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Rhaphidophora Decursiva Care & Propagation

Rhaphidophora decursiva, aka “dragon tail,” is a gorgeous climbing aroid with shiny green leaves that will make a bold addition to your houseplant collection! And rhaphidophora decursiva care isn’t that hard—learn about it now.

Rhaphidophora decursiva care & propagation

I’m back today with another rhaphidophora plant! I have written about rhaphidophora tetrasperma care, as well as rhaphidophora hayi care. These are two of my most popular plant care posts. And today I’m adding another plant with a mouthful of a name to the list—rhaphidophora decursiva.

I was lucky to snag this plant at a nursery near my house during their 50% off houseplants sale. I think I paid about $20 or so for this plant. And it’s already starting to climb and fenestrate! Isn’t she beautiful? The finish on the leaves is really stunning.

beautiful rhaphidophora decursiva

Rhaphidophora decursiva background & growth habits

Rhaphidophora decursiva is an aroid, aka a plant from the Araceae family. Rhaphidophora is the genus; it is not a monstera, despite often being labeled as one. Monstera is a different genus. Decursiva can be found growing in the wild in Southeast Asia, China, and India.

A plant in its juvenile form looks quite different from a mature plant. The leaves are smaller, pointed, and oval-shaped when the plant is young. As it matures, the leaves will develop deep fenestrations (splits/cuts). Mature leaves can be over 3 feet long.

The growth pattern is unsurprisingly similar to that of its relatives, the hayi and the tetrasperma. Rhaphidophora decursiva climbs other surfaces like trees or trellises using aerial roots that the plant sprouts from its stem.

rhaphidophora decursiva plants in a nursery

Is rhaphidophora decursiva rare?

Rhaphidophora decursiva is rare in that you probably won’t see it at big box nurseries or smaller plant shops with more common plants. But it is definitely showing up more in specialty nurseries. I have seen it in several local nurseries at varying maturity levels and price points.

Rhaphidophora Decursiva lighting needs

Like many houseplants, rhaphidophora decursiva grows best in bright indirect light. You can add supplemental grow lights to help the plant if you don’t have great light in your home. However, too much direct sun with burn the plant’s leaves.

If you notice your decursiva is growing slowly or is producing smaller leaves, it likely needs more light. Plenty of bright indirect light will help encourage the leaves to mature as the plant vines and climbs.

If you’d like to take your rhaphidophora decursiva outside for the spring and summer, make sure to put it in a bright shady spot. Some dappled sunlight can be okay, but make sure you’re not providing too much direct light.

rhaphidophora decursiva leaf unfurling
rhaphidophora decursiva plant

Watering needs

You can water your decursiva when the top few inches of soil dries out. For me, that generally means weekly in the spring and summer and every 10-14 days in the fall and winter. If you have your plant outside for the summer in very hot conditions, you might need to water it every few days. 

When you do water your decursiva, do so thoroughly, letting the excess water drain out of the drainage holes. I also like to “shower” my plants every now and then to clean off the leaves.

If you need the soil too wet and water too often, the leaves will begin to yellow and die off. You also might notice signs of root rot setting in—mushy stems and roots, for example.

dragon's tail plant leaf
rhaphidophora decursiva plant in a nursery

Rhaphidophora decursiva care & choosing the right soil

As with all houseplants, soil is a critical part of the watering routine. If the soil is too heavy, even infrequent watering can choke out the roots. If the soil is too light, the roots might be deprived of the water it needs.

The best soil for optimal rhaphidophora decursiva care is one that is light and well-aerated. Tropical plants might do well in over the counter houseplant soil mixtures, but I like to add a few additives to my soil. (See more about soil additives in my soil 101 post.)

Pre-mixed houseplant soils generally come with things like perlite, coco coir or fine moss, and other things already mixed in. It’s a great start, and I like to throw in another handful or so of coco coir. Potentially even some more chunky perlite.

These additives help to enhance air flow through the soil, a critical part of healthy root development. They also help to facilitate drainage and the appropriate amount of water retention. 

rhaphidophora decursiva plant
rhaphidophora decursiva leaf developing fenestrations

Temperature & humidity levels

Decursivas do quite well in a variety of normal household temperatures. However, they are not cold or frost hardy. If you have your potted devusriva outdoors for the spring and summer, make sure to bring it back inside when the temps drop consistently into the 50s at night.

The plant also does well in normal household humidity levels—but it will do best with a bit of extra humidity. That means that you can put it in a sunny bathroom window, next to a humidifier, or on top of a pebble try with water.

Another option is to put your smaller plant in an Ikea greenhouse cabinet—but since these grow quite well in ideal conditions, it might outgrow the cabinet quickly!

juvenile dragon's tail leaves

Rhaphidophora decursiva repotting & growth

Since this plant can grow quite quickly when it is in ideal conditions, you may need to repot it every year. When the roots begin to circle the perimeter of the pot’s bottom—or when you notice them popping out of the drainage holes—it’s time to repot.

Always repot using fresh soil to replenish nutrients. And choose a pot that is a few inches larger than the pot you’re sizing it up from. This will give it plenty of room to grow.

Once your rhaphidophora decursiva starts trailing, it will need something to climb. You can use a moss pole (or DIY jute pole alternative) or a trellis. A structure to climb will definitely help your plant produce larger, more mature leaves, too.

large rhaphidophora decursiva plant with a trellis
dragon's tail plant leaf

How to propagate rhaphidophora decursiva

Propagating rhaphidophora decursiva is pretty much exactly like propagating rhaphidophora tetrasperma. The plants have really similar growth patterns, and their stems even look a lot alike.

To ensure you are setting yourself up for a successful propagation, make sure to take the right cutting. You want 1–2 nodes on your stem, and at least one leaf. Below is a photo of what I mean by a node. The roots will sprout from here.

nodes on a rhaphidophora decursiva

You can pop your cutting in water, refreshing the water every week or so while you monitor root growth. Then transfer to moist soil. Or you can plant the cutting directly in soil, keeping it moist to encourage root growth.

If you propagate directly in soil, I recommend dipping the cutting in rooting hormone first. Make sure the nodes have rooting hormone on them!

I have also had a lot of success propagating rhaphidophora tetrasperma cuttings in LECA. I love LECA because you can monitor root development, and the roots are stronger than water roots. Because of this, they suffer less shock when you transplant them to soil. Read my full post about LECA propagation for more.

rhaphidophora tetrasperma cutting rooted in LECA

Is rhaphidophora decursiva toxic?

Yes, rhaphidophora decursiva is toxic if ingested. According to an official page from the Queensland Government, all parts of the plant are poisonous. If chewed or eaten, symptoms can include a tingling or burning sensation, followed by swelling of the lips, mouth, and tongue. Keep this one away from kids and pets, folks!

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pinnable graphic that says rhaphidophora decursiva care including images of the plant

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