It is easy to understand why the silver sword philodendron is such a coveted houseplant. The unique foliage is stunning, and like most philodendrons, the plant requires minimal care. The silver sword philodendron is named after its distinctive leaves, which are tapered and have a silver-blue hue. The color is actually quite common among succulents, but it’s rare for foliage plants like the silver sword philodendron. If you’re lucky enough to happen upon one at your local nursery, we highly recommend grabbing it and giving it a home. We promise you won’t regret adding the beautiful tropical vine to your collection.
Below, you’ll find everything you need to raise a happy, healthy silver sword philodendron.
Silver Sword Philodendron Origin & History
The silver sword philodendron is a tropical plant that is native to the jungles of Brazil. Due to extensive clear-cutting of its natural rainforest habitat, the silver sword philodendron is an endangered species and is listed on the IUCN Red List. It’s currently considered to be of “least concern” which means the natural population is stable.
The silver sword philodendron is one of nearly 500 species of the Philodendron genus, which is the second-largest member of the Araceae family. While classification of the various species of philodendron is made difficult by the vast range of plants within the genus, they do all have a few specific attributes in common.
Most philodendrons naturally grow in tropical forests in the Americas and the West Indies. Most of them share a low-light tolerance, so your room can be as dark as the forest floor, and they’ll still thrive. This is part of what makes them such popular houseplants!
Philodendrons come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and many are epiphytic, or like the silver sword philodendron, hemi-epiphytic.
Epiphytic plants grow on other objects, like stones, logs, or trees. The silver sword philodendron begins its life in the soil before climbing its way up surrounding trees. This makes it hemi-epiphytic because it roots both in the ground and on nearby objects.
But the name could have told you all that! “Philodendron” comprises the Greek words Philo- (love, affection) and -Dendron (tree). So “silver sword philodendron” is about as descriptive of a name as it gets: a silver plant with sword-like leaves that loves, or in this case, often grows on trees!
As a hemi-epiphytic plant, the silver sword philodendron has aerial roots that begin as brown nodes. These roots cling to the tree and make it so that the climbing plant can survive as an epiphyte if severed from its grounded base.
Like many climbing plants, the silver sword philodendron is on the larger side of the plant spectrum and can reach up to 10 feet. Yours won’t get quite as big indoors, about 6 feet max under the right conditions. The plant’s leaves can also get quite big. They tend to be sword-shaped but can come to resemble more of an arrowhead as the plant matures. The silver-blue coloring is incredibly rare, even among other philodendrons, which typically tend to be green, red, or copper.
Silver Sword Philodendron Care
How do you care for a silver sword philodendron? Here we cover all of the care essentials including: the basics like watering, light, humidity, and temperature requirements; potting and propagating tips; fertilization; growth rate; pet toxicity, and more.
Read to the end for an FAQ about the silver sword philodendron (philodendron hastatum).
The silver sword philodendron prefers moderate to bright, indirect light. They can adapt to lower light conditions, but if you notice yellow leaf tips, discoloration, or leggy growth, the plant may be telling you that it needs more light. Even though the silver sword philodendron is quite tolerant, its leaves can not handle direct sunlight. Be on the lookout for brown tips which can indicate sun damage.
We recommended placing the silver sword philodendron near a north or east-facing window, or a few feet back from a south or west-facing window. This will ensure that the plant gets the steady but indirect light it needs to grow its striking foliage.
The silver sword philodendron likes moist soil, so regular watering is a must. As with most plants, it’s all about finding the right balance between bone-dry and soggy soil. With the silver sword philodendron, you’ll want to aim for consistent moisture. You can check the moisture level of your plant by pushing your finger an inch or two into the soil. If it seems dry, then it might be time to water.
Maintaining adequate soil moisture is especially important during hot summer months. As a general rule, you’ll want to water once a week. But make sure to cut back on watering during the winter when the plant is not in its active growth phase.
While the silver sword philodendron can tolerate overwatering on occasion, make it a habit, and you risk suffocating the roots. Prevention is the best solution, so stick to your watering best practices and avoid irreparable harm.
A planter with ample drainage is essential, as is a well-draining soil. Pot plates may exist to catch water and keep things tidy, but that doesn’t mean you should let your plants sit in run-off. Check back a few minutes after watering and pour out the excess that’s accumulated in the pot plate. These supplemental tips can’t completely eliminate the risk of root rot, but they can put luck on your side.
