Rhaphidophora hayi is a fascinating tropical climber with a unique growing habit.
It’s commonly called the shingle plant because its leaves lie flat against its support, overlapping like shingles on a roof or wall.
While it was a rarely-seen houseplant in the past, it’s become quite trendy and widely available.
|Scientific Name||Rhaphidophora hayi|
|Common Name||Shingle Plant|
|Light||Medium to bright indirect sunlight|
|Watering||Water if the top 2 inches of soil are dry|
|Temperature||55 to 80ºF (13 to 27ºC)|
|Hardiness Zone||10 to 12|
|Soil Type||Rich, quick-draining, loamy|
|Soil pH||6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)|
|Fertilizing||A balanced feed once a month in spring and summer|
|Repotting||Every 1 or 2 years|
|Pruning||Beginning of the growing season|
|Propagation||Root in soil|
|Toxicity||Toxic to humans and pets|
|Mature Size||5 feet as a houseplant|
|Bloom Time||Rarely blooms indoors|
What’s Unique About Rhaphidophora Hayi?
The Rhaphidophora hayi plant is native to the north-east coast of Queensland, Papua New Guinea, and the Bismarck Archipelago. It grows in the tropical lowland rainforests close to the Pacific Ocean.
Rhaphidophora hayi plants are climbers in the aroid family.
However, unlike most other epiphytic plants, Rhaphidophora hayi grows flat against a horizontal surface, creating an interesting two-dimensional effect. They must be given support to grow properly.
Growing Rhaphidophora hayi is pretty easy once you’ve taken care of that essential growing condition.
Its distinctive flat growing habit gives you interesting options for how to display this tropical plant in your home.
Rhaphidophora Hayi Care
In the lowland tropical rainforests where Rhaphidophora hayi originates, it’s used to a hot, humid, and shady environment.
You shouldn’t have too much trouble providing a fair approximation of those growing conditions in your Rhaphidophora hayi plant care.
For good shingle plant care, make sure it stays warm and moist and out of the full sun.
Because the tree canopy filters the hot tropical sun in its native rainforests, Rhaphidophora hayi light requirements are for bright but indirect light.
Shingle plant light needs are between 10,000 to 20,000 lux, which is usually quite easy to supply using natural light, no matter what direction your windows face.
An east or north-facing window will probably be bright enough to give your Rhaphidophora hayi the light it needs.
A south or west exposure can be more challenging, but all you need to do is set your Rhaphidophora hayi out of the full sun, or hang a sheer curtain to shade it.
In the lowland rainforests where Rhaphidophora hayi is found in the wild, these epiphytic plants are used to rainfall every 2 out of 3 days in summer. Even in the winter “dry” season, it rains every 3 or 4 days.
Consequently, Rhaphidophora hayi’s watering needs are fairly high, with the soil staying consistently moist.
Rhaphidophora hayi watering should not be done on a strict schedule, since the soil may not dry out at the same rate over the growing season.
Instead, check every few days and water shingle plant whenever the top 2 inches of the soil are dry. This will naturally be more often in summer than in winter.
In the tropical south Pacific, the daytime highs stay above 85ºF (30ºC) all year, while the nights are consistently around 75ºF (24ºC).
The Rhaphidophora hayi temperature range is between 55 to 80ºF (13 to 27ºC), so you will have no trouble with an adequate temperature for shingle plant.
It will be quite happy in a normal heated indoor space.
However, if you want to give your Rhaphidophora hayi a real taste of tropical heat, move it outdoors in summer.
Its temperature tolerance drops right off below 55ºF (13ºC), though, so make sure that you don’t leave it out too long into the fall.
It has no frost hardiness at all.
The lowland tropical rainforests of the south Pacific are steamy. In Papua New Guinea, for instance, the humidity stays between 80 to 90% all year.
You will need to satisfy your Rhaphidophora hayi humidity requirements to keep it growing well.
The ideal humidity for shingle plant is around 70%, which obviously is not suitable for your entire home.
Instead, you need to create a higher humidity level in the immediate vicinity of your Rhaphidophora hayi.
Because of its flat, climbing growing habit, you can use your Rhaphidophora hayi as a piece of living wall art in your bathroom, which naturally has a higher humidity level.
The best long-term solution is to use a humidifier. Regular misting of the leave is also very helpful. It’s best to do that first thing in the morning.
Rhaphidophora hayi soil has to be loose and well-draining, while still retaining a consistent amount of moisture.
