by Matt Gibson
You may know of arrowhead vine by one of its other various names, such as five fingers, American evergreen, nephthytis, or goosefoot vine. A species of ariod from the Araceae family, arrowhead vine hails from a large chunk of Latin America and has been naturalized in the US and in the West Indies, most popularly grown as a houseplant. Like most vines, it will creep along a support if one is provided as it reaches maturity, otherwise it acts much like a ground cover plant, making it well suited for containers, as well as indoor trellis ideas.
Arrowhead vine is lovely in container or hanging basket by itself, or with a companion plant. Most arrowhead plants have variegated leaves that evolve as the plant matures from a simple arrow shaped structure, into a divided, long-lobed leaf.
Be Careful Handling Arrowhead Plant
Always wear gardening gloves when handling arrowhead plant, as too much contact could result in skin irritation.
Warning To Pet Owners!
Arrowhead vine is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. Don’t grow it indoors if you have indoor pets, or anywhere it is possible for your dogs or cats to get to, or don’t plant it at all. If you have horses, keep arrowhead vines out of all pastures and grazing areas. Signs that your dog, cat or horse might have ingested some arrowhead vine are: pain and swelling in mouth, tongue, and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting (cats and dogs only), difficulty swallowing, and oral irritation. If your house is a pet free zone, arrowhead vine is a great decorative option for indoor areas.
Varieties of Arrowhead Vine
The most widely cultivated species of arrowhead plant is Syngonium podophyllum, which is often simply called syngonium. Visual similarities between the arrowhead vine and the african native of the same genus, Nephthytis, has led to some confusion, and the reason for arrowhead being referred to as nephthytis in some regions. There are actually only two varieties of arrowhead that grow in the wild. These varieties are podophyllum, which this article is focused on, and peliocadum, which is native to Panama and Costa Rica, and rarely cultivated.
Since growing in popularity as a houseplant, modern botanists have started to create new hybrid varieties with bright and vibrant leaf colors and textures. For more information on some of the exciting new varieties, check out the link to the variety video in the last section of this article.
Growing Conditions for Arrowhead Vine
Arrowhead thrives outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 10-12, and has a wide native reach in warm, tropical parts of the globe. In cool climate regions, it is commonly grown indoors. Provided with a proper growing environment, the arrowhead plant will grow lush and healthy in an indoor setting.
Arrowhead plant generally prefers bright light but no direct sunlight exposure. Deeper green arrowhead plants enjoy partial shade, while arrowhead vines with variegated leaves can handle a little bit of direct sun exposure.
Use a spray bottle to mist arrowhead plant as frequently as possible in order to create a humid environment. Keep the soil moist throughout the summer and spring. Reduce watering frequency in the fall and into winter. Don’t let the soil dry out completely during these months, but keep it only slightly damp as opposed to moist, as you would in the summer and spring.
For soil, use an organic matter rich potting mix that has excellent drainage. Feed with a liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season. The arrowhead vine prefers a consistent temperature range that is warm and humid. Keep in areas of the home or in spots outdoors that never reach temperatures of 60 F or below.
Propagation, Planting, and Repotting
To make more arrowhead vines, propagate from stem cuttings, which are best taken in the late spring early summer. Cuttings are the easiest possible way to propagate arrowhead vine, as cuttings root readily. If your arrowhead has aerial roots growing along the stem, then take a cutting from the stem with roots attached for even greater success rates.
Plant your arrowhead cuttings with crown or aerial roots placed no more than a half inch deep into the soil. Water thoroughly after transplanting to help ease the shock of transition, then keep the soil moist consistently until mid to late fall.
Repotting of your arrowhead plants should occur every two years, during the springtime. Either repot the entire plant into a larger container so that it can continue to grow, or seperate the root structure into halves and propagate the plant during this time. It is always a good idea to increase the size of the container, even when dividing a plant, so that it will have more room to grow in its new home.
Care of Arrowhead Vine
Use a half strength solution of a balanced liquid fertilizer to feed the soil in your arrowhead containers throughout the growing season. Discontinue feeding during the fall and winter and continue again in early spring to encourage new growth.
Mist the plant frequently to encourage a humid environment. A humidifier or a base with moistened rocks are other ways to encourage humidity inexpensively. Arrowhead will benefit from and enjoy a hydroponic growing system as well, though most indoor gardeners don’t have the luxury of depending on such an elaborate setup.
Pinch back new tip growth to encourage a more structurally sound, but compact growing habit. If growing outdoors, be sure to place in a shaded location during the summer months to avoid leaf scorching.
Garden Pests and Diseases of Arrowhead Vine
If your arrowhead spends some time outdoors, be sure to check it for any signs of pest infestation before bringing it back inside. Arrowhead is susceptible to spider mites, aphids, scale insects, and most commonly, mealybugs. The main method of prevention that you can apply is to keep your arrowhead vines inside, but if you had to move them outdoors for any reason, check them for any signs of infestation before bringing them back indoors.
Mealybugs – The three to seven inch pest damages your plants similarly to aphids, distorting the leaves and leaving a shiny honeydew or sooty mold-like growth upon the leaves of your houseplants. The culprit is a small bug covered in a white, mealy-looking substance. Treat by releasing parasitic wasps or ladybugs, or by using horticultural soap to suffocate the pests. Be careful not to spray with horticultural soap when temperatures are high or when the plant is exposed to direct sunlight, as the liquid will burn the leaves of the arrowhead plant.
Aphids – Aphids can often be put at bay by killing them with your hands brushing off the underside of an affected plant’s leaves. You can also knock them off of a plant by hitting them with a blast of water from your hose. Ladybugs, hoverflies, and parasitic wasps have been used to keep aphids under control, as well as horticultural soap, to suffocate them just like mealybugs. Just be sure to spray them when the temperature is low enough that the liquid doesn’t burn the leaves of your arrowhead vine.
Spider mites – Blast plants with a surge of water to knock the spider mites off the leaves, then treat the soil with neem oil or other natural pesticides to kill off spider mite colonies permanently. For more on how to control spider mites, follow this link.
Scale insects – Small infestations of scale bugs can be treated by wiping off the underside of leaves with a damp cloth. Larger infestations are met with more drastic measures, such as removal and disposal of all infected plants from the growing area. Horticultural soap can be used to treat larger infestations if caught early enough.
Videos About Growing Arrowhead Vine
If you are having issues with mealybugs, mites, aphids, and other pest issues associated with arrowhead vine, this video tutorial from YouTuber Summer Rayne Oakes, may have all the answers you need to tackle the issue at hand:
This short film will teach you all of the tips, tricks, and secrets you need to know to propagate arrowhead from stem cuttings like a professional:
Interested in some of the new hybrid varieties that specialists have created in the lab? Check out some of these lovely new arrowhead vine species:
If you are more of a visual learner and would like an in-depth guide for arrowhead plant care to accompany this article, this is the best one we could find: