When most of us hear “shape-shifter”, we tend to think of the magical or mystical, but plant-lovers, especially Philodendron-lovers know very well that the term isn’t strictly reserved for the mystical realm.
Philodendron Lupinum’s Interesting Origins
Hailing from Northern Brazil, the Philodendron Lupinum (or Lupinum Corrugated Leaf) is a beautiful, rare, low-maintenance, shape-shifting Philodendron. In other words, it’s pretty impressive.
New leaves average just two inches in size; round in shape and velvety in texture.
As the plant develops, leaves expand drastically, spanning up to 20 inches in size, taking on the signature Philodendron heart shape and a corrugated texture.
Now not only does the Lupinum change shape throughout maturity, but some of its signature physical traits even double as adaptation features – like we told you; impressive.
Thanks to tiny hairs on their surface, the Lupinum can successfully survive in the humid tropical forests it is native to. When large water droplets fall onto a leaf, the hairs prevent the water from coming into direct contact with the surface.
They instead direct water droplets off the leaf, keeping the plant safe from mold that might result from the accumulation of too much water. On the leaf’s underside, you’ll find a dark maroon color; another adaptation that reflects light upwards toward the cells that photosynthesize.
It’s hypnotizing and intriguing, eye-catching, and pretty darn simple to care for. That is why we’ve created this in-depth guide to help ensure you maximize the beauty and joy that the Philodendron Lupinum can bring.
Philodendron Lupinum Care at a Glance
- Drought-tolerant, bounces back easily after lack of water
- Can thrive in low light conditions, though prefers medium, bright light
- Best soil is well-draining, consistently moist, rich in organic matter
- Enjoys 60% or higher humidity, but can adjust to lower
Philodendron Lupinum Care In-Depth
Lupinums thrive in much lower light conditions than most Philodendron-lovers are accustomed to.
Not only can Lupinums tolerate low light, but they prefer it. For those of you familiar with the Foot Candle Scale, 50 – 250FC will suit it nicely. You can purchase a light meter relatively cheaply online!
Best Soil & Mixture
Your Lupinum will do best in a well-draining soil rich in organic matter that is kept moist, but never soggy.
Some of the best, most frequently recommended soil mixtures for this Philodendron include:
- Perlite, orchid bark and any standard growing mix combined in a 1:1:1 ratio
- Vermiculite and peat moss combined in a 1:1 ratio
- 100% peat moss
Plant water-forgetters, rejoice! Philodendron Lupinums are quite drought-tolerant and do well when not watered on a consistent schedule.
Bonus? If you forget for a little longer than you should, the plant is known for bouncing back well after watering.
When watering your Lupinum, water thoroughly, to the point that the water runs out of the pot’s drainage holes.
An often-recommended technique for this variety is to water from the bottom to help strengthen the plant’s root system and to lessen the chance of fungal issues in the top portion of your plant’s soil.
Check your plant weekly to ensure the top half of your soil is still moist. Dry? Give it a drink, again, watering till water runs from the drainage holes.
Until you learn the best watering schedule for your own Lupinum, watch out for signs like droopy leaves, and leaf browning or yellowing. Be cautious when looking at coloring changes though as both browning and yellowing can also be indicators of over-watering.
Adding to the “low-maintenance” list for Lupinums is that it is perfectly happy in a wide range of temperatures – tolerating the whole range for which you likely already keep your home; 55 – 80F.
Be cautious on either end of that spectrum though as they will show damage when too cold, or when the air around them exceeds 80F.
The bottom range has a little (emphasis on little) bit of flexibility, but 80F is their top tolerance and should not be exceeded.
Your Lupinum will be happiest in a room with a 60% or higher humidity level although they can tolerate lower after a brief adjustment period.
For example, let’s say that you bring your plant home from a nursery where humidity was 90%. Your home’s humidity is 50%. Gradually acclimate it to the humidity level in its new home, and watch this adaptable superstar beautifully adjust and happily thrive even with the environment change.
Remember to give it time and to watch it closely during the adjustment period, utilizing the below techniques as necessary till it has fully acclimated.
If you notice browning along the edges or tips of your leaves, or if your plant develops a crispy leaf texture, you need to up your humidity. Boosting techniques include using a humidifier, pebble tray, or misting the plant’s leaves.
Also, remember what we said under “light” – Lupinums can thrive in low-light conditions, so why not green up your bathroom? AKA the most humid room in a home.