The recommended pH level for shingle plant is 6.1 to 6.5, or mildly acidic.
In the rainforests, it usually roots in the ground before climbing rocks or trees, so its epiphytic roots do a lot of the work gathering nutrients as it grows.
You can use an aroid soil mix for your Rhaphidophora hayi with great success.
However, there is a way to not use any soil for shingle plant. You can attach your Rhaphidophora hayi to a moss board. Water them by soaking the whole board thoroughly once a week.
Rhaphidophora hayi fertilizer should be used during the growing season to ensure strong and healthy growth, but be careful not to use too much.
A good fertilizer for shingle plant is a standard indoor liquid mixture with a balanced fertilizer ratio of 10-10-10.
Once a month, right after watering, dilute the solution to half the recommended strength and pour it evenly over the soil surface.
If you are growing your Rhaphidophora hayi on a moss board, simply add the fertilizer to the soaking water when you water.
Do not use any fertilizer in winter when your Rhaphidophora hayi will be dormant.
Potting & Repotting
Rhaphidophora hayi repotting should be done every 1 to 2 years.
It’s time for repotting shingle plant when the roots fill up the pot and grow out of the drainage holes.
Only go up one pot size, as you don’t want too much soil in proportion to the root ball.
You will want a pot with some weight to it, as the board that your Rhaphidophora hayi needs can be top-heavy.
A glazed pot is best to retain the soil moisture, but it must have drainage holes.
If you need to replace the board, carefully detach the roots from the old one, and secure the vine to the new one with string until the roots reattach.
Always replace the potting soil, as the old mix will be depleted after a couple of years.
You will not need to do much Rhaphidophora hayi pruning, as its natural growth habit is very attractive.
Of course, you will need to trim off dead or damaged leaves. Not only do they detract from the look, but they can also attract insects or harbor disease.
Aside from that, cutting shingle plant should be limited to occasional shaping as it climbs up its board.
However, do not remove more than a quarter of the foliage in any one growing season, as that can harm your Rhaphidophora hayi.
Use sharp, sterilized scissors, and wear gloves to protect yourself from the irritating sap.
Rhaphidophora hayi propagation is extremely easy, even for a beginner gardener.
To propagate shingle plant using stem cuttings, cut a 4 to 6 inch length of stem with several nodes and a few leaves.
Strip off all but the top leaves and set the stem in moist soil with at least one node buried. You can also lay it atop some damp sphagnum moss.
Keep it in a warm, humid atmosphere. The easiest way is by covering the pot with a plastic bag.
Within a few weeks you should see new roots forming. Remove the bag and give it a small, flat surface to start climbing.
You can also half bury a leaf, and a new stem will grow out of it and start to climb.
Also, make sure to check out our in-depth Rhaphidophora tetrasperma plant care guide.
Common Problems of Rhaphidophora Hayi
While there are some potential Rhaphidophora hayi problems, most of them can be prevented by providing proper growing conditions and routine maintenance.
When the leaves do indicate some problems with shingle plant by becoming discolored or damaged, it’s usually not too difficult to figure out the cause, and then apply the right solution.
Potential Rhaphidophora hayi pests include most of the usual indoor menaces, but you can usually stop their attacks before they even occur.
If you spray your shingle plant periodically with a neem oil or insecticidal soap solution, most bugs will stay away. You should also inspect them frequently to make sure no one is hiding under the leaves.
Mealybugs gather on the underside of leaves, looking like little tufts of cotton. Scale look like small brown bumps under the leaves or on the stems. You can wipe them off with rubbing alcohol.
Aphids are small green bugs that may be nestled between the leaf and its board. Spider mites spin webs and leave little yellow spots on the leaves. Both of them can be rinsed off in the shower or sink.
If you maintain good watering practices, you should not see any Rhaphidophora hayi diseases.
However, if your shingle plant does develop a bacterial or fungal disease, act immediately before it spreads too far and kills your plant.
Root rot is likely to set in when you overwater your Rhaphidophora hayi to the point that the roots can’t breathe in the saturated soil. It will manifest itself in yellowing leaves, soft stems, and black, smelly roots.
Leaf spot may be one of several different diseases caused when foliage stays wet. Leaves may have yellow, black or brown spots that grow and spread, ending up killing the leaves.
Cut out all infected parts, making sure that you cut into healthy tissue beyond the infection. Replant your Rhaphidophora hayi in fresh, porous soil.
