This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.
Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are an easy-to-care-for houseplant that can tolerate a wide range of environments. They like:
- Bright/indirect light
- Medium humidity
- Consistent watering
- Consistent feeding
- A chunky, airy potting mix that retains water
- Something to climb
If that seems like a lot – don’t worry! Most Rhaphidophra tetrasperma specimens will tolerate the bare minimum. Care is the same as for a Pothos but with a slightly higher likelihood of root rot.
Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma are a great plant for houseplant beginners that are looking to learn more. They’re easy to care for, don’t have any particularly special requirements, and propagating Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma is good fun (if not a *little* more challenging than propping Pothos).
This article only covers Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma care.
My ultimate Rhapidaphora tetrasperma article covers where they come from, the various cultivars, toxicity, alternative names and all that good stuff. I even drew a map of their distribution!
Watering requirements for Rhaphidophora tetrasperma
When it comes to Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma care, it’s important to get watering right. They’re more prone to root rot than, for example, heartleaf philodendron, and they also would prefer not to dry out.
This sounds like it’s going to get super complicated, but I promise it isn’t. If you get all the different care requirements such as light, soil and pot size right, it’ll all work out in the end.
How often should you water Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma?
Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma take water in through their roots through the soil. You probably already knew that. But in order for their roots to stay healthy and rot-free, they also need a fair amount of oxygen.
We can add amendments like perlite to the soil – these small, porous stones absorb water, so they keep the roots hydrated, but their irregular shapes also traps air in the soil.
When we water our Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma, those air pockets fill up with water – the root can get water, but no air. Drainage holes allow the water to pass through the soil, get absorbed by the perlite and coir, but the air pockets quickly empty, allowing a balance between water and oxygen.
When you water Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma, you need to wait until the potting mix is 80% dry – I keep mine in a plastic nursery pot so I can tell when it needs water by the weight. Water is heavy so it’s surprisingly easy to tell the difference between a dry and a hydrated pot.
In an ideal world, we would water our Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma every week. The soil mix I use for mine typically dries out in a week, but loads of things can affect how long you need to leave it between waterings:
The type of soil you’re using
I’ll explain the exact soil mix I just later on, but I mix my potting mix so that it takes about a week for the plant to dry out in summer. It works out well for the plant AND means I only need to do plant maintenance a couple of times a week.
Some soils retain more water than others, so if you repot your Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma in a very chunky aroid mix from store-bought soil, then you may find you need to water it a LOT more often
The light the plant receives
The brighter the light your Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma is getting, the more often you’ll need to water it, for a few reasons:
- The heat from the sun will cause the water to evaporate more quickly than it would if it were in lower light
- The plant will lose more water through transpiration on sunny days
- Plants grow faster in bright light. The faster it’s growing, the more water it’ll use
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).
A Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma will need watering more often in a hot, dry environment, than a hot, damp one.
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 Rhaphidophora 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 Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma in the dark and cold so you don’t have to water it because it will, er, die.
What type of water is best for Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma?
Try to keep the temperature of your water as close to room temperature as you can –
Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma have quite delicate roots so we don’t want to send the plant into shock by damaging the roots.
That being said, I use tapwater straight from the tap. It's probably too cold, but... she's fine. In summer when the roots are healthy, it most likely won't be an issue. In winter, be mindful of using room-temperature water if your plant is looking a bit sad and...wintery.
- I use tap water for mine, and it really doesn’t care. If you can drink it, your plant probs can
- Filtered water is great, but remember to always bring any cold water up to room temperature before giving it to your plants, otherwise, you risk shocking the roots
- Distilled water is fine, but not necessary. It’s pretty much mineral-free, so make sure you use a fertiliser with a full range of micro and macronutrients.
- Rainwater is a great option for Rhaphidophora tetrasperma if you can collect it – again make sure it’s room temperature
- Aquarium water is awesome because it’s pretreated dechlorinator to convert things like chloramine into a form that can be removed by the filter. Whilst it has some nutrient value in it, most fish tanks are filtered to remove the crap (literally) so make sure to ad the filter gunk when you clean it
- Grey water – I wouldn’t recommend using grey water on Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma. Possibly bath or shower water if it’s not very soapy. Don’t use dish water, pasta water, rice water or anything similar unless you want gnats.
Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma humidity requirements
Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma come from the forests of Thailand and Malaysia so you’d think they’d need super high humidity, but actually, they can be found in pretty dry forest.
As long as your humidity is over 45%, your Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma likely won’t have any issues stemming from a lack of humidity.
The best way to check your humidity is to get a hygrometer that’ll tell you the percentage of water in the end. If your humidity is above 45%, then your Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma is likely fine for humidity, but ideally, it should be above 60%.
