Philodendron squamiferum is a stunning bushy variety that can grow really tall and make a statement—even as a houseplant! Learn about philodendron squamiferum care with my guide.
How do you take care of a philodendron squamiferum?
Hey all, it’s time for another fantastic philodendron! And today’s fab philo is the philodendron squamiferum. I haven’t seen a large squami in a store near me yet, but I have seen some smaller squamis at local independently owned nurseries.
We’re not in a part of the country that typically gets the most diverse selection of tropicals. However, this plant is now being mass-produced by one of the big houseplant growers in the United States, so you’re sure to see it popping up near you.
What does a philodendron squamiferum look like?
Philodendron squamiferum has dark green leaves with lobes. Lobes are essentially just “splits” in the leaves. The leaves are glossy and emerge from red-hued stems that are a bit fuzzy. For these reasons, I’ve also seen squami referred to as a hairy philodendron.
This should not be confused with the philodendron fuzzy petiole, which is a closely related plant that also has hairy stems. These stems are more green, though, and the leaves are more heart-shaped like a philodendron gloriosum.
The leaves are large, too. Even on a juvenile plant, they are pretty flashy. They can grow up to over a foot long on a healthy, mature plant.
Is squamiferum rare?
It totally depends, which is almost always my answer. I would have said that it was pretty rare in most areas of the United States as recently as a few months ago.
And it remains somewhat rare where I live, I think. However, online ordering definitely decreases the rarity of plants—as long as they are available for accessible prices.
I ordered my philodendron squamiferum from the Costa Farms website when they released them. As I write this, they have them available in two sizes, but both are sold out. I’m sure they will come back into stock soon.
If you want to get your hands on a philodendron squamiferum ASAP and can’t find one at a local nursery, check out the options on Etsy. I have ordered SO many plants from small shops on Etsy. Just make sure to price compare and read the shop’s recent reviews.
How much is a philodendron squamiferum?
Costa Farms currently has philodendron squamiferum listed on their website in two sizes: a 6-inch planter for $50 and a 10-inch planter for $110. Keep in mind that this includes shipping, and Costa packages their plants extremely well for shipping.
However, if you get lucky, you can find these same plants for less than half of those prices in stores. That’s because you don’t have to pay for the overhead of the packaging supplies and shipping.
Costa typically sells their 6-inch plants for about $20 in stores (as of writing this, at least), and their larger plants can vary in price. There are squamis on Etsy right now for anywhere ranging from $20 to $120 depending on the shop, plant size, and whether or not shipping is included.
As with most plants, prices will likely fluctuate based on supply and demand. Once supply gets higher, prices will probably drop in independent nurseries and smaller online shops. I don’t anticipate Costa will drop their prices because what big business ever drops prices? 🙂
How much light does a philodendron squamiferum need?
Philodendron squamiferum, like nearly all other philodendrons I’ve written about, is a tropical plant that does best with bright, indirect light. The bigger and brighter the window, the farther you can place your squami from it.
Keep in mind that if there is light on only one side, the plant may grow toward that light source. To prevent irregular growth patterns, uneven growth, or leaning, you can rotate the plant every month or so.
Too much direct sunlight will scorch the leaves. So if you want to move your squami outdoors for the spring and summer, put it under a large tree that provides shade or on a covered patio.
If you aren’t providing enough light, this already some-what slow grower will slow down even more. The leaves will also become smaller and the growth leggier, which is when the plant “stretches” to try to get more light and therefore elongates the space between leaves.
This isn’t ideal because it leads to scraggly growth. We want full, healthy growth on our plants! Remember, a smaller, healthier plant is better than a bigger leggy mess.
Growth patterns & pruning…does squamiferum climb?
I usually talk about water or soil after talking about a plant’s light needs, but today I’m switching things up and jumping right into growth patterns and pruning. Philodendron squamiferum is a vining climber—an epiphyte.
You’ll probably purchase a juvenile plant that hasn’t started vining or climbing yet. That’s okay—it will eventually! And it’s best to introduce a climbing apparatus for your plant earlier rather than later.
This is because it is native to tropical jungles in Central and South America, where it grows up trees for support. You can mimic this environment by providing something like a moss pole for your plant.
As the plant matures and climbs, you’ll notice that the leaf size likely increases, too. Nothing like seeing a big new leaf unfurl to tell you you’re doing something right.
I mentioned that even in ideal growing conditions, this plant has an average growth rate. However, it can grow to be many feet tall with time–6 feet or more.
If you want to contain the size of your plant or increase its bushy appearance, you can trim the stems. When you trim a stem, it doesn’t hurt the rest of the plant. In fact, it can help the plant produce healthy new growth—especially if you’re trimming off leggy winter or low light growth!
Jumping back to my normal care outline routine, let’s talk about what to plant your philodendron squamiferum in. I mentioned that this plant is an epiphyte, which means that it climbs other plants in the wild for support.
As an epiphyte, squami enjoys a light, airy, well-draining soil. Any houseplant or indoor potting soil at your local nursery will work great.
I usually throw in an extra handful of coco coir, a great peat moss alternative that helps retain moisture without making the soil heavy. I also usually put in a bit or extra perlite to help with drainage. (Learn more about soil additives.)
Soil is a critical part of philodendron squamiferum care because if it’s too heavy, it will retain too much water and drown your plant’s roots when you water it. It will also prevent air circulation to the roots through tiny pockets in the soil—also necessary for healthy squami development.
