Philodendron rugosum care infographicPhilodendron Rugosum or the sow’s ear plant is one of the more intriguing philodendrons you’ll come across. When you get up close to the leaves, their leathery, grainy texture will almost make you feel like you’re petting a cute piglet.

This rare tropical plant is not only a joy to look at but also easy to care for. In this guide, we’ll tell you how to keep it happy and thriving and reveal our expert tips for lush, abundant growth. 

What Is a Philodendron Rugosum?

Philodendron Rugosum is an evergreen tropical plant with large, leathery leaves endemic to Ecuador. It was first described in 1983, and nowadays, it has a near-threatened status due to habitat loss. Luckily, its popularity with houseplants collectors means that this species has a chance at being preserved for future generations. 

Philodendron Rugosum-Rare Sow’s Ear Plant

Philodendron Rugosum Care

Philodendron Rugosum is an easy-to-care, unpretentious plant. It needs a bit more water than other philodendron species, as well as bright indirect light and high humidity for lush growth. 

Here’s what you need to know about caring for Philodendron Rugosum: 

– Water

Keep the soil of your Philodendron Rugosum evenly moist. Compared to other philodendrons with leathery leaves, this species prefers to have more moisture in the soil. As a result, you will need to water it regularly when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch.

If your home is very hot and dry, you may need to water this plant twice a week in summer. In the colder months, you can reduce your watering schedule to once a week. 

To keep the plant healthy, we recommend using the soak and drain method to water your Philodendron Rugosum. Slowly pour room-temperature water on top of the soil for a couple of minutes until you see that the water starts dripping through the drainage holes.

Then place the pot in a sink or bathtub to drain for 10 to 15 minutes before putting it back on its tray. Never leave water standing in the pot tray, as this can result in fungal and bacterial problems later on.

Given the fact that Philodendron Rugosum needs significantly more water than other tropical vines, it’s essential that you use a well-draining potting mix. Otherwise, the roots will end up sitting in water and will slowly begin to rot. 

– Light

Philodendron Rugosum should be kept in filtered or bright indirect light. Our recommendation is to keep your philodendron in a room that’s facing either east or west. Keep the pot about three feet (90 centimeters) away from the window, and use sheer curtains to filter out the intense midday and afternoon sun.

This plant needs plenty of light to grow; however, exposing the leaves to the intense sun will result in burn marks on the foliage. Philodendron Rugosum can tolerate a couple of hours of direct sunlight, but only in the morning when the light and heat are not as intense.

Avoid keeping your Philodendron Rugosum in a shaded part of your house. Although the plant will survive in moderate light, it will not thrive, and you will notice that its growth is much slower. If you have a darker home or a room with northern exposure, it’s best if you keep this plant close to the window. 

– Soil

The ideal potting mixture for Philodendron Rugosum should be very well-draining, aerated, and moisture-retentive. This plant needs a perfect balance between soil moisture, drainage, and root aeration. 

In the wild, Philodendron Rugosum can grow as either an epiphyte or a hemiepiphyte. Sometimes, the plant will start life on the forest floor and slowly climb the trees around it as it grows.

Other times, it can start from a seed that germinated in plant debris on a tree branch. This growth habit makes it adaptable to many types of substrate; however, good drainage remains the common denominator.

We recommend making your own potting mix for Philodendron Rugosum by combining some potting soil, perlite, peat moss, and orchid bark. You can also add a handful of worm castings to give the plant access to more nutrients and some horticultural charcoal, whose antifungal and antibacterial properties help keep the roots healthy.

As an alternative, you can also plant your Philodendron Rugosum in a mix of sphagnum moss and a bit of perlite or pumice.

– Temperature

Philodendron Rugosum is very adaptable to the average home temperatures, and its ideal range is between 64 to 80 F (18 to 27 C). This tropical vine loves warmth but will struggle to grow in temperatures higher than 86 F (30 C).

Temperatures below 59 F (15 C) will also result in stunted growth, and if the plant is exposed to freezing cold, it can suffer permanent leaf and root damage.

