The philodendron hastatum, or silver sword plant, is easily recognizable with its magnificent grey-green colored foliage that gives off a striking metallic sheen.
In this guide, we’ll be sharing how to provide the best philodendron hastatum care as well as some common pitfalls to avoid.
You’ll be glad to know that this philodendron is a low-maintenance and pretty forgiving plant when it comes to care.
Brief History and Origin
The Philodendron Hastatum is a rare aroid that originates from the tropical and subtropical canopies of Brazil. Whilst it’s found in abundance in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest and in some areas of Rio de Janeiro, it’s considered an endangered species due to its high and growing demand worldwide.
In some areas of Rio, it’s protected by law under the national park act and cannot be taken without explicit permission from the local government.
Philodendron Hastatum Care
The philodendron hastatum does well in a standard aroid potting mix that’s moist and high in organic matter.
Simply combine a high-quality potting soil with some perlite for added drainage, or swap your soil for coco coir (a more sustainable option than peat!)
Make sure the potting soil is loose and airy as well as fast draining. This helps aerate the roots and prevents them from developing the dreaded root rot.
Philodendrons can also be grown in a soilless medium – I’ve done this with sphagnum moss, coco coir and some perlite. Home growers on youtube also do this. Either method is perfectly fine.
The Global Biodiversity Information Facility mentions that the Philodendron hastatum is hemi-epiphytic which means it grows on trees, shrubs, or other foliage.
This means the plant is used to receiving dappled or filtered sunlight and will grow extremely well in moderate to bright, indirect sunlight.
Ideal Light Intensity
Placing it in a brighter place typically produces deeper green leaves, but don’t be afraid to put it in a place that receives lower light or more shade either. The light and silvery, grey-green foliage are a result of being grown under a shaded canopy.
Fun Fact: Less light means the plant ‘uses’ less chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what gives plants their green coloring. If you see very light greens, silvers, or lime colors on your philodendrons, this is your plant’s way of adapting to less light.
This plant likes moist, well-drained soil, but the key thing here is well-drained. Overly wet soil will cause root rot or erwinia blight disease – this is the quickest way to kill your new hastatum.
Knowing When to Water The Philodendron Hastatum
Water just enough to keep the top inch (3cm) of soil moist to touch. Each plant is different so you’ll want to monitor your soil before setting a watering schedule.
I water my philodendron hastatum roughly once a week and leave the soil to dry out a little in between waterings.
If you live in a hot, humid, or tropical region, your plant will need more water, maybe every other day.
Your hastatum will thrive in warm temperatures. This tropical plant copes well with temperatures ranging between 60-80 Degrees Fahrenheit. The warmer the better.
Anything less than 55 Degrees Fahrenheit will result in stunted growth or even death. A minimum temperature of 60 is what you’re aiming for.
Can I Grow this Plant Outdoors?
Yes, providing you live in a region that maintains a warm-weather climate all year round. Philodendrons don’t tolerate the cold, and they certainly do not like frost.
The minimum temperature you’ll want to expose your silver sword hastatum to outdoors is 60 Degrees Fahrenheit.
Which Zones Will This Plant Grow Best In?
Zones 12b to 13b is best, but it’s possible to grow these plants in zones 10-11 as long as you bring your plant indoors at the first sign of frost (if applicable).
You can check what zone you live in using this USDA Hardiness Map.
Being a tropical plant, it’s no surprise part of philodendron hastatum care is maintaining a fairly high humidity level. This plant is a humidity lover, think 55-80%+.
This level of humidity leads to thicker, wider leaves with a richer color palette. You can measure your room’s humidity level using a digital hygrometer.
Some Effective Ways to Increase Humidity at Home
- Using a small humidifier
- Grouping your plants together – this helps to create a mini biome where plants share ‘humidity resources’ via a process known as transpiration
- Lining a tray with pebbles, filling with tray halfway with water and placing the pot on the pebbles (not in the water)
Pro Tip: Misting isn’t a good way to increase humidity. Misting only increases humidity for 1-5 seconds, and then it’s gone. Too much misting can also cause erwinia blight disease as well as pseudomonas leaf spot.
Best Fertilizer for Philodendron
Regular fertilizing during the spring and summer months is crucial to providing good philodendron hastatum care. You can cut back on feedings during the fall months.
No need to fertilize during the winter months when growth is slow or non-existent. Overfertilization during these months can cause root burn.
