Philodendron mamei captivates with its rich green leaves with silver variegation. However, it is often confused with the Philodendron plowmanii. Learn how to tell the two apart and care for your Philodendron mamei in this post!
Originally, Philodendron mamei grew exclusively on the eastern slopes of the Andes in Ecuador. Today, however, it has expanded its range and can also be found in Peru.
It prefers to grow between 2,395 ft and 6000 ft in subtropical moist forests. Due to its hemiepiphytic growth, it is found on the forest floor and sometimes on trees. Occasionally, however, it is also found on riverbanks.
The French gardener and botanist Édouard François André is considered the discoverer of the plant. Contrary to what is often claimed, it was not discovered in 1990 but was published in the Revue Horticole (Paris) as early as 1883.
As part of the philodendron family, mamei belongs to the arum family.
Appearance and Characteristics
Philodendron Mamei is one of the few philodendrons that can creep over the ground and climb trees. Therefore, its leaf nodes are close to each other. This results in dense growth.
The heart-shaped leaves can grow up to 10 inches long. They have green to dark green leaf surfaces with spotted silver variegation. The deep leaf veins are pretty close to each other, which gives the leaf a grooved appearance.
The petioles form small frills towards the leaf.
With its creeping habit, the houseplant can reach 4 feet. However, if you provide the Philodendron with a climbing aid, it can grow much taller.
Like most arum plants, P. mamei forms a flower consisting of a spadix and a spatha. The white to yellow spadix is enclosed by the light green bracts. That prevents self-fertilization.
The flower does not develop a fragrance. Therefore, depending on the size of your plant collection, it may go unnoticed.
It is challenging to get a Philodendron mamei to bloom indoors. Flowering occurs only under optimal conditions.
After successful fertilization, small berries form on the cob. These berries contain seeds. Neither the berries nor the seeds are suitable for consumption.
Other species and forms of Philodendron mamei
- Philodendron mamei “Dark Silver Leaf“
The “Dark Silver Leaf” form is characterized by its dark green leaf color with very contrasting silver variegation. The leaf is much longer and more pointed.
- Philodendron mamei „Silver Cloud“
The “Silver Cloud” form is recognizable by its extensive silver variegation. In the US, however, the name Silver Cloud has already become a nickname for the normal Philodendron mamei. Therefore, conventional mamei are sold more often as Silver Cloud all around the globe.
Differences between Philodendron mamei and Philodendron plowmanii
Philodendron mamei and Philodendron plowmanii look very similar. Therefore, they are often confused with each other. You can tell them apart by the following characteristics.
Philodendron mamei has frills on the petioles similar to plowmanii. However, these are less pronounced and often relatively smooth. They are only in the upper part of the petiole towards the leaf. In P. plowmanii, they extend almost over the entire petiole.
While the plowmanii has relatively flat branchial veins, they are much deeper in the mamei. The prominent veins are also closer together in the mamei.
The variegation is also different. Mamei has a silvery variegation, while plowmanii offers diverse shades of green. Depending on the incidence of light, these can have a silvery shimmer.
Both philodendrons are hemiepiphytes. That means that they spend part of their life both on the ground and on other plants. However, this characteristic is much more vital in the case of the Philodendron mamei. It will conquer it without any problems if you give it climbing support.
The optimal location for the Philodendron mamei
Before we get into the exact conditions for the location, there are a few general things you should consider when choosing a location. Try to place the houseplant so that it does not get drafts. Also, keep a distance from radiators when they are in use. The dry air can damage the leaves.
In summer, you have the option of placing your Philodendron mamei outside. Make sure that the temperature does not drop below 61 °F at night. Place the Philodendron in a sheltered spot at first. This way, it can get used to the new location.
Even though the mamei not infrequently grows in the shade in its natural habitat, indirect light is best for it. A place in partial shade is also possible without problems.
Direct sunlight should only reach the leaves if it is the morning or evening sun. Otherwise, it can cause burns on the leaves.
