How Scindapsus grow in the wild & How to care for them

This post will cover where Scindapsus are found in the wild, some scientific information on the plant, and how to care for it (spoiler alert: most Scindapsus are SUPER easy to care for!)

I hope you’ll fall in love with these plants through learning its story and care just like I did!

Looking for info on the variety of Scindapsus available? Click here to check out a post all about it!

Table of Contents

All about Scindapsus in the Wild

Where are Scindapsus found in the wild?

Plants in the Scindapsus genus are found in Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, Queensland, and New Guinea. They are rock and tree climbers, producing larger leaves as they climb.

Photo by teresap, https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/142329-Scindapsus/browse_photos

Scindapsus pictus as been noted to change shape as it matures. The leaves will shift from the shape you see below (descibed as falcate) to pinnately-lobed.

I was unable to find a photo of what this mature leaf looks like, but I will insert a leaf morphology diagram so you can see the difference.

If you know of (or have taken) a photo of a mature Scindapsus picture, please share it with us. I would love to see one!

Falcate leaf
Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Leaf_morphology_falcate.png#/media/File:Leaf_morphology_falcate.png

Pinnately-lobed leaf
Image by Pancrat, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pennatilob%C3%A9.svg#/media/File:Pennatilob%C3%A9.svg

How do Scindapsus species grow in nature?

Scindapsus plants are epiphytic and epilithic, meaning that they grow up trees and across rocks. As I was researching I saw this description of Scindapsus pictus, which I thought was absolutely perfect:

Tree-hugger. Silvery on the edges. Loves Hawai’i, even though not native to that archipelago. I could be writing about myself, but all of these also apply to the ‘Argyraeus’ satin pothos in today’s photograph.

Daniel Mosquin, UBD Botanical Website, https://botanyphoto.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/2019/01/scindapsus-pictus-argyraeus/

Here is Daniel Mosquin’s stunning photo (the author of the quote above), captured in Hawai’i:

Daniel Mosquin, UBD Botanical Website, https://botanyphoto.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/2019/01/scindapsus-pictus-argyraeus/

As you can see in Mosquin’s photo, when Scindapsus species attach to something to climb, they take on a new way of growing. This behavior is called shingling, where the leaves lie flat against the growing surface.

As these plants climb higher, they become more mature. The more mature the plant becomes, the larger the leaves become and the leaf shape sometimes changes as well.

Some species have been noted to become longer and thinner; others have been seen to develop lobes on their margins.

Background Info on Scindapsus

The Scindapsus genus is a part of the Araceae family, which is commonly known as the Aroid family – one of the most popular groups (if not THE most popular group) of houseplants worldwide in 2021.

The Aroid family is known for a type of flower/inflorescence called a spadix – which is the rod-like, almost corncob like structure you see in the picture below of Scindapsus sp.

Photo by belyykit, https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/19176581

Often the spadix is surrounded by a leaf-like structure called a spathe. The photo below is not a Scindapsus, but my Peace Lily (Spathiphylum wallisii ‘Domino’) that I wanted to include to show the spathe. You can see the white, leaf-like structure around the spadix, which is the spathe!

The name of the genus, Scindapsus, is derived from the Greek word skindapsos which has been translated to both “ivy-like plant” and “upon a tree.”

This description does a perfect job of describing how these plants are found growing naturally in the wild.

Interesting Scindapsus Facts

Scindapsus pictus varieties express a type of variegation called blister or reflective. This variegation is produced by air pockets forming between the outer leaf layer and the inner leaf layer (where chlorophyll is present). The air pockets create a shimmer when light reflects off of them.

Another species of Scindapsus has shown medicinal potential. Scindapsus officinalis is used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat diarrhea and worms. It is also being used in research to study its ability to control cancerous tumors and its antioxidant properties.

Scindapsus is one of many plants capable of purifying our air AND received the RHS Award of Garden Merit!

It is a fantastic plant for many reasons and one that I personally recommend hobbyists at any level to acquire.

How to Care for Scindapsus as a Houseplant

Light: Scindapsus species like bright, indirect light – this means they can tolerate small amounts of direct sunlight, but prefer high, indirect light for the majority of the day.

They will do well in East-facing windows, near West-facing windows, or pulled back from South-facing windows. They can tolerate lower light, but will not grow much.

Water: Because the leaves and stems of Scindapsus plants are fairly robust or succulent, they do not need to be watered immediately when dry.

I used to typically wait for the leaves to curl at the sides, showing signs that the plant is in need of water. It was a great way to learn Scindapsus care.

Now I try to water before the leaves curl, but after the potting mix is completely dry. I judge dryness based on how heavy the pot is. When its super light, I give it a good drink regardless of leaf curl.

I’ve found that some of the less common species do not always curl their leaves when thirsty, like Scindapsus treubii Dark Form. So it isn’t always a reliable indicator for me.

Potting mix: A fast-draining mix works well with this genus. Something with a lot of perlite, bark, or other additives for aeration is perfect. You could mix your own or use a cactus mix of some type. I use a combination of equal parts standard potting mix, perlite, and orchid bark.

Fertilizer: These plants like to be fertilized during the growing season. A well-balanced fertilizer at half strength will work. Or you could use a fertilizer that is higher in Nitrogen (the first number on the package) to support its foliage. Once per month is likely sufficient.

I prefer to use organic fertilizers so I do not need to worry about salt buildup damaging my plant. To learn more about fertilizers, click here to read my blog post.

Pot: Any pot that provides good drainage will work well. I house most of my Scindapsus in terracotta because the pot itself helps to absorb excess water from the soil. However, other pot mediums (provided they have ample drainage holes) can be fine as well.

Are Scindapsus houseplants pet-safe and kid-safe?

No, Scindapsus species are toxic to kids and pets.

To look up more plants, check out my blog post detailing the safety of many common houseplants.

Resources used for this article:

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