The truly stunning and magnificent philodendron mamei is a creeping aroid that produces large heart-shaped leaves with a striking silver variegation.
The silver markings are what makes this plant so unusual – they look like streaks that have been painted by hand!
You’ll also notice that the leaves have an unusual ridged texture and the petiole, the part that connects the stem with the leaf is a deep maroon red.
It’s more commonly known as the silver cloud, quilted silver leaf plant, or blotched philodendron just in case you know it by those names.
This ultimate philodendron mamei care guide will show you how to keep its ruffled leaves and gorgeous variation shining bright.
Quick Philodendron Mamei Care Breakdown
- Soil: Well-draining, loose, airy
- Light: Bright, indirect
- Watering: Soil kept lightly damp
- Temperature: 65-80° F (18-27°C)
- Humidity: 50-70%+
- Fertilizer: Balanced or nitrogen rich
Philodendron Origin and Backstory
Like most philodendron varieties, the philodendron mamei hails from the deep canopies of South American jungles, more specifically Ecuador.
It was discovered in 1983 by aroid botanist Dr. Thomas B. Croat on a paid expedition sponsored by the Missouri Botanical Garden.
For a long time, it was believed the silver cloud was terrestrial, meaning it grew from the soil, but over the past 20 years it was found the philodendron mamei is actually epiphytic, meaning it thrives by growing off trees or other organic matter.
Because of its unique variegation, it’s considered rare, though it can be found in abundance in the wilderness of Ecuador. The steady increase in demand worldwide has contributed to its ever-increasing price.
Philodendron Mamei Plant Care
Philodendron mamei’s flourish in an aroid potting mix that’s fast draining and rich in organic matter. This typically includes a mix of coco coir, perlite, orchid bark, worm castings, pumice, and activated charcoal.
You can either buy a ready-made soil mix or you can DIY your own. I recommend DIYing it using the soil recipe I’ve put below.
But, if you want to save time and buy I highly recommend Fox Farm’s soil! It’s airy and still encourages stellar growth.
Unlike other blogs, I absolutely do not recommend you go for Miracle Gro – every time I’ve bought a bag I’ve ended up with a fungus gnat infestation.
I use this mix for my philodendron mamei (amongst other philos):
- 40% coco coir
- 15% orchid bark
- 15% perlite
- 10% worm castings
- 10% pumice
- 10% activated charcoal
The key with philodendrons is to simply make sure the mix is well-draining AND has elements that retain some moisture.
Why This Mix Works
The philodendron mamei doesn’t like to be too dry, nor too wet. It’s about finding a balance between the two, and this airy woody substrate mimics its natural hemi-epiphytic nature.
Where This Plant Grows Naturally
The Global Biodiversity Information Facility notes that the Philodendron Mamei is naturally found on the eastern slope of the Andes in Ecuador, where interestingly, it has been found to grow in partial shade along river banks.
Recommended Light Intensity
It grows extremely well in 6-8 hours of bright, indirect sunlight and you’ll see deeper green leaves because of it, but don’t be afraid to put it in a place that receives 1-2 hours of cool, direct morning sun a day.
Despite what many people believe, scorching and color bleaching problems only crop up when the plant is kept in direct sun for 3+ hours a day.
What is Bright, Indirect Light Exactly?
Bright, indirect light is brighter than you think!
Measuring light is tricky and something that’s entirely subjective. For this reason, I love and use my light meter when deciding where to keep a plant.
It measures overall light intensity in a room in footcandles (FC).
How Much Light Does This Plant Need in a Home?
The lowest light level this plant will tolerate is 200FC (this is the absolute bare minimum) and is best for maintenance. For optimal growth, 400-500FC is ideal.
Myth Buster: The silver markings are a result of being grown under a shaded canopy - it’s the plant's way of adapting to less light. A. Nope - not true. Variegation in leaf color happens because of cell mutation, either genetic from the mother plant or randomly, known as chimeric in botany terms.
Keeping Those Variegated Silvery Leaves Shining Bright After Purchase
If you’ve ever had a variegated plant turn solid green after being bought from a nursery, you’re not alone.
This frustrating phenomenon is common when plants are moved from ultra-bright nurseries into lower-lit households.