When growing Philodendron Rugosum as an indoor plant, keep it sheltered from any temperature fluctuations caused by hot or cold drafts. Your plant should never sit next to a radiator or a heating vent, an air conditioning unit, or drafty windows and doors. Sudden temperature changes can shock the plant, and the leaves will begin to droop and wilt.

If you want to grow Philodendron Rugosum in your garden, you can do so in USDA hardiness zones 10b to 12. It’s best if you plant it in a part of your garden where trees and shrubs can protect it from any direct sun.

If you live in cooler regions, where nighttime temperatures drop below 59 F (15 C), it’s best if you keep your philodendron outdoors in summer, then bring it back inside in winter. 

– Humidity

Philodendron Rugosum can be grown in the average home humidity. However, this moisture-loving plant will grow far better in humidity levels of at least 60 percent. An increase in air moisture will promote faster growth and larger leaves. 

The best way to meet the Philodendron Rugosum humidity requirements is using a pebble tray half-filled with water and placing the pot on top of it. A humidifier will also work, or if you have several humidity-loving plants in your collection, try grouping them. 

Philodendrons like to be misted, yet it’s best to keep in mind that misting is not a reliable way to increase home humidity to a consistent level. Also, if your home lacks good ventilation, misting can result in bacterial leaf spots.   

– Fertilizer

Philodendron Rugosum has moderate fertilizer needs. We recommend using a balanced fertilizer once a month, from early spring until the end of summer. A synthetic fertilizer with a nutrient ratio of 20-20-20 diluted to half strength should be more than enough. The plant doesn’t need any feeding in the colder months when its growth rate begins to slow down.  

– Pruning and Maintenance

Philodendron Rugosum requires very little pruning. If you notice that the plant is getting too tall, you can trim back the top of the stem and use it for propagation. Make sure never to cut more than two-thirds of the plant, as this can result in shock.

Also, remember to sterilize your scissors or pruning blade in advance using rubbing alcohol to prevent the spread of any pests or diseases.Once a week, we recommend using a damp cloth to wipe the leaves of your Philodendron Rugosum.

Their leathery, textured surface can attract dust, which will give them a dull look and prevent the plant from producing photosynthesis at full capacity. Also, this weekly cleaning routine will allow you to spot any signs of pests and take action immediately.

Special Leaves

The Philodendron Rugosum leaves are what give this plant its subtle charm. They are a very vivid shade of green, with long, smooth petioles, thick and leathery feel, and a slightly grainy texture that almost resembles the skin of a pig.

Due to the shape and feel of the foliage, this philodendron is often listed under the common name of ‘Pigskin’ or sow’s ear plant.

– Repotting

On average, you will need to repot your Philodendron Rugosum once every two or three years. Simply wait until you see that the roots are coming out through the drainage hole, then repot your plant into a container that’s one size larger or two inches (five centimeters) wider.  The best time for repotting Philodendron Rugosum is in spring or summer.

 

Propagation Guide

The easiest methods for propagating Philodendron Rugosum are through stem cuttings and air layering. Here’s how:

– Stem Cutting

  • Sterilize a sharp pair of scissors with rubbing alcohol.
  • Find the growth node on the stem of your Philodendron Rugosum. You should be able to locate it at the point where the leaf petiole connects to the stem.
  • Make a cut half an inch below the growth node. If you have a longer vine, you can cut it into several sections, each with its own leaf and growth node. Trim off any excess stem, and leave only about half an inch of stem above and below the growth node.
  • Keep your stem cuttings in a cool, dry place for 20 to 30 minutes until the cuts develop a light callus.
  • Philodendron Rugosum cuttings can be propagated in either soil or water. If you’re using soil, we recommend a mixture of equal parts vermiculite and potting soil. You can also use a container with 100 percent sphagnum moss for propagation.
  • Keep your cuttings in a warm, bright room but away from any direct sun. Change the water once a week if you’re using water propagation. For soil propagation, check the substrate regularly to make sure it never dries out. 
  • The cuttings will start to grow roots after about two or three weeks. Wait until the roots are at least two inches (five centimeters) long before transplanting them to a well-draining potting mix.