EDIT: I used to recommend Osmocote, but it has since changed its formula. They’re now using microplastic beads (!) to release the nutrients. This is not eco-friendly, nor something I’d want to promote. I’ve now switched to a liquid fertilizer.
What is the Best Fertilizer to Use for this Plant?
I love dyna grow pro (the 7-9-5 formulation). So far it’s produced stellar results. All of the foliage on my plants look amazing.
Dyna grow pro is a premium, complete formulation liquid fertilizer that contains all 16 of the key macro and micronutrients your plant needs. It’s also urea-free.
Urea, often found in cheap fertilizers, contains lots of heavy residue salts that can build up on the soil over time and eventually cause root burn or death.
How to Fertilize your Philodendron Hastatum
Simply mix a ¼ teaspoon of liquid fertilizer with 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of freshwater. Tap water tends to have too much chlorine or chloramine in it which can cause chlorine toxicity in houseplants.
How Often Should I Fertilize my Plant?
Once a month during the spring and summer months is ideal. Once every other month during fall, and none during winter.
Try to keep a regular fertilizing schedule (you’ll be surprised how quickly plants adapt to a regular feeding) and make sure to fertilize away from the roots as much as possible i.e. on the outskirts of the pot.
The dyna grow pro formula is low in residue salts but it’s always best to be on the more cautious side.
Pro Tip: You can flush out the soil monthly to prevent excess build up of salts.
Can I Use Organic Fertilizer Instead?
You could, but bear in mind organic fertilizer needs bacteria to decompose and release the nutrients for the plant to absorb. You also don’t want to double up on fertilizers. Only use 1 type. Overfertilization can cause pretty nasty root burn.
I’ve added seaweed extract and fish emulsion to some of my juvenile plants in the past and I’ve seen a slight uptick in budding varieties!
This is because organic fertilizers tend to contain lots of lovely plant growth hormones auxins and cytokinins. Pretty cool!
Growth – What Can I Expect?
The philodendron silver sword is a very fast grower. It tends to reach 2-3 at maturity, though it will grow slower in a pot indoors.
If given the opportunity to climb, this plant will do so very quickly. Providing a moss pole or bamboo pole for support is a good idea.
The philodendron hastatum is a fairly low-maintenance plant and doesn’t need regular pruning, if at all. It forms dense thick stems and long leaves as it grows and only needs pruning to either keep its shape or if it has dead, damaged, or diseased leaves.
To prune, simply cut back until you reach a healthy leaf, branch, or node with a clean pair of pruning scissors.
Pro Tip: Sterilize your scissors in rubbing alcohol first.
Unlike the red moon philodendron, the philodendron hastatum can cope with being root bound, though it’s not ideal.
Repotting once a year at the beginning of its growth cycle in spring is likely all it needs.
Signs your plant needs repotting includes:
- Roots are starting to show through drainage holes
- Your plant is root bound
- It’s needing water every 2-3 days (roots lacking moisture)
- Growth is stagnant
- Soil isn’t draining well (though it used to)
Pro Tip: If you’ve just bought your plant from a nursery or Etsy seller, it’s likely it needs repotting straight away. Nurseries tend to resell their plants when they’ve reached max growing capacity.
Repotting Philodendron Hastatum Silver Sword Tips
- Choose a pot that has drainage holes
- Only select a pot that is 2-3 inches bigger than the last (no more).
- Fill with a high quality, loose, well draining potting mix
Don’t worry about prying the old soil from its roots before repotting. Your plant’s roots will expand into the new pot with ease. Teasing can actually cause more stress to the root system.
How to Propagate your Philodendron Hastatum
I’ve had the most success taking stem cuttings and planting them in either soil or water, though personally, I’ve found water to produce the best roots in the least amount of time with this philodendron.
Pro Tip: Propagating at the beginning of spring, at the start of this plant’s growth cycle, lends to stronger and healthier roots.
Silver Sword Propagation Methods – Step by Step
Cutting your plant can seem really scary, so I’m here to walk you through it step by step.
Method #1 Water Propagation
- Have a small, transparent clean jar of freshwater ready (so you can see root growth)
- With a clean pair of pruning scissors, cut a healthy 6 inch stem that ideally has 2-3 nodes on it. The more nodes the more successful propagation is likely to be.
- Place the stem cutting into the jar of water, leaving the main leaf above water level.