FYI, nurseries grow mamei plants in light levels of 1500-2000FC, usually in full sun, covered by a 20-40% shade cloth! That’s incredibly bright.
Even in the brightest of indirect light sources, some reverting can still happen whilst your plant adjusts to its new environment.
Measure your light source and make sure it actually is ‘bright light’!
Keep it in a brightly light location for a few weeks and variegation should return, if not to the old leaves, but to the new ones growing in.
I can’t recommend indoor fluorescent grow lights enough for those low-light locations!
Philodendron Mameis LOVE evenly moist soil, but the key thing here is well-drained. Boggy, waterlogged or soaking soil will quickly cause root rot, erwinia blight disease, and dreaded pseudomonas leaf spot.
Luckily, if you’ve got a high-quality potting mix as mentioned above, you will have adequate draining in case of excess water.
Overwatering is a complex topic but essentially, it's caused by the frequency of watering and quality of soil aeration, not the amount of water you use.
How to Tell When Your Plant Needs Water
Use a simple chopstick, stick it a few inches deep into the mix (away from the main stem), and then observe the stick after it’s pulled out.
- Overly wet soil will cling to the chopstick and possibly make the stick a darker shade
- Moist soil will be soft in texture (you’ll easily be able to push the stick through)
- Dry soil will be tough, brittle, and compacted and won’t change the color of the stick
You can also use the common finger knuckle test. Stick your finger into the potting mix.
If it is moist at the first or second knuckle, you can hold back on watering. If it is dry, go ahead and give your plant a good drink.
How to Water Your Philodendron Mamei
Water every plant until water runs out of the bottom of the drainage holes. This applies to ALL plants you own – including those cacti and succulents.
Water doesn’t just keep the mix moist, but it pushes air into the root system (ironically, helping to prevent root rot).
Make sure to water all the way around the pot and not just in one spot either.
Remember how I said this plant originates from the deep Ecuadorian rainforests?
This means you’ll want to mimic that temperature as close as possible, which means on the warmer side.
Ideal Temperature Range
The Ecuadorian rainforest’s base temperature all year round is 77°F (25°C). As a general rule of thumb, between 65-80° Fahrenheit is ideal (18-29°C).
Anything less than 55°F (12.5°C) will result in stunted growth, wilting, or even death.
Being a tropical plant, it’s no surprise part of philodendron mamei care is maintaining a fairly high humidity level. This plant is a humidity lover, think 50-70%+.
This level of humidity leads to thicker more pronounced leaves with richer textures.
Increasing Humidity Levels
To increase humidity levels in your home, you can use a small humidifier and group your plant collection together.
Grouping plants helps to create a mini biome whereby plants share ‘ humidity resources’.
The Science Behind Grouping
Plants lose water from their leaves through a process known as transpiration. This water vapor then immediately surrounds the plant, increasing local humidity.
By grouping your plants together, transpiration increases, and humidity levels will drastically improve.
Unlike their outdoor counterparts, houseplants have no way of getting more nutrients once the nutrients in their soil or mix are depleted. This means a lack of fertilizer will cause severely stunted growth.
Best Fertilizer for Philodendron Mamei
I use and recommend dyna gro (7-9-5 NPK formula), it’s a complete liquid fertilizer that contains all 16 essential nutrients your plant needs to survive, including the 3 major ones: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.
It’s also very low in heavy nitrogen salts and free of urea which can change the pH of the soil and lead to root burn when in excess.
How to Fertilize Your Philodendron Mamei
Dilute 1/4 teaspoon of dyna gro with 1 gallon of water (4.5 litres) and water your plant with this solution every time in spring and summer.
The reason I fertilize my plants every time they get a watering is because this mimics how they grow in their natural habitat. In the wild, plants receive a steady stream of nutrients over days and weeks - they don't take one big gulp a month.
Alternatively, you can use a high-quality all-purpose houseplant liquid fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen and use the same method of feeding.
When to Fertilize Your Philodendron Mamei
It’s best to fertilize in spring and summer, the main growing months and cut back during the autumn, and stop entirely during the colder, winter months.
This isn’t to let the plant ‘rest’ as so many guides claim, but it’s simply because winter usually leads to less light, meaning less growth. Stopping fertilizing during these months minimizes the risk of residue salt build-up or root burn.
