The philodendron mayoi is a stunning, yet fairly unknown plant. With its large, distinctive, palm-like leaves and reddish underbelly, you can easily see why enthusiasts who find this rare gem are over the moon to have it in their collection.
If this plant has just topped your wishlist, know that you might run into one of two scenarios:
- A high price tag. The Philodendron mayoi can easily cost as much as $50 for a cutting and as much as $150+ for a mature specimen.
- Out of stock or unavailable. Despite not being as popular as the philodendron white knight or pink princess, cultivators can’t keep the mayoi in stock long enough.
In this complete philodendron mayoi care guide, I’ll show you how to keep your new and oh-so rare friend looking its best, as well as how to avoid some common pitfalls many owners face with this plant.
Philodendron Mayoi’s Brief History & Origin
A native to Brazil, the philodendron mayoi belongs to the Arum or Aracrae family and can be found in many parts of the Amazon rainforest, Goias, and Manaus though escapees have been seen in further afield locations such as Thailand, the Philippines as well as Australia, all introduced by man.
The philodendron mayoi was named in honor of Dr. Simon Mayo, a well known botanist who works at the herbarium in Kew’s Royal Botanical Gardens, UK. The herbarium is one of the largest in the world, preserving over 8.5 million plant and fungal specimens.
It’s believed the mayoi was discovered in the 1940’s during a research expedition to Manaus, where some mature specimens were located, though this has not been confirmed by biodiversity information facilities as of yet.
Philodendron Mayoi Care
In my experience, the soil you provide for your philodendron makes a world of difference. I’ve tried soil based potting mixes, pure sphagnum moss as well as a mix of peat and perlite and…the plants either wilted and died or the mixture dried up too quickly and I needed to water them every day to prevent drooping and curling leaves.
I’d also definitely advise against using ‘Miracle Gro’ or ‘Westland’ mixes – every bag I’ve ever bought has had pests.
Now, I use a self-made chunky aroid potting mix that holds good moisture whilst also being fast draining and rich in organic matter.
I use this mix and have seen good results:
- 40% coco coir
- 20% orchid bark
- 10% perlite
- 10% worm castings
- 10% pumice
- 10% activated charcoal
This airy, woody substrate perfectly supports its hemiepiphytic nature! The mix above has a 50% organic to 30% inorganic ratio, with the extra 20% being made up of the orchid bark chips.
This contains more than enough moisture retaining elements as well as drainage elements to make sure your plant isn’t too dry or too wet.
What Each Element Does For Your Plant
- Coco coir (replaces soil) – holds moisture whilst also being well-draining, very easy growing medium to work with
- Perlite – pressed volcanic rock, porous structure, aids in drainage and holds key nutrients from fertilizer
- Orchid Bark – an epiphyte’s FAVORITE soil amendment, it becomes a hotspot for positive microbes, root attachment, plus chunkiness allows for extra drainage
- Worm castings – organic fertilizer (literally worm poo), has a full nutrient palette and holds moisture
- Activated charcoal – prevents build up of soil impurities, stops mould and neutralizes pH of soil
- Pumice – another drainage element
Now, this is where things get interesting. You’ve probably been told to never, under any circumstances, place your philodendron mayoi under direct light. But, this is not a hard and fast rule, and more often that not, is the one thing that could save a small, dying mayoi.
This plant loves lots of bright, indirect light, and can cope with 1-2 hours of cool direct morning sun or late evening light without scorching or bleaching.
Light is the plant’s food, and it’s growth is entirely dictated by it, more so than fertilizer, water or any other care component, so it’s important to get it right.
What is Bright, Indirect Light Exactly?
Light is hard to measure, not to mention subjective. For this reason, I use a light meter to measure overall light intensity in a room. It measures light in foot candles (FC), and you can pick one up for less than $50.
Bright, indirect light is much brighter than you probably think!
To keep this plant barely alive (maintenance growth), you’ll need to keep it in 100FC (absolutely no lower than that). For good growth (probably what you’re looking for), anywhere between 200-400FC.