How often do I need to water a philodendron squamiferum?
Water your philodendron squamiferum when the top few inches of soil dry out. You can use a moisture meter or your finger to check (I do the latter!).
Do not let the soil dry out completely. If you do go too long between watering sessions, your plant will likely begin wilting and will probably perk back up with a deep drink. However, don’t make a habit of it.
Even if you use a light, well-draining soil, you can still overwater this plant if you don’t let the top few inches of soil dry out first. This can lead to wilting, yellowing leaves and a delicious home for fungus gnats to move into!
Philodendron squamiferum care: Temperature & humidity
As a tropical plant, philodendron squamiferum is a warm weather lover. But it does fine in all normal household temperatures. It may wilt if you take it outside and temperatures get too high in the summer—monitor to make sure it doesn’t need more water.
Squami is not cold or frost hardy. Bring it indoors when the temperature begins dropping down into the 50s (Fahrenheit) at night. It will die without warmer temps.
Keep in mind that even indoors, the days are shorter and the temperatures are generally lower in most homes. Growth will likely slow in the winter, and that’s fine.
Philodendron squamiferum also does great in average household humidity levels. However, boosting your humidity a bit by using a humidifier will delight squami and encourage faster, healthier growth.
If you notice crispy brown tips on the leaves—or browning and drying along the perimeter of the leaves—it’s probably due to low humidity. Try trimming those leaves off and upping humidity levels.
Repotting & fertilizer
I generally wait a while before repotting my philodendrons. I recently repotted my heart-leaf philodendron for the first time ever, and I’ve had it for 2.5 years! And that’s a fast-growing philodendron variety.
I like to wait until the roots are growing out of the pot’s drainage holes. Sometimes the roots will also circle the bottom of the planter so much that you can pick the plant up—soil and all—out of the pot. It’s definitely time to repot if you can do that!
When you do repot, size the plant’s pot up only about an inch or so. Too big of a pot will encourage excess moisture retention in the soil and will not lead to a happy plant.
You can fertilize your plant monthly during the spring and summer. I like using Liqui-Dirt this year and do so every 3-4 waterings. In the past I’ve used worm castings as my fertilizer.
Keep in mind that high-quality potting soil usually is packed full of nutrients, so you can probably hold off on fertilizing until the soil gets a bit old. Don’t throw money down the drain, literally!
Routine pest prevention & issues
A general pest prevention best practice is to hose down the tops and bottoms of all leaves, as well as the stems, when you water your plant. You can do this in a sink or in the shower.
Cleaning the leaves will help them look their best, but it will also help to prevent pests from moving in. If you do notice any pests, isolate the plant immediately and spray it down with an over-the-counter houseplant insecticide.
Make sure to spray the plant down thoroughly, including the undersides of leaves and the stems. Monitor the plant to make sure it is rid of pests before putting your squami back into your collection.
Keep an eye out for spider mites at all times—but especially in the winter. They love warm, dry air, and homes with the heat on create the perfect environment for them to thrive. See my post for how to spot and get rid of spider mites for more.
How do you propagate philodendron squamiferum?
If you’d like to propagate your philodendron squamiferum, you can do so easily. I recommend using a stem cutting approach.
Getting a good propagation starts with taking the right cutting. Take a cutting that is several inches long, that includes at one to two leaves, and has a node or growth point near the bottom. You can take a cutting and remove the bottom-most set of leaves to expose a growth point.
For this plant, I recommend using damp moss and perlite, LECA, or water. I never like to prop straight in soil because I can’t monitor root development.
- For moss, keep the medium damp and the humidity high. Make sure the node remains buried lightly in the moss/perlite mixture. See my post about sphagnum moss 101 propagation for more.
- For LECA, fill a glass container with LECA and nestle the cutting so that the bottom of it an inch or two from the bottom of the jar. Then add enough water to create a reservoir just below the cutting in that extra inch or two at the bottom. Read more about LECA propagation.
- For water, simply pop it in a cup with water. Refresh the water every week or so when you remember to, and make sure it doesn’t evaporate below the growth point/nodes.
For all of these methods, when the roots are several inches long, you can transfer the cutting to soil. Use fresh, light, well-draining soil and a small container.
Keep the soil moist for the first week or so, and make sure the new baby squami is in a warmer spot with bright indirect light. Don’t be alarmed if the cutting droops a bit after transplanting it—it might be in a bit of shock and hopefully will rebound.
After you can pull the cutting and are met with resistance—or when you see new growth emerge—you can successfully call your squami propagation a success. Enjoy the new baby!
Is philodendron squamiferum toxic?
Yes, philodendron squamiferum is toxic and should not be ingested by any humans or animals. Philodendrons contain calcium oxalates.
Ingesting any part of the plant can lead to oral irritation; pain and swelling of mouth, tongue and lips; excessive drooling and vomiting; and difficulty swallowing. Keep this one away from anyone or anything who nibbles.
Philodendron squamiferum care summary
I hope this post helps you take great care of your squami! Here’s a quick care recap for easy reference.
- Bright, indirect light; medium light levels are ok but will slow growth; monitor for leggy growth and increase light as necessary
- Use a chunky, well-draining soil to encourage good drainage and oxygen flow to the roots
- Water when the top few inches of soil have dried out; don’t wait until it dries out completely
- Does fine in all normal household temperatures; appreciates extra humidity but does fine in average household humidity
- Contains calcium oxalate crystals; not safe to ingest for humans or animals