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Syngonium podophyllum (Arrow Head / Goose Foot Plant)

About the Syngonium

Syngonium podophyllum or the Goosefoot Plant / Nephthytis is a simple yet elegant and versatile houseplant. On our scale of Easy, Intermediate or Difficult, we ranked it Intermediate.

Syngonium is a great looking houseplant which needs only modest care

It's actually really"easy" to look after in most homes, however, because it has an unruly nature and tendency to creep quietly around your home (if allowed), it needs a certain amount of maintenance and pruning that other plants ordinarily don't.

The pruning is needed to keep a Syngonium living indoors handsome looking and to avoid the ugly flop effect. Also because the plant is slightly poisonous you really do want to know where all parts of the plant are growing and creeping around, especially if you have curious children or hungry pets around.

So let's get down to business and lay down six plus points about this interesting looking plant. Firstly, it ranked in Dr Wolverton's top 50 houseplants to clean the air.

Secondly, it's rarely troubled by pests and doesn't object too much if you throw the occasional bit of neglect its way.

Thirdly, it has amazing foliage with a variety of different variegation on the leaves. The cultivars you can buy are quite diverse although "White Butterfly" (below) is considered one of the best looking and consequently is one of the most popular.

The White Butterfly cultivar of Syngonium

Keep a lookout though for "Imperial White" and "Emerald Gem" both of which have a striking appearance.

The fourth plus is its versatility in that Syngonium can be grown easily as a compact bushy looking plant, or you can accept its creeping, climbing nature and grow it tall up against a moss stick. It also plays well with other plants so if you want to grow several different types of houseplants together in one large container you can do.

It's cheap to buy and very easy to propagate is our fifth plus.

Our sixth and final selling point is how it's always evolving and changing its appearance. A young plant or new leaves will give you arrowhead shaped leaves, with strong, bold variegation. As your plant ages, the leaves change shape to give a lobed finish. So if you compared a recent cutting with its parent you may even think they're different plants entirely.

Syngonium houseplant photo taken by Ine Carriquiry

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Syngonium Care Guide

Light

It doesn't matter how you're displaying your Syngonium or choosing how to grow it when it comes to the light requirements, these plants do best in a position where they receive good light with no direct sunlight.

Watering

Just remember to water well and then wait. Simple.

The soil needs to be evenly moist when you water, waiting for the soil to dry a little before evenly watering again.

This means you should avoid the "little and often" approach, just remember to water well and then wait. Simple.

In Winter the "wait" period will increase as the plant will take longer to dry out so adjust accordingly.

Humidity

Humidity is a little important for Syngoniums because very dry air will encourage brown leaf crisping which on mass will distract from the beautiful leaves. All the usual ways of increasing humidity can be used to prevent this.

Feeding

It's good to try and feed an established growing plant a few times a month.

Like most houseplants, Syngoniums do "rest" in Winter but for only a short period, so even in the middle of the coldest months of the year (providing the indoor room is warm) it's still quite normal to see new leaves emerging.

Therefore it's fine to feed in Winter too if you want. But only if the plant is actually growing and therefore has need of the fertiliser. If in any doubt don't bother.

Temperature

This is one houseplant which needs to be at the heart of your home.

This is one houseplant which needs to be at the heart of your home because it demands warmth, even in cold months. An unheated conservatory in Winter for example is a no-no. A minimum of 16°C (61°F).

Repotting

As with a lot of climbers, there is often considerably more green growth creeping around the place compared to what's happening underground with the roots. For this reason, they do pretty well in small pots and if you're feeding on a frequent basis they do well like this for several years.

However if you notice you're watering more frequently or growth has stopped (and you want more), repot your plant into a bigger pot during Spring using any standard compost mix.

Propagation

Propagating a Syngonium is easy peasy. You can root cuttings in water, or straight into potting compost. Both methods have a good success rate - providing you cut the right part of the plant.

Syngonium and Goosefoot plant propagation with water

To get started you want a new growth shoot that either has one or two leaves already, (or the formation of one).

Follow the growth shoot downwards several inches until you reach a pair of "nodes", these are a set of two small bumps (one on each side of the stem).

The cut needs to be made just a few centimeters below the nodes because this is where the new roots come from (see the photo above or in the picture Gallery and if you look closely you can see the nodes sticking out where the roots are forming).

If you are rooting using water, it's just a case of dropping the cutting in and keeping the water topped up. A few weeks later you will hopefully start to see new roots. Wait until you have a network of roots before carefully potting up in a free draining compost mix.

If you have opted to plant the cuttings straight into compost, then it's a good idea to dip the cut ends into a rooting hormone first. Put the cutting(s) towards the edge of the pot rather than in the very center, keep the soil moist and place it somewhere warm.

For best results take multiple cuttings at the same time but don't let them touch each other.

Speed of Growth

A Syngonium will grow steadily for much of the year providing it has good conditions. Left unchecked a stray vine can creep several feet in only a few months.

Height / Spread

As with many creepers and climbers you have to exercise a level of control and authority by pinching out (cutting off the tips of the) stray growing vines, otherwise you end up with an unruly and messy looking plant.

A well trained mature Syngonium growing up a moss stick for several years will, as a guide, give you the following maximum dimensions: 1.8m / 6ft in height and a spread of 60cm / 2ft.

Plants grown with no height support won't grow very tall at all, although you can still expect a bushy looking plant if you keep pinching the tips out.

Flowers

There are flowers which appear on mature Syngoniums, although they aren't very exciting or interesting. The key selling point of this particular houseplant is the foliage.

Is the Syngonium / Nephthytis Poisonous?

Yes the Syngonium is considered a little toxic to most pets in view of the calcium oxalates found in the plant's sap. Consuming the leaves can result in oral irritation and if fully ingested, vomiting is a common side effect.

Anything Else?

If the juvenile looking foliage along with a more compact plant is preferred, cut off all the climbing stems that develop — this will keep it bushy and neat. The leaves will be arrow-shaped rather than the adult lobed style.


Caring for Syngonium Summary

  1. Good Light Needed They need a moderately lit or brightly lit space. Avoid direct sunlight.

  2. Moderate Watering Water really well then wait until the soil has almost dried out before watering again.

  3. Warm Temperature To do well they need temperatures above 16°C (61°F).

  4. Feeding Feed once or twice every month all year round providing your plant is producing new leaves and shoots. If it's not, stop feeding.


Syngonium Plant Problems

Lanky and floppy plant

This happens if pruning, general maintenance and training have been avoided for a long period. Have a look at the photo below to understand what we mean.

An untrained and unpruned Syngonium

Either repot the entire plant, installing a moss stick at the same time and then train and pin the stems to the stick. Otherwise, take cuttings and start again. - See Anything Else for how to keep the plant bushy and compact.

Crispy Syngonium leaves

A very common symptom of low humidity.

Variegation changing

For many houseplants this is a result of incorrect light conditions over a prolonged period. This may be the case here too, but remember the leaves of Syngonium's change as they mature, both in shape and variegation, so these changes could be normal.

Pests

Pests are thankfully quite rare. Generally you only need to watch out for Spider Mites and Aphids.


Also on Ourhouseplants.com

Credit for the first "Emerald Green" photo - Article / Gallery - Jerzy Opioła
Credit for "White Butterfly" - Article / Gallery - Fanghong
Credit for close up of the Syngonium leaves - Article / Gallery - Ine Carriquiry
Credit for Syngonium with dark green leaves - Gallery - Omegatron


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