Guide to Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma Care

The rhaphidophora tetrasperma needs a better nickname. Otherwise known as a “mini monstera” (it is not a monstera) or a “ginny philodendron” (it is not a philodendron), the rhaphidophora tetrasperma is a distinct species in the Araceae family. It is cousins with both the philodendron and the peace lily.

The nickname confusion is understandable. Like its horticultural doppelgängers, the rhaphidophora tetrasperma is a fast-growing plant with attractive split-leaves, a vining or trailing growing pattern, growing nodes, and aerial roots. It is a beautiful tropical plant that is becoming a popular houseplant.

Unlike the monstera deliciosa and the philodendron, which are indigenous to Central and South America, the rhaphidophora tetrasperma originates in the Malay Peninsula in southeast Asia, specifically the jungles of Thailand and Malaysia. 

Luckily for the rest of the world, it is an adaptable plant that fits in well in many households. One exception: avoid the rhaphidophora tetrasperma if you have pets. The calcium oxalate crystals in its leaves are toxic to cats, dogs, and other animals. 

Do you find the name rhaphidophora tetrasperma a tongue twister: Phonetically it sounds like ra-fid-a-for-uh teh­-tra spur-mah. Or you can call it a Mini Monstera. People will know what you mean. Just keep in mind it is an entirely different plant than the monstera deliciosa.

a pot of Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma on a table

Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma Care

Lighting

a young mini monstera plant placed at an area with indirect sunlight

Like many jungle plants, rhaphidophora tetrasperma grows under a canopy of trees. However, it is also a vining plant, lifting itself up off the jungle floor to catch the sun above low-lying plants.

That means rhaphidophora tetrasperma thrives in bright indirect light. It does not appreciate direct sunlight. It may tolerate brief periods of direct sunlight near an east-facing window. However, any more direct sunlight than that and your rhaphidophora tetrasperma’s leaves will turn yellow and die.

Try growing your rhaphidophora tetrasperma in the window of a north-facing room, or in a city window that faces other buildings. In rooms that get direct sunlight, place the rhaphidophora tetrasperma away from the window where it will get lots of indirect light. 

Growing you mini monstera? Here are three ways you can provide sun protection.

Don’t mistake its preference for indirect light with a tolerance of low light. An abundance of indirect light makes for a happy rhaphidophora tetrasperma. If you are overwintering it in a room without any natural light, you may need to give it some time under a gentle grow light to keep it happy. 

Feel free to move your rhaphidophora tetrasperma outdoors during the summer. It will be happy in the shade of a tree or under an awning of your house.

Temperature and Humidity

The rhaphidophora tetrasperma can tolerate a fairly wide temperature range if its other needs are met, but it thrives in the range 55-85 degrees Fahrenheit. That means it can summer outdoors. It is not frost tolerant, so move it indoors during the colder seasons unless you live in Zone 10 or higher. You’ll also want to take precautions when summer temperatures reach over 95 degrees, which can cause it to wilt.

As you would expect of a jungle plant, rhaphidophora tetrasperma thrives in humidity, but it isn’t too demanding. It will appreciate a pebble tray or humidifier, but it will be okay in ordinary household humidity. An occasional spray with a mister will help too.

Watering

a close-up picture of a Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma leaf with water droplets

The rhaphidophora tetrasperma is thirsty but not extremely sensitive when it comes to water. It prefers consistent moderate moisture, but it will tolerate drying out occasionally. Make sure to check the soil frequently to avoid letting it dry out too often or for too long. 

Water when the soil has dried to a depth of an inch, or the first digit of your thumb. This may be roughly every other week in the winter. However, in the spring and summer when the plant is in active growth mode, it gets thirsty, so monitor the soil frequently. 

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma will bounce back more easily from drying out a bit too much than from root-rot, so don’t overwater. This is particularly important in fall and winter when your rhaphidophora tetrasperma’s growth has slowed. 

Fertilizer and Soil Conditions

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma prefers a loose, chunky soil over a standard potting soil. You can make your own loose potting mix from scratch, or mix standard potting soil with aerating add-ins (such as perlite, orchid mix, or coco chips). 

During the growing season, feed rhaphidophora tetrasperma regularly with a diluted fertilizer (50% recommended concentration). A slow-release organic fertilizer is preferred. Use either a balanced or slightly nitrogen-heavy fertilizer. Avoid fertilizing in the fall and winter unless your plant is still showing signs of active growth. 

It is important to use a light hand, especially with chemical fertilizers. Rhaphidophora tetrasperma has sensitive roots and is very susceptible to being overfertilized. Overfertilizing will cause yellowing, burning, or the untimely demise of your rhaphidophora tetrasperma.

Also be sure that your soil is aerated properly.

Repotting

Given the right environmental conditions, rhaphidophora tetrasperma will grow very quickly. A happy rhaphidophora tetrasperma might grow to up to twelve feet, half of that in just one growing season.

That means you should repot at least once a year. The best time is in the spring, but even better is to pay attention to your plant. Good indications that it is time are when the roots start poking out the bottom of the pot or your drainage is impaired. 

Use a deep pot large enough around to give the root ball room to grow. It must be a pot with good drainage or you risk root rot.

Remove your rhaphidophora tetrasperma from its old pot and gently separate the roots, releasing the old potting soil. Check for symptoms of root rot. Prune off any rotten roots, as well as any roots that have grown substantially longer than the main root ball, with a sharp knife. Repot at the same depth as in the previous pot. 

While you are it, why not make your own tiny garden?

Training

mini monstera with support

It’s okay to let your rhaphidophora tetrasperma sprawl or hang, but they are natural climbers. That means they thrive when given support.