Will This Fertilizing Method Burn My Plant?
Nope, that’s the beauty of it! Remember, we diluted the fertilizer by half and then half again. I’ve never had any problems with root burn using this method.
Friendly Tip: Cheap fertilizers are loaded with heavy nitrogen salts which in large quantities can damage the roots and base stem of your plant, and possibly lead to death.
Do Organic Fertilizers Actually Work?
They do, but they need to be ‘activated’ to work. Organic fertilizers need microbes or bacteria in the soil to start decomposing and breaking down the nutrients for plants to absorb.
This happens over a much longer period of time, but they have been shown to improve soil structure, aid in water movement, and have a ‘no-burn’ guarantee.
Best Organic Fertilizers
I sometimes add seaweed extract or fish emulsion to my plants for an extra foliage boost. Alaskan fish emulsion is GREAT stuff to use if you live in a region where you can move your plants outdoors (it’s a little stinky so not one to use in the house).
So far, I’ve noticed variegated plants develop richer colors with organic fertilizers, possibly because they’re loaded with micronutrients and plant growth hormones such as cytokinins and gibberellins.
Growth – What Can I Expect?
The philodendron mamei or silver cloud plant is a fast grower, and can grow up to 3 feet tall, with leaves reaching up to 45cm (18 inches) in width. Outdoors, they can grow even bigger, with the stems growing up to 3 feet in length!
Like with most philodendrons, they will completely dwarf their indoor counterparts if grown outside.
Growing This Plant Outdoors – What You Need to Know
The philo mamei can be successfully grown outdoors if you live in US hardiness zones 9b-11 (so think the deep south and beyond).
If you’re in the UK, I don’t recommend growing this one outdoors (unless you want a quick death on your hands!).
This plant absolutely doesn’t like the cold, so it will need to be brought indoors if the temperature drops significantly (aka overwintered).
The pH of the soil outdoors will matter much more than it will indoors, so try to keep it between 5.6 and 7.5 (slightly acidic to slightly alkaline). You can use a pH tester for this.
Pro Tip: Grow your Philodendron Mamei on a slightly mounted slope to allow for natural drainage!
Pruning – Should I Prune This Plant?
Its big, enormous leaves and thick, stiff stems are self-heading which means they don’t need regular pruning to flourish or keep tidy. I only prune leaves if they’re damaged, diseased or infected.
Super simple, make sure to pot this plant in a pot that has drainage holes and is just big enough for its current root system. Despite what many think, this plant can handle (maybe even prefers) being rootbound.
Plus, planting in a bigger pot doesn’t encourage leaf growth, but instead root growth.
Also, more soil drastically increases your risk of root rot!
When repotting once every 2-3 years, increase your pot size by a maximum of 2-3 inches.
How to Propagate your Philodendron Mamei
I’ve seen and heard mixed results with philodendron mamei propagation. This is likely because it’s a self-heading philodendron, which can be notoriously difficult to propagate outside of tissue culture and seed propagation.
Some see it root really quickly, others have less than stellar results. Stem cuttings and air layering are the most successful methods I’ve tried so far.
A good friend of mine runs a specialist nursery for rare aroids, and she has experimented with the tissue culture method over the years. It’s definitely not a beginner friendly method, and it doesn’t always produce a mamei that has those signature silver streaks.
Philodendron Mamei Propagation Methods – Step by Step
Cutting your plant can be really scary but don’t worry, it’s a real simple process. I’ll walk you through it step by step.
Friendly Tip: Propagating at the beginning of spring, at the start of this plant’s growth cycle, lends a higher chance of your plant developing stronger and healthy roots.
Method #1 – How to Take a Stem Cutting
- Choose a healthy vine or branch that has 2-3 nodes on it. Nodes are the little intersections with aerial roots that creep up to the leaf.
- With a clean pair of pruning scissors, cut the stem just below the node.
- Prepare a small pot of moist sphagnum moss and perlite. The moss should be wet, but not soaking.
- Dip the freshly cut stem/aerial roots into a rooting hormone solution or powder. This is optional but I find it helps.
- Plant the stem into your pre-made potting mix (2-3 inches into the mix). The nodes should be well buried under the mix – this is where roots will come from.
- Fill the rest of the pot with your spag moss and perlite mix.