Higher humidity can help Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma grow faster and it will take up the slack if you accidentally forget to water it.
The only reliable way to increase the humidity in your home is to get a humidifier. I’ve tested pebble trays and they don’t work. Grouping plants together helps a bit, but the humidity only increases a couple of percent.
Do you need to mist Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma?
Misting doesn’t increase humidity. It…just doesn’t.
Also, most plants don’t like getting wet, because it interferes with their activities (photosynthesising).
If you want to mist, go for it – it’s a great way to clean the leaves. Just make sure that the leaves are dry in an hour or so (if it’s cold I recommend drying them with a cloth)
Can you keep Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma in a terrarium?
Yes, they grow like weeds and they love the humidity BUT they have this habit of crawling directly into the lights and getting burned. My terrarium was FULL of climbers and only Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma didn’t see the danger of getting too close to the light.
Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma light requirements
Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma are often said to need to bright, indirect light, and that’s…pretty accurate. They begin life on the forest floor and then climb a nearby tree so they can get more light. As they grow, they produce bigger and bigger leaves so they can photosynthesize more.
They come from the tropics, so the sun will be close and bright, but they’re beneath the tree canopy, so the light will be filtered.
If you’re not sure where to even begin with placing your Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma, in general, longer hours of ok light are better than a couple of hours of great light than crap light the rest of the time.
North-facing window get a lot of unfair flack. The light in my north-facing office is pretty good, because the window is pretty big, the room is pretty small and the walls are white. It might get less light than a south-facing window, but the plants can really use it all.
I’ve had Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma on the back wall of my office – so facing the window but a good six feet back. They grew pretty well. They could have grow faster and bigger, but the growth was perfectly healthy, and the plant was upright and perky.
If you have a small north-facing window in a big room, I’d recommend putting the plant right in the window.
May be move it in winter, when the days are shorter.
I love east light, it’s great. Your Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma will be happy in an east-facing window, or a few feet away from one.
You might need to acclimate your Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma to a south-facing window, but they’d be more than happy in one. Maybe move it if there’s heatwave or something.
You’d definitely need to keep an eye on a Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma in a west-facing window , but once it was acclimated, you shouldn’t have an issue.
It would definitely benefit from having higher humidity (60%+) in a west-facing window, because wet light can be HOT.
Where I keep mine
My office is currently being renovated (i.e. I got ready to replaster it a couple of weeks ago and have done nothing so far) so one Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma is chilling in my bedroom on the bottom shelf of some, er, shelves equidistant from a big north and a smaller south-facing window. It seems fine, and is growing nicely.
It’s probably the epitome of bright, indirect light actually, though from about 3pm onwards it’s probs more like medium light. Either way, it seems happy.
My other Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma is just three rooted cuttings, so he gets a prime spot in the living room under a stool, a couple of feet away and slightly round from a big window.
He only gets direct light in the morning and seems pretty happy.
Can Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma take direct light?
Yes, but you need to acclimate them, so gradually increase the light over time, otherwise, you risk the leaves burning.
In their natural habitat they’re actually just as likely to be climbing granite or sandstone as they are a tree, so they’re happy to be pretty exposed. Their juvenile form is a shingling plant, probably to help protect them from the wind in more exposed places.
Can I keep Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma outside?
Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma are tropical plants and they can’t tolerate frost, so you’ll need to bring them in when the weather starts getting cooler.
I would keep them in a shaded area, just because they don’t like to dry out too much and it’s incredible how quickly soil can dry out outside compared to indoors.
Rhaphidophora tetrasperma fertilising requirements
There’s no such thing as the perfect fertilising schedule for different plants, because in the wild plant would have to make do with whatever nutrition they had access to.
Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma live both among leaf litter AND in rocky places with little nutrition so… it’s kind of up to you how often you feed them.
I fertilise my Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma every other time I water them with the General Hydroponic Flora series (1ml of each bottle per litre of water).
If you'd rather feed your plant every six weeks it likely won't make that much of a difference. Factors like light and humidity tend to have more of an impact on speed and size of growth than your fertilising regimen.
Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma temperature requirements
Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma like to stick between 15˚C/59˚F and 24˚C/75˚F.
They can tolerate a few degrees on either side, but that’s the sweet spot.
If it gets much hotter than that, the plant starts to put in place measures to stop it from losing too much water. They close their stomata so the water can't be lost through them, and closed stomata means that they can no longer photosynthesis.
Heat isn’t the only factor at play here – since it’s all about preserving water, Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma can tolerate hotter temperatures if it’s humid.
