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Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma Ultimate Care Guide (Mini Monstera)

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Easy to grow, attractive as a houseplant, can grow 16 feet tall using minimal floor space, easy to propagate, yet can be pricey to buy – that’s the Rhaphidophora tetrasperma.

Rhaphidophora is one of the largest aroid genera in tropical Asia. In contrast, the R. tetrasperma species is the rarest naturally growing aroid, restricted to only a few sites on the Malaysian Peninsula and Southern Thailand. However, as an indoor plant, it is easy to grow.

The R. tetrasperma is so easy to grow that it may become invasive in a greenhouse. That said, it’s incredible what a bit of social media fame can do for demand and pricing – in 2021, an R. tetrasperma plant with just nine leaves with artificially variegated colorations sold for USD19,000 online.

Tony O'Neill with a Rhaphidophora tetrasperma
Tony O’Neill with a Rhaphidophora tetrasperma

What are Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma Needs

One of the primary causes of failure to successfully grow the mini monstera is misnaming the plant as either a monstera or a philodendron – it is neither, and its soil needs are specific. More on this later, but first, we need to clarify the family tree and establish why the plant grows where it does in nature.

The growing requirements of  tetrasperma
Tetrasperma Growing Conditions
Hector's goby Koumansetta hecto...
Hector's goby Koumansetta hectori

Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma Origins and Taxonomy

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma is quoted on the International Aroid Society website as being rare in nature and is restricted to only a few sites on the Malaysian Peninsula and Southern Thailand. Very little has been published regarding this species in either scientific or popular literature.

In the rainforest of South East Asia, the plant is a vine (liana) on the trees growing to 16 feet. The plant rarely grows as a terrestrial species in its natural habitat, preferring to climb. The mini monstera clings to its host with a sparse quantity of clasping roots from the nodes and internodes.

The leaves can be ovated to a combination of oval and lanceolate (spear-shaped). The leaves are not heavily coriaceous (leathery) and measure between 4 and 13 inches. Since it is a heterophyllous species, i.e., very different leaves on a single specimen, you should expect leaf variation. 

Identifying a Monstera Minima

The shape of the leaf is rarely the determinating factor for species identification, especially in aroids. Leaf variation among a single aroid species is prevalent, resulting in the inability to use the leaf shape as an identifier for most monstera.

The R. Tetrasperma’s stem (petioles) supporting the leaf will show a shallow groove. Within the genera that form the tribe Monstereae, seed characteristics are frequently the only way a botanist can discern which genus any species may properly be relevant.

Rhaphidophora produces a small inflorescence with a spathe described as “canoe-shaped,” measuring 1.4 inches. The spathe rapidly drops from the spadix. The fruit that forms on the spadix of Rhaphidophora species contains several tiny ellipsoid seeds.

Finally, as indicated earlier, the R. Tetrasperma’s leaves are more refined in texture (less coriaceous) than the Monstera deliciosa, Philodendron, or split-leaf Philodendron (Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum).

If you are interested in growing different aroid plants, consider getting Deni Brown’s authoritative book on Aroids: Plants of the Arum Family.

Growing Rhaphidophora Tertrasperma

I’m intrigued by the prices people are prepared to pay for these plants, mainly because they grow like weeds (even in winter).

It is particularly true when planted in bright indirect light, in well-drained soil, humidity remains above 40%, and temperatures are maintained above 55 °F. Vining stems can reach 12 feet in height with adequate support, but the plant fares well when pruned to keep it compact.

One of the most common mistakes new mini monstera growers make is likening their new plant’s needs to Monstera Deliciosa or Philodendron. The best possible soil for your RT is pH neutral, well-aerated, uncompacted, drains well, and contains organic matter. This description may ring a bell for those of you who grow orchids.

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma Soil Conditions should be chunky.
Rhaphidophora soil structure

Like orchids, a mix of the following ingredients is ideal:

  • Charcoal
  • Clay Pebbles (Leca or Seramis)
  • Coconut Coir
  • Compost
  • Fir Bark
  • Lava Rocks
  • Peat moss
  • Perlite
  • Sphagnum Moss
  • Tree Fern

Essentially you want a medium that offers sufficient root stability, moisture management, and aeration. Unlike orchids, you don’t want your Tetrasperma soil to retain too much water as it will lead to root rot. To achieve this, substitute peat moss or sphagnum moss with coconut coir.

Perlite helps prevent compaction and improves aeration. Compost aids the plant’s resistance to pests and diseases by boosting the diversity of the microbe population. Fir Bark decomposes rapidly, further benefiting the plant. I do not advise using pine bark as it pulls nitrogen from the soil.

