Plants contribute not only to the beauty but with their unique features and characteristic they help in maintaining the balance of this ecosystem. One such evergreen, flowering plant is philodendron serpens. The term philodendron is coined from a Greek word philo meaning “affection” and Dendron meaning “tree”. This affection tree is far more resilient. Philodendrons with their big, dark green leaves are climbers and look sober yet chic while climbing a totem. These climbers reach a maximum height of 30 cm and are highly toxic. Yet with their unique beauty, glorious leaves, and velvety petioles these can be considered as the show stoppers.
In this article, we will emphasize the features and characteristics of the Philodendron Serpens plant.
Brief Plant Profile
- Family: Arads (Araceae)
- Species: Philodendra
- Kind: Monocotyledons
- Name: Philodendron
Origin of Philodendron Serpens Plant
The Serpens are herbaceous, monocotyledons (mono means one and cotyledon means the first part that emerges from a germinating seed). They belong to the family of Arads (Araceae). The second-largest genus in the family of Araceae is philodendrons. Charles Plumier introduced them in Europe somewhere towards the mid of the 16th century. It is believed that the central and southern regions of America are their place of origin. And to be precise that too rain forest in southern America. Some experts are also of the opinion that this fuzzy funky plant is a native to Columbia and Panama as well. Their distinctive features are the massive, heart-shaped leaves and their long aerial roots. Their perennial life cycle (they last for a very long time) makes them an outstanding choice for indoor plants.
Kinds of Philodendron Serpens
These are classified into two main types, keeping their nature and direction towards which they tend to grow.
As the name suggests these types of philodendrons are creepers that need support to climb and are also known as vining philodendrons. Heartleaf philodendrons and Blushing philodendrons describe the vining philodendrons pretty well and are preferred for decorating indoors and outdoor settings alike.
Also known as self-heading or non-trailing philodendrons, these tend to grow horizontally. This is why their width is double their height. Bird’s nest and lacy tree philodendron are some of the non-climbers.
Attributes Exclusive to Philodendron Serpens
The creeping plant with a stem so shaggy that at a glance can be mistaken for a tropical insect has some very distinctive attributes. With the title, the “affectionate tree” this plant with heart-shaped leaves will melt your heart at first sight. Its exotic unique features are as follows.
The brown and grayscales that are hair-like structures on petioles are a unique feature of the plant from the genus Philodendrons Schott. These plants with their red, fuzzy petioles are a satisfying sight to see. It is believed that this hair-like structure on the petioles assists the plant in creeping. The bright-hued, velvety petioles do not appear immediately on a juvenile plant. As the plant becomes mature the fuzzy hair texture is more vibrant and noticeable.
A pleasant addition to a typical household and office, philodendrons are resilient plants. Resilient plants are also called unkillable. Do not fall prey to the name they are not entirely immortal. This means that these are simply more adaptive and can not only survive but thrive with little care. These are popular among cultivators for indoor décor due to their ease of growth and perennial nature. These belong to a family that relishes under low light and die-hard because of their adaptive qualities. These are great for plant lovers who tend to neglect their precious greens due to their busy schedules.
No Leaf is The Same
The interesting fact about this vibrant plant is that each leave is different in its pattern. Yes, some features remain the same such as the heart shape of the leave. However, from juveniles to mature ones, all leaves are dramatically different from one another. This creates a one of a kind plant at every spot.
The Air Purifier
Just like most plants, Philodendron Serpens also serves the purpose of air purification. However, they take it a step ahead and absorb toxic pollutants in the air to correct the air that we breathe. NASA conducted tests on them and deduced that they are effective in absorbing formaldehyde (an unhealthy toxic found in the air that has a very adverse impact on our health) in higher concentrations and act as a biofilter. This is no surprise that the plant with its big leaves and aerial roots can sequester pollutants to diffuse oxygen in the room.
This red and green furry plant in optimum conditions is resistant to diseases. With its exceptional quality to reduce harmful pollutants from its surroundings makes it even more desirable. Occasionally the leaves turn yellow or pale because of the over-watering of the plant. In this case, some people may confuse philodendron Serpens with other plants due to the transformation of their leaves. This can be easily fixed by controlling environmental stimuli.
