The Ultimate Guide to Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma

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Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are a really popular houseplant for several reasons:

  • They’re commonly available
  • They’re relatively cheap
  • They’re pretty easy to take care of
  • They have a pretty unique look

Fenestrated houseplants aren’t too common, and there are even fewer that won’t end up with leaves the size of dinner plates.

It’s all very well getting a Monstera deliciosa, but those can quickly overtake the average living room.

rhapidophora tetrasperma climbing wall
No moss pole? No problem! A handy wall will do nicely

This article will give you all the information you need to tell you whether Rhaphidophora tetrasperma is the plant for you.

Personally, my Rhaphidophora tetrasperma is pretty chill.

If you read this article on how to propagate Rhaphidophora tetrasperma you'll know that I had a bit of trouble propagating them in water at first, but after a lot of trial and error, I finally cracked it.

Let’s crack on!

Where do Rhaphidophora tetrasperma come from?

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are native to Thailand and the Malaysian peninsula. Here’s a map I coloured in for you on Canva:

map showing the distribution of  Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma

Whilst they look to be fairly widely distributed on the map, nowadays they’re only found in a few places in northern Malaysia and southern Thailand (i.e. within the circle).

There are rumours abound that the further south they are, the bigger they grow, but Reddit is my source for that (and even that was secondhand from someone's boyfriend) so don't write a thesis on that without further evidence.
Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are so named after the needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals in their leaves (which are also called rhaphides). 

Tetra means four, and sperma means seeded...so they're named after their poisonous leaves and their four-sided seeds.
Rhaphidophora tetrasperma with et leaves

How does Rhaphidophora tetrasperma grow in the wild?

They’re a climbing plant, so are usually found clinging to something with their aerial roots. They can live in dry, moist or wet forest and can be found climbing trees, sandstone or granite.

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are flowering plants, so they reproduce by producing seeds.

Juvenile Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are shingling plants that grow really closely up whatever they're climbing and once they reach maturity they start producing the pinnatifid leaves that we would recognise.

The photo below is of a shingling Rhaphidophora korthalsii, because I couldn’t find a picture of a tiny baby tetrasperma. They have the same scale-like growth pattern when they’re young.

Are Rhaphidophora tetrasperma related to Monstera?

Yes, but not particularly closely.

The fact that they look so similar that Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma is often called mini Monstera is likely to be a case of convergent evolution.

This is where two species evolve similar characteristics to deal with a similar habitat, despite living thousands of miles apart and only being distantly related.

Monstera deliciosa and Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are both from the aroid family and the tribe Monstereae but they’re from different genera.

Monstera deliciosa and Monstera adansonii are far more closely related than Monstera deliciosa and Rhaphidophora tetrasperma. Similarly, Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma and Rhaphidophora decursiva are more closely related than MD and RT.

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma vs monstera deliciosa
Monstera deliciosa on the left, Rhaphidophora tetrasperma on the right

I have a whole article on the differences between Monstera deliciosa and Rhaphidophora tetrasperma here.

Is Rhapidophora tetrasperma rare?

They are quite rare in the wild, and they’re only set to get rarer. Collectors note that they’re from a disturbed habitat, which is likely caused by human activities like deforestation.

That being said, Rhaphidophora tetrasperma aren’t actually rare. Like, there are probably multiple thousands in the houseplant trade.

They are often labelled as rare plants, but nowadays every plant that isn’t a spider plant or a peace lily is called a rare plant.

Considering how rare Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma are in their native habitat, growers have reported them being very invasive in greenhouses. 

How long has Rhaphidophora tetrasperma been a houseplant?

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma was discovered in 1893 by Joseph Dalton Hooker (read his Wikipedia page – the guy has travelled), but it didn’t really gain popularity as a houseplant until about 2016. Even then, it was very expensive.

It has been in cultivation since the 1950s though.

Oh, and fun fact: if you see ‘Hook f’ after ‘Rhaphidophora tetrasperma’ on the label, that refers to Joseph Dalton Hooker.

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma variegata

How many types of Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are there?

There are around 100 species of Rhaphidophora, but only one Rhaphidophora tetrasperma species.

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma is a heterophyllous aroid, which means that there's a huge amount of variation in the leaves of different plants of the same species. 

That's why there are so many different-looking Rhaphidophora tetrasperma that are technically all the same species. 

There are differences between tissue-cultured ones and 'proper' ones, but there's also a tonne of natural variation. 

Remember what the boyfriend on Reddit said?!

As for other cultivars, an in-depth scour of the internet only came up with a variegated form: Rhapdidophora tetrasperma variegata.

There is a lot of variation in terms of price and variegation, due to both the huge variation in leaves and the publicity around the one that sold for £14,000 in 2021.