- Place in a warm area that receives bright, indirect light.
- Water as usual.
Roots tend to develop fairly quickly with the mamei. Within 2-3 weeks you should have some roots starting to take hold.
Once the roots are around 1 inch (3cm) long, you can move it to a bigger container with a richer potting mix.
Method #2 – How to Air Layer your Philodendron
The air layering method works for mature, well-established plants.
- Look for some older, well-established aerial roots shooting out from a healthy node.
- Take some wet sphagnum moss, and wrap it around the healthy node with roots.
- Using a transparent plastic bag or press and seal food wrap, wrap it fully around the node with moss. Make sure to not catch any leaves into this wrap.
- If you used a plastic bag, you’ll need a zip tie to secure it in place. Press and seal food wrap should tape itself up pretty well (I’ve always found it much easier!).
- Leave the top and bottom of the seal open. New roots like to dive downwards and this helps them do so without bunching up.
- Thoroughly mist the sphagnum moss through the open top in the plastic bag every day. This stops the moss from compacting and drying up. Don’t let the moss ball dry out.
- Wait 2-3 weeks for new roots to develop. No roots showing? Don’t worry, simply don’t cut the plant, and try again another time. Air layering is a 100% safe and secure propagation method for this reason.
- Carefully remove the plastic wrap and some of the moss around your new roots. Check that the roots look healthy!
- Cut the stem just below the new roots with clean scissors.
- Pot the stem cutting in a rich potting mix.
That’s it! I prefer the air layering method because there’s less risk. You only cut the plant when roots have developed, not before.
Common Pests & Diseases to Watch Out For
The philodendron mamei is a very resilient plant when it comes to pests. Luckily it’s not prone to anything in particular. The main suspects to watch out for are:
- Mealybugs – white unarmored sap sucking bugs that are round in shape
- Scale – white, yellow or orange tiny sap sucking bugs
- Thrips – small, orange or brown slender bugs that suck sap
- Spider mites – tiny yellowish, sap-sucking insects that produce thick webbing
- Erwinia Blight Disease – wet, mushy looking lesions on stems and leaves
How to Treat Bug Infestations & Diseases
Mealybugs can be treated by pruning and dabbing a rubbing alcohol-soaked cotton swab on the infested areas.
Spider mites are first treated by pruning infested areas before spraying the leaves with neem oil diluted in water.
Scale, if treating small infestations, responds well to pruning and rubbing alcohol. For larger infestations, you’ll likely need to discard your plant (sorry).
Thrips can be treated by pruning and a diluted neem oil treatment.
Neem oil is a vegetable oil from India that when pressed has natural insecticidal properties. Diluted, it’s still pretty strong and will do the trick.
Erwinia blight disease, however, is easier to prevent than cure. It’s a bacterial infection that needs moisture to spread and is made significantly worse by overwatering and misting.
It typically starts under the soil level and within days can reach the stems and leaves.
Prune the infected leaves, change the potting mix, minimize watering applications, and allow spacing in between plants for rapid drying of leaves.
Unfortunately, bactericides such as copper sulfate have been shown to be ineffective in curing erwinia blight. If the disease has spread to lots of leaves or many parts of the stem, it’s likely not treatable.
Toxicity – Is This Plant Toxic?
Yes. The philodendron mamei is toxic to small children and pets, including cats and dogs. Its leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals that if ingested will cause swelling of the esophagus, mouth, and GIT.
Help! What’s Wrong With My Plant? – Common Philodendron Mamei Problems
1. Wilting and Yellowing Leaves
Wilting, yellowing leaves can just be a sign your plant is adjusting to its new environment – replacing the old growth with the new as it adapts.
Other times, it can be a sign of overwatering or root rot taking hold. Check the base of the plant immediately for black, mushy, and bad-smelling roots.
If root rot is present, I would try to salvage a few cuttings and propagate them. If overwatering is the culprit, change the soil as soon as you can to stop it from sitting in overly wet soil.
2. Only One Leaf is Turning Yellow
This might not be root rot so hold back on taking cuttings. This is a sign that your plant is under stress, but it’s in the early stages of it.
Only one leaf turning yellow could be a sign of pests, too much bright, direct sunlight, or even a magnesium nutritional deficiency.
