Philodendron Rugosum Complete Care Guide (#1 TOP Growing tips for this RARE plant!)

philodendron rugosum plant with heart-shaped and textured leaves

The Philodendron Rugosum is a rare plant known for its textured leaves. In fact the epithet “Rugosum”, means wrinkled in Italian. 🙂 (HONESTLY though, could they not have come up with something a little more flattering?!)

Look closely at the leaf’s surface – it reminds us of soft leather grains…. no wonder its nickname is Pig Skin Philodendron!

While care is relatively easy, the trickiest part is getting the watering right. They hate being overwatered, but are also intolerant of drying out completely though its pot… much more so than most other Philodendrons!

The Pig Skin Philodendron enjoys high humidity (70-90% is ideal). Temperatures between 70-90 degrees F (15 – 32 degrees C) and light fertilizing every 6 weeks during the active growing season encourage healthy growth.

close up of part of a philodendron rugosum leaf (also known as pig skin philodendron or naugahyde philodendron) with leathery-grain corrugation
Leather-grain textured leaves for a Philodendron Rugosum.
Copyright © 2022 Sigoise, Wikimedia Commons, some rights reserved (CC-BY-SA).

Origins

The Philodendron Rugosum is endemic to the Andes highlands of Central Ecuador at altitudes between 3,000-5,000 feet (900-1,500 meters).

Destruction of its native habitat is, sadly, one of the reasons why the Philodendron Rugosum is rare.

Caring for your Philodendron Rugosum

Light

Bright, indirect light stimulates the best growth for your Philodendron Rugosum. Placing next to an East or West-facing window is ideal.

South windows work well too when placed a couple of feet away to reduce the light intensity. You can also dapple the light through a shade cloth.

Slow growth is often due to low-light.

Water

OKAY – this is where things get a bit tricky. We need to tread the fine balance between an overwatered Rugosum and not letting it completely dry out through its pot.

There are 3 important parts to this equation to remember.

  1. Using your fingers to check, water only when the top 2 inches of soil is dry,
  2. When watering, water deeply and thoroughly until excess water escapes from the drainage hole,
  3. Check the soil moisture frequently, so that you know the minute the top 2 inches become dry again.

While some other Philodendrons are quite forgiving if you only manage to do steps 1 & 2…. not so with the Rugosum. 😛

The good news is that this is as fussy as your plant gets. Get this right and you’ve conquered the toughest part, and saved yourself lots of heartbreak.

Signs of overwatering and underwatering

You’ll know your Philodendron Rugosum is underwatered if you see the leaves curling and if the soil appears cakey.

On the other hand, droopy stems and soft yellow leaves indicate an overwatered plant.

In both cases, it’s important to check the soil moisture with your fingers to confirm. Sometimes the issue could be a pest infestation or some other aspect of care.

Humidity

High humidity is important for your Philodendron Rugosum, with 70-90% being ideal. You can achieve this level of humidity by using a humidifier.

Here are some other tips for you:

  • You can group tropical plants together to naturally increase humidity. The natural process of transpiration releases water vapor into the air, increasing humidity around the plant. Grouping plants together allows plants to benefit from the effects of each plant’s transpiration.
  • You can also add a tray of water and pebbles under the pot. Water evaporates from the pebble’s surfaces, directly increasing humidity. Just be careful that the pot is not submerged by water – this will lead to overwatering! The tray should only be half-filled with water.
the philodendron rugosum (also known as pig skin philodendron or naugahyde philodendron) climbing up a trellis outdoors with large leaves
Your Philodendron Rugosum will climb if you provide it a trellis or moss pole!

Temperature

This part of care is simple. Keep your Philodendron Rugosum between 70-90 degrees F (15 – 32 degrees C) for best growth 🙂

Temperatures below 55 degrees F (13 degrees C) typically result in dropping leaves. Dropping leaves may also result from being placed in a windy spot, or too close to an air vent or drafty door.

While commonly kept as a houseplant, the Rugosum also can be grown outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 10b to 11.

