Silver Sword Philodendron
The exotic and rare Philodendron Hastatum features large, cyan-hued leaves that glisten in the sun with a dazzling metallic sheen.
It’s no wonder that houseplant aficionados, the world over, prize this as a rare addition to their collections.
They are typically confined to the rainforests of Brazil but for those lucky enough to have one, it’s certainly a conversation starter.
Position Maximum indirect sunlight
Watering Water thoroughly when soil is dry
Size 9 feet tall by 1 ft wide
Climate 65 °F to 75 °F plus 75% humidity
Propagate Stem cuttings
Seasonality Winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-11
Toxicity Poisonous to people, cats, and dogs
Flowers Will flower indoors at 15 to 20 years maturity
One of the joys of growing Philodendron Hastatum from an early stage is watching them evolve and change over time. Each new leaf emerges in ‘ tear drop’ form while protected by a larger leaf called a cataphyll. Over time, the cataphylls fall away allowing new leaves to develop into more elongated, spear-like structures as they mature.
And like us, as they age those silvery undertones become more prominent. Giving older leaves the appearance of strong, impenetrable metal. Thus, their common name, the Silver Sword Philodendron.
Philodendron Hastatum Care
Surprisingly, caring for a Silver Sword Philodendron and maintaining its distinctive lush evergreen is not as daunting as you might think. And what’s more, once you’ve read this, you just may be ready for your own.
In the wild, these brilliant species thrive in bright, indirect sunlight that beams down through breaks in the rainforest canopy. This can easily be replicated in your home by placing your plant in a north or east-facing window. This allows for ample light exposure from either the morning or afternoon sun while protecting the plant from leaf burn and dehydration.
This positioning also encourages the vines to reach for the sun as the light wanes, stimulating growth and photosynthesis. As it does, it’s best to support the plant with natural stakes made from bamboo or moss poles. I usually save small branches from pruned, garden trees to use for this.
When deciding where to place your Silver Sword Philodendron, keep in mind its humidity needs. Typically Philodendrons need 75% humidity to really flourish to their full potential. You can ramp up humidity levels by placing the pot in a saucer of water-covered pebbles, the heat of summer and the dryness of winter will benefit your plant, rather than harm it. Increased heat in the environment causes the water in the saucer to evaporate. Creating a vapor barrier around your plant that it will absolutely love.
Height & Spread
In their native home of the rain forests of Brazil, these metallic jewels will wind their tendrils around the tallest trees. Reaching for the light and basking in all that sultry humidity.
In our homes, of course, it’s a bit different. While every plant is limited by the size of its pot, if your Philodendron Hastatum is re-potted appropriately and is well cared for, it can grow to an astounding 9 feet tall and 3 feet across. Making for quite the statement piece!
On average, Philodendron Hastatum plants prefer to be watered based on moisture absorption and ambient temperature. Because these plants enjoy a humid environment, it’s common for the leaves to be a little moist to the touch. However, they don’t like their “feet” to stay wet.
To protect from over-watering and root rot, be sure that the top 1-2 inches of soil is dry before watering again. This will also ensure that the roots are ready to receive moisture to then disperse to the rest of the plant. As a rule, I like to let my plants tell me when they need watering rather than watering on one particular day. It may sound like extra effort, but it’s worth it.
If you’re not able to replicate the levels of humidity that these plants need, then regular misting of the leaves will greatly contribute to maintaining a moisture-rich environment, as well.
Similar to most other Aroids, a Philodendron Hastatum does not like soggy roots. The best soil will be one rich in perlite or vermiculite to create the kind of soil drainage and healthy air flow that keeps roots happy and plants thriving. If you’re looking for some more sustainable options, bark, charcoal, and coco coir work just as well.
Another trick for supporting adequate drainage is to make sure the soil is not too compacted around your plant’s roots. If the soil is packed in too tightly, it will prevent water from draining properly.
Soil inevitably runs off with watering, so if you have your plants sitting in a pebble-filled saucer, be sure to rinse the soil out occasionally. This will keep that moisture barrier effect working perfectly.
They say that with age comes wisdom and in the case of the Silver Sword Philodendron, wisdom comes in the form of the most spectacular blooms. In full maturity (anywhere from 10 to 16 years of age), lovely flowers emerge that are similar in appearance to the familiar Spathiphyllum or peace lily. Yet, with a thicker, more robust design that can grow to an astounding 12 inches in length.
A creamy white cup (a spathe) encases a long, white “spadix” that emerges from the center. This spadix can heat up to 114 degrees Fahrenheit and become extremely fragrant, especially at night, in order to attract pollinators.
These mega-blooms usually appear at the height of the plant’s active growing season and remain open for only 48 hours. This process can repeat two or three more times before the end of the growing season much to the delight of those who have one of these.