Like many philodendrons, the silver sword is easy to care for and can tolerate imperfect watering. For optimal growth, it’s important to keep soil moist while providing good drainage.
Temperature & Humidity
The silver sword philodendrons is a tropical plant that enjoys warm, humid environments. Its ideal temperature is somewhere between 65° and 80° Fahrenheit. While the silver sword can tolerate some degree of temperature fluctuation, it prefers steady conditions, so keep it away from drafty spots for optimal growth.
The silver sword philodendron prefers humid air or about 50% to 80% humidity. Keep an eye on your plant because it will often tell you if the air is too dry. Droopy, yellowing leaves are often the first sign that your plant needs more humidity.
There are several ways to achieve an optimal level of humidity. And no, investing in a humidifier is not the only option! One easy hack is to group your plants together. Plants release moisture through a process called transpiration, and keeping them together can raise the humidity of the surrounding air.
Other painless hacks include: misting the leaves a few times a week or placing your silver sword philodendron on a pebble tray filled with water. If all else fails, moving it to the bathroom is a sure-fire way to get it more humidity.
Soil & Potting
There are two key things to keep in mind when potting your silver sword philodendron: soil drainage and soil nutrients.
When it comes to soil drainage, a planter with a drainage hole is the first step, followed by potting in loose, well-draining soil.
If you’re using traditional potting soil, then mix in an airating substance like perlite to help the water move through the soil more efficiently. You can also try an African violet mix or a succulent and cacti potting mix. Regardless of how you choose to boost drainage, note that silver sword philodendrons also need soil with good nutrients. One simple solution you can try is to mix in an organic component like peat.
If you’re combining perlite, peat, and soil, try a 1:1:2 ratio.
You’ll only need to re-pot your silver sword philodendron when it begins to outgrow its current pot. Generally, plants outgrow their pots every 12-18 months, and this one is no different. If you notice your silver sword’s roots coming out of the bottom of the pot or breaking the soil’s surface, it’s time to re-pot. You’ll want to grab something that’s 1-2 inches bigger in diameter to give the plant room to grow. This is also a great time to add a stake or moss pole for the growing vines to climb.
In its natural environment, the silver sword philodendron will start its life growing in the soil before climbing up onto nearby trees and rocks. As an indoor plant, you have a few options for how to guide its growth. When the plant is young it will grow just fine on its own but as it matures, you may want to provide it with a pole or something else to climb on. Another idea is to try it as a trailing plant in a hanging basket, either guiding the leaves up the fixture or letting them cascade down.
Silver sword philodendrons grow quite quickly and can put out a new leaf (or two) each month under the right conditions. These plants can grow up to 6 feet tall, though they’re more commonly somewhere between 1 and 3 feet tall.
Pruning will keep your silver sword philodendron full and healthy and will discourage leggy growth. When you prune, you’re essentially creating a wound, so make sure to use sterilized, clean shears.
Locate the brown nodes and cut right above them for optimal growth. New leaves come out of these joints, so keep them safe and try not to trim too much at once. You’ll want to trim evenly around the plant, but take care not to trim too many leaves at once as you risk shocking the plant.
Fertilization is a great way to boost your plant’s growth and promote healthy foliage. You can fertilize your silver sword philodendron monthly during its active growing season (spring and summer) and bi-monthly in the winter.
Make sure to take the proper precautions to avoid damaging your plant with fertilizer. These include watering before fertilization and adequately diluting your concentration. Fertilizer that is too strong or that comes into contact with dry roots can cause damage through root burn.
As a general rule, it’s good to err on the side of caution when it comes to fertilizer. A little goes a long way, but too much can cause irreparable damage. Low-cost fertilizers can leave harmful salt deposits, so it’s a good investment to pay a little bit more for a quality formula or opt for something natural.
Silver sword philodendrons are toxic to both animals and people. Keep them out of reach of pets and children! If you have sensitive skin, you can prevent irritation by wearing gloves during potting and repotting.
Common Pests & Issues
Here are some of the most common pests & issues you may run into when keeping silver sword philodendrons.
Root Rot: Yellow Leaves Are a Warning
Root rot is any plant’s worst nightmare, and that includes your silver sword philodendron. It’s not as susceptible to root rot as some other varieties are, but it’s still an issue to keep in mind. Root rot is a common problem that causes irreparable damage but luckily is preventable. The key to prevention is ensuring the root system has enough air to breathe.