FOURTEEN THOUSAND POUNDS.

The variegation on Rhaphidophora tetrasperma is pretty unstable. Imagine if you spent 14 grand on a plant and ended up with one worth a tenner. Anyway.

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma variegata
I saw this one on sale (still for a significant price). I see one variegated leaf

According to aroid botanist Peter Boyce, the variegation isn’t natural. The plant has been infected with a harmless virus that causes variegation to meet demand for small variegated Monstera.

Over time the variegation is likely to peter out.

I’m not trying to put you off buying one, just…perhaps don’t spend your life savings on one.

Also, this was 2009 paper, so you never know what tissue culture scientists will have come up with.

Alternative names for Rhaphidophora tetrasperma

This is not an exhaustive list, and most of them are harmless common names but watch out for people trying to scam you into buying a ‘special’ Rhaphidophora tetrasperma.

  • Monstera ginny
  • Mini monstera
  • Amydrium tetrasperma
  • Amydrium ‘Ginnie’
  • Philodendron ‘Ginnie’
  • Philodendron Imbe ‘Ginny’
  • Epipremnum ‘Ginny’
  • Philodendron ‘piccolo’

If you couldn’t tell, there was a bit of botanist bickering regarding which genus this plant belonged to.

It's been a Philodendron, an Amydrium, an Epipremnum, and a Monstera before it was finally discovered to be a Rhaphidophora. 

They tell by counting the seeds (or something).

Interestingly, (to me at least) there actually is a mini Monstera species that actually is a Monstera, but it’s incredibly rare and isn’t found in the houseplant trade.

How long do Rhaphidophora tetrasperma live?

Houseplants can pretty much live forever. They’re constantly shedding and regrowing roots so as long as you care for them well, they don’t have a shelf life.

I mean sure, they can die, but if they’re well-cared for, they’ll just keep on growing.

Since Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are fairly new to the houseplant trade (relatively speaking), there aren’t any stories of super long-lived ones, but I’m sure there will be in the future. There’s no reason that they couldn’t survive multiple generations like those 100-year-old Hoya you see.

How big do Rhaphidophora tetrasperma grow?

The individual leaves measure 10 to 34 cm (4-13.3 inches) so from around the length of a lipstick to a bit longer than a ruler. The individual leaves actually get pretty big!

In the wild, Rhaphidophora tetrasperma can grow up trees to a height of around 5 meters (16 feet). Don’t worry if you don’t live in a sports stadium, you can chop them back if they get too tall.

Are Rhaphidophora tetrasperma easy to take care of?

Yes, they don’t require a particularly specialised environment to grow in, but here are a few care tips:

Light

Like most plants, Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are after that elusive bright, indirect light.

In the wild, they would be exposed to bright light since they live near the equator, but the sun would be practically blocked out by the forest canopy.

Here in the UK, you can put Rhaphidophora tetrasperma right in a south-facing window if you acclimate them properly.

In general, more sun is better, just be careful if you live somewhere super hot. Climbing plants are usually doing so to increase the amount of light they receive so that can produce bigger leaves.

Growing Rhaphidophora tetrasperma in low or even medium light can cause sad, flimsy, yellowing growth and increase the risk of root rot and pests.

Humidity

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma come from tropical rainforests so they do prefer high humidity. I’ve grown them both in my ambient room humidity (around 55%) and in a terrarium that was around 90% humidity.

The plant in room humidity grew fine. No issues at all. I would recommend a humidifier if your humidity levels are below 45%.

The RT in the terrarium grew extremely quickly and the aerial roots were climbing everywhere – the leaves would have sized up if they had had the headroom, but instead, they grew into the grow lights and burned.

this is what happens when we touch grow lights

Temperature

I’ve successfully overwintered Rhaphidophora tetrasperma when temperatures got as low as 12˚C/54.6˚F and kept them alive in heatwaves when temperatures reached 35˚C/95˚F.

They don’t like it, preferring temperatures between 15˚C and 30˚C (59˚F-86˚F), but they can survive.

In general, they like consistency when it comes to temperature, so try to keep them away from draughts.

Watering

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma grow best when the soil is kept consistently moist, though they can survive a bit of underwatering. They can be quite prone to root rot, especially young specimens, so be careful when switching propagations from water to soil.

Mine have no issue being watered with tap water, but filtered, rain or aquarium water is preferable. 

You can water Rhaphidophora tetrasperma with distilled water, but it isn't necessary.

When it comes to how much water to give RT, water the soil thoroughly until water comes out of the drainage holes.

Then allow the soil to dry almost completely (I use a moisture metre, and water at the 2 or 3 mark)

Feeding

I fertilise my Rhaphidophora tetrasperma every other time I water with General Hydroponics Flora Grow and it has really increased the speed and size of new growth.