How to Fertilize Philodendron Hastatum
Fertilizing a Philodendron Hastatum will result in healthy foliage production and a strong root system and applying monthly during warmer months and every two months in winter will be sufficient. Pure water, in between feedings, will help to flush out any residual mineral build-up.
I use a slow-release houseplant spike from Jobes because it continues to supply my Philodendrons with beneficial nutrients for up to 2 months without me having to remember to feed it. But if a liquid feed is preferred, be sure to adequately dilute it to minimize the risk of root burn.
If you see new leaves emerging that are pale in color, this could be evidence that your plant is lacking in specific micro-nutrients like calcium and magnesium. When choosing a houseplant fertilizer, make sure these two are included.
Pruning (or pinching) is the one practice in your bag of gardening tricks that can accomplish three things.
- It discourages ‘leggy’ growth to maintain a more filled-in, bushy look.
- It keeps your plant from taking over the room.
- It sends a message to the plant that it has lost part of itself and it needs to be replaced with lots of new growth. Sneaky, but effective!
When to prune a Philodendron
Pruning isn’t necessary if the plant is already producing healthy, new foliage. Only prune if it gets too leggy, if it has yellowing leaves or bare stalks that need removal or if it’s simply getting too big.
How do you prune a Philodendron?
This is a simple three-step process. First, sterilize your pruning shears with rubbing alcohol. Microscopic bacteria on your sheers may infect your precious plant and cause it to fail. Second, know where to cut.
- When pruning to reduce plant size, cut the longest stems first as these are the ones most likely to yellow the soonest. Always cut at the base of the plant where it meets the crown of the roots. Cutting any higher will expose the plant to disease and pests.
- When removing yellow or damaged leaves, cut just above the joint where the next healthy leaf attaches to the stem.
And third, water the plant well directly after.
With such rapid growth habits, repotting philodendrons is a common practice. Roots growing out the bottom of the pot or stunted growth may be signs of it being a good time for this.
Choose a new pot or container no bigger than 1-2 inches larger than the previous one. Otherwise, water will drain out through the excess soil without ever reaching the roots. If you find your plant has become root bound, simply make a few vertical cuts in the root ball before replanting. This will encourage new root formation that will spread into the new pot.
Remember to use soil rich in material that will promote ample drainage and most importantly, always wear gloves when transplanting a philodendron. Skin exposure to the plant’s sap can cause skin irritation and rashing.
How to Propagate Philodendron Hastatum
There are two different ways I like to propagate this plant. One is by taking stem cuttings. This is a great practice because as you prune your philodendron, you can keep the healthy cuttings to make brand new plants. As mentioned before, just cut longer stems from the base or shorter ones at the point where the next healthy leaf is attached to the stem.
Place the new cuttings in a propagation station or glass of water and in a couple of weeks, you should see new roots forming. At that point, you can pot them and place them in an area with the same light and humidity as your mature plants.
Another is by simply splitting the rooting ball into two or more separate plants (depending on how big it is) when repotting. You’ll want to water the plant well the night before you plan to separate it as this will help protect the plant against root shock.
Common problems with Philodendron Hastatum
As a rare and exotic specimen, these philodendrons are uncommon household plants and usually saved for collectors. Not necessarily because of it’s rarity but because it’s thought to be difficult to care for.
As we’ve seen, this is not the case when potted, watered, and fed properly and put in an advantageous spot. However, like most plants, there are some things to be aware of.
In general, these tropical bloomers are not prone to pests if grown in the right conditions.
However, you should never rule out the possibility of a visit from spider mites and mealybugs and the best way to ward them off is with regular cleansing with neem oil.
I personally like Harris Neem oil because it’s easy to use and contains 100% natural ingredients.
Getting into a regular routine of wiping down the leaves and spraying the soil of all of your houseplants on a regular basis is a good way of helping to prevent infestations.
If you do notice an infestation, it’s never the end of the world and is easy enough to get rid of. Just move the plant to a better-suited spot and wipe the pests off using a cotton ball and a little rubbing alcohol. Repeat weekly until all signs of the infestation have gone.
These plants can be easily affected by temperature change, as well. For example, You wouldn’t want to give your philodendrons a sudden shock by dowsing them with cold tap water. Using aerated, room-temp water is infinitely more beneficial and avoids introducing fluoride, which would result in those beautiful, silver leaves turning yellow and falling off.
Over-watering or over-feeding can also expose these plants to disease, like blight, by weakening their natural resistance to them. Infection can unwittingly be introduced by using tools that haven’t been properly sterilized before pruning or propagating. While these conditions are concerning, they are not necessarily fatal if caught early and treated properly.
One other potential hazard to be aware of with Silver Sword Philodendron is that the sap of this plant can cause severe allergic reactions when coming into contact with the skin, eyes, or mouth. It is always recommended that gloves be worn when pruning or propagating. It’s also toxic to cats and dogs too.