The first step is finding a pot with good drainage and planting in well-aerated soil. But the most common culprit is overwatering, which can suffocate the roots. If you start to notice yellowing or brown leaves, your plant may be telling you that it needs less water and more breathing room.
Silver sword philodendrons generally have good pest resistance, especially if they’re healthy and mature. Still, it’s good to be aware of a few common pests as they can harm any plant that becomes infested.
Thrips are among the worst of the little critters that you might encounter. These tiny insects can either be black, which means they’re adults, or you may find white larva. They typically pop up in groups and are attracted to lighter-colored leaves. They are particularly pesky as they’re small and can be hard to find but still cause extensive damage.
Spider mites and mealybugs are more common but also harmful to your silver sword philodendron. They suck the plant’s sap which deprives it of its nutrients and cover its leaves with little cobwebs that interfere with light absorption.
While you can use insecticidal soap for any pest, several natural options may be less damaging to your plant. You can try wiping the leaves with castile soap or rubbing alcohol as the first line of attack. If you use rubbing alcohol, make sure to give the plant a break between rounds as it can be harsh on them too. Always isolate sick plants to prevent the spread of infection.
Propagating Silver Sword Philodendron
You can easily propagate the silver sword philodendron by taking a stem cutting. These can be placed in either water or directly into the soil. Propagating your plant can help you achieve more volume if you re-plant the cuttings back in their original pot. Or you can take a cutting and create a brand new plant for a fellow plant-lover.
Note that while silver sword philodendrons are relatively easy to propagate, not all cuttings will successfully root. Patience is an important part of the process! It is best to propagate in the spring or summer and only from plants that are healthy and mature.
Below, we answer how to propagate silver sword philodendron via stem cuttings.
Stem Cutting Propagation
- Find a stem with at least one brown node (two or more is better) and one but optimally, two healthy leaves.
- Use clean, sterilized scissors to cut below the node
- Here you have two options. Either keep the stem cutting in a container with water or a small container with moist, well-draining soil. If you’re potting in soil, bore a small hole with a pencil and place the cutting in the hole. Rooting your cutting in water is straightforward, just make sure the leaf doesn’t come in contact with the water.
- Place your container with your cutting(s) somewhere that gets bright, indirect sun and check up on them every few days. Keep soil moist if rooting in soil and change the water every few weeks if rooting in water.
- It can take a few weeks to a month for the cutting to establish, but once you see a bunch of small roots, you can plant your cutting in its permanent home.
- If you’re propagating multiple cuttings at once, you can root them in the same container (if using soil) but will need separate containers if using water.
Common Questions & Troubleshooting
Here are some of the most common questions we’ve been asked about the silver sword philodendron (philodendron hastatum).
Is the silver sword philodendron hard to care for?
No! Like most philodendrons, the silver sword is low-maintenance. It’s not overly prone to root rot, and while it does have specific humidity and temperature preferences, it can tolerate a range of light conditions.
Is the silver sword philodendron rare?
Yes, the silver sword philodendron is considered rare because it’s an endangered species. It’s also a less common variety of philodendron, so you may not come across it as frequently in nurseries.
Where can I buy a silver sword philodendron?
You likely won’t find a silver sword philodendron in a big box store. You can always check with your local nurseries and plant shops, but your safest bet is to look online. There are plenty of online shops that stock philodendron hastatum, and if you live in a big city, Facebook Marketplace can connect you with sellers in your community.
What does a silver sword philodendron cost?
Despite being somewhat hard to come by, most silver sword philodendrons are within the 20-50$ price range. Expect to pay more for mature plants.
Why are the leaves on my silver sword philodendron turning yellow?
Yellow leaves on a silver sword philodendron can mean a few different things, some of them more serious than others.
The first possible cause you’ll want to rule out is overwatering. If your plant routinely sits in soggy soil, let it dry out and allow more time between watering.
If this doesn’t help, the yellow leaves may be a sign of a light or humidity issue. Move your plant to a spot with better light, and double-check that your air is not too dry.
Why are the leaves of my silver sword philodendron curling?
More often than not, curling leaves on a silver sword philodendron are nothing to worry about. Typically, this is a result of a shock either from repotting or a temperature change. If not, curling leaves can also indicate low humidity or parched soil.