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Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are a really popular plant because they’re like a, er, mini Monstera – a great option if you haven’t got the space for a plant with metre-long leaves.
They may look like Monstera, and they may still be considered easy-care, but they do have their own set of issues that crop up fairly regularly. I’ll try to cover as many of the potential issues as I can, but feel free to leave me a comment if your Rhaphidophora is doing something…weird that I haven’t mentioned.
Does your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma have pests?
Rhaphidophora tetrasperma aren’t particularly prone to pests, and I’d argue they’re actually less susceptible to common Monstera pests like thrips BUT if they do get pests, then you need to treat them quickly otherwise you risk your mini Monstera getting an infestation that it can’t shift AND you’ll end up with damaged leaves and stunted growth.
How does pest damage present on Rhaphidophora tetrasperma?
The first sign of pest damage on Rhaphidophora tetrasperma is usually either stunted growth or the new growth is browning/ rotting before it unfurls. You might also see what looks like snail trails in the new growth.
Check for pests
Pests tend to congregate in similar places on similar plants. In the case of Rhaphidophora tetrasperma, first check any new growth, or leaves that haven’t yet hardened off. Then check the back of the leaf, towards the top, where the leaf meets the petiole.
Identify the pest
It’ll probably be one of these guys:
Remove the pest
How you treat pests is up to you. I’ve tried a few different things, from neem oil to Provanto, and my current favourite method of getting rid of bugs on Rhaphidophora tetrasperma is spraying the plant down thoroughly with insecticidal soap and water.
You have to be consistent when you do this – I usually spray plants down twice a week, and in the case of thrips, pick them off the plant when I see them.
If you have the budget, predatory mites are a great, fast-acting method, or you could try systemic pesticides. Make sure you read the articles I linked before using them because, for example, systemics can make spider mites worse.
Does your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma have root rot?
Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are prone to root rot. If I see my plant deteriorating, check for pests first, and then get the plant out of the pot and check the roots.
Signs of root rot
- Yellowing leaves
- New leaves dying before they unfurl
- Droopy leaves
- Curling leaves
- Brown mushy roots
- No roots left
Causes of root rot
- Failed propagation
- Lack of oxygen to the roots – overwatering, potting mix too dense, too big of a pot. Even cold temperatures and a lack of light can cause root rot
How to treat root rot
The first step is to clean off the roots and remove anything mushy. If in doubt, cut it off. Then I like to reroot the plant in water if necessary (i.e. if it’s lost a significant volume of roots) or pop it into soil.
Make sure the pot is only a bit bigger than the root ball, and the potting mix is well-draining but retains water.
I wait until my Rhaphidophora tetrasperma is pretty dry before watering, and I like my potting mix to dry within about a week in summer.
Does your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma have stem rot?
This summer I noticed that the stem of my main Rhaphidophora tetrasperma had a big black mark on it. Ever the scientist, I gave it a good poke. The stem was really firm and the leaves were fine so I thought no more about it. New growth was coming in thick and fast and the leaves were perfect.
And then I noticed that the new growth was stunted and brown. The black mark on the stem seemed a likely culprit so I scraped it off, and what should have been sturdy wood (?) was now the texture of a mushroom – meaty, but a bit foamy.
Definitely not the texture of a healthy Rhaphidophora tetrasperma stem. I had layered my plant, and then let it hang, so the stem was laid on top of the soil. I’m guessing it was too damp and slowly rotted.
Signs of stem rot
- Black marks on the stem – like a bruise
- Stunted, dying new foliage
- Interestingly, the roots were perfectly healthy but all the lower stem was rotten so there were no nodes to propagate. Luckily, the stem was long so I got a few cuttings from the top growth.
- A smell of rotten eggs and drains. It’s as nice as it sounds.
How to treat stem rot
You can’t really treat stem rot in Rhaphidophora tetrasperma – it’s more a case of damage control and propagating what’s left.
- Remove any of the rot. It’s not recoverable. If you’re worried about taking off too much stem, just keep a close eye on it, and keep chopping when it starts looking funky. Smelling it can help!
- Propagate whatever you can salvage
Is your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma in shock?
Rhaphidophora tetrasperma can be quite prone to shock, especially in younger plants. I’ve had some that barely noticed being repotted, even if I rummaged around in their roots, and some that drooped for days even though I barely touched the rootball.