Fertilizer & Growth
Naturally a climber, your Lupinum will reward you if given the proper support to stretch its legs (vines) toward the sky or ceiling.
No flower blooms or fruit has been observed on the plant, but we’re pretty sure that you’ll be perfectly content without them as you bask in the wonder of its natural metamorphosis.
When choosing a fertilizing option for your Lupinum, opt for a balanced liquid fertilizer with calcium & magnesium. Fertilizers lacking in these two nutrients will lead to pale leaves.
To avoid plant burning, dilute your chosen fertilizer to half-strength and water it before applying. Fertilize monthly in spring/summer and stop during winter when the plant’s growing naturally slows.
Propagating Philodendron Lupinum
There are two widely suggested methods for propagating your Lupinum; cuttings, and air layering.
Propagation through cutting is the easiest/most traditional method, while air layering can be used by plant parents who only have a mature Lupinum to propagate from.
Method #1 – From Cuttings:
- Find a completely healthy stem and take a cutting with at least one leaf and one node (where the stem and leaf meet).
- Wrap the node in sphagnum moss (or submerge in water if choosing to go that route).
- Leave in moss/water till roots take hold and grow a couple of inches in length.
- If in water, transplant the new plant to your potting soil mixture.
- If in moss, transplant the new plant to your potting soil mixture, or leave it in moss indefinitely!
Method #2 – Air Layering:
- Using a mature branch, make a slice at a 45-degree angle.
- Insert a small piece of clear plastic into the cut.
- Wrap the area in sphagnum moss, wrap the moss in plastic wrap and tie in place with a string.
- Once roots have formed (approximately 2 weeks) take the new plant from the cut and transplant it into your soil mixture.
Keeping low-maintenance fans happy, Lupinums only need to be repotted every couple of years at most and give a clear indication as to when it needs to happen.
Unless you are noticing issues, you only need to repot when your plant has become rootbound (roots are beginning to grow out of drainage holes).
Lupinums come with no set guidelines or schedules regarding pruning, so you should simply prune as you deem necessary; trimming away any dead leaves, or cutting back growth when you feel the plant has gotten too large for your space.
When ingested, the plant (like all Philodendrons) is toxic to humans and pets.
Common Pests & Diseases
Aphids: Recognized as bright green, tiny bugs that cluster together on the underside of your plant’s leaves, Aphids suck sap from host plants, and can be detrimental to their overall health.
Help prevent them by giving your Lupinum frequent gentle showers so the bugs never have a true chance to take hold.
Should you find yourself with an infestation, treat it with neem oil or insecticide soap. You can also stick to showering the plant’s leaves off, just be sure that the spray removes all visible bugs.
Mealybugs: Resembling (tiny) cotton balls, Mealybugs also suck sap like the aforementioned Aphids.
If you spot any, remove them by taking a cotton swab soaked in isopropyl alcohol to them. If that does not do the job, you can turn to neem oil or an insecticide soap.
Scales: Recognized as small brown scales (obviously), these are often mistaken as aerial roots as they tend to pop up around stems and nodes – and resemble the roots!
If scales are identified, you will need to physically remove them as sprays and oils will not work. Pick them off by hand, with tweezers, or scrub them with a toothbrush.
Bacterial Leaf Spot: The scary one.
Presenting as damp black spots on leaves, to treat, trim away any affected leaves and dispose of them. If the spots have spread to the majority of your plant though, you will need to dispose of it as there is no recovery and the plant will be considered lost.
FAQ – Philodendron Lupinum Care
Q. Philodendron Lupinum vs. Philodendron Micans – Difference?
Although Philodendron Micans and Philodendron Lupinum start out looking extremely similar, as they mature, you can distinguish them in two main ways:
- Lupinum’s leaves have a shiny leaf surface texture while the Micans does not
- The underside of a Lupinum is darker in color than that of the Micans
Q. Why is the leaf shape changing on my Lupinum?
Because it’s growing!
As we stated in our introduction, Lupinum leaves are essentially “shape-shifters” beginning as small and round, and morphing into large (up to 20in) leaves that take on a more elongated heart shape, traditional to the Philodendron family.
Rest assured that your Lupinum changing shape is not only OK, but it’s expected, natural, and part of what makes the plant so incredible.
Hoping that you are leaving this article with fun new plant knowledge, an answer (or two) to a question you might have had, and a whole new appreciation for the Philodendron Lupinum and the care required to help it thrive.