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Philodendron rugosum Care, Including Radiance Aberrant Forms

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Philodendron rugosum (Pigskin Philodendron, Sow’s Ear Plant, or Naugahyde Philodendron) is a rare climbing houseplant. It has a lovely plasticky appearance with heavily textured hide-like heart-shaped bright green leaves, making it a perfect choice for homes, offices, or patios.

Moreover, caring for Philodendron rugosum is easy, and we have all you need to know, including growing needs. We will also tell you how to propagate it, where to buy it, and the prices. However, before that, we will look at how it looks and types, like the aberrant form and radiance.

Lastly, we know it is a little pricey and hard to find. But We would like to encourage you to consider buying one now that is listed as Nearly threatened. You can help prevent its extinction.

Philodendron rugosum plant care and for sale
Philodendron rugosum: See the latest prices.

About Philodendron rugosum 

Philodendron rugosum Bogner & G.S.Bunting, first published in 1983, is an accepted Philodendron species. The epithet rugosum is Latin denoting the wrinkly appearance of the leaves.

Currently, the International Union for Conservation of Nature categorizes it as near threatened due to the destruction of its natural habitat.

  • Scientific name: Philodendron rugosum 
  • Common name: Pigskin Philodendron, Sow’s Ear Plant, or Naugahyde Philodendron
  • Section: Oligospermum
  • Family: Araceae
  • Natural habitat: South Colombia to Ecuador
  • Care level: Easy or low maintenance
  • Toxicity: It is mildly to moderately toxic to humans, cats, dogs, and other pets since it has insoluble calcium oxalates.

Lastly, the hide-like and the fine veins and veinlets give it the Naugahyde (an American artificial leather) or the pig’s skin appearance hence the names. Its other common name, Sow’s Ears, comes from the fact that wrinkles, especially near the leaf base, make these leaves resemble sow or pigs years.

Growing habits, size, and growth rate

Philodendron rugosum is primarily an evergreen, climbing hemiepiphyte, but can grow terrestrially. It occurs in the premontane tropical rainforests at elevations of 3000-5000 ft asl, especially in the Andes.

Most people have repotted rugosum as a slow grower. However, it grows relatively faster, given sufficient light, humidity, and other care needs and growing conditions.

Lastly, in the wild, it grows up to 20 feet; at home, expect it to be 4 to 8 feet, and you need to give it a place to climb.

How to identify Philodendron rugosum – appearance and description

To help you quickly identify this plant, we will consider its leaves, stems, and flowers.

a). Stem

It has greenish, climbing stems up to 1.6 inches in diameter with relatively short internodes (0.6-1.2 inches) and reddish-brown aerial roots. Cataphylls (up to 7.1-7.9 inches long) are greenish but will turn brown and persist for a while.

b). Leaves

The unique leaves are an important identifier, especially considering their texture, shape, and wrinkling near the base.

Mature Philodendron rugosum will have larger (13.8 long by 11.8 inches wide) leathery or hide-like oval middle or bright green leaves with a heart-shaped base, a cuspidate apex, and a hyaline margin. The upper leaf surface is semi-glossy, conspicuously textured, or rugose, and the underside is smooth and duller.

These leaves have a convex midrib, inconspicuous 7-10 lateral veins on either side of the midrib, and a terete, partly vaginate, up to 15.7 inches long, middle green petioles with a diameter of about 0.4 inches at the midpoint.

Mature Philodendron rugosum plant
Philodendron rugosum plant at San Francisco, Golden Gate Park, Conservatory of Flowers, California, U.S.A. Photo credit: © Dipartimento di Scienze Della Vita, Università di Trieste, picture by Andrea Moro, dryades.units.it, CC BY-SA 4.0

However, juvenile species or plants have smaller, less textured leaves that are also less wrinkled near the base.

Lastly, some specimens in the wild may have larger leaves, up to 2 feet, with longer internodes and thicker stems.

c). Flower

Philodendron rugosum is unlikely to flower under cultivation at your home. However, in its natural habit, it will produce 1-4 inflorescence per axil with a short, reddish peduncle, a cream spadix, and a slightly constricted spathe.

The spathe is dark red towards the base, light red toward the upper side, and has a greenish tip.

Philodendron rugosum types

Besides the standard form, currently, there are two Philodendron rugosum types, i.e., radiance and aberrant form. Also, some people have tissue-cultured specimens. But we haven’t been lucky to get any.

1. Philodendron rugosum aberrant form

Philodendron rugosum aberrant form has more wrinkled leaves near the base and shows some color variation from the standard version. Some vendors consider it the same as the radiance, but the main trait is the much more crumbly appearance at the base.

2. Philodendron rugosum radiance

The Philodendron rugosum radiance mutation, variation, or cultivar will have paler color on the center of the leaves that radiate outwards. Also, the lamina base has more wrinkles than the standard form.

Caring for Philodendron rugosum

Philodendron rugosum requires a warm (55-80°F), humid (>40% R.H.) place with bright, indirect light. Grow it in an aroid mix rich in organic matter and water it when the top few inches feel dry. It also needs feeding, pruning, repotting, and a place to climb.