Just to show you how vague the term ‘bright, indirect light’ really is, the philodendron mayoi can be grown under 1500-3500FC in commercial outlets and nurseries under a shade cloth (which is still bright, indirect light), just at a much higher intensity! *Don’t worry about achieving this level at home - it’s done for quick growth to resell*.
As with most philodendron varieties, the philodendron mayoi loves evenly moist soil that’s never too dry, nor too wet. Instead of sticking to a strict water ‘once every x days’ like many guides say to do, try to get into the habit of checking if your plant really does need water.
This is a skill you’ll develop overtime, but it’s so worth it! SO many problems can be avoided if you nail the watering schedule.
How to Tell If Your Plant Really Needs Water (2 Easy Methods)
- Good ol’ knuckle test. Push your finger into the soil. If the texture is dry on top, but still pretty moist underneath, you can hold off on watering. If the mix is overall pretty dry, go ahead and give it a good drink (see below on how to water).
- Use a chopstick. If you’re like me and don’t like sticking your fingers into a mix containing worm poo (!), you can use a chopstick instead. Away from the main stem, push a bamboo or wooden chopstick into the soil, pull it out and observe what you can see.
- 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
Some more general pointers
- A mix that’s still full of water will be fairly heavy when you lift it.
- Always check the texture of the mix – is it dry and compact? Or is it airy and well draining? Clumping and compaction always means the mix is too dry.
- Look at the color of the mix – is it light (dry)? Or is it still dark (wet)?
How to Water Your Philodendron Mayoi (and All Other Plants too)
Having worked in a botanical garden, one thing I did pick up was how to water plants correctly to avoid bacterial and fungal infections starting.
When watering, always make sure you water enough so that trickles of water drain through the drainage holes every time. Yes, everytime you water.
It’s much better to thoroughly wet the entire plant every once in a while than to give it small amounts of water all the time. Here’s why.
Water not only provides your plant with some much needed moisture, but it also pushes oxygen through the soil and to the roots (ironically, helping to prevent root rot). Watering a little all the time prevents water getting to the bottom layers of soil, and can quickly cause crown rot to develop on the base of the stem.
Also, make sure to water from the base and not overhead. Overhead watering is one of the leading causes of erwinia leaf spot and pseudomonas leaf spot taking hold (plus, you might see some ugly water spots appear).
This plant is a humidity lover which should come at no surprise given it’s tropical background and prehistoric look. Anything around the 70%+ mark and it will reward you with some larger, longer leaves and overall bigger growth (providing other care conditions are met).
That said, it doesn’t die or yellow in lower humidity levels i.e. 40-50%, new growth just seems to come in smaller.
You shouldn’t worry too much about humidity levels – it’s a part of plant care, but it’s definitely not as important as light, water and fertilizer for example.
How to Increase Humidity Levels in Your Plant Room/Home
There are only 2 real ways to increase humidity and that’s by investing in a small humidifier or by grouping plants together to create a mini ‘humidity sharing’ biome in your home.
How grouping helps: plants continually lose water from their leaves through a process known as transpiration. The lost water vapor then immediately surrounds the plant, increasing local humidity.
Myth Buster: Misting and pebble trays help to drastically improve humidity levels. Sorry, not true. It’s more a common myth floating around. Pebble trays have shown to do next to nothing to improve local humidity, whilst misting has been debunked by the scientific community for it’s hype. When you mist, the moisture stays around the plant for 30-60 seconds before dispersing around the room. It’s like sticking a band-aid on a crack in the wall.
Houseplants have no natural way of obtaining nutrients once they’ve absorbed the nutrients in their potting mix or soil. It’s why they need regular fertilizing.
Best Fertilizer for Philodendron Mayoi
You’ll want to choose a fertilizer that’s relatively high in nitrogen. Nitrogen is responsible for foliage growth. You’ll also want to check for other key macronutrients such as potassium and phosphorus, as well as some micronutrients like calcium and magnesium.
On cheaper all-purpose houseplant fertilizers, you might notice a little tagline on the back of the bottle that says ‘low nutrient houseplant fertilizer’ – which basically means it’s not going to do much.
