Plant Portrait: Rhaphidophora tetrasperma

Meet the newest indoor plant with the least verbally-friendly name, Rhaphidophora tetrasperma. They’re super easy plants that look amazing, grow like a weed and are perfect for filling that new year I-need-a-new-Monstera void.

Climbing Mini Monstera
Photo by Alina, @alina.fassakhova

However I’m going to be the bearer of bad news and tell you Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are incorrectly dubbed a “monstera,” when these little plants are not related to Monsteras at all. Yes, they have the Monstera characteristics we all love: the leaf splits, aerial roots, and teenager-like growth – but we all need to accept Rhaphidophora tetrasperma is not a Monstera.

Anyway, I’ve become quite obsessed with these plants and am surprised to see Rhaphidophora tetrasperma care guides to be a bit scarce on the interwebs. So, I decided to make one. As we speak, my Rhaphidophora tetrasperma is coming in the mail, so really I feel like I’m doing this care guide for myself and I’m not ashamed to say that. Anyway, if you find yourself deeply yearning for this plant, read on for an easy guide to keep your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma thriving.

Photo by Iris, @jungleboogiie

What is a Rhaphidophora tetrasperma?

This is what Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are not: Monsteras. Nor are they Philodendrons. Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are typically called mini Monsteras, Monstera ginny, climbing Monstera, and Split leaf philodendrons. These are all wrong, unfortunately, so let’s all stop incorrectly naming these plants. We all know the real reason is because their actual scientific name is long and awful looking. Rhaphidophora tetrasperma? Geez.

Which brings me to: how do you pronounce Rhaphidophora tetrasperma? If you’re like me, you avoid the name because it’s long and most likely going to be botched. But fear not! It’s actually not that bad: Rah-fid-doe-FOR-AH Teh-trah-SPERM-ma. Ok, it’s still pretty awful.

Photo by Iris, @jungleboogiie

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are part of the Araceae family but are a genus all their own called Rhaphidophora. They aren’t strictly jungle houseplants either, they can live in dry climates or rainforests making them a pretty low-key houseplant. They’re aroids which means they’re grabby growers and will benefit from a trellis or moss pole to grow alongside them.

Are Rhaphidophora tetrasperma safe for pets?

Because they’re part of the Araceae family (which is home to Monsteras and philodendrons conveniently) these guys contain calcium oxylate crystals which are toxic to dogs and cats. These crystals can lead to internal damage like stomach pain and lethargy and external pain such as mouth stinging. Like all other Araceae plants, keep these out of reach of pets. And remember, because Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are trailers, be aware of them “hanging” where pets can grab, snack on, and pillage them.

Basic Care

Ok, ok, care is like a Monstera, so if you have a Monstera deliciosa, you’re in luck, but I want to remind you these aren’t Monsteras.

Light: Keep out of direct hot sun. Rhaphidophora tetrasperma prefer diffused bright light, such as a few feet from an east or west window. Too much harsh sun can turn the leaves yellow.

Watering: This depends on how bright sunlight levels are, but you can let these dry out a bit. They’re avid growers but I wouldn’t go any more than once a week in winter and a few times a week in summer depending on how warm their environment is. I always recommend a moister meter.

Soil Mix: Go for a chunky soil blend, nothing peaty or overly water-holding. I suggest 50%  indoor plant soil and the rest equal parts perlite, orchid bark, small stones and charcoal. You want an airy mix that drains well.  

Photo by Anna, @littleandlush

Where can you find one?

Always try your local garden center first, but if that fails you can usually find them on: Amazon, Ken’s Philodendrons, Steve’s Leaves, Pistils Nursery, eBay and Etsy all have cuttings in the $40-50 range.

Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma Problems

While this plant is pretty hands-off, there can be problems. Here’s some basic troubleshooting when you sense some unhappiness or sadness from your long-named friend.