Philodendron Serpens Can be Confused With Other Plants
Philodendrons are often confused with Pothos and Monstera plants respectively. Since Monstera and Serpens belong to the same family of Aroid, therefore, there is some resemblance but these are two different species. Pothos and philodendrons can be differentiated with the help of their leaves. Although they both possess heart-shaped leaves, the leaves of Pothos are larger and have yellow spots. On the other hand, leaves of Serpens are smaller in comparison.
Faux philodendrons are another kind of plant that resembles philodendron and also contains the words in their name. However, these do not belong to the family. Scindapsus pictus (Silver Philodendron) and Monstera Deliciosa (Cheese plant) are the most well-known plants in this family.
Philodendron Serpens Care
Philodendron Serpens care is not complicated which makes it perfect for home décor. It is adaptive to its environment and an extremely resilient plant. This tropical plant is fond of indirect and bright light with well-drained and moist soil to boost its growth.
The foremost need of these plants is soil that is rich in moisture. Even though these plants quickly recover from harsh conditions but they need moist soil. Too much watering can also result in the appearance of yellow spots on the leaves which has a bad impact on the plant’s health. To avoid this, the soil must be dry from approximately two inches from the top before being watered again. They prefer lukewarm water and thus can survive in rainwater that stagnates. During summers, they can be misted every two days and in winters the frequency of misting can be reduced to every three to four days.
It is easy to tell just by observing if the plant needs water. If the plant seems light in weight and appears to be wilting then probably it’s time to water it. Put your finger in the soil and even after the first two inches the soil feels dry, it is an indication that the plant should be watered. If not watered properly, the leaves of these climbers would appear dried out and the deep-set veins would appear unhealthy. The velvety petioles too lose their hair and the reddish fuzzy beauty looks unattractive.
Philodendron Serpens are quite resilient and adapt to their environment quickly. They can adapt to different levels of humidity. Misting and cleaning leaves would promote their function of performing as a biofilter. To do so, mist the leaves and with a clean fabric and wipe the leaves. This would remove all the dust particles and allow the plant to purify the air without any blockage. For cleaning purposes, it is preferred to use organic fabric but a synthetic one would do just fine.
Serpens grow better if the soil is well-drained. When kept indoors, the plant should be potted at the base for the soil to drain properly. A tray must be installed underneath to avoid a mess. Experts also suggest using perlite in the soil to improvise growth. Perlite is a volcanic glass with high water content. It is a natural substance that is heated to make it pop (expand). It does not provide any nutrition to the plant. The purpose of using it in the soil is to allow air to readily pass through the soil, keeping it well-drained and moist.
The plant can be fertilized once a month at max. The month between the spring and autumn would be the most feasible time to fertilize. Serpens can be fertilized with liquid fertilizer or slow-release fertilizer to accelerate its growth. These climbers with totem support do not demand much fertilization around the year.
Philodendrons are resilient plants because they are adaptive. They enjoy bright indirect light from the sun if kept indoors. They also admire the light if kept outdoors and can sustain on sunny days. Direct sunlight naturally burns out the leaves and turns them brown. However, if the leaves turn pale and yellow it indicates that they have not been receiving optimum light and must be shifted to a location where they can receive bright indirect light.
Coming from a rain forest where temperatures are comparatively high, the plant must be kept in a similar warm environment. These plants do not typically do well at low temperatures. The temperature ranging from 18 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees Celsius is ideal for their growth.
During winter months the growth of Philodendron Serpens is hampered and they go into resting mode. This is because these fuzzy plants need high temperatures to dwell. Such hibernation happens when the red-haired climber is located outdoors. Though in cold seasons they can be growing at a steady pace if kept indoors. The temperature should not go below 14 degrees Celsius.
The ideal time to repot Philodendron Serpens is early summer. When you get the plant in a pot from the market it is already in a decent sized pot which is the requirement of the plant at that stage. Once the roots start to grow out of the pot, that’s when it should be moved into a slightly bigger one. This move is an absolute essential for the growth and health of the plant.
