Syngonium podophyllum, native to Central and South America, goes by numerous common names such as Arrowhead Vine, Goosefoot, Nephthytis, Arrowhead Plant and African Evergreen. The genus Syngonium consists of over 30 species of flowering plants that belong to the Araceae family, a family that includes familiar favourites like Aglaonema, Alocasia, Philodendron, Dieffenbachia, Anthurium and many others. The Podophyllum is my preferred Syngonium and one of the most popular, although there are many others that are just as appealing and rapidly increasing in popularity. It is available for purchase year round in local garden centers and greenhouses, and it’s sold in many different ways: small and medium-sized pots, hanging baskets and as a climbing vine in pots with moss poles. There’s definitely something for everyone.
The difficulty level of this plant depends on who’s telling the story. Generally speaking, this Syngonium has earned the status as an old-time favourite because of its reputation as a fairly carefree indoor plant. That (arguable amongst some growers) carefree nature is a very attractive feature, especially with beginners and negligent plant owners. Thus the popularity. But not everyone agrees. For some, the Syngonium podophyllum is considered quite temperamental (a diva-type plant) and not very people-friendly. I personally find it relatively easy but agree that it can be tricky.
The secret to success with this lovely plant is proper watering. But proper watering is always easier said than done, especially with plants like this one that want their compost to be kept evenly moist at all times (in brighter locations) but never soggy, because they are quite susceptible to root rot while at the same time being sensitive to drying out too much. And in addition to all that, watering also depends on whether you grow this plant in low light, which it handles very well, or brighter light, which it also easily adapts to. So, all that to say that the (possible) main problem with this plant is that it requires the mastering of a frustrating water-juggling act. And this only applies to some people because many growers have absolutely no problem with watering any type of Syngonium.
My suggestion is to pot this plant in an airy yet slightly compact soil that is fast draining but able to retain some moisture at the same time. A commercial, all-purpose potting soil with an addition of perlite or other such material that adds aeration to the soil will usually suffice. This will allow the plant to retain some moisture but never stay wet for too long. Problem solved. More or less.
In simpler terms: if you are growing your Syngonium in low light, allow the soil to dry slightly between watering. In medium light, keep the soil somewhat moist. And in higher light, keep the soil evenly moist at all times. Reduce watering in the winter but never allow it to dry out completely. Always avoid soggy soil, which will lead to rot.
Syngonium podophyllum can also be grown directly in water (roots submerged 24/7), which it’s a perfect candidate for, or in hydroculture (wash roots free of soil and pot up in clay pellets), which helps eliminate all water woes. If you decide to grow in water, keep the water properly oxygenated at all times by changing it often (at least once a week would be terrific).
Although this Syngonium will adapt to low light and tolerate it for a fairly long time, it will not be at its best in that type of location. Place your plant in a brightly lit spot where it can receive filtered light. During the fall and winter seasons, some direct sunlight from an east or west window is very much appreciated. Make sure you protect your plant from the hot rays of direct midday sun during the summer months, which will bleach or burn the leaves.
Syngonium is happy in average home temperatures between 15°C (60°F) and 24°C (75°F) and prefers humidity levels to be above 30 percent. In the winter when the air is very dry, mist the plant as often as possible, place it on a pebble tray filled with water or add a humidifier nearby.
One of the most remarkable features of this plant is the dramatic change in leaf shape that occurs as the plant grows older. In its juvenile stage, the leaves are arrow-shaped and the stalks are erect. As the plant ages, the stems acquire a climbing habit and the leaves become lobed. If you want to retain the juvenile leaf style, just cut off the climbing stems as they form.
All in all, Syngonium podophyllum is not a difficult plant to grow indoors. Water carefully, provide adequate light and keep humidity levels at a healthy level. That’s really all there is to keeping this lovely specimen happy.