  • Yellowing leaves: Too much sun or overwatering. If the plant is too close to the window, it can cause chlorophyll loss. If this isn’t it, it’s mostly likely overwatering. Be sure to only water when the soil is 80% dry and avoid soggy bottoms and drafts.
  • No fenestrations: Fenestrations, or the slits in the leaves, are the best part of these plants, I know. Young plants may not have splits and that’s ok! As the plants gets older, the leaves will begin to split; providing ample sunlight and love speeds this process along, too.
  • Metallic streaked or ruined leaves: Either spider mites (you’ll see webbing on the underside of leaves) or small black thrips (which leave a metallic sheen on the leaves). Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma leaves are thin, so you want to check for bugs weekly and apply an insecticide at the first signs.
Photo by Iris, @jungleboogiie

Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma Propagation

All of those visible yummy nodes on Rhaphidophora tetraspermas can become new plants! Because these guys grow quick, you may want to trim them regularly to keep the plant from looking leggy. You can follow my Monstera propagation guide here, as these can be propagated in the same way – cut a chunk of the plant with a leaf or two and a node. Place the node in water or wrap some moist sphagnum moss around it and watch the roots form! It should sprout roots within a few weeks and be ready to plant in a few months.

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  1. Hi! I have a lovely Rhaphidophora that’s growing like a weed. My apartment has loads of light but not much direct sunlight, so a great place for many types of plants. I’d love to propagate My rhaphidophora, but it only has one branch. If I take a cutting from the top, will it still continue to grow?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Emilie, yes it will and it should make it look fuller. Before you cut, I would make sure the main plant has a moss pole of something to grab onto. Cutting the top will make it top heavy and uneven, so a moss pole provides something for them to grab onto.

  2. I am so afraid I’m going to kill this plant! The leaves are so fragile, and I’ve torn a few. I have three thick branches in a plastic pot without drain holes (mistake #1), and I think I have overwatered (mistake #2). Some leaf tips are brown and crispy too (mistake #3). She is currently about 5 feet from a due east facing window. Help me please! Should I repot in a terracotta pot with fresh soil? I’d like to avoid root rot. Oh…I’ve had her about 3 weeks.

    1. Hi Deb, don’t be worried, RT’s are pretty durable. But yes, first off, these need well draining soil, so repot in a planter with drainage and a 1/2 soil 1/2 perlite mix (I have the soil and perlite I like here). Next you may want a moisture meter to help you with watering – these guys prefer to be dry rather than overly wet. And last you may want to get a moss pole or something they can climb, it will yield better leaves and they just enjoy something to grab. With these change you should be fine – good luck!

  3. I just got my first one about a month ago and made a little moss pole for him to climb. It’s under 12″ tall in a 6″ pot. So far I haven’t seen any new leaves and a couple of yellowing leaves at the bottom. I’m guessing this could be overwatering? I’ve been checking the soil moisture each time before watering. Should I expect to see new leaves come from the top?

    1. Hi Rachel, Yes you should see new leaves. RT’s are fast growers, usually pumping out leaves right after another if they’re happy. Yellow leaves are an indicator that you may be overwatering and he is not receiving enough sun. Try only watering when he’s very dry and making sure he’s in bright sun. You should see an improvement soon!

  4. Thanks for such a good article! I’m more confident that I could take good care of one of these beauties. I’m going to save up for one. They are expensive for me but I really want one!

  5. Hi! Just ordered my first one. Is there a type of planter that is best? Can it hang down? Or should it climb

  6. Hi! Just ordered my first one. Is there a type of planter that is best? Can it hang down? Or should it climb

    1. Hi! I have mine in a ceramic planter (with drainage) that’s sturdy so it can hold a moss pole once it starts to grow more. It can hang or climb, whatever you prefer. I think they look cooler climbing, personally.

  7. Hi Leaf and Paw,
    I just bought this plant and want to keep it in my room, however I fear that the light in my room isn’t sufficient enough for this plants growth. I think the spot I currently have this plant in is medium, indirect light. I have a grow light, and was wondering if this along with the medium, indirect light will be enough light to keep the plant healthy? Or should I move it into a better location with brighter natural indirect light?

    1. Hi Tiana, It’s not the best – these guys do really need sufficient light but the grow light may be enough. I always tell people to be careful watering (as in don’t overwater) if they are keeping their plants in lower light rooms. I would say try him in your room and see how he responds.

    1. Hi! Possibly both. Very hot temps will do this no doubt, but improper watering (such as watering too little or not “soaking” the plant enough when you do water) is probably the culprit. Be sure to water it thoroughly once a week, possibly more if it’s in a warm environment. They key is to not water in small amounts. Good luck!