Personally, I use dyna grow (7-9-5 NPK formula), it’s a complete liquid fertilizer that contains all 16 essential nutrients your plant needs to survive. It’s urea free and low in heavy nitrogen salts which alter the pH level of the soil and lead to root burn if left to form a residue crust on the top level of soil.
How to Fertilize Your Philodendron Mayoi
Instead of fertilizing once a month, I decided to combine both watering and fertilizing together so that everytime I water, my plant gets a very small dose of premium fertilizer. This is a more natural way of feeding plants – after all, in the wild they receive a steady stream of nutrients over days – they don’t take one big gulp a month.
To do this I simply dilute ¼ teaspoon of dyna gro with 1 gallon of water (4.5 litres) and water my plant with this solution every time in spring and summer. I cut back both on waterings and feedings in autumn, and stop fertilizing completely in the winter months to prevent oversaturation during the more dormant part of their growth cycle.
Growth – What Can I Expect?
Indoors, the philodendron mayoi can grow up to 4 feet tall (1.2m), with individual leaves growing up to 7-10 inches (17-25cm) in length. This isn’t exactly a compact plant, given that it’s a climbing, vining variety.
A warmth lover, the philodendron mayoi grows well in temperatures that mimic the rainforest as close as possible. This means trying to keep a stable temperature of between 60-80F or 16-29C, though it will love warmer if you’re able to stand it.
GBIF’s field notes state that anything less than 55° Fahrenheit (12.5C) will result in stunted growth, withering or even death for most philodendrons.
Pruning – Should I Prune This Plant?
As the philodendron mayoi is a moderate to fast grower, it will need occasional pruning to keep it looking tidy and in shape. It won’t need anywhere near as much pruning as say the philodendron micans for example. With a clean pair of pruning scissors, cut back damaged, diseased, infected or leggy foliage.
Toxicity – is the philodendron mayoi toxic?
Unfortunately, yes. Toxicity runs in the foliage of all the Philodendrons. It’s a family trait. The high levels of calcium oxalate crystals in the leaves make it unsafe for both humans and animals, if ingested. Ingestion can lead to issues like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea as well as mouth swelling and gastrointestinal inflammation.
How to Propagate the Philodendron Mayoi – 2 Simple Methods
With a mature vining philodendron, propagation is fairly simple as it grows notoriously beautiful aerial roots from its nodes. Taking stem cuttings or air layering the nodes have the highest success rates for home growers and enthusiasts.
Propagating in the beginning of spring, or at least when it’s warm, lends a higher chance of your plant developing stronger and healthy roots. I would avoid doing this in winter when there’s less light available.
Philodendron Mayoi Propagation Methods – Step by Step
Cutting your plant can seem really scary but don’t worry, I’ll walk you through it step by step.
Method #1 – How to Take a Stem Cutting
- Prepare a small pot of moist potting mix (see soil section above). You can also use a 80% perlite, 20% sphagnum moss mix, just remember to repot it once roots are growing.
- Choose a healthy stem that has 2-3 nodes on it (this will come from the main stem). 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 nodes. Including too much of the stem can lead to rot taking hold really quickly.
- Dip the freshly cut stem/aerial roots into a rooting hormone solution or powder.
- 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 moist potting mix.
- Place in a warm area that receives bright, indirect light, but not direct light. No direct light at all for cuttings.
- To increase humidity, you can wrap a clear plastic bag over the pot to encourage growth.
Roots tend to ‘strike’ fairly quickly with the mayoi. Within 3-4 weeks you should have some good roots starting to take hold.
Note: If you went with the perlite/moss mix, you’ll need to repot your cutting into a richer potting mix once the roots are 1 inch long (3cm).
Method #2 – How to Air Layer your Philodendron
- The air layering method works for mature, well established philodendron mayois that are already creeping up a pole.
- Look for some older, well established aerial roots shooting out from a healthy node.
- Take some wet sphagnum moss (brown or green), and wrap it around the healthy node with roots and the pole. This helps support those thinner stems.
