The Rhaphidophora tetrasperma and the Monstera deliciosa get mistaken for each other so frequently that the former even has the nickname “mini Monstera”. The confusion is probably due to their very similar looking leaves, both of which have splits. This characteristic is also one of the reasons that both plants have become sought-out houseplants, especially the Monstera.
Despite their similarities in appearance, these two plants are actually completely different species. In this article, we will dive deeper into these differences, as well as the similarities between the two plants. So, if you would like to learn more about either or both plants, then keep reading.
Rhaphidophora tetrasperma vs Monstera deliciosa
Price and availability
The Monstera deliciosa is the rarer plant of the two and is more expensive than the Rhaphidospora tetrasperma, at almost twice the price. Moreover, some Monstera deliciosa plants are more expensive than others due to their size and variegation.
If you are looking for a Monstera, make sure you are not purchasing a mini Monstera, because that is just another name for the Rhaphidophora tetrasperma.
Even if these two plants have similar looking, heart-shaped leaves with splits, upon closer inspection it is quite easy to point out the differences.
The Rhaphidophora’s leaves are smaller, are a dull green color, and do not grow more than a foot in length. The Rhaphidophora’s leaves also do not have the distinct holes in the middle of the leaf like those of the Monstera.
The Monstera, true to its name, has much larger leaves that can grow to two feet long. These leaves have a glossy finish and are a darker shade of green. Aside from the splits on the leaves that look like those on the Rhaphidophora, they also have holes in the middle of their leaves that the other plant does not have.
When both plants are still young, it might be more confusing to tell them apart by their leaves because young Rhaphidophora leaves have more prominent splits and holes, while young Monstera leaves do not.
Both of these plants grow fast in ideal conditions, but the Rhaphidophora grows faster than the Monstera. Place them near a structure they can climb as they grow, such as a moss pole.
Because the Rhaphidophora is the faster growing plant of the two, that also means it consumes water at a faster rate. The soil in the plant’s pot will dry out quickly and it needs watering more frequently than the Monstera. Water the Rhaphidophora every five to seven days during the spring and summer and as little as once a month during the colder months.
Monstera deliciosa plants need to be watered once a week in the warmer months and once a month during the colder months.
Make sure you are not overwatering either plant, because this can lead to a host of problems including root rot. Root rot is a condition that develops when the plant’s roots drown in perpetually soggy soil. The dead roots will start to rot and become vulnerable to opportunistic pathogens, and these pathogens will cause the rot to spread even faster to the rest of the plant, possibly even causing it to die.
The best way to avoid overwatering and know exactly when to water your plant is by touching the top two inches of soil. If the soil is dry to the touch, water the plant, but if the soil is still damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.
Neither of these plants really needs to be fertilized, but you can feed them a small amount to help them out, especially during the growing season.
Be careful when fertilizing the Rhaphidophora, since its delicate roots can get burned by the fertilizer if you give it too much. Choose an organic fertilizer to reduce the chance of fertilizer burn.
Fertilize your Monstera with a liquid fertilizer twice a month during the spring and summer.
Refrain from fertilizing either plant during the fall and winter, since this is the time of year when the plants grow the least, meaning the nutrients already present in the soil will be enough to sustain them. The addition of fertilizer at this time might do more harm than good.
Repotting the plant
As we mentioned, the Rhaphidophora is the faster grower, so it will need to be repotted more often than the Monstera.
When repotting the Rhaphidophora, discard the old soil and choose a new pot that is one size bigger than the old one. Upon removing the plant from its old pot, shake the soil from the roots and inspect them. If there are any brown or black roots, use a sterile pair of scissors to cut them off, because those roots may be rotten. Make sure the bottom of the new pot has drainage holes and that the new soil is well-draining and airy. Do not water the plant immediately after repotting; instead, wait one or two weeks before watering it.
