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How to Care for Philodendron Mottled Dragon

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What is a Philodendron Mottled Dragon?

The Philodendron Mottled Dragon is a fascinating plant perfect for collectors seeking a tropical beauty with the ability to surprise and delight. Despite their exotic look, they are fairly easy to care for. 

For some science background, the Philodendron ‘Mottled Dragon’ is a plant cultivar selected and developed by the horticulture industry for its intriguing color pattern and leaf shape. Part of the bipennifolium species, the full scientific name is Philodendron bipennifolium ‘Mottled Dragon.’ It is usually shortened to just P. ‘Mottled Dragon.’ It belongs to the enormous Araceae family of climbing tropical vine plants. Most philodendrons are native to the wet tropical biome of Central and South America. Their native rainforests are important to keep in mind when setting up a miniature ecosystem that will suit a Philodendron Mottled Dragon. In other words, rainforest levels of humidity are key to good plant health!

What is the Leaf Shape and Size for a Philodendron ‘Mottled Dragon’?

When a Philodendron Mottled Dragon leaves are very young, they have a simple oval shape and are medium to dark green in color. Gradually, the leaves develop the 6-8 characteristic lobes with a somewhat contracted center. Each leaf resembles the outline of a dragon’s head. In time, the leaves also take on the irregular mottled coloration (or camouflage spotting) that gives the plant its name. The center leaf rib is fairly thick and sturdy. The leaves can reach up to 24” long, and their width is approximately half their length if measured at the widest part of the upper leaf. 

Temperature

The Philodendron Mottled Dragon likes to be cozy! The plant does best with a temperature range between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Philodendron Mottled Dragon does very well if kept inside at standard room temperature or outside in milder climates. Keep in mind, however, that temperatures below 59 degrees will cause the plant to drop leaves. Be sure to bring it inside if the temperature falls below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Light

Filtered bright light is best for a Philodendron Mottled Dragon. If there is insufficient light for the plant, the coloration may revert to a plain solid green color. Filtered bright light is approximately 2-4 feet away from a south-facing window with a sheer curtain or shade. Very bright southern exposure light can cause sunburn without a sheer curtain or shade. If possible, move the Philodendron Mottled Dragon a foot or two further away from the window for less direct exposure.

Soil

Philodendron Mottled Dragon will appreciate a very airy light soil mix. You can make a good indoor light mix for soil simply by mixing 1-part charcoal perlite with 1-part worm castings. It would be best if you used any soil mix in the top two-thirds of the container. You can fill the bottom third with material that ensures good drainage. For this purpose, loose bark (or other similar bulky organic material) works well at the bottom of a planting container. 

Keep in mind that the root systems for Philodendron Mottled Dragon tend to grow very quickly if the plant is kept in optimal conditions. Look for signs that the plant needs a pot upgrade when roots begin poking out of the soil. Usually, members of the philodendron family will need to be transferred to a bigger pot every 2-3 years.

What Type of Container is Best for a Philodendron Mottled Dragon?

A moss pole is essential for the climbing nature of a Philodendron Mottled Dragon. The plant can be grown without a pole, but it will take on a more open drooping character which some people do prefer. Stability is important to consider with either form. A sturdy clay or ceramic pot will help provide a secure base for top-heavy growth. Light-weight plastic containers are not suitable for a Philodendron Mottled Dragon, as they are prone to tipping. This is especially true as the plant climbs to heights of four to five feet.

Humidity

Humidity and ventilation are the most important aspects of maintaining the health and well-being of a P. ‘Mottled Dragon.’ Houses and apartments with heating and air conditioning generally have very dry air, leading to an unhappy P. ‘Mottled Dragon.’ Signs of low humidity stress can include brown leaf tips and leaf yellowing. If allowed to continue, low humidity can lead to leaf drop.

A humidifier is an essential piece of equipment and a great investment to ensure high moisture content in the air around the plant. 60-80% humidity is ideal. Some people prefer to keep their Philodendron Mottled Dragon in a green-house-style cabinet with automated humidity and ventilation systems. This option requires the highest financial investment but does provide a precise rainforest level of humidity and airflow. Alternately, frequent misting is another, more cost-effective way to raise humidity levels around the plant. 

Water

Following the patterns of a P. bipennifolium in its natural environment helps the plant thrive. They like to be watered frequently but do allow the soil to dry out briefly in between watering. This brief drying out helps replicate rainfall cycles on the rainforest floor and ensures good root health. In winter, you should water the plant a little less. 

Fertilizer

A typical houseplant fertilizer should be sufficient for this non-picky plant. A high nitrogen NPK (Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus) mix is ideal nutrition for a Philodendron Mottled Dragon. Supplement with a Calcium and Magnesium mix for optimal nutrition. Follow product label instructions to determine the proper dosage. In general, tropical house plants benefit from a “winter” season when they are fertilized less often.

Common Pests and Diseases

Scale insects can sometimes be a problem for houseplants in general, especially during warmer months. The tiny insects look like patches of dry, light brown flakes on the leaf surface. To treat a light infestation, remove any leaves that have flaky areas. You can use a foliar neem oil spray on the leaves and soil to control a moderate infestation. 

Neem oil can also help with fungal or bacterial infections. Heavy infestation is very difficult to reverse. Plants that have become severely damaged by infestation should be removed and disposed of to prevent the spread to other plants. A weekly wipe down with a damp cloth or paper towel is crucial to warding off a future infestation.

Often the more exotic varieties of philodendrons are shipped from overseas and are treated to ensure they don’t carry disease. The import protocol can harm the good bacteria in the soil and sometimes lead to darkened, discolored, and weak roots. Ensure the health of a Philodendron Mottled Dragon root system by adding some high-quality compost to the soil. Or, use one of the many products available for restoring the houseplant soil microbiome. Providing the good bacteria the soil needs will help prevent root rot, which is often why young plants fail to thrive.

Toxicity

Sap from the Philodendron Mottled Dragon can be a skin irritant. All parts of the plant will cause major stomach discomfort if ingested. You should keep this plant away from small children and pets. Although very rare, there have been some reports of chronic rhinoconjunctivitis in humans attributed to P. bipennifolium.

Philodendron Mottled Dragon Propagation

The best and easiest way to propagate a Philodendron Mottled Dragon is by cutting the plant stem that includes leaf nodes. To do this:

  1. Cut a non-woody piece of a stem several inches long and place it inside a clear glass or plastic container filled with moist perlite.
  2. Cover the contents with sphagnum moss and the container lid. This container should be kept in a bright sunny spot with a high humidity level inside the container of 75-80%.
  3. Open the lid once every day to ensure ventilation and discourage pathogen growth.

Within a month, the stem should begin to sprout roots. You can transfer the baby plant to a new potting soil home when this happens.

What are the Best Plants to Pair with a Philodendron Mottled Dragon?

Creating fun plant compositions could not be easier when starting with the bold foliage of a P. ‘Mottled Dragon.’ Select plants with the same high humidity and light requirement. Surrounding a Philodendron Mottled Dragon with other plants also helps ensure good humidity levels. Rex Begonia comes in a wide range of colors and textures to play off the smooth but mottled golden green surface of the P. ‘Mottled Dragon.’ Another great option for contrast is the tear-drop-shaped leaves of the glossy green Watermelon Peperomia plant. Pairing several of these beauties with a P. Mottled Dragon creates a stunning combination that works and grows well together.

Where to Buy Philodendron Mottled Dragon

If you are interested in owning your own Philodendron Mottled Dragon or want to check the price, the Philodendron Mottled Dragon is available for sale from different sellers on Etsy.

Click Here to Check Price on Etsy

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