Flowering

While uncommon when kept indoors, your Philodendron Rugosum can bloom! It grows thick reddish-pink spathes, with a central spadix that is often partially hidden. Inflorescences grow in multiples, often 2-6 per axil.

Growth

Under optimal growth conditions, your Philodendron Rugosum grows pretty quickly. It can put out 1-2 leaves in a month and tops out at 10-15 feet (3.0 – 4.6 meters) when fully mature.

To help your leathery leaves climb, use a moss pole. The upside? Using a moss pole also encourages faster growth and bigger leaves.

Another common reason for slow growth is too little light.

a potted philodendron rugosum being held up with its textured pig skin leaves
Copyright © 2022 lastripe. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

Soil or Growing Medium

The Philodendron Rugosum HATES being in dense potting soil. In the wild it is sometimes epipetric, meaning that it grows directly on rock! So its roots are used to breathing freely.

In addition, you’ll need to choose a potting mix that is well-draining but still hold some moisture. Oh and a slightly acidic pH is preferred. Confused yet? 😛

Don’t worry – this is the exact recipe we use and love:

Mix it all together and viola!

Fertilizer

Use a water-soluble fertilizer at half strength, applied monthly during the growing season. We are partial to Dyna-gro Grow, which we use for almost all our houseplants.

In the fall and winter, reduce fertilizing frequency to once every 6 weeks.

If you live in near the equator and therefore live in year-round warmth (without seasons), you can continue to fertilize your Philodendron Rugosum monthly. As long as you see your plant putting out new growth, there’s no need to cut back on fertilizing frequency. 🙂

Repotting

Being a fast grower, it’s likely that your Philodendron Rugosum needs to be repotted once a year. Do this during the spring, so that your plant can luxuriate in the warmth and sunlight to recover quickly. 🙂

Roots peeking out of the drainage hole or circling up above the soil’s surface is a tell-tale sign that it needs repotting.

Here are some other repotting tips:

  • Upsize your pot by one size only (2 inches or 5cm). This gives your plant sufficient space to grow, and yet is not too large such that the larger volume of soil holds on to too much water.
  • Choose a pot with drainage holes. Terracotta pots are a good choice as they are breathable, plus allow water to evaporate quickly.
  • Water your plant the day before repotting. This makes it easier for you to dislodge your plant and reduces the risk of transplant shock.
  • When repotting, always use fresh soil, as nutrients in the soil deplete over time.
  • After repotting, hold off watering for a few days to let your plant heal.

Toxicity

As with many Aroids, the Philodendron Rugosum is considered toxic when ingested by animals and humans. This is due to insoluble calcium oxalate crystals contained in the stems and leaves.

Effects of ingestion include drooling, nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal pains, and mouth burns.

close up of a philodendron rugosum leaf
Copyright © 2022 lastripe. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

Propagation

Stem cuttings are an easy way to propagate your Philodendron Rugosum, and have a high success rate.

Propagation through Stem Cuttings

Here’s how:

  1. First, gather all the items needed:
    • Sharp, sterilized garden shears. You can sterilize them by dipping them into 70% isopropyl solution;
    • rooting hormone;
    • Potting mix (we recommend equal parts indoor potting soil, orchid bark, and pumice. Plus a handful of charcoal added in);
    • and a small pot with drainage holes.
  2. Identify a healthy length of stem that is around 4 inches long. Make sure that this stem has a couple of leaves and at least two nodes!
  3. Using sterilized garden shears, cut off the identified stem. Cut just below the node.
  4. Remove leaves, if any, from the bottom half of the stem cutting.
  5. Dip the cut end of the stem into a rooting hormone. This encourages roots to grow.
  6. Plant the stem cutting in a small pot filled with potting soil.
  7. Place in a warm spot with plenty of indirect light. If you can, place a humidifier next to the new plant and set at 80%.
  8. Keep the potting soil lightly moist, but never waterlogged or soggy.
  9. In about 3-4 weeks, roots should emerge. You will know that roots have developed when you feel slight resistance when giving your plant a very gentle tug.
  10. Treat as you would any other Philodendron Rugosum. 🙂

Pruning

An occasional trim in the spring or summer helps your Pig Skin Philodendron to stay bushy and healthy. Trim off:

  • any dead or damaged leaves or stems;
  • any leggy stems;
  • any vines you feel are messy or unwieldy!