You will find that the plant proliferates that it requires annual repotting, allowing you to adjust your potting mix and the mini monstera plant to grow in the soil you have created for it.

As a starter, I would use equal parts of horticultural charcoal, coconut coir, Fir bark, perlite, and cured compost. Do not sieve the compost, making it too fine. If you have leaf mold, use that instead – it preserves water better.

For Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma, use a 4-inch pot with unobstructed holes in the bottom to begin. Finding clear plastic pots will help you better manage water levels, which otherwise can be a guessing game, but more on later.

If you are propagating a shoot, the transparency will make it easier to monitor progress without disturbing the emerging roots.

While I compare the soil needed by your RT with that preferred by orchids, the comparison ends there. The Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma is a hardy fighter, eager to grow and overcome any odds. Let’s see what else it needs to flourish.

Positioning your mini monstera

Positioning for Lighting

The RT has much thinner foliage than the Monstera and Philodendron mentioned earlier and therefore requires less light. It also lacks waxy cuticles to protect the leaves from becoming chlorotic in direct sunlight.

Your R. tetrasperma prefers ample indirect sunlight and will not flourish in darker corners – it loves light, just not direct sunlight.

Because the leaves are thin, direct sunlight will cause them to lose moisture faster than it can replenish them. Chlorotic foliage suffers from a visible yellowing of leaf tissue due to a lack of chlorophyll caused by a lack of water.

Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma should be positioned where it can get moderate light or bright diffused light – in the Northern hemisphere on the west side of the house. I have found that placing it in the South-West window does not serve it well. Light is essential for the leaves to split.

Rhaphidophora need indirect sunlight

Positioning for Warmth and Humidity

Tetrasperma originates from rain forests with a temperature between 55 and 100 °F, the temperature range required to flourish. It is typical for plants from the Arum family, the aroids.

All these factors play a role in the plant’s care and watering needs – the hotter, the more frequent the watering cycle if your plant starts wilting, up the frequency rather than the quantity of watering.

Humidity is also a factor, especially when propagating a new plant. The ideal is 40%, which is not far off most indoor environments.

If you have a humidity sensor and notice the levels are too low, consider using a humidifier rather than a mister for your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma. Wet leaves tend to aid the spread of pathogens.

Watering Your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma

Your Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma potting mix ensures a well-drained environment that allows plenty of air and water retention. Because the roots are more delicate than some of the other ariods, you will want to ensure that this plant gets less water more often.

Your RT can withstand a bit of drought, but it will do better if it has a constantly moist (not wet) root bulb.

When growth slows (but doesn’t stop), reduce watering to meet the plant’s needs during the winter. Check the top inch of the surface for dryness before rewatering. I prefer collecting rainwater to water my aroids – it seems to help them do better.

Nutritional Needs

I use a diluted solution of 20:10:10 every fortnight during the growing season. If the suggestion is a teaspoon per gallon, use half of that.

Your R. tetrasperma is a rapid-growing plant, so give it the fuel it needs to deliver the growth you want.

During winter, you can cut back on that to monthly feeds.

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma can be in the middle of the room
Tetrasperma on a table

Pruning and Propagating your Rhaphidophora tetrasperma

As I mentioned earlier, your RT is an energetic grower, so it could require repotting before it reaches its first birthday. To avoid it growing too large, it fares well when pruned. Cut just below the advantageous roots or nodes.

Cut-off pieces of Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma are easily propagated directly into the soil. Adding some Vitamin B to the water will help the rooting process, but this is generally not required.

For a more prominent display, use a moss totem pole or a flared frame to support the growth.

Variegated Types Of These Monstera Plants

Variegated versions are very rare plants. Not only is this variegated Mini monster rare it is also very expensive. The most expensive Monstera minima, mini monstera, sold to date was sold in an auction in New Zealand for the vast sum of $19,297

What color are the leaves

The variegated forms of this mini monstera plant’s leaves are green with cream to dirty white-streaked, speckled, and blotched leaves. The picture below is of the mini monstera sold above.

This is the Variegated Plant That is Sold Below

variegated rhaphidophora tetrasperma
Worlds Most Expensive variegated Monstera minima

Common Mini Monstera Challenges

Your RT could face infestations of thrips and spider mites. Just keep an eye out for the possible presence of these two pests.

Wipe the leaves with a soapy water solution as soon as you notice any insects on your indoor plants. To prevent infestations, wipe your leaves with diluted Lyson water solution.

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Conclusion

Growing these plants is not difficult, it is rewarding, and the growth rate is very satisfying. I hope the article will help you develop and propagate this most popular plant. If you wish to get notified of similar articles and special offers, provide me with your email below.