In cold temperatures, Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma don't grow as quickly or might stop growing altogether. They actually grow better in lower humidity in winter because rooms with lower humidity tend to be warmer (unless you're the type of person that blasts the heating and likes a constant temperature year round.
The best soil for Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma
It really depends. You can go the whole hog and make your own aroid mix:
- orchid bark
And then add in some worm castings – about a third of the amount of what you used for the other ingredients, so 3:3:3:1.
You can mix equal parts terrarium soil (such as ABG mix) and leca. This is my preferred mix, though I tend to use a composite of, er, whatever I happened to have in at the time.
Equal parts top soil, compost, and leca or perlite. The houseplant community will SCREAM at this, but that what James Wong uses for most of his houseplants and he’s a freaking botanist.
Buy a store-bought houseplant potting mix. Try to find one with perlite or leca or bark or something to aerate it a bit. I’ve never come across one that wasn’t absolutely fine.
Sure, they’re not awesome, but they will 100% do the job and soil is NOT that important compared to light, humidity, and water. As long as some air and some water can get to the roots, it’ll be grand.
Pot size/material requirements for Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma
Nursery pots (i.e. crappy plastic ones) are great because you’ll be able to tell how dry the pot is by the weight. You can hide them in a pretty pot.
Ceramic’s fine but heavy and the drainage holes aren’t always great. I prefer a few small holes rather than one big one.
Terracotta is great for overwaterers and a pain for the rest of us because the soil will dry out super quickly. The whole ‘one drainage hole’ thing doesn’t apply to terracotta because terracotta is comprised of a million tiny holes.
As for pot size, the general rule is to have the root ball fit comfortably in the pot with a bit of room growth.
It’s like buying kid’s shoes – you know they’re going to grow out of them in no time, but if you just buy the biggest ones you can afford you just end up with issues.
Cleaning Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma leaves
It’s vitally important to keep your Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma leaves clean, because it maximises their ability to photosynthesize AND it helps keep pests away (spider mites love dust).
I don’t clean mine often enough (does anyone??) so they’re always dusty. When I do clean it, I spray it down with water with a drop of castille soap and neem oil in to ward off any potential bugs
Leaf shine isn’t great for your plants, but it won’t do any really harm either. Sure, it blocks their stomata, but so does dust, so I can hardly lecture.
The best cloth to use on plants is those makeup eraser ones – they’re basically long microfibre ones – you can use them dry and they’re so good at getting the dust off.
Winter care for Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma
If your home stays warm and bright (i.e. you use grow lights and always have the heating on) your car may not need to change over winter. If your Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma keeps growing, keep feeding it. If it stops, stop. Plants don’t know what season it is – they only know whether or not they can grow in the current environment.
If your house is summery year round, disregard the following advice.
My house is FREEZING in winter.
I tend to water as frequently (so every week-ish) BUT not as deeply. Not only does your plant not need as much water because it’s not growing as quickly, but having wet soil will make it colder.
Instead, I spray my plant’s soil (not the leaves) with a pressure sprayer. It’s faster and more fun than a watering can.
I still feed the ones that are growing, but maybe only once a month – it depends on whether they’re growing normally or producing stunted leaves.
I’m slightly more diligent about checking for pests and cleaning the leaves in winter, because plants have lower natural pest defences when they’re in a weakened state (i.e. cold and desperate for light).
Pruning Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma
Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma grow on one long vine, so you rarely need to prune them if you have them climbing up something.
If you don’t like the way yours is growing, you can just off the bits you don’t like. The plant will not care where you cut it. You can propagate the bit you cut off if there’s a node.
The stems are quite thin so I just use kitchen scissors.
Should I sterilise them? Yes.
Do I sterilise them? No.
Climbing vs. trailing
Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma WANT to climb so putting them on a moss pole as soon as you can is the best option. Putting a young plant on a pole and have it look a bit silly until it grows is FAR preferable to trying to wrangle five-foot vines onto a moss pole.
I use Kratiste poles because I cba to keep a moss pole moist.
As Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma climb, the leaves will get bigger because they think they’re climbing a tree and getting more light.
If you want your Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma, bear in mind that the opposite will happen – the leaves will get smaller as they’re getting less light. The internodal spaces will also get longer, so your plant will look leggy and straggly.
You can prune it, but it’ll grow back the same unless you propagate the bits you chopped off and plant them back in with the main plant. The individual vines won’t change, but the plant will appear fuller because there’s a tonne of cuttings in one pot.
Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma care is pretty simple once you have the basics covered. Light is the thing that has the most impact on your plant’s growth. If you have the light sorted, then the plant can grow faster and stringer and will be more resilient to issues like pests and drought.
If there’s something I haven’t covered, or that you’re unsure of, feel free to leave me a comment or dm me on Instagram.