However, avoid pruning off more than a third of the length of the plant, as this causes too much stress. At the same time, use sharp shears to minimize trauma when cutting.

When pruning, its also a good idea to take a good look at the stems and leaves to inspect your plant for pests and diseases…. (see next Section!)

Common Pests and Diseases

philodendron rugosum(also known as pig skin philodendron or naugahyde philodendron) with leathery-grain corrugation being held up in a small pot
Copyright © 2022 fawncake. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

The most common problem for Philodendron Rugosum is overwatering (which typically results in yellow leaves) and cold conditions (which results in dropping leaves).

Other than that, your plant may also occasionally suffer infestations from the usual gambit of common houseplant pests: aphids, spider mites, scale, and mealybugs.

All these pests can be eradicated by the use of Insecticidal Soap Spray. We keep a bottle on hand in case of such attacks! Because these insects and mites reproduce rapidly, it’s also important to catch an infestation early so that your plant can be saved.

In terms of preventative measures,

  • Regularly inspect your plants, and especially before you introduce a new plant into your home. Many pest attacks are due to cross-contamination from infected plants nearby. Look at the undersides of leaves and around those nooks and crannies (like leaf axils), which is where these pests like to hide.
  • Read our guide on identifying and getting rid of spider mites and mealybugs so that you’ll know if you spot one!
  • Ward away pests by applying a dilute solution of neem oil on healthy plants.

Troubleshooting

  • Yellow leaves – a sign of overwatering. Check the soil moisture to confirm.
  • Curling leaves – could signal underwatering, overwatering or too-low humidity. Check the soil moisture as the first step.
  • Yellow spots with brown halos – this is usually a sign of a fungal or bacterial infection from overwatering. Check out our step-by-step guide on saving your overwatered plant.
  • Dropping leaves – too cold temperatures or exposure to vents or winds could be the cause.
a small potted philodendron rugosum(also known as pig skin philodendron or naugahyde philodendron) with leathery-grain corrugation being held up in a small pot
Copyright © 2022 fawncake. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Philodendron Rugosum a climber?

It sure is. Your Philodendron Rugosum is an epiphyte (climbing plant) or hemiepiphyte (climbs on other plants, but can also send roots into the ground) in the wild. If you give it a moss pole or trellis, it will climb up!

Is the Philodendron Rugosum rare?

Yes. Like the Philodendron Gloriosum, the Pig Skin Philodendron is on the IUNC Red List of threatened species, with a rating of “near-Threatened”.

That being said – it is still possible to find Philodendron Rugosums online, though at more expensive prices than your average houseplant. Expect to pay around US$100 for a mature and well-established plant.

What is the Philodendron Rugosum Aberrant Form?

The Aberrant form of the Philodendron Rugosum features larger leaves that tend of be very wavy along the edges. They may also have yellow-green variegation towards the midrib.

Philodendrons as a genus are known to be highly variable in appearance even within a species. Heck, even within a plant…. you’ll notice that not every leaf is the same.

If you’re interested in why – here’s a good article on natural variation and morphogenesis.

Other Philodendrons we Love

Wrapping Up

This easy-to-care-for Philodendron has an understated beauty thanks to its leather-grain leaves. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on the rare Rugosum, make sure you:

  • Provide it bright, indirect light.
  • Water only when the top 2 inches of soil is dry, but check regularly so that you know the minute it does!
  • Use the soak and dry method.
  • Give it adequate humidity, 70-90% is ideal.
  • Keep it in moderate temperatures – between 70-90 degrees F (15 – 32 degrees C)
  • Use a chunky well-draining mix. We like equal parts indoor potting soil, pumice and orchid bark; plus an added handful of charcoal.
  • Lightly fertilize monthly during the growing season and every 6 weeks in fall and winter, at half strength.

If you love the Rugosum, check out the Philodendron Mamei (Silver Cloud) next!

Deborah

Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.