Here is more on growth requirements and how to care for your Pigskin Philodendron, including the aberrant and radiance forms.

1. Growing conditions and needs

  • USDA hardiness zone: 10-11, not frost resistant and cannot tolerate freezing conditions for long.
  • Temperature: Maintain a temperature of 55-80°F, avoiding sudden changes, cold drafts, or temperatures below 50°F. Also, don’t place it near cold or heat sources or vents, as they will stress the plant.
  • Humidity: It can tolerate at least 40% relative humidity but grows best at 60% or more. Use a humidifier, have a pebble tray, or mist your plant if your humidity is low. Also, you can group your plants or move them to humid rooms to raise humidity.
  • Light: Naugahyde Philodendron needs bright, indirect light but can tolerate medium. Avoid direct sun (causes sunburn), i.e., select a spot with filtered light (if outdoors) where the direct sun doesn’t reach (if indoors). And if your house is dark, get grow lights. Otherwise, your plant will grow slowly, be leggy and have paler, smaller new leaves or growth.

Best soil

Choose a well-drained, aerated potting mix high in organic matter. One that is slightly acidic does the best.

I use a Gardenera Premium Aroid Potting Mix. Etsy.com also has many good aroid mixes, or you can make your own at home by adding perlite, coco coir, bark chips, and compost or worm castings to premium potting soil.

How to properly water Philodendron rugosum

I thoroughly water this plant when the potting mix feels dry up to the first knuckle of my finger or if my XLUX soil moisture meter reads three or less. I don’t follow watering routines as water needs vary with conditions, pot type, plant size, etc.

When watering, slowly and evenly saturate the soil until excess water flows from drainage holes. Don’t forget to discard any water that collects in the saucer after 15 minutes.

Does it need feeding?

Yes. P. rugosum needs moderate feeding. I recommend feeding your plant once a month with a balanced, liquid houseplant fertilizer but only during growing months. Any other fertilizer for a houseplant, including unbalanced or slow-release formula, are ok.

I have tried brands like Miracle-Gro, Espoma, Joyful Dirt, Osmocote, Fox Farms, etcetera. They all do well.

More philodendron rugosum care needs

  • Pruning and grooming: Remove any dead, damaged, or diseased parts with sterilized gardening scissors and clean dusty leaves. Also, you can cut the plant back during the growing season to control its size.
  • Repotting: You should repot this plant every 1-2 years or when rootbound. Select a pot 2-3 inches wider in diameter than the current one.
  • Moss pole: Since it grows as a climber, provide and train your rugosum plant on a moss pole, trellis, totem, or any other vertical climbing place.

How to propagate Philodendron rugosum?

I find Philodendron rugosum stem propagation in water or soil the easiest method. However, you can also opt for air layering.

Here is how I propagate this and most of my climbing philodendron plants in water:

a). What you need

  • Glass jar
  • Rooting hormones like HydroDynamics Clonex Rooting Gel. Not mandatory but will speed rooting and minimize chances of rot.
  • Sterilized gardening scissors or rubbing alcohol (70-99%) for sterilization.

b). Steps to follow:

  • Step 01: Select a mature, healthy stem with at least two nodes and cut about ¼ an inch below the lower node with your sterilized gardening scissors. Snip off the lower ones if the cutting has more than two leaves.
  • Step 02: Apply rooting hormone on the cut end (that will go inside the water)
  • Step 03: Fill your glass jar with water and dip your cutting, ensuring at least a node is under water.
  • Step 04: Place your cutting in a warm place with bright, indirect light.
  • Step 05: Refill the water when levels fall and change it after every 4-5 days or if cloudy.

After a few weeks, you will see some new roots growing from the nodes. Wait until they are long enough before transplanting your rooted cutting.

Problems or issues

There are no problems or issues specific to rugosum plants besides those that affect any other Philodendron plant. These issues include pests, root rot (common in overwatered plants or those with non-draining potting mix), diseases (especially fungal and bacterial leaf spot bacteria), drooping, leaf discoloration, or curling.

In case of pests like scale insects, spider mites, aphids, or mealybugs, use horticultural oil spray, neem oil, or insecticidal soaps.

Leaf curling, leaf discoloration (turning yellow, brown including tips and margins, black or having spots), and your plant drooping indicate improper care, wrong growing conditions, and at times, pest or diseases.

Frequently asked questions

Is Philodendron rugosum rare?

Yes. Philodendron rugosum is a very rare and hard-to-find houseplant that only a handful of rare aroid collectors have it. We bet you will not get it at your local tropical plant store and none of the big box stores or large-scale horticultural growers have it.

What is the price of P. rugosum?

Philodendron rugosum, including the aberrant form price, ranges from $50 to $300 depending on plant size, where you buy it, and location. Larger, established plants will cost you more than smaller or rooted cutting.

Where do I buy Philodendron rugosum?

Start with Etsy.com, Facebook, Instagram, and eBay. You may be lucky to find a few vendors from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Asia, the United Kingdom, and the rest of Europe. Next, search on Google for local vendors near you.