That being said, I have neglected to feed RTs for months (like, a year) and whilst growth hasn’t been stunning, it hasn’t looked stunted or particularly unhealthy.

Once every six weeks is probably sufficient.

If you’re new to Rhaphidophora tetrasperma and finding it all a bit overwhelming, you can forget about fertilising it until you have its light, humidity, and watering routine established.

Soil/pot preference

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are found growing in dry, moist and wet forest in the wild, so try not to fixate on the best soil for the plant, but rather, the best soil for you.

Best practice (i.e. what the growers do) is a very well-aerated mix. But they pay people to hose the substrate down every day so it’s easy for them.

If you tend to underwater, go for a denser soil mix. If you tend to overwater, you want something chunkier.

Mine is in a mix of terrarium soil (specifically ABG mix) and leca, probably 2 parts soil to 1 part leca. The soil retains a lot of water but the leca allows for plenty of airflow.

I like to use plastic nursery pots for my Rhaphidophora tetrasperma for two reasons:

  1. They have a bit of a root rot habit so I like being able to get them out of the pot and check the roots quickly.
  2. Plastic nursery pots allows me to check when to water them simply by picking them up and seeing how heavy they are

If you struggle with or worry about root rot then you can grow Rhaphidophora tetrasperma really successfully in water.

If you overwater and/or you like the aesthetic then by all means go for something porous like terracotta.

Are Rhaphidophora tetrasperma easy to propagate?

Yes, but also I used to say no, so if you’ve had problems – it’s not just you.

My preferred way of propagating Rhaphidophora tetrasperma is by taking stem cuttings (they won’t grow if you only have a leaf and a petiole – you need a node) and putting them in water. I have a guide to propagating Rhaphidophora tetrasperma in water.

I like to see the root structure develop, but the main reason I prefer to propagate Rhaphidophora tetrasperma this way is that I can do various things to speed things up.

pothos and Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma propagations

The easiest, most hands-off way to propagate Rhaphidophora tetrasperma is by layering the vines.

This is as simple as laying the node on the soil (you can pin the stem with hair pins to keep it in place) and waiting for the node to root and eventually activate its axillary bud and produce new growth.

The benefits of layering Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are threefold:

  • You don’t cut the plant away from the mother until it’s already rooted – even if it fails to root, you haven’t lost any of your plant
  • You don’t need to acclimate the roots because they don’t switch from water to soil
  • It’s totally hands-off. You don’t need to do any maintenance other than what you would usually do (though I find they root faster if you keep the top of the soil hydrated)
plz excuse my foot

You can also propagate Rhaphidophora tetrasperma in:

  • LECA
  • Sphagnum moss or
  • Perlite

The trick to successfully propagating Rhaphidophora tetrasperma is trying out the various methods until you find one that suits your plant care style and that you can fit into your schedule.

Do Rhaphidophora tetrasperma climb or hang?

They climb! But you can keep them as a hanging plant if you’d prefer.

The benefit of having growing Rhaphidophora tetrasperma as a climbing plant is that the leaves will increase in size simply by having it growing vertically. I like to grow my Rhaphidophora tetrasperma up a Kratiste pole, but you can use a coir pole or a ‘proper’ moss pole if you’d like.

kratiste pole
kratiste pole

I like the lack of maintenance that comes from using a Kratiste pole – you don’t have to water it and the aerial roots attach by themselves. It’s probably the closest thing to how they’d naturally grow without giving them their own tree to climb.

Coir poles are a great cheap option but the plant will need to be attached with greening pins.

Proper moss poles (i.e. plastic casings filled with damp sphagnum moss) are a great option because each node layers itself. The aerial roots grow into the sphagnum moss and grow into a proper root system that can provide additional moisture and nutrients (if you water them with nutrient water) to the plant.

moss pole

These are great in theory but I never remember to water them. It’s a weird blind spot in my plant care routine. I’m also not a big fan of how they look BUT the results they get in terms of maturing and sizing up plant leaves quickly is irrefutable.

If you want your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma to trail, that’s fine, but you may fine that the new growth gets smaller. There’s nothing wrong with the plant, the plant just doesn’t see the point of growing huge leaves if it’s growing away from the light.

To make your hanging Rhaphidophora tetrasperma look fully and less…straggly, chop and prop regularly and plant them back in with the main plant to give a bushier appearance.

this is not from a Rhaphidophora tetrasperma but their flowers are a similar setup

Do Rhaphidophora tetrasperma flower?

They do, but they’re very unlikely to do so in captivity so don’t worry about it.

In fact, I recommend you move straight along to the next section rather than reading this horrible description of a Rhaphidophora tetrasperma inflorescence.

