How to care for shingling plants
A shingling plant is a hemi-epiphytic plant that will press its leaves flat against a tree, trellis, wooden plank or a moss board instead of growing down and trailing. Shingling plants will start out small as the grow terrestrially along the floor and as they attach to a tree, they'll start maturing and growing in size. And with the release of the tropical plant Rhaphidophora hayi plant, sold by Costa Farms in 2021, shingling plants have been the latest trend amongst houseplant collectors.
Common shingling plant species
Rhaphidophora hayi plant
Rhaphidophora hayi or "shingle plant" single handedly brought shingling plants to everyone's collection. Shingle plant rhaphidophora is best known for its solid dark green oval leaves. In its mature form, the leaves will only grow about 6 inches in length.
One of the more unusual plants in the Monstera family. It has beautiful dark green leaves with thick silver veins running through the leaf. Its juvenile leaves will lie flat and shingle up a tree and the mature leaves will start to fenestrate and be a few feet in length. Such a cool plant.
Monstera dubia shingling wooden plank
Photo by feey on Unsplash
Rhaphidophora cryptantha is another type of shingle plant similar to the Rhaphidophora hayi in size and shape. However, cryptantha is notorious for it's silver veins sprawling throughout the leaves. Also like the Rhaphidophora hayi, cryptantha leaves will only reach about 6" long in its mature form.
Scindapsus Argyraeus/ Satin Pothos
Satin pothos is commonly grown as a trailing plant but is, actually, a shingling plant. Out in nature, you can see these shingling up trees where they will start to lose those silver specs but maintain those dark green velvety leaves.
Trailing Satin Pothos
Photo by feey on Unsplash
Shingle plant care
Shingling plants aren't the easiest to care for because they require super specific care.
Shingling plants are semi-epiphytic, meaning in their juvenile form, they grow along the floor than will grow on a tree or another plant as they mature. A climbing plant like this will always prefer a well draining soil. Mix together a rich soil brand with horticultural charcoal and orchid bark. This would give your shingle plant proper drainage. And always make sure to use a pot with drainage holes.
Shingle plants love bright indirect light. Any spot by a shaded window would be perfect. Try to avoid any direct sunlight directly on the leaves. Any plant not used to direct light will burn the foliage. If you're using artificial light, place the shingle plant a few feet away or off to the side.
High humidity is the key to growing shingling plants. High humidity will not only help your shingling plants grow but will help their aerial roots attach and shingle faster to its moss board. The best way to achieve high humidity would be by placing it on a pebble tray, placing it by a humidifier or in a greenhouse cabinet. Anything above 60% humidity would be ideal.
Watering for shingle plant
Shingle plants come from lowland rainforests where it rains constantly. They're used to having moist soil. However, since our shingle plants will often be potted you have to prevent root rot. Water your shingle plant when the pot is about 80% dry. This will keep the soil moist enough to keep the shingle plant happy but will also help prevent root rot.
Woman watering plant
Photo by Cassidy Phillips on Unsplash
If root rot is a big problem for you, always err on the side of underwatering. It's easier for a plant to come back from underwatering than recovering from root rot. With root rot you would have to chop the roots and completely re root the plant, hindering any new growth until a new root system is established.
How to propagate shingle plants
Shingle plants are easy to propagate. To propagate shingle plants, all you need is a few stem cuttings. Make sure the stem cuttings have at least one node but the more nodes and leaves you can get on a cutting, the better chance it has at successfully growing roots. And like other houseplants, shingle plants are no different--they need high humidity in order to propagate.
Shingle plant propagating in sphagnum moss
Take your stem cuttings and place them in damp sphagnum moss in a plastic bag under artificial light or by a bright window. In 6 weeks you should see roots and new growth. As long as the moss stays moist, it's a nice "set and forget" method.
Supporting shingling plants
Once you take your freshly propagated shingle plant, you'll need to pot it up in a nice aroid mixture and add support. The sooner you mount shingling plants, the quicker you'll see bigger and more established leaves. And they're most commonly grown in two different ways.
Moss pole or moss plank
Moss poles are often made with damp sphagnum moss and some sort of hard wire fencing to hold it together. But when it comes to shingle plants, you'll most often see moss planks. Some sort of wooden board covered in a bed of moss, where the aerial roots of the shingle plant can attach and grow flat.
Philodendron on moss pole
Photo by feey on Unsplash
There's a few things to keep in mind when using moss. First, for the best results, you need to keep the moss moist. If you shingle plant is out in the open and not in an inclosed space, the moss will need frequent waterings. Almost daily. Moss, also, has a tendency to become hydrophobic if you let it dry out too much. Which can make it difficult to moisten it. Lastly, moss sheds a lot. Sometimes, I've mistaken pieces of moss for thrips because it just gets everywhere.
However, the biggest advantage with using moss is that it's great with keeping humidity up. If you're able to keep up with the frequent waterings, it'll entice those small aerial roots to attach quickly.
When it comes to shingle plants, wooden boards, or planks, have been my preference over a moss board. A wooden board is exactly what it sounds like, a piece of wood that acts as a climbing board for a shingle plant to grow on. These planks can be sourced from a local hard ware store, Etsy, or (my personal favorite) Treleaf. They offer a modular plank that grows with your plant but these planks have a botanical design. So you can avoid that hardware aesthetic you get when you use too many basic wooden boards.
Shingling plant climbing wooden board from Treleaf
Plants have a tendency to attach to wood quickly and with little effort. It mimics their natural environment, so with the right humidity, your shingle plant will have no problems adhering to a wooden board. And you can say bye to shedding and frequent waterings.
Tips on getting your shingle plant to attach
Use vinyl plant tape, soft string or even tape to gently tie your shingle plant to is climbing structure. You want to get the nodes as close to the climbing structure as possible. Which is why I prefer to use tape. Vinyl plant tape and soft string often creates a bit of space between the plant and the plank but with tape, you can really adhere the shingle vine tightly.
Humidity. Consider this your holy grail. The shingle plant can have plenty of indirect light but without humidity it won't attached. The easiest way to add more humidity would be by placing it by other plants, to create a humid micro environment, or placing it near a humidifier.
Light. Finding that happy medium of how much light to give your shingle plant is important. Too much light might lead to leaf burn or chlorotic growth while too little light may hinder growth. My biggest tip would be to slowly introduce your plant to bright light. This slower process will help prevent foliage burn and it will slowly ensure your shingle plant is getting the correct amount of light.