Take out the plant, brush the soil off it, and trim the old roots. Now transfer the plant into a pot that is already prepared with a drainage layer of perlite and soil that is moist. Water it and keep it in bright indirect light. For the first two weeks. Do not use fertilizer at this point as it does not need fertilizer. Repotting is recommended after a minimum span of three years so that the roots can strongly hold the soil. Hence, choose a pot wisely so that the serpens does not outgrow it before three years.
When the vines of Serpens become long, its water consumption also increases, and its demand for maintenance increases. This also gives rise to the issues of pest. To combat this, pruning can come in handy. With a clean, sharp knife or garden shears cut the shoots that are too long. Aim for a stem that has a lot of leaves. Cut from where another leaf is attached to the stem. This can also be done if the philodendron grows beyond expectations. This keeps the appearance of the plant more put together. This process also gives it the required space to grow. The best time for pruning is from spring to summer.
Propagation of Philodendron Serpens
One of the main reasons for Philodendron Serpens climber’s popularity is that they are easy to propagate by the “cutting” method. The method is explained in detail below:
Propagation in Soil
- Cut a big stem around 6 inches long from the tip of the plant.
- Remove the leave and expose the nodes (tiny dot-like structures on the stem from where new roots can grow) only leaving a few leaves on the top.
- This can now be propagated in the soil. Submerge the nodes in the soil.
- Expose this new cutting to indirect sunlight and warm temperature preferably 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, till the roots are formed.
- Roots will sprout in almost 3 to 4 weeks.
Propagation in Water
- Take a decent size stem cutting from the mother plant, prepare it for propagation.
- This can be achieved by exposing nodes and keeping some leaves at the top of the cutting.
- Place it in a warm temperature where it receives ample indirect light.
- Submerge the nodes in water. This will also take weeks for the roots to sprout.
- The plant propagated in water can be now shifted to a pot with soil.
Since Philodendron Serpens are toxic it is advised to use gloves when handling the plant and wash hands thoroughly to avoid rushing into the ER. Gardening tools must also be thoroughly cleaned after use to avoid any contact of the toxic materials with other plants as well. As this can hamper the growth of other plants.
Problems in Philodendron Serpens
Some problems that are commonly seen and can be avoided with proper knowledge.
Pest can be a menace. Pests such as spider mites, thrips, and mealybugs can be harmful to the plant especially thrips (the plant slowly dies because of thrips). These can be washed away by using soapsuds of a bile soap to wipe leave with the help of a cloth.
Lack of light, poor drainage, and excessive watering cause Pythium root which is a root rotting issue. This is a kind of fungus that starts to grow on lush green plants and spoil its roots if they are wet. When the soil is excessively watered it becomes alkaline and the PH level rises above 7. To sort this issue keep the plant in indirect light and do not waterlog. Keeping the soil well-drained with the use of perlite will also prove beneficial.
Leaves Turning Yellow
This happens if the plant does not receive sufficient light or receives excess water or the drainage of soil is low. Due to this discoloration of leaves, the plant is often confused with other plants such as Monstera and Pothos.
Is Philodendron Serpens Toxic?
The answer to this frequently asked question is yes. They contain a crystal called calcium oxalate which is an irritant if ingested orally. It irritates the mouth, throat, and esophagus (the tube that takes food from the mouth to the stomach). Therefore it is advised not to place them in areas that are easily accessible by babies, toddlers, or pets.
Philodendron Serpens is known for indoor decorations as they are resilient and low maintenance. With their large leaves, these can practically absorb moisture and light readily in any location. They beautify an ordinary counter or household with their dark green, heart-shaped leaves. They require indirect light and are easy to handle by a beginner level gardener. With their climbing effect on a totem, they are esthetically appealing and provide an elongated, artistic look to the corridors of an office. For their increasing popularity to decorate office space these are also known as “office plants”. With their purifying qualities, they absorb toxic pollutants in the air to correct the atmosphere and provide a healthy environment to breathe in.