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Rhapidophora Tetrasperma are an incredibly popular alternative to a Monstera deliciosa, probably because they look pretty similar. Rhapidophora Tetrasperma however, don’t reward your incredible plant care skills by growing so big you can’t watch TV without being gently stroked on the head by an errant leaf.
Their care is pretty similar, but there are a few key differences that make Rhapidophora Tetrasperma a little trickier to manage than Monstera. I’ve also found that there are a couple of things you can do that really boost the speed of growth of your plant, so you can have a really lush, full-looking plant that isn’t absolutely enormous.
A lot of plant people get annoyed when people misname Rhapidophora Tetrasperma as a Monstera, but tbh, it’s an easy mistake to make. The fenestrated leaves make it look like an, er, mini Monstera. And since the care is broadly the same (though I find Rhapidophora Tetrasperma, whilst not difficult to care for, a bit less robust than Monstera) who cares? We’re not pretending to be botanists here. They’re both aroids, so they’re in the same family, but separate genera (or genuses).
If you don’t have time to read this whole article, here are a few quick tips for Rhapidophora Tetrasperma care:
- Lots of light.
- Lots of humidity
- Something to climb
- Let them dry out between waterings
- Not as, er, thrips-y as Monstera
Propagation is either SUPER difficult (for me) or incredibly easy (for literally everyone else in the whole world). It’s fine, I’m not bitter about it. At all.
How often do you water Rhapidophora Tetrasperma?
Rhapidophora Tetrasperma are pretty chill when it comes to watering. If you’re using a moisture meter, I’d wait until we’re at the 2/3 before watering. If you’re using your finger to judge, wait until the soil is dry/ pretty much dry before watering.
Also, tap water is totally fine for Rhapidophora Tetrasperma. If you can drink it, your plant will be fine. Rain water is better, filtered water is good, tap water is a-ok. They have pretty thick leaves so I wouldn’t worry too much about water quality affecting them.
Don’t bother will distilled water. It’s a waste of money and can cause deficiencies in minerals that the plant would typically get from water.
I can’t give you a time frame here, because there are a plethora of factors that can influence how long it takes for soil to dry out, including:
The type of soil you’re using
Rhapidophora Tetrasperma aren’t too picky here, but I (unlike every other plant person out there) like to use a denser mix than I would for Monstera, purely because it makes it easier to make the plant bushier (I’ll cover why that’s the case later in the article).
The denser the soil, the longer it takes to dry out, BUT if it’s too dense/stays wet for too long you can end up with root rot.
The light the plant receives
More light = more sun (or heat if you’re using grow lights) = more evaporation and growth. So the more light your plant gets, the more you’ll have to water.
The humidity around the plant
High humidity keeps moisture in the soil so you don’t have to water as often. I keep a Rhapidophora Tetrasperma in my terrarium and I never need to water it (though I do have a fogger on a timer).
The size of and type of pot
A large pot will hold more soil which will therefore hold more water. Don’t put your plant in a big pot so you don’t have to water as often – if the plant isn’t allowed to dry out between waterings you can end up with root rot.
Ceramic and plastic pots retain water better than terracotta ones. If you’re an overwaterer, go for a terracotta pot. If you have a tendency to underwater, stick to plastic or ceramic.
Warm weather will increase both the rate of evaporation from the soil and the speed at which the plant is growing (and therefore using water), so you’ll need to water more often.
It is possible to hack how often you need to water your Rhapidophora Tetrasperma by amending its surroundings, but bear in mind that a lot of the stuff you can do to reduce the amount you have to water will negatively impact the plant. Don’t keep your Rhapidophora Tetrasperma in the dark and cold so you don’t have to water it because it will, er, die.
Do you need to mist Rhapidophora Tetrasperma?
I’m pretty anti-misting in general, because it can cause damage plants whilst not benefitting it at all.
I have misted Rhapidophora Tetrasperma before (in a terrarium) and they don’t mind. Some plants, like maidenhair ferns, really do mind being misted and can end up browning and dying off.