– Air Layering

  • Locate the growth node on the stem of your Philodendron Rugosum. We recommend using it if you can find a growth node that already has some aerial roots poking out. The plant will produce new roots much faster.
  • Take some damp sphagnum moss and pack it around the growth node.
  • Use some plastic wrap to keep the moss in place, and leave a small gap at the top and bottom of the wrap.
  • Check the moss regularly and water it when it feels slightly dry to the touch.
  • After a month or so, you may start seeing roots coming out from the bottom of the moss wrap.
  • Remove the moss, then use a sharp, sterilized blade to cut the stem half an inch below the node.
  • Place the cut stem in a cool, dry place for about half an hour until it develops a light callus.
  • Then, plant your propagated philodendron in a well-draining soil mix and monitor it for another month to ensure it has become established.

Problems

Philodendron Rugosum is tolerant of pests and diseases but can suffer if it does not grow in the right conditions. Here are a few problems to watch out for:

– Soft, Brown Leaf Spots

Keep an eye out for soft brown spots on the leaves of your Philodendron Rugosum, especially if they have a yellow halo. This is a classic sign that the plant is overwatered, and the roots have begun to rot.

Take the plant out of the pot and inspect the roots. They should be white or pale cream and should feel hard to the touch. If the roots feel soft and mushy or are starting to turn dark brown, trim off any infected areas with a sterilized blade, then repot the plant in a well-draining soil mix.

– Dried, Curling Leaves

If the leaves of your Philodendron Rugosum are starting to curl and turn brown around the edges, that’s a sign that the plant is either underwatered or the air in your home is too dry.

Try to raise the humidity by placing the pot on a pebble tray, and make sure that the potting mix stays moist but not drenched in water.

– Pests

Spider mites and mealybugs are the most common pests for Philodendron Rugosum. If you find them on the underside of the leaves, wipe them off with a solution of one part isopropyl alcohol and four parts water. Use the same solution to spray the leaves once every five to seven days for at least four weeks.

FAQ

What Is the Philodendron Rugosum Aberrant Form?

The aberrant form of Philodendron Rugosum is a type of mutation. Aberrant forms have a smooth, bright green stripe along the leaf midrib, and the top of the leaves have distinctly ruffled edges.

Although the Philodendron Rugosum aberrant form is not officially considered a species or even a cultivar, it has become popular with collectors due to the unique shape of the leaves. It is very rare on the market and can be sold for a very hefty price. 

– Is Philodendron Rugosum a Climber?

Yes. Its large, richly green foliage and climbing vines will give your home a veritable rainforest vibe. The Philodendron Rugosum growth rate is slow to moderate, depending on how much light it receives. A plant grown in partial shade will grow slower than one kept in bright indirect light.

If your philodendron is provided with the right growing conditions, it can easily reach five feet (1.5 meters) in height, with leaves that are over eight inches (20 centimeters) long. This plant also loves climbing, so we recommend giving it a moss or coir pole to grow on to. 

Philodendron Rugosum is still rare on the houseplant market. If you manage to track one down, we recommend adding it to your plants collection, whether for conservationists or even just home decor purposes. 

Is Philodendron Rugosum Toxic?

Yes. All philodendron species are listed as toxic to cats and dogs by the ASPCA. The leaves of Philodendron Rugosum contain calcium oxalate crystals which, if ingested, can cause painful irritations, nausea, drooling, and gastrointestinal distress. Keep this plant out of reach of pets and children to avoid any accidents.  

Conclusion

Here’s what you’ve learned in our guide to growing Philodendron Rugosum:

  • Philodendron Rugosum is a climbing, evergreen plant endemic to the tropical forests of Ecuador. 
  • It is threatened by habitat loss in its native range, and it’s also rare on the houseplant market.
  • This low-maintenance philodendron grows best in bright indirect light, well-draining soils, and needs to be kept moist but not soaked.
  • Philodendron Rugosum is tolerant to most pests and diseases but can suffer if it’s overwatered or allowed to get too dry.
  • Its leaves contain toxic calcium oxalate crystals, so keep this plant away from cats and dogs.

Although Philodendron Rugosum can be difficult to find, it is well worth seeking out and adding to your collection. And with our care guide under your belt, you can be sure that this plant will thrive in your home.

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