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Rhapidopha tetrasperma is a popular alternative to a Monstera delicosa, because it has all the beautiful fenestrations and lush green vibes of the swiss cheese plant without taking over the house.
Monstera are called monstera for a reason – they’re freaking enormous. Mini Monstera is an apt alternative name for Rhapidophora tetrasperma, because they look similar* but don’t get as big.
Mini Monstera can have a tendency to grow a little leggily and look stringy, but look best when they’re compact and bushy. I also like when the main plant is bushy but there are a couple of vines that have gone off and done their own thing.
This article will give you ten tips on growing your Rhapidophora tetrasperma so that it stays bushy. Ideally, you’d do a few of these things, but they’re broadly listed in the order of things that will have the most impact.
By the way, you’re best off buying a bushy plant to begin with BUT mini Monstera is one of thse plants that can be super expensive if you buy one that’s a nice shape.
If you find a bargain that’s not so aesthetically pleasing, you can always revive it – mine was once one long vine with massive internodal spacing, and now she’s a bushy little thing.
Go for whatever your budget can comfortably handle.
*People on Facebook LOVE to laugh at people for suggesting that the two plants look similar. Whilst I can definitely tell the difference, I can also see how a newbie can get them confused. Facebook, be kinder.
1 – Give it more light
I know, I know.
This is my number one piece of advice because IT WORKS.
Plants bloody LOVE a bit of light.
Rhapidophora are frequently included in roundups of plants that are happy in medium light, but they’re not going to grow in a bushy fashion – they’ll be long and stringy.
Light provides plants with energy, and plants that have a lot of energy grow faster. When plants grow faster, their leaves grow closer together (small internodal space) because they’re not having to stretch towards the sun.
As well as having smaller internodal spacing, the leaves themselves grow bigger, so the plant gives the illusion of looking fuller.
Look at the difference between the leaves that were grown under grow lights versus growing in a corner:
It looks like an optical illusion, or forced perspective, but it isn’t I’m just a crap photographer. If you look closely, you can see that the leaves are actually touching.
I’ve actually turned my grow lights off due to the energy crisis in the UK, and put my Rhapidophora near a BIG south-facing window and I’m not getting nearly as good growth, but I’m not too bothered – I like her creeping over the book cases.
You can see how much bigger the bottom leaf is compared to the one directly above. You can also see a gecko poo on the second leaf up too. This was my first clue that the geckos don’t always stay in the terrarium.
Theoretically, she should have plenty of light, but this is the UK.
2 – Chop and prop
This is the one big benefit of Rhapidophora tetrasperma over Monstera – you can put a tonne of cuttings in a bot and grow a plant with multiple growth points. Once it’s established you’ll get a very bushy plant.
You can’t do this with Monstera – well, you obviously can but they don’t like to grow this way. Either the roots will end up enormous or one of the cuttings will take over and the others will look a bit sad.
People that do grow big Monstera with multiple plants in the pot tend to have exceedingly good conditions for them, so just bear this in mind before you start.
You can chop and prop the traditional way – I had a bit of trouble propagating R. tet, so I had to persevere – I have an article about how I succeeded here. I also discovered a lazy soil propagation method that works really well for mini monstera that I explain here.
3 – Grow it in a terrarium
I have a rhapidophora in my terrarium and it grows like a WEED. It grows quite compactly – I thought it would run everywhere – but it loves it in there so much that it’s rapidly outgrowing the space.
If you have a small specimen that you want to grow up, I highly recommend having a terrarium set up that you can just pop your plant in (pot and all) to get it growing quickly. A lot of garden centres are selling baby plants in tiny 1 inch pots that can be quite hard to get going.
The pots dry out incredibly fast and the plants are vulnerable to, er, everything when they’re that small. Putting them in a terrarium stops them from drying out so quickly, and if you put a light in there you can get growth pretty quickly.
Since starting the big terrarium earlier in the year, I’m rapidly discovering that there are very few plant problems that can’t be solved by a spell in the terrarium (especially if you put pest-eating bugs in there). If you don’t have a lot of room and don’t mind cutting them back regularly, then terrariums are awesome.
4 – Humidity, humidity, humidity
This leads on from the terrarium, but we don’t all have the room for a huge glass box in the living room. A humidifier is a great option BUT often too-high humidity can cause damp, especially in winter, and make rooms expensive to heat.