If the houseplant receives too much sunlight, its leaves will not get the beautiful dark green color but will remain light green.
Also, with the air humidity, I advise orientating on the natural location. There, the humidity rarely falls below 60%. But don’t worry. The Philodendron will tolerate humidity as low as 40%, although cosmetic damage, such as brown leaf tips, may occur. If your humidity is below 40%, you can find methods to raise your humidity here.
Regarding temperature, I recommend using the climate of its natural location as a guide. There the temperatures are between 61 °F and 81 °F all year round. If the temperature drops below 50 °F, the plant may be damaged.
Overwintering Philodendron mamei
Moving the plant for overwintering is optional if your current location receives adequate light through the winter and is not too cold.
Try maintaining humidity levels, mainly if heaters are operating in the room. They produce dry air, which can cause damage to the leaves.
Due to the decrease in sunlight, the metabolism decelerates. As a result, less water and nutrients are needed. Therefore, water only when the top layer of the substrate is dry. You can stretch the fertilizing to once every one or two months.
Watering the Philodendron mamei
Even though the Philodendron loves moisture, wetness quickly gets to it. Therefore, try to keep the substrate moist. The best way to do this is to let the top inch of the substrate dry out before watering again.
When you water, water thoroughly. That is, water until water runs out of the drainage holes. Let the pot drain briefly, and then put it back.
Fertilize Philodendron mamei
The mamei does not need many nutrients. Therefore, one dose of liquid fertilizer a month is sufficient for most specimens. Use a No products found. or a No products found. for fertilization.
The perfect substrate for Philodendron mamei
For the Philodendron mamei to thrive, it needs a suitable substrate. The substrate should be coarse and dimensionally stable. That is how oxygen reaches the roots. Besides the structure, it is also essential that the substrate does not hold too much water.
I, therefore, advise against potting soil in this case. It is too delicate and holds too much water. Use an aroid mix instead. This way, you will meet all conditions optimally.
If your mamei is a young plant, you can assume it must be repotted annually. The older it gets, the less often it must be repotted until only the substrate needs to be renewed.
You can tell if your plant needs repotting by the following signs:
- Slow growth
If the growth rate slows down, this may be because the pot has become too small. It is time for a larger planter if the roots are tightly entwined in the pot.
- Shoot creeps over the edge of the pot
If your mamei starts to grow over the edge of the pot, it is time to change it. I recommend you use a climbing aid or an elongated planter. This way, the shoot can grow longer before the plant needs to be repotted the next time.
- Roots sticking out of the drainage holes
When the roots reach the drainage holes, this is an excellent time to look at the root system. If the roots are close to the edge of the pot, I recommend you move the plant to a larger planter.
Regular pruning or even topiary is optional with the Philodendron mamei. However, if the shoots become too long, you can shorten them, preferably in spring.
You should remove diseased and dead leaves throughout the year.
Use a sharp and clean blade for pruning. That will reduce the risk of infection and bruising.
Propagating Philodendron mamei
If you want to propagate your Philodendron mamei, you have three ways to do it. Mossing and cutting are the most reliable methods. I do not recommend propagating from seed. The process takes a long time and only works if the seeds are fresh.
However, if you want to try growing seeds, you can find instructions below.
Propagation by cuttings
To be able to cut cuttings at all, your plant must already have reached a certain size. Each cutting should have (air) roots and at least one leaf. This way, the chance of survival is the highest.
If your plant meets these requirements, you can use a sharp, clean blade to cut the shoot between two leaf nodes. Try to cut at a 90° angle if possible. This way, the cut area will be the smallest.
After cutting, you can treat the cut with cinnamon, activated charcoal, or a fungicide powder. This way, you will reduce the susceptibility to fungal diseases or infection with bacteria.
Allow the cut to dry for at least an hour before potting or placing the cutting in water.
Once the cut is dry, you can place the cutting in a medium of choice. I have had good experiences with sphagnum moss, perlite, and water. You can also use coco soil.
If you use water as a medium, you should change it weekly.
Place your cuttings in a place with bright indirect light and high humidity. The latter can be achieved with the help of a bag or a seed tray. The temperature should be around 72 °F. If you cannot reach this, I recommend using a heating mat* with a thermostat.
When the roots are one to two inches long or the first leaves have formed, you can repot the young plants for the first time.
Their care is no longer different from the care of the mother plant.
Propagation by mossing
Mossing is very similar to cutting cuttings. The difference is that in mossing, the roots of the potential cuttings are already formed on the mother plant.
To achieve this, you can moisten Sphagnum moss and fix it to the leaf nodes with the help of a foil. Keep the moss moist now. After a few weeks, you should be able to see roots.
Now cut cuttings as usual. This time, however, you can put the cuttings directly into a proper substrate and care for them like the mother plant.
Propagation by seed
When propagating by seed, the decisive factor is time. On the one hand, the seeds must be young; on the other hand, it takes a long time until the first seedlings are formed. Below you will find instructions on how to get Philodendron mamei seeds to germinate.
- Prepare the seeds
To help the seeds germinate, I recommend placing the seeds in warm water for 24 to 48 hours. During this time, they will soak up water, and their shells will soften.
- Sowing seeds
After the seeds have soaked up water, it’s time to sow them. To do this, place the seeds on moist coco soil or sphagnum moss. Increase the humidity with the help of a bag or a seed tray*. Then place the seeds in a bright place without direct sunlight. The temperature should be around 72 °F. If you can’t find a suitable location, you can use plant lamps and a heating mat*.
Keep the substrate evenly moist and aerate every few days to prevent mold.
After a month, the first seeds will begin germinating at the earliest. However, it may take much longer for germination to occur.
- Select young plants
The last step is to put the young plants into their pots. You can do this as soon as they are about one inch tall. Try not to lower the humidity rapidly. Otherwise, a large part of the seedlings will die.
Instead, accustom the plants bit by bit to their new location.
Diseases, pests, and care mistakes
Generally speaking, Philodendron mamei is not very susceptible to common diseases.
Especially in the cool season, pest infestations occur more often. If you detect them early enough, they are not a problem. How to deal with the most common pests, you can read here.
Woolly aphids get their name from their carapace. That resembles a piece of wool due to thread-like elements. Mealybugs especially like to sit under leaves and in leaf axils.
If the infestation is small, wiping the little bugs off the plant with a cotton pad soaked in spirit is sufficient. You can use No products found. if the infestation is more significant.
The spider mite, or red spider mite, often appears in winter. The dry air offers optimal living conditions. You can control a small infestation with a regular shower. However, if it is a more significant infestation, I recommend you read our article on spider mite control.
Even though fungus gnats are a severe threat to very few adult plants, they regularly steal our nerves. The small black flies have no inhibitions about flying into the face or nose. You can learn how to eliminate gnats in our article fungus gnat control.
If the leaves become yellow, this can indicate a problem in the care. However, it can also be a natural process. If the oldest leaves turn yellow, in most cases, you don’t have to worry.
Otherwise, you should check the substrate. If the plant is dry and gives a limp impression, it is underwatering. However, if the substrate is wet, it is overwatered. In this case, be sure to check the roots for root rot.
Here you can learn how to recognize and treat root rot.
Brown leaf tips and edges
If leaf tips and edges turn brown, the humidity is too low. Fortunately, the damage is only cosmetic. However, it cannot be reversed. If you want to prevent it, I recommend increasing the humidity.
Light leaf color
Usually, Philodendron mamei has a rather dark leaf color. However, the leaf color becomes light green if it receives too much light. You can get a dark green color by making the plant darker.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Philodendron mamei poisonous?
Yes, Philodendron mamei is poisonous. The calcium oxalate crystals it contains are insoluble. They irritate mucous membranes and can injure the digestive tract when eaten. Therefore, I recommend placing the plant out of reach of children and pets.
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