- 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 in a rich potting mix (see above). Care for as usual.
If I’m in a rush, I’ll use the stem cutting method, but I much prefer air layering because there’s less risk involved. You only cut the plant when roots have developed, not before.
Help! What’s Wrong With My Plant? – Common Philodendron Mayoi Problems
Yellowing leaves have many causes including magnesium deficiency and pests but the main culprit to watch out for is root rot caused by overwatering. If the leaf is turning yellow on the edges, it suggests the plant is in early stages of stress. Check the base of the plant for black, mushy and bad smelling roots and for good measure, change the potting mix. If root rot is present, try to salvage a few cuttings and propagate them.
Pale Leaf Color
Pale leaves in a normally darker green plant are usually caused by low light conditions. This is known as chlorosis type 1 in botanical terms and will correct itself if moved to a brighter location. Not getting enough light is the number #1 cause of death that I see in these plants – it all goes back to not really understanding how bright, bright, indirect light really is.
If your light meter is showing a good light reading, i’s likely you’re lacking essential nutrients, magnesium and calcium being the main ones. Make sure you’re using a complete fertilizer to fix the problem or add some dolomite to the mix if your fertilizer doesn’t contain magnesium and calcium.
Wet, Mushy Patches on the Leaves
This could be erwinia blight disease or pseudomonas leaf spot. Bacterial infections often cause black or tan patches on leaves and the soil to smell bad. Both diseases need moisture to spread and are caused by too much overhead watering (and misting!).
You can try to save your plant by changing the potting mix, pruning damaged leaves. Make sure to isolate your plant as soon as possible to prevent spreading to the rest of your collection. Unfortunately, applying a bactericide such as copper sulfate has been shown to slow the infection but not cure it, so I wouldn’t waste your money.
This could be a sign your plant is getting too much bright, direct sunlight or it’s being underwatered.
For some unknown reason, wrinkling stems seem really common amongst philodendron mayois in particular, more so than any other philodendron I’ve come across.
Wrinkling stems are always a sign of an extreme – either too much water or too little water. Check the rest of your plant and soil to see what’s going on.
Browning leaves along with dry lower levels of soil is a sure sign that wrinkling is caused by underwatering. Yellowing leaves that are drooping, combined with overly wet soil is a good indicator your plant is being overwatered.
Make sure to check the aeration quality of your mix too – if a mix has been left too dry for too long and then suddenly given a lot of water, it will compact and bundle around the roots, preventing oxygen and moisture getting to the plant, causing what looks like underwatering (even if it’s been given a good soaking).
The good news is once you’ve sussed out the problem, the plant will bounce back fairly quickly.
Black Patches on the Leaves
Black patches or spots are usually a sign that your philodendron has been exposed to cold temperatures or drafts overnight. Philodendrons are tropical plants and true warmth lovers. Move to a warmer location.
Brown patches or spots on the Leaves
Brown patches could signal that your plant has been left in direct sun for too long. A few hours is okay, but a whole day is not. The brown patches are scorch marks.
Common FAQ – Your Questions Answered
Is the Philodendron Mayoi Rare?
Yes, the philodendron mayoi is considered a rare aroid. Whilst it’s found growing in abundance in the wilderness, it’s commercial demand far outweighs its supply. On the rare plant index, it’s as rare as the philodendron red moon, just to give you an example.
How Much Does a Philodendron Mayoi Cost to Buy?
A philodendron mayoi stem cutting can cost anywhere between $50-$70 (£35-£49), whilst a mature plant can set you back a hefty $150-$230 (£105-£162).
Where Can I Buy a Philodendron Mayoi?
Philodendron mayois can be difficult to find, but they sometimes appear on specialised aroid nursery websites, in garden centres and on Etsy.
Should I Provide a Pole for My Philodendron Mayoi?
Yes, you can. As it’s an hemiepiphyte in nature, it loves to attach its aerial roots as it grows upwards. Providing a pole, a wooden board or even a totem for your mayoi will encourage thicker, faster, stronger growth.