlight because that will damage its leaves. Think of it like this: the sun is too confrontational and demanding, causing the plant to burn out and wither away from that death ray. Hey, not everyone is built the same and can take the heat. So let your Philodendron Minima thrive away from all that pressure.
But if you’re noticing leggy growth, yellow leaves, or no fenestrations in your plant, it may not be getting enough light. Move your Philodendron Minima where it’s slightly brighter and rotate it once or twice per week to ensure even light exposure.
If this seems too much work for you, or you just can’t get their light needs right, using grow lights (Amazon link) is a better alternative. It gives out a steady light output in a fixed area of your choice without the risk of scorching your Philodendron Minimima’s leaves. It’s also pretty reliable to have in the long term if you don’t get much sun in your area, whether in winter or all year round. The product I linked, in particular, has an average of 4.5 stars with 3,455 ratings.
2. Plant in a Well-Draining Soil Mix with Perlite or Vermiculite
Any standard indoor potting mix is adequate for a Philodendron Minima as long as it’s well-draining. But if you find that the soil stays wet for too long even though you swear you watered them correctly, you may need to add more aerating materials. These are usually perlite, vermiculite, pumice, gravel, and others. They add air pockets in the soil, allowing water to drain more freely and preventing the roots from rotting. Here are a few potting mixes and varying aerating materials I highly recommend getting on Amazon:
- Burpee Premium Organic Potting Soil with an average of 4.7 stars and 10,408 ratings. For just a small amount, you get more than what you pay for by just adding water. The soil expands, and you’re left with plenty to work with for your plants!
- Black Gold All Organic Potting Soil with an average of 4.6 stars and 1,736 ratings. This has loose, loamy soil with rich nutrients in it that are bound to keep your Philodendron Minima happy and flourishing.
- Mother Earth Perlite with an average of 4.7 stars and 1,099 ratings. It’s got good solid chunks that are the perfect size for a well-draining soil mixture. Be careful to wash the perlite before use and wear a mask to avoid inhaling any dust.
- xGarden Horticultural Grade Premium Vermiculite with an average of 4.7 stars and 1,031 ratings. This is more on the chunky side of rocks, but that’s precisely what you want in your plant’s soil mix. Similarly to perlite, wash it thoroughly and use a mask to prevent dust inhalation.
3. Water Every 10 Days When The Top 2-3 Inches of Soil Dries Out
This watering schedule may vary depending on pot type, soil mix, season, climate, and others. My Philodendron Minima generally errs between weekly to biweekly watering, so somewhere between is a good bet. But in winter, it’ll most likely be once every 3-4 weeks when it’s colder and dormant.
It can be very easy to water your Philodendron Minima wrong. Too little water, and you’ll see the leaves curl up and droop. Too much water, and you’ll likely give it root rot causing yellow leaves and other problems. I recommend checking the soil with a knuckle test once a week to gauge whether it is wet or dry before watering.
Alternatively, using a moisture meter (Amazon link) is a great way to tackle this issue and make things easier for you and your plant. The product in the link is hands-down one of the best purchases I made. You don’t have to take my word for it; there are already 26,426 people agreeing it’s a solid 4.5 product on average! I kind of wish I had it before I fumbled around and accidentally killed some of my previous plants. But, let it never be said; everything is a learning experience.
4. Use an All-Purpose Fertilizer Once a Month in Spring and Summer
Potting mixes often come with added fertilizers, so you don’t have to worry about giving more to your Philodendron Minima for about a month. After that, mix in some fertilizer about once a month, during the growing season in spring and summer only.
It’s worth noting that potting media are usually sterile, so once the nutrients run out, that’s it. This is why it’s important to fertilize potted plants. Even in small amounts, a little bit of fertilizer goes a long way for the plant’s growth. If you don’t top it with fertilizers now and then, expect slow and mediocre growth from your plant.
If you’re not keen on using synthetic fertilizers, organic fertilizers such as worm castings (Amazon link) are pretty good stuff. You have less risk of burning your plant’s roots because it doesn’t contain harsh chemicals – just good ol’ solid worm poop, which does amazing things for your plants. The product in the link I recommended is not only odor-free and non-toxic, but it also has an average of 4.8 stars plus 5,668 ratings!
If you’d like to know more about worm poop, or vermicomposting, you can read this article where I visited a worm farm and learned some cool new stuff!
5. Ensure the Temperature is Consistently Above 55F/12C with an Average of 50-60% Humidity Level
As a tropical houseplant, Philodendron Minima is sensitive to chilly temperatures. They are likely to experience cold damage, which won’t show in its dormancy until spring comes. By then, it may even be too late to save the plant. If you suspect your Philodendron Minima has been exposed to cold drafts, you need to act fast. You can find the steps on how to save the plant from cold damage in this article here.
As for humidity levels, Philodendron Minima can tolerate your typical 30-40% indoor humidity. But it may need a bit more help once winter arrives and your heater is blasting, dragging the humidity down to 20%. Creating a pebble tray may help, but if you start seeing brown edges and yellowing on the leaves, you’ll need something more reliable.
A humidifier (Amazon link) is a one-stop solution to most humidity problems for your tropical houseplants. This one has a great 4.4 stars with a whopping 64,535 ratings. I have the same one, and it does wonders for my plants. They keep thriving as if they’re back in the tropics, and all you have to do is add water for instant humidity!
6. Train the Plant up a Moss Totem Pole or Stake to Support its Vertical Growth
This is probably one of the most important things you have to do for your Philodendron Minima. In the forest, it grows by latching its aerial roots on trees to reach higher ground and receive more sun. In doing so, the leaves start splitting to ensure any hard wind that blows past them doesn’t tear the foliage apart.
You can use a regular stake but using a moss totem pole (Amazon link) is more beneficial for the plant. The moss on the pole emulates a tree’s bark, making it easier for the plant to climb up. This one has many Monstera plant owners raving about it, with 5,176 ratings and an average of 4.7 stars.
You can technically skip the trellis support and let it grow hanging down a basket. But, it won’t develop fenestrations as a result. If you don’t mind the philodendron look though, go for it!
Helpful Additional Care for a Philodendron Minima
Even if you managed to cover all your Philodendron Minima’s primary care, there are other things you can also do to ensure its best growth. Here are some aspects to take note of:
- Don’t prune your Philodendron Minima. It can grow as tall as 4-5 feet indoors but if you want it smaller, then feel free to use your pruning shears. Otherwise, it’s unnecessary since they won’t grow monstrously large inside.
- Repot your Philodendron Minima every 2-3 years. It’s helpful to do this when it’s developing, especially when you need to add a taller moss pole. It generally doesn’t mind getting rootbound, but better safe than sorry.
- Propagate your Philodendron Minima using stem cuttings. It’s similar to propagating philodendrons, which is ridiculously easy. You can read the instructions for it in this propagation article.
- Do a weekly pest & disease check on the plant. The most common pests that attack a Philodendron Minima are mealybugs and spider mites. As for diseases, root rot is the common culprit, mostly due to overwatering issues. Handling pests and disease problems in plants are relatively simple; you can read all about it in this article.
- Keep Philodendron Minima away from pets and children. They are toxic upon ingestion. I suggest putting it somewhere out of their reach or in a room where they won’t be able to access the plant.
So despite the misleading name, now you know what a Philodendron Minima is! You’ll encounter a few more of those oddly-named plants as you go along, but it’s all in good fun. Happy planting!