What causes Rhaphidophora tetrasperma to go into shock?
- Changing their environment – i.e. they may sulk when you bring them home
- Stressful situations – Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are happy to be shipped, but if you order one online give it plenty of TLC when it first arrives
- Being repotted
- Getting too cold
How to help Rhaphidophora tetrasperma recover from shock
- Try to only shock it one way at a time – so don’t repot it as soon as you bring it home unless not doing so would cause it further harm
- Put it in a terrarium or cloche – something that will keep the humidity and temperature as consistent as possible
- Try a heat lamp or growlights – this can cause the leaves to die but can help the roots get established
Does your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma have marks/spots on the leaves?
There are several reasons that Rhaphidophora tetrasperma can develop brown or black spots on the leaves, or get browning at the edge of the leaf or at the leaf tip.
Causes of spots on Rhaphidophora tetrasperma leaves:
- Root rot
- Dehydrated roots
- An issue with water quality
- Lack of humidity
- Physical damage (i.e. has your cat been eating it?)
What to do about spots on the leaves
You need to identify and remedy the issue. First, check for pests, then check the roots. If all is fine there, then try increasing the humidity – the easiest way is by putting it in a big, clear plastic box. If the problem persists, then try watering it with filtered or rain water.
I’d recommend that you remove leaves that have a significant amount of damage. They’re not going to be able to recover and damaged leaves can attract pests like thrips and fungus gnats.
Does your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma have yellow leaves?
Yellow leaves are quite common in Rhaphidophora tetrasperma, and a lot of the time it’s nothing to worry about – if it’ just the odd leaf or two, I wouldn’t worry. However, it can be a sign that there’s a bigger problem elsewhere.
What causes Rhaphidophora tetrasperma to get yellow leaves?
- The leaf is old
- The plant doesn’t need the leaf any more – this often happens with very small leave near the base of the plant
- Root rot – root issues can cause yellow leaves because the root system can no longer support the leaves that it has, so it pulls nutrients out of the leaf and sends them elsewhere
- Pests – thrips tend to cause copper-y coloured patches on the leaves before they go yellow
Should you cut off yellow leaves?
I don’t remove yellow leaves when they’re yellowing, but I do remove them when they’re totally yellow. They’re no longer benefiting the plant and they can attract pests. Cut the leaf off at the petiole as close to the stem as you can.
Does your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma have curling leaves?
What causes curling leaves?
- Root rot – the roots can no longer absorb enough moisture
- It’s tall – the plant can’t get enough moisture to the top of the plant
- It’s too hot – the leaves curl to try to reduce water loss through its stomata
How to stop the leaves curling
- Check the roots for signs of root rot
- Give it a moss pole so it can develop a root system closer to the curling growth
- Protect it from the heat – a sheer curtain, or…move it
Is your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma drooping?
Before going nuclear on your droopy mini Monstera, just know that they can be a droopy plant. There could be an issue, or perhaps your plant is just droopy.
Why do Rhaphidophora tetrasperma droop?
- Gravity – as the plant gets taller and further away from the roots, it’s harder for the roots to pump water right to the top, so the top growth is droopier. Plants are basically hydraulic systems, and the bigger the plant, the lower the pressure in the cells
- Lack of light – Rhaphidophora tetrasperma stretch towards the light and can end up drooping depending on where the light source is. The petioles also stretch, so they’re longer and thinner, and the leaf on the end can weigh them down
How to stop your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma from drooping
- Give it a moss pole so it can grow a root system further up the stem
- Air layer a node then put the resulting aerial roots in water
- Increase the light – move it closer to a window or try a grow light.
Has your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma been sunburnt?
One of the best things you can do to help Rhaphidophora tetrasperma recover from most ailments is give them more light. They can turn light into energy that can help make them stronger. A bit like how eating well won’t cure disease but it will better help you fight it.
I’ve been in a position where my Rhaphidophora tetrasperma has been so close to perishing that my only choice was to whack in the sun. I could have acclimated it gradually but chances are I would have forgotten I was doing that.
When you whack a plant into direct sunlight, it’ll burn.