If you don’t take good care of your Rhaphidophora hayi, you may encounter some growing problems. Luckily, you should be able to clear them up and heal your sick plant.
If the leaves of your Rhaphidophora hayi are yellowing, you could be looking at a case of too low light levels, or stress from repotting. Mind you, it could also mean too much fertilizer, or not enough. Or overwatering, or underwatering.
Leaves curling under are often a sign that your shingle plant is suffering in too low humidity, or has been exposed to cold drafts.
Burned edges probably indicate that your Rhaphidophora hayi is getting too much sun.
Toxicity of Rhaphidophora Hayi
The shingle plant is toxic to humans and animals because of the calcium oxalate raphides found in all parts of the plant.
Because of its toxicity, it’s important to keep it away from small children and your pets, and to know what to do in case of ingestion or exposure.
In most cases, Rhaphidophora hayi is only mildly irritating to humans.
The worst you usually have to worry about is a rash from the sap if it gets on your skin, so wear gloves when handling it.
However, children may be intrigued by its interesting look, and try eating a leaf.
They will almost immediately feel stinging pain from the raphides, so probably won’t take more than one bite.
Rinse their mouth out and treat the local pain in their mouth with something cold and soothing.
However, on the rare occasion that they develop a swollen tongue and airways, take them to the emergency room.
Your pets, including cats, dogs, and rabbits, are all at risk if they ingest some Rhaphidophora hayi foliage. The raphides can cause internal damage without treatment.
If, after eating some leaves, your pet starts drooling more than usual, wheezing, or has vomiting and diarrhea, take it to the veterinarian.
You can keep your Rhaphidophora hayi out of reach of any curious creatures fairly easily because of its unique growing habit.
Because you can mount it on a moss board and hang it anywhere, try using it in place of a framed picture high on a wall, inaccessible to any pet or child.
Rhaphidophora Hayi Appearance
The distinctive Rhaphidophora hayi appearance is sure to get the attention of anyone who sees it.
The stems and leaves grow flat against whatever surface they can find to climb, creating a two-dimensional piece of living art.
The flowers rarely appear indoors, but the leaves are the main attraction, anyway.
The foliage of Rhaphidophora hayi grows in a unique pattern.
The leaves lie flat against whatever surface they are trained up, overlapping slightly just like shingles on a wall or roof. They run up both sides of their stems, alternating as they go. They are attached to the stem by very short petioles.
Each leaf grows to between 4 to 9 inches long, and 2 to 8 inches across, in an oval shape with a pointed tip. They are a bright, glossy green.
The leaves have a thick, leathery texture. They should be wiped down periodically to keep them clean of dust.
There is not a lot of information on whether Rhaphidophora hayi flowering is likely on vines grown indoors as potted plants.
Usually with epiphytic vines, blooming is more likely to occur on plants grown outdoors in an environment where they can grow to their full size.
When Rhaphidophora hayi does bloom, the flowers are fairly insignificant. A small orange or apricot spathe, shaped like a canoe, is wrapped around a creamy white cigar-shaped spadix with hundreds of tiny flowers.
They bloom in spring and summer.
It’s not worth trying to get your Rhaphidophora hayi to bloom indoors, as the fascinating nature of the vine is quite enough.
Size and Growth
When grown indoors as a potted plant, the full size of Rhaphidophora hayi is likely to be 5 feet.
However, in the wild a shingle plant can be as long as 32 feet.
Rhaphidophora hayi has a moderate growth rate.
It will grow faster with bigger leaves when it is given a support to climb. Its epiphytic roots at each node will quickly latch on to a vertical surface such as a rock face, tree trunk, or even a concrete post or brick wall.
Give it a rough wooden plank, sphagnum moss pole or moss board to grab onto and it will start to climb.
Rhaphidophora Hayi Fragrance
The only reported Rhaphidophora hayi fragrance is not a particularly pleasant one. It is said that there is a fish smell when the stems are cut.
Aside from that, there is no Rhaphidophora hayi scent.
However, that’s not a disadvantage when you want to grow your Rhaphidophora hayi in a small space where a strong scent would be overpowering.
Because it doesn’t take up a lot of space because of its flat, vertical growth habit, someone in a small apartment may well want the greenery without a fragrance.
Its strong architectural look would be perfect in public settings where fragrant plants can’t be used because of scent allergies.