If you’ve just propagated or repotted, this could also be a temporary reaction to being uprooted.
If it spreads to other leaves fairly quickly, check the roots for root rot.
3. Wet, Mushy Patches on the Leaves
This could be erwinia blight disease or pseudomonas leaf spot. Bacterial infections often cause the patches and the soil to smell bad. Both diseases need moisture to spread.
Immediately change the potting mix, let the plant dry out a little, hold back on watering and prune any infected leaves. Bactericides or fungicides don’t tend to do much with these diseases.
4. Browning Edges or Brown Leaves
This could be a sign your plant is getting too much bright, direct sunlight or it’s being underwatered. Underwatered plants tend to have curling leaves.
5. Pale Leaf Color/Losing Variegation
Move your plant to a brighter location. Houseplants put in very low light will try to grow towards the light, resulting in weak, leggy stems. This process is known as etiolation or phototropism in the world of botany.
This stress can cause the leaves to become pale in color, usually white or off-yellow.
A lack of that characteristic deep green coloring with silvery-white patches is a sure sign that your mamei isn’t getting enough light.
6. Stems Look Leggy
This plant is generally a more ‘leggy’ plant naturally. It’s not compact by any means, especially as it matures. It has long, protruding stems that will climb given the chance.
This isn’t so much as a problem, in fact, it can be a sign your plant is perfectly healthy. If legginess is seen with pale leaf color, then it’s likely the problem is caused by the plant being put in low light.
FAQ – Common Questions About the Philodendron Mamei
Should I Provide a Support For My Philodendron Mamei to Grow?
You absolutely can, but they are self-heading which means they’re designed to stand upright on their own as they mature.
However, using some metal sticks and small ties to prop the giant leaves up can provide some much-needed support to thinner stems. It’s completely optional.
Does the Philodendron Mamei Purify and Clean the Air?
To a certain extent, yes. A 1989 NASA study found that having philodendrons amongst other plants in the house, around 15 to 18 in total, will remove small amounts of common toxins from the air e.g. formaldehyde and benzene.
Is the Philodendron Mamei Rare?
The philodendron mamei used to be an incredibly rare and expensive plant, but thanks to tissue culture propagation used by botanists and professional nursery growers, it has become more common, though it’s still considered a rare aroid due to high demand for the plant worldwide.
Can you Grow the Philodendron Mamei from Seeds?
This is the method used by botanists and professional nursery growers, but rarely by hobbyists or home growers.
It’s a fairly complicated process and without proper lab conditions, will likely fail. To use seeds the philodendron mamei will need to flower and when grown indoors it rarely will.
For plant lovers at home, air layering has a much higher success rate.
Philodendron Mamei vs Sodiroi – what’s the difference?
The philodendron mamei is a creeper plant, whereas the philodendron sodiroi is a climber. Creepers make excellent groundcover and can grow very large.
Philodendron sodiroi on the other hand tends to be very compact in size and grows tall, not wide.
The only real similarities between the silver cloud plant and the silver leaf philodendron is the shape of the leaves and their stunning silvery markings.
Philodendron Mamei vs Plowmanii – what’s the difference?
The biggest telltale difference between the two is that philodendron mamei has silver variegation markings whilst the philodendron plowmanii doesn’t. Plowmaniis also have thicker more textured leaves and petioles.
Philodendron Mamei vs Silver Cloud – What’s the Difference?
There is no difference between the philodendron mamei and the silver cloud. It’s the same plant but with a different common name.
How Do I Make my Philodendron Mamei look Fuller?
To keep your philodendron mamei’s foliage looking full and bright you’ll need to keep it in a location that gets lots of bright, indirect light. The main reason a plant looks sparse is due to light insufficiency.
Higher humidity also leads to larger, wider leaves as does a steady stream of nutrients.
A nitrogen-based fertilizer complete with micronutrients can help boost its overall foliage growth.
Can I Mist my Philodendron Mamei?
Personally, I don’t mist my plants. According to this University of Illinois study, misting doesn’t do much to increase humidity or the overall health of the plant and can lead to problems later down the road.
Over misting can cause the dreaded erwinia blight disease or Pseudomonas leaf spot. It’s better to fix the ‘root’ cause of the problem e.g. a lack of moisture.