Rhapidophora Tetrasperma do like high humidity. Misting does NOT equal high humidity. Even if you’re misting multiple times per day, that isn’t a replacement for high humidity.
Do Rhapidophora Tetrasperma need high humidity?
They’re very like Monstera deliciosa (and adansonii) here, in that Rhapidophora Tetrasperma can live and grow perfectly healthily with ambient humidity of around 40%. If you make sure that they have adequate water and good light, they can grow big and lush pretty quickly.
(I feel like I’m shouting however a lot in this article)
Growing Rhapidophora Tetrasperma in high humidity is like a cheat code. It not only makes the aerial roots grow better so that it can climb more easily, but you don’t need to worry so much about watering.
High humidity is also the key to activating more nodes on the plants, so you can have multiple growth points and therefore a bushier plant.
I have a whole article of tips about making Rhapidophora tetrasperma bushier here.
Is Rhapidophora Tetrasperma an indoor plant?
Obvs all plants are technically outdoor plants, but Rhapidophora Tetrasperma hail from Thailand and Malaysia. If you live in a similar climate, then feel free to keep them outside, but for those of us in more temperate countries, keep them in.
If you take your plants outside in the summer the Rhapidophora Tetrasperma will appreciate the extra light, but they will burn if you don’t acclimate them properly. Frost will definitely kill them, so bring them in way before there’s any chance of that.
Rhapidophora Tetrasperma light requirements
As tends to be the case with vining plants, the more the better. I’ve found Rhapidophora Tetrasperma a little more averse to change than Monstera, so again, acclimate them slowly if you’re planning on increasing the light.
Rhapidophora Tetrasperma will grow in lower light, but the leaves will be smaller, a bit limp and sad, and growth will be slow. I used to really struggle with mine until I stuck it under grow lights. It really thrived in that environment, and the leaves I was getting were enormous in comparison to earlier growth.
Increasing the light will also increase the number of fenestrations in the leaves. I’ve found that RTs will grow fenestrations in darker conditions than Monstera, but to get big, split leaves, light is key. If you’re lucky, you can get inner fenestrations as well, but not to the same degree as Monstera.
How to propagate Rhapidophora Tetrasperma
You can propagate Rhapidophora Tetrasperma by taking a cutting with a node, sticking it in water and waiting. I have an article on how to do that here.
I could NOT get mine to root in water. I tried many, many times. Nothing.
In the end, I found success using moss to propagate my Rhapidophora Tetrasperma BUT I’m also a fan of soil propagating, but burying a node that’s still attached to the mother plant rather than taking a cutting and then rooting it.
Does Rhapidophora Tetrasperma need support?
Rhapidophora Tetrasperma can grow as trailing plants BUT in my experience vining plants grow bigger (and better) if they’re grown up something. There is evidence to suggest that you can get bigger leaves simply by growing a plant up something rather than letting it hang down.
Rhapidophora Tetrasperma are pretty light compared to a thick-stemmed Monstera, so you could use something like a tripod of bamboo sticks as a support, rather than a traditional moss pole.
I’m currently experimenting with growing a little Rhapidophora Tetrasperma on my bookcase. It’s currently trying to attach itself to my Hoya (above) P. golden dragon (below) and the bookcase itself (look at the sneaky aerial root to the far right):
Why does my Rhapidophora Tetrasperma have yellow leaves?
There are several causes of yellow leaves in Rhapidophora Tetrasperma:
The leaf is old
This is pretty common, and a natural part of the life cycle of your plant. It happens a lot in vining plants because the leaves near the bottom are blocked from the sun by the newer leaves. Therefore they can’t photosynthesise, therefore, alas, they’re useless to the plant. The plant is better off shedding the old useless leaves and diverting the energy those leaves needed to leaves that can pull their weight.
If the plant gets root rot it no longer has the root system to maintain all of its leaves so some are sacrificed. Typically, you’ll get yellowing of several leaves, not just the old ones nearest bottom.
