Rhaphidophora hayi: Shingle plant

Family: Araceae
Common name: Shingle plant, Shingle vine

Shingle plants are very unique, beautiful, tropical plants that can grown easily in home gardens, climbing on rocks, walls, trees, or other supporting structures. Their unique growth pattern of leaves growing flush against the surface like roof shingles gives the plant its name.

They are native to Australia, but they are now grown as garden plants in most tropical countries. The plant grows to height of 2 meters with a few long stems that climb up vertically. Leaves are dark green, overlapping, about 8-12 cm long, and roughly oval with pointed tips.

Since they grow in rainforests, Shingle plants prefer partial shade, and well-drained soil. They are epiphytes that prefer growing on trees or rocks, with small roots clinging to the surface helping the plant to grow tall.

They can be grown indoors in bright, indirect sunlight, but make sure you give the right surface for it to latch onto. They can grow on moss poles or boards, coir poles, wooden boards, or tree branches. Remember to sand down wooden boards to make them rough, enabling the roots to hold on better.

Regular watering and misting will help the plant grow well. But overwatering will result in yellowing of leaves, and eventually root rot.

Shingle plants love warm, humid weather. In dry winter and summers, it helps to keep them on a pebble tray so that the plant can absorb water as needed. These plants can root well even from small stem cuttings, or even a single node. They will creep along the ground until they find a structure to climb on.

Shingle plants produce small spathe-like flowers, though garden plants rarely if ever produce flowers. They grow well in spring, during which time it’s good to fertilize the plant with liquid fertilizers that can be sprayed on the small epiphytic roots.

As the plant finds ideal structures to grow on, the leaf size increases making the plant look heavier at the top than at the bottom. Smooth surfaces on supporting structures might cause the vines to slip down as the plant grows heavier. It is a good idea to tie the plant lightly to the supporting structures with soft thread or twines that do not cut through the stem.

It is very difficult to repot Shingle plants since the supporting structures should also be moved. So make sure you provide pots and supporting structures that are large enough to let the plant grow undisturbed for a year or two. Apply mild, organic pesticides every 1-2 months to ensure that the leaves are not affected by mealy bugs, aphids, or mites.

Propagation is through stem cuttings or layering.