Suggested Uses for Rhaphidophora Hayi
Rhaphidophora hayi is a fascinating plant to use indoors or outside, wherever you want a climbing plant that will add an artistic touch.
Indoors, you can mount it on a moss board and hang it like a painting in even the smallest space like a bathroom.
You could even suspend a series of moss panels to create a unique screen for a bedroom alcove in a studio apartment.
Outside in a tropical climate, you can let a row of Rhaphidophora hayi vines clothe a boring concrete wall. Another option is to let one climb up into the branches of a tall tree.
What is Rhaphidophora hayi?
Rhaphidophora hayi, also called the shingle vine, is an epiphytic evergreen tropical vine native to the lowland rainforests of north-east Queensland and Papua New Guinea.
How to identify Rhaphidophora hayi?
Rhaphidophora hayi has 4 to 9 inch long slightly overlapping green leaves that grow flat against a surface such as a wall, board, or tree.
How to care for Rhaphidophora hayi?
Rhaphidophora hayi should be grown in rich, well-draining soil that is kept consistently moist, in medium to bright indirect light in a warm and humid environment.
How to grow Rhaphidophora hayi indoors?
Rhaphidophora hayi can be grown indoors as a potted plant or mounted on a moss board, as long as humidity levels and ambient temperatures are high.
How to grow Rhaphidophora hayi outdoors?
Rhaphidophora hayi can be grown outdoors in zones 10 to 12 as a container plant or in the ground in a shady location where it has something to climb.
How fast does Rhaphidophora hayi grow?
Rhaphidophora hayi has a moderate growth rate, taking several years to reach its full height of 5 feet indoors, and longer than that to extend to 32 feet outdoors.
How tall does Rhaphidophora hayi grow?
Rhaphidophora hayi will reach a full length of 5 feet when grown indoors as a potted plant, while plants grown in the ground in tropical regions can exceed 32 feet.
How to make Rhaphidophora hayi grow faster?
Rhaphidophora hayi will grow faster when it is kept in a very hot and humid environment, in light that is very bright but short of full sun, and given support to climb.
How to stake Rhaphidophora hayi?
Rhaphidophora hayi has to be staked to grow properly. Use a roughly sawn plank or a moss covered board to give its roots something to grab onto.
How to pot Rhaphidophora hayi?
Rhaphidophora hayi should be potted in loose, rich soil, with a support such as a flat board buried in the pot. It can also be mounted on a moss board.
How to revive Rhaphidophora hayi?
If your Rhaphidophora hayi’s soil has dried out, you may be able to revive it by soaking the pot in a pail of tepid water until it is saturated.
Why is my Rhaphidophora hayi dying?
If your Rhaphidophora hayi leaves have turned yellow, the stems are soft, and the roots are black and smelly, it has developed root rot because of overwatering.
Why is my Rhaphidophora hayi drooping?
Your Rhaphidophora hayi leaves may be drooping because of overwatering or underwatering, or it may be because of stress from a recent shipping or transplanting.
How cold can Rhaphidophora hayi tolerate?
Rhaphidophora hayi will grow well between 55 to 80ºF (13 to 27ºC), but anything lower than that will halt growth and damage the foliage, while frost will kill it.
How to get rid of pests on Rhaphidophora hayi?
Rhaphidophora hayi pests can usually be deterred from settling on the plant by spraying it once or twice a month with an insecticidal soap or neem oil solution.
Is Rhaphidophora hayi toxic to cats?
Yes, Rhaphidophora hayi is toxic to cats. If your cat starts exhibiting signs of poisoning such as vomiting or diarrhea, take it to the veterinarian.
Is Rhaphidophora hayi toxic to dogs?
Yes, Rhaphidophora hayi is toxic to dogs. If your dog has eaten some leaves and is drooling excessively, wheezing, or has vomiting or diarrhea, take it to the veterinarian.
Is Rhaphidophora hayi toxic to children?
Yes, Rhaphidophora hayi is toxic to children. If your child has eaten some foliage and has a swollen tongue or constricted airways, take them to the emergency room.
Is Rhaphidophora hayi toxic to humans?
Yes, Rhaphidophora hayi is toxic to humans. If you get some of the sap on your skin, rinse it off thoroughly to prevent a painful rash.
Does Rhaphidophora hayi have a scent?
When Rhaphidophora hayi stems are cut they exude a fishy smell, but otherwise there is no scent from either the foliage or the rare flowers.