If your Rhapidophora Tetrasperma has root rot, remove all of the rotten roots, soak the remaining ones in hydrogen peroxides to kill any remaining bacteria, and reroot the plant. I’d recommend putting the roots in sphagnum moss, and putting the whole plant in a clear plastic bag to increase humidity. This will speed up the rooting process and reduce the number of leaves you’ll lose (NB the yellowed leaves probs won’t recover). Keep it warm and in bright indirect light (no grow lights, or at least, no directly under them) and it should reroot pretty quickly. When you have decent root growth (let’s say, more than two inches long and a couple of forks) you can replant it (leave the sphagnum – it’ll be fine) and it should be all ok.
I’ve not had this happen to a Rhapidophora Tetrasperma, but it definitely could. If new growth is coming in aa creamy yellow colour (or even white) this is a sign that the plant is bleached. It looks variegated, but it, er, isn’t. The plant isn’t negatively effected root-wise, but the new leaves won’t last very long, and you’ll probably have a one in one out situation. If you reduce the light (it usually happens under artificial light, so either dim them or move the plant away from them) the new grow should revert to green pretty quickly.
Thrips can cause yellow patches on leaves. Probably spider mites too. TOUCH WOOD I’ve never had much of an issue with pests on my Rhapidophora Tetrasperma. They don’t seem to be that tasty. That is one area where they differ massively from Monstera deliciosa. Just, you know, something to consider if you have yellowing leaves and you don’t think it’s any of the other culprits.
How to make Rhapidophora Tetrasperma bushier
With Monstera, I caution against putting a lot of cuttings in one pot because the roots tend to become MASSIVE and thick and you end up needing a ridiculously big pot. Weirdly, if you only have one cutting in a pot, you can grow a pretty substantial plant without needing as big of a pot as you would for the same volume of plant but from a few cuttings.
That made no sense, but it doesn’t matter.
If you want a bushy plant, put a load of cuttings in one pot. Easy. I’d root them first, either in water (if you can!) or sphagnum.
My preferred method of bushing upTM a Rhapidophora Tetrasperma is to propagate it by burying a node (or several) and waiting for them to root. Over time, each rooted node will produce a pup, and you’ll have a new baby plant.
Whilst this isn’t the quickest way to create a fuller plant, it is a great way to do it without having to root a load of cuttings (which can take equally long) and you don’t risk any cuttings dying, since they’re still attached to the mother plant. Only chop it off once you have a pup. I go through the process in more depth in this article.
Does Rhapidophora Tetrasperma have aerial roots?
Yes, but they don’t tend to grow as long or as thick as Monstera deliciosa ones. They do have the same purpose though, so if you love them, leave them, and if they creep you out feel free to chop them off. No judgment here. If you want them to grow longer and actually adhere to stuff, you’ll need to increase the humidity (beware – they go very furry and creepy).
Are Rhapidophora Tetrasperma rare/expensive?
No, not anymore, so don’t let anyone fleece you. In the UK, they’re pretty easy to find in garden centres, so don’t feel you have to buy one online if you’d prefer not to. I’m not sure how hard to find they are outside of the UK, but I DO know that they’re NOT rare, and therefore don’t pay through the nose for one.
The variegated ones are still pretty expensive, so if you see one online and it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Sport variegation (where the plant has a little splash of variegation on a leaf or two, but it doesn’t carry on throughout the whole plant) is fairly common in RT, so make sure you check each leaf (and the stem) carefully for variegation before committing to buying one.
Variegated Monstera adansonii have recently plummeted in price, so I’ve convinced myself (based on NOTHING) that variegated RTs will be next.
I like a Rhapidophora Tetrasperma. They’re a great alternative to a Monstera, and they don’t grow nearly as big. They’re a great option if you’re terrible at getting rid of pests on your house plants, but they can be a bit hit and miss when it come to propagating*.
*Those as many people have told me, this is a problem only I seem to have.