- Change the water at least once a week to prevent decay pathogens developing.
- After 2-5 weeks, you should see some small white roots beginning to sprout.
- Once the roots are around an inch long (3cm) you can take them out of the water and plant them in a small pot with moist, well draining potting soil with perlite.
- Water and care for as usual before transferring to a larger container.
Method #1 – Taking a Stem Cutting + Planting in Soil
- Choose a healthy stem that’s around 6 inches in length and has 2-3 nodes on it.
- With a clean pair of pruning scissors, cut the stem.
- Prepare a small pot of moist potting soil and perlite (2:1 ratio).The mix should be wet, but not soaking.
- Dip the fresh stem cutting in rooting hormone. This is optional but I find it helps roots take hold quicker.
- Plant the stem into your pre-made potting mix (2-3 inches into the mix).
- Fill the rest of the pot with your potting soil and perlite mix.
- Place in a warm area that receives bright, indirect light.
- Water as usual.
- In 3-4 weeks roots should develop. Tug very gently to check for roots.
- Transfer to a slightly bigger container or pot once roots have taken hold.
That’s it. Propagating your silver sword plant is that easy. Not all cuttings will take hold but so far I’ve had 3 out of 4 plants take root with these 2 methods.
Common Pests & Diseases to Watch Out For
You’ll be glad to know that the philodendron hastatum is a very resilient plant when it comes to pests, not much affects it.
Mealybugs, thrips, aphids, and scale can all be removed with some neem oil, an eco-friendly insecticide.
The main culprits to watch out for are erwinia blight disease and pseudomonas leaf spot, both nasty bacterial infections. They thrive on moisture and are often caused by overwatering.
The bacteria festers in the soil before causing wet, mushy lesions on stems and leaves. If left unchecked, it can kill your plant within days. It’s much easier to prevent than cure.
Pro Tip: This is one reason why I don’t recommend misting your plants. It’s hard to gauge when you’re overdoing it and it can cause all sorts of bacteria to develop.
Have You Imported this Plant? This is What You Need to Know:
Here are a few things you need to know about your recently imported plant:
- Your plant’s roots will probably come wrapped in moss which you’ll need to take off. This kind of moss will spread with your roots if potted and if it gets too dry, it is impossible for moisture to pass through.
- All of the leaves your plant came with might die – this is completely normal. It might take one or two growth cycles to start seeing new shoots again.
- You’ll need to isolate and sanitise your plant before adding it to your plant collection. Wipe the leaves and arching stems over with some neem oil and isolate for 2 weeks to prevent any pests spreading.
- It will suffer some transit shock – but you can mitigate its effects by adding some diluted superthrive to your plant’s soil. Superthrive is a natural stress reliever for plants.
Toxicity – Is this plant toxic?
Yes. The philodendron hastatum’s leaves are toxic to pets, including cats and dogs if ingested. Its leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals that can cause swelling of the esophagus, mouth, tongue, and gastrointestinal system.
There have been no known toxicity reports relating to horses, birds, or people.
Help! What’s Wrong? – Common Issues with the Philodendron Hastatum
Problem #1 – Why are my philodendron hastatum’s leaves turning yellow or brown?
Browning or yellowing leaves may indicate overwatering, too much bright, direct sunlight, a pot oversaturated with fertilizer, or a pest problem.
Overwatering typically causes very yellow leaves to appear within days, whilst too much sunlight causes brown edges or darkened spots to appear.
Problem #2 – Why is my philodendron hastatum drooping?
If your philodendron hastatum is leggy and drooping, this can indicate that it’s either not getting enough light or its lacking moisture and humidity.
Try placing it in a brighter location, upping the moisture, and pruning the sparse stems back. If your plant has yellowing leaves though AND is drooping, a lack of moisture is not likely the issue.
Problem #3 – Why are my philodendron’s leaves curling?
Philodendron leaves will curl if the soil is excessively dry, the plant is suffering from cold shock, or the humidity level is too low. If your plant is indoors, it’s likely a moisture and humidity issue.
Problem #4 – Why are there small cobwebs on my plant?
Small, sticky cobwebs are usually a sign of a pest such as spider mites. Unlike normal cobwebs produced by house spiders, these webs are very intricate, thin, and usually have lots of little red or orange spots on them.
This is a spider mite infestation. Spider Mites can be removed with some cotton wool and rubbing alcohol or neem oil.
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