If you do go the humidifier route, make sure that it’s close to the plant, otherwise it won’t have much of an effect. Misting is NOT an alternative for humidity (it’s more akin to being rained on, which plants do NOT like – who does?). There are also options like grouping your plants together, or putting your plants in smaller rooms that retain their humidity.
Whether you go for a humidifier or a full-on terrarium, just remember that high humidity will not only make your rhapidophora grow bushier, but the leaves will be much healthier too, and be less likely to go crispy round the edges.
5 – Grow it up
When vining plants grow vertically, they produce bigger leaves, which gives the impression that they’re full.
As you could see in the picture above, I let my mini Monstera trail, for no reason other than that’s the spot I want her to live in. So far she’s defying gravity, but I think she’ll buckle under her own weight eventually (unless she attaches to the bookcase – that’d be cool).
You could go for a traditional coir pole that you’ll have to tie it to, or one of these plastic poles that you fill with moss. Even a plank of wood or a well placed wall (or bookcase) can be a climbing frame for a mini Monstera.
If you want it to attach itself you’ll need to up the humidity so it can grow ample furry aerial roots.
6 – Water and fertilise it properly
Rhapidophora are quite chill about their watering and fertilising schedule – I’ve both under and overwatered mine and it was FINE.
Every time you accidentally damage the plant roots, they’ll need time to heal, which can lead to slower growth. This can in turn lead to larger internodal spacing, and therefore a less full-looking plant.
My RT is totally fine with tap water, and it sometimes has aquarium water. I water when it’s dry, but best practice is to wait until it’s very nearly dry, but not completely. You’d have to be checking very regularly, which isn’t something I care to do, but I know a lot of people do.
Feed your plant every six weeks and you should be fine. alternatively, add a handful of worm castings every few months.
7 – Keep it pest free
Rhapidophora tetrasperma aren’t AS prone to thrips as Monstera (I keep my Monstera nearby so I know where the thrips are – I’m joking but also it works – they love Monstera and don’t tend to stray from it). In fact, the only creature mine has had on it was the afore-mentioned gecko.
Still, I may just have gotten lucky. I believe RTs are tissue cultured, and with tissue culture, different plants from different labs have different strengths and weaknesses.
I like to practice preventative care, so spray my plants with a neem oil solution whenever I clean them (which is rarely, but nm).
8 – Cut it back
This is mainly for those of you that, like me, cheaped out and bought one long, leggy vine. Wait until your plant is established and growing quickly, and then cut it back really far. Leave maybe four leaves on.
You can propagate the parts you chopped off. If it’s really leggy, chop it so that you have however many single nodes and lay them on some damp sphagnum (a layer of leca on the bottom is a good idea) in a clear plastic box. Put the lid on and put them near a window. Once they start growing, plant them up with the mother.
The original plant will still have the root structure to support all of the original leaves, but only four leaves now, so it should be able to shoot out new leaves quickly.
Sometimes the rhapidophora tetrasperma will branch at the cut site – especially if it’s a pretty thick stem, but in my experience, they abandon the cut site and start growing from another node. Getting mini monstera to branch is not an exact science and isn’t something you can reliably do – it’s not how they naturally grow.
9 – Don’t let it get cold
Monstera are pretty good at dealing with cold weather (they will die in frost though). They don’t like it, and I wouldn’t recommend putting them somewhere cold, but they’re hardier than a lot of other aroids.
Mini Monstera aren’t as happy in colder temperatures, so try to keep them somewhere warm. You don’t need heat mat (unless you want to go that route), but i would recommend you keep them in rooms that you keep heated – for example in the living room rather than the spare bedroom.
10 – Keep it clean
Keeping the leaves dust-free will ensure that your RT can absorb as much light (and moisture from the air) as it can, and therefore can produce more energy. More energy means more leaves, bigger and closer together – and therefore a bushy plant.
Dust on the leaves can also encourage pest like spider mites which will hinder the plant’s abilty to grow.
Making your rhapidophora tetrasperma bushy is pretty simple, but it’s not easy unless you have the right conditions. If you don’t have the right conditions then your best bet is to either buy a bushy plant and do your best to maintain it, or invest in some grow lights.
Grow lights + ambient humidity is more effective than crap light and high humidity. If crap light and high humidity are your deal, then get yourself a Calathea.
If anyone has any tips for growing bushy mini Monstera, leave me a comment below.