What causes sunburn on Rhaphidophora tetrasperma
- Water on the leaves
- Oil on the leaves
- Accidentally leaving it in the sun
How to stop your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma from getting sunburnt
- Try not to get the leaves of plants wet – especially those that aren’t used to high light
- If you’re cleaning plants with neem, do it away from the light, and wipe them before putting them in the sun. I’ve never had an issue with neem increasing the chance of sunburn, but I’ve seen it happen to other people
- Move it away from the window on super bright days.
What to do with sunburnt Rhaphidophora tetrasperma leaves
- Remove them, where the stem meets the petiole
- It can be devastating when you try to give your plant a bit of extra light, forget about it, and it burns to a crisp BUT plants are actually quite resilient to burning.
Unless it’s been baking in the sun for weeks the roots are likely fine.
Remove all the dead foliage, and cut the stem back so you only have about four nodes left on it. Water it well, put it in a plastic box and leave it outside – preferably somewhere where the direct sun will hit it in the morning. It’ll grow back faster than you might think.
Are your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma’s new leaves dying before they unfurl?
This is such an annoying issue, and anything can cause it. Sometimes new leaves just bail for no reason. However, in my experience, there are two things that are most likely causing this issue.
What causes Rhaphidophora tetrasperma leaves to die before they’ve unfurled?
- Root rot
It’s most likely to be a root issue, but I always like to check for pests too, just in case.
When plants are going through times of hardship, such as the beginnings of root rot, they tend to concentrate on preserving their existing growth, because that’s the least effort for the most return. You may see yellowing leaves and new growth forming and then browning as the plant abandons them.
Pull the plant out of the pot and check for any mushy or disintegrating roots.
How do you stop it from happening?
As I said at the beginning, Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are somewhat prone to root rot so whilst you can never 100% ensure your plant won’t be affected, there are things you can do to reduce the chances of it happening:
- Make sure the soil retains some moisture but is also well aerated
- Make sure the size of the pot is only slightly bigger than the root ball
- Make sure the plant is in bright light, so it grows well and the soil doesn’t stay damp for ages
Does your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma have mosaic virus?
It’s highly unlikely that your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma will have mosaic virus, but there’s no definitive way to tell without having it tested in a lab.
Separate your plant from any others if you’re concerned, but first try feeding it – nutrient deficiencies can cause mottled on the leaf. It could also be sport variegation, though there is very little chance of Rhaphidophora tetrasperma displaying sport variegation.
How do I know if my Rhaphidophora tetrasperma has mosaic virus?
You’ll need to get it tested to be sure.
What to do if your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma has mosaic virus
There is a pervasive rumour that mosiac viruses are plant-specific, and don’t spread easily, so you can just remove the affected leaves.
We don’t know enough about aroid-specific mosaic viruses, so current advice is to get rid of the plant by burning it.
Is your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma refusing to grow?
There are a few reasons your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma might be refusing to grow, so I gave it it’s own article.
Here’s a brief overview of them here:
- It’s not getting enough light
- It’s in too big of a pot
- It has pests
- It needs more water
- It needs less water (FFS)
- It needs support
- It’s gone dormant for winter
- It needs fertilising
- It needs higher humidity
- It’s too cold
The first thing I do is increase the light (unless I’m sure that light isn’t an issue) because it’s a great way to kickstart new growth. Then I check for pests, then check the roots. If there are no pests, and the roots are fine, try feeding it. If you’ve been feeding it frequently, try not feeding it for a month or so. When I fertilised my plants every time i watered, they stopped growing after a bit.
Rhaphidophora tetrasperma not growing fenestrated leaves?
Rhaphidophora tetrasperma produce fenestrated leaves when they reach a certain age or a certain amount of light.
We’ve actually sped up the process – most of the Rhaphidophora tetrasperma we buy are produced in tissue culture, and they grow slightly differently to how they grow in their natural habitat. Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are actually shingles in the wild before they produce big leaves – similar to a Monstra dubia. It isn’t until they reach a certain age or height that they produce leaves with splits.
If your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma is only young, you may just have to be patient, but chances are lack of fenstration are due to lack of light. The fenstrations allow light to get to the lower leaves, and a lack of light not only means that this isn’t required, but also that the plant can’t afford to have gaps in the leaves.
When I’m asked to diagnose problems with Rhaphidophora tetrasperma, it’s almost always an issue with light or roots. Make those your first port of call when it comes to troubleshooting issues.