You can train your rhaphidophora tetrasperma to grow along a wall, around a beam, on a trellis, or even up a rope. The ideal support is a moss pole, which the rhaphidophora tetrasperma can sink its aerial roots into as it climbs. You can make your own or buy them (such as this option). However, if the plants aerial roots aren’t enough to hold it up, for example on a metal trellis, you can twine or plant tape to secure it to the structure. 

Pruning

How aggressively you want to prune your rhaphidophora tetrasperma is up to you. You might prefer a shorter, bushier plant. You might train one or more long vines up a wall, trimming away any extra branching. You might leave it au naturale. However, in most cases regular pruning will improve the health and appearance of your rhaphidophora tetrasperma.

Many gardeners report that a healthy rhaphidophora tetrasperma can survive, and even thrive, after a very substantial pruning as long as a few leaves are left. However, most recommend that it’s best to avoid removing more than a quarter of the plant at a time

Use a sterile blade to cut the plant an inch below a node. Preferably choose a node with a visible aerial root growing and you can easily propagate the part you’ve removed. You do not need to add anything to the cut tissue, the plant will easily heal from a clean cut. 

How to Propagate Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma

Rhaphidophora tetraspermas are more and more popular, so they can be expensive to buy. Luckily, they grow vigorously and are very easy to propagate.

Just like when you are pruning, use a sterile blade, rather than clippers. Clipper cuts result in more bruised tissue and surface area. Cut an inch or so below a node. Your cutting should include 1-2 leaves. Choosing a node with a visible aerial root is preferred, but not necessary, and some people go with two roots for an even better chance of viability. 

There are a variety of choices of medium to root your cutting int. Options that produce consistent results are a pot of damp sphagnum moss, or coco chips mixed with a little slow-release fertilizer. Water is also a viable method, but less consistent. Soil is not recommended. 

Here are some tips about propagating Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma: 

Submerge all of the nodes from your cutting in the medium. You’re likely to see roots within a few weeks. You can plant the cutting after 2-3 months. 

Be extremely careful when removing the excess sphagnum moss from the roots of your baby rhaphidophora tetrasperma, and avoid breaking the tap root. Replant as described in the “Repotting” section, above.

Common Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma Problems

a close up picture of Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma

Why are my plant’s leaves missing fenestration?

When you buy a rhaphidophora tetrasperma, your plant’s leaves may initially be solid. This can be confusing, because a big part of the appeal of a rhaphidophora tetrasperma is fenestration.

Fenestration, which comes from the Latin word for “window” or “opening for light,” are the slits in the leaves of plants such as the rhaphidophora tetrasperma and the plants it is often mistaken for, the split-leaf philodendron or the monstera deliciosa (appropriately nicknamed the “swiss cheese plant”). 

The leaves of a rhaphidophora tetrasperma do not begin to split until the plant matures. That means if your leaves are all solid, you probably just need to be patient. Eventually as your plant grows it will develop the split leaves that the rhaphidophora tetrasperma is known for. 

If your mature plant’s leaves are still not splitting, the issue may be inadequate light. Adding a trellis or other support can also encourage fenestration.

Why are my rhaphidophora tetrasperma’s leaves yellow?

If the leaves are yellow with a brown area in the middle, sun exposure is the problem. Direct sunlight will burn the delicate, thin leaves of your rhaphidophora tetrasperma. Move your plant away from the window. 

Another potential cause of yellow leaves is over-fertilization. Try skipping the next couple of fertilizer applications to see if it improves. Dilute chemical fertilizers beyond the recommended ratio, and fertilize less frequently, especially in the fall and winter.

A severe spider mite infestation can cause yellowed leaves.

However, perhaps the most common cause is over-watering. If the plant’s soil is soggy, water less often or try repotting into a pot with better drainage. 

Why is my rhaphidophora tetrasperma so leggy?

If your plant seems to not have enough leaves, or is losing leaves, the problem is probably sunlight. Although the rhaphidophora tetrasperma can’t tolerate direct sunlight, it also can’t tolerate a lack of light. Make sure it is located in a place with lots of indirect sunlight or dappled sunlight. 

How do I cure my rhaphidophora tetrasperma’s spider mites, thrips, or aphids?

The best offence is a good defense. Keep your humidity up and your plant healthy, and you are unlikely to have an infestation.

If your rhaphidophora tetrasperma does get buggy, Neem oil is a good solution. It can be applied on as a spray or used in combination with an insecticidal soap

What do I do if my cat or dog eats my rhaphidophora tetrasperma?

For one thing, get rid of the plant. Rhaphidophora tetrasperma are toxic to dogs, cats, and other animals. No houseplant is worth risking the life of your favorite roommate. 

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma, like many plants in the Araceaefamily, has leaves that contain calcium oxalate crystals. These cause irritation and swelling in the mouth, so often animals will stop before eating a fatal amount. However, even chewing on it can cause swelling of the throat and asphyxiation. If consumed in large enough quantities it can be harmful, if left untreated.

Call an emergency veterinarian or poison helpline for assistance. They may recommend rinsing your pet’s mouth with milk. If your pet is having trouble breathing, take them for in-office emergency treatment without delay. 

Conclusion

The rhaphidophora tetrasperma is a great houseplant to fill that unlit corner of your otherwise bright living room or the window of your north-facing bedroom. It is easy to grow and propagate, so you can share mini “mini monsteras” with all your friends. Most likely, you’ll love it so much you’ll eventually find it easy to remember its full name: rhaphidophora tetrasperma.

About The Author

Emily Cordo is a Master Gardener, writer, photographer, and artist. She is passionate about regenerative agriculture and landscaping, and about integrating art into those environments.