There is little difference in the repotting process for the Rhaphidophora and the Monstera. The one big difference is that the Monstera only needs to be repotted every two to three years, because it does not grow as fast as the Rhaphidophora.
Rhaphidophora tetrasperma and Monstera deliciosa: Similarities
Temperature and humidity requirements
Both plants like a temperature between 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit because they are native to tropical regions.
They cannot tolerate frost, so if the temperature dips below 60 degrees for extended periods of time, move your outdoor plants inside where the temperature is easier to control.
Both plants also enjoy a higher level of humidity than most other houseplants. A constant humidity level of 50 to 60 percent is ideal. Even though they can tolerate slight changes in humidity, try not to expose them to dry air that much.
If you live somewhere that is arid and dry, you might need to help your plant out by misting its leaves every once in a while or by placing it close to humidity-loving plants so that they can all create a microenvironment around each other. You can also place a water pebble tray under the plant’s pot so that, as the water from the tray evaporates, it will moisten the soil in the pot as well as the plant’s foliage.
Finally, if you have the means, you can buy a humidifier to automatically regulate the humidity level in the room.
Both plants enjoy lots of bright, indirect light in their natural habitats, so the best thing to do is try to simulate this kind of lighting as best you can. Do not place the plants under direct sunlight or close to a window that lets in too much light. An east-facing window should suffice if you plan to keep the plant indoors. If the only windows in your apartment are letting in too much light, you can dissipate the intensity by placing a sheer curtain over them.
If you keep the plant outdoors, place it under the shade of a large tree so that only stippled sunlight can reach it. Too much sunlight can cause its beautiful leaves to burn.
If there is little to no light during the winter where you live, you might need to buy some grow lights to support your plant. Light is a necessity for these plants to survive, and a lack thereof can cause their vibrant green color to become pale.
These plants prefer an airy, well-draining potting mix that is still able to retain some moisture.
A mix that could work well for both plants is a peat-based potting mix with some orchid bark.
Both plants are climbers and will have aerial roots wanting to wrap themselves around a sturdy structure. You can place the plant next to a small trellis to give it something to climb, but a moss pole should also work just fine.
Pruning the plant
Because both plants are relatively fast growers, pruning will be a constant in the care of these plants. If you find your plant has grown too long, do not be afraid to cut off some sections. Provided those sections have aerial roots, you can also propagate them.
Pruning also helps in maintaining the aesthetic of your plant. If there are leaves or new growth that make the plant look unruly, you can simply cut them off.
It is also necessary to prune off dead and rotten roots when you repot the plant, as this will prevent the spread of disease.
Both plants are vulnerable to common houseplant pests such as thrips, spider mites, mealybugs and aphids.
You can get rid of these pests by wiping the leaves down with a cotton ball soaked with alcohol.
You can also make your own neem oil spray at home. Simply mix a gallon of warm water with two tablespoons of dish soap and two tablespoons of neem oil. Transfer the solution to a garden sprayer and soak the tops and undersides of the plant’s leaves. Do this in the late afternoon, once a week, for as long as needed.
Are these plants toxic to humans and animals?
Yes, these plants contain calcium oxalate crystals that can be toxic to humans and animals. Ingestion can cause nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, so if you have small children or inquisitive pets, keep these plants out of their reach to be safe.
Despite looking quite similar at first glance, the Rhaphidophora tetrasperma and Monstera deliciosa are completely different species of plant.
The Monstera’s leaves are much larger and have distinct holes in the middle. They are also more glossy and a deeper shade of green with variegation, compared to the dull green leaves of the Rhaphidophora.
The Monstera is more expensive and harder to procure.
The Rhaphidophora needs watering more often than the Monstera and grows much faster, which is also why it needs to be repotted more frequently.
Despite all the differences, these two plants have a lot of similarities when it comes to their general care.
Both plants are great additions to any plant lover’s collection, so whether you prefer the understated Rhaphidophora or the flashier Monstera, your living space will be all the brighter with them around.
Image: istockphoto.com / bgton