It’s the standard issue spathe and spadix situation common to most aroids. It’s the same basic principle as a peace lily flower, but peace lily flowers are quite pretty. Most aroid flowers are nothing special.

Onto the scientific description:

  • The spathe is canoe-shaped. Fine
  • The spadix is ‘stiffly fleshy’. What a description. Not what one wants in a flower.

Like most flowering plants, Rhaphidophora tetrasperma produces seeds in a fruit, but you can’t eat the fruit. Boo. I can’t find any pictures of said fruit or descriptions of why you can’t eat it.

Common Rhaphidophora tetrasperma problems:

Root rot

Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma are quite prone to root rot, so make sure that you:

  • Don’t overwater it
  • Make sure it’s warm enough
  • Make sure it gets enough light
  • Put it in the right-sized pot (i.e. only slightly bigger than the root ball)
  • Put it in the right soil (i.e. a mix that retains some water but dries out almost fully in a week or two)

Yellowing leaves

Yellowing leaves are usually caused by root problems, so look at all the things I mentioned above.

However, old leaves often go yellow naturally before they’re shed. The leaf gives the appearance of turning yellow, but what’s happening is that the plant is drawing nutrients out of the leaf so it can use them. The chlorophyll that made it green has been reabsorbed. Sounds harsh, but waste not, want not.

This can also happen with disproportionately small leaves, so don’t worry if all the tiny leaves at the bottom start yellowing.

I ALWAYS check the roots when I see a yellow leaf, even if I’m 99% sure it’s just old. It only takes five minutes (30 seconds to check the roots, and 4.5 minutes to vacuum up the soil on the floor) and it makes sense on a plant with such pathetic delicate roots.

It won’t grow

There are several reason plants won’t grow and sometimes they’re just…taking a break. However, Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma grow pretty quickly in general, so if yours suddenly stops, here are the things to check for:

  • Root rot
  • Pests
  • Dry roots (underwatering kills too!)
  • Is it getting enough light?
  • What’s the humidity like?
  • Has it been recently propagated?*

*Rhaphidophora tetrasperma typically grows as one long vine, so only have one growth point per vine (in general. You can get plants with multiple growth points).

If you take cuttings, you will remove the active growth point, and the plant will have to activate an axillary bud on another node. This…takes time.

It won’t propagate

Propagation is something that does take practice, but here are a few tips:

  • Change the water every day
  • Add a Pothos cutting to the water
  • Add nutrients to the water
  • Add a bubbler

If you’re propagating in a substrate other than water, make sure you’re keeping it moist enough. I like spraying the surface daily with a power sprayer (try to avoid the leaves because it interrupts photosynthesis).

Pests

Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma aren’t particularly prone to pests (root rot’s more their thing), but they do get them, and they can be tough to shake. Thrips and spider mites are the main culprits, but mealybugs and scale show up sometimes too.

Check on new growth and the backs of the leaf, particularly where the leaf meets the petiole.

Black or brown marks on Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma leaves

These can be caused by:

  • Sunburn
  • Physical damage (don’t touch new growth!)
  • Root rot
  • Dried up roots
  • Pests
  • Lack of humidity
  • Mineral deposits in the water
  • Cold damage

Droopy leaves in Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma

Droopy leaves can be caused by:

  • Pests
  • Overheating*
  • Underheating*
  • Overwatering*
  • Underwatering*
  • Leggy growth

* The most annoying thing about this hobby can be summed up in this meme:

I have an article dedicated to Rhaphidophora tetrasperma problems here.

Are Rhaphidophora tetrasperma toxic to dogs/cats/kids?

Yes, they have calcium oxalate crystals (raphides) in their leaves (and probably their flowers and fruit).

I can’t find any information on whether they have significantly more raphides than other plants, but since they’re named after them…I guess they must have a significant amount.

Plants similar to Rhaphidophora tetrasperma

Monstera deliciosa

Monstera deliciosa are bigger, but look pretty similar to the untrained eye

Monstera adansonii

Monstera adansonii have similar-sized leaves (the juvenile ones do anyway) as Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma, but they have holes in the leaves, rather than splits.

Amydrium medium

Amydrium medium have a similar appearance.

Monstera dubia

Monstera dubia is similar to Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma in that they both begin life as singling plants, but mature into plants with splits in the leaves (and the occasional hole).

Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum

You might know this as a split leaf Philodendron or a Philodendron Selloum, but it’s actually been reclassified. This grows into a tree (complete with a trunk) so I’m really stretching by saying it’s similar to a Rhaphidophora tetrasperma.

Philodendron tortum

This plant is more split than leaf. Even more so than a Monstera obliqua.

Final thoughts

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are a great option if you want a vining plant with splits in the leaves but you don’t want it to get too big. If you grow it up a pole or something the vines are easy to control and it won’t take over a small room.

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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