People often get confused by the Monstera Dubia and Rhaphidophora Cryptantha, and this is not surprising as they look almost identical in their juvenile form. While these plants share many visual features, they grow distinctively different over time.
The Monstera Dubia and Rhaphidophora Cryptantha are both tropical shingling plants. Their leaves lay flat against the wall or tree trunk that they’re growing on, displaying their upper foliage to one side. However, these two plant species differ in their growth habits. As the Monstera Dubia matures from its juvenile form, its shingling leaves get progressively larger, ultimately with perforations and slits. On the other hand, the Rhaphidophora Cryptantha maintains its small shingling shape throughout its life.
In this article, I compare the similarities and differences between these two species. If you’re a tropical plant collector, I hope you’ll find this guide helpful to distinguish between the Monstera Dubia and Rhaphidophora Cryptantha.
M. Dubia vs. R. Cryptantha: Appearance Comparison
The Monstera Dubia is native to Central and South America, growing in regions of low elevations.
Its signature growing habit is to climb on the surface of tree trunks. This plant is often called the “shingles plant” because its leaves lie flat against the tree it climbs, creating the appearance of shingles. Juvenile plants grow small heart-shaped leaves with light and dark green variegations.
The Monstera Dubia will first produce small heart-shaped leaves with light and dark green variegations, then pinnatifid ones, and finally, perforated leaves. The final leafing process is the growth of large leaves with the iconic monstera slits and holes. These leaves can grow from multiple branches and produce spadices that are green in the early stages and pale yellow at maturity.
The mature Monstera Dubia plants with the final large fenestrated leaves are usually only seen in the wild.
The Rhaphidophora Cryptantha is native to the tropical regions of Africa and Southeast Asia but can now be found in countries like Bali, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand.
This plant grows in the direction where it is supported. The leaves are short, broad, and stumpy while partially overlapping. The overlapping pattern occurs more so in adult leaves while their juvenile leaves are smaller and therefore not closely packed with each other. For these reasons, the Rhaphidophora Cryptanthais also referred to as the “shingles plant.”
The leaves are colored medium to dark green with highlighted veins. The flattened leaves with white markings appear like they’ve been painted on the wall.
The Rhaphidophora Cryptantha is shy to show its flowers. You will hardly see the inflorescences from a distance because it usually occurs at the underleaf. It is entirely obscured by the appressing leaves, though the tip of the plant spathe is occasionally visible. These flowers mature into tiny berry-like fruits on the spadix with seeds. For rare images of the flowering, click HERE (external site).
Visually, the Monstera Dubia and Rhaphidophora Cryptantha are similar in their juvenile state. They both “shingle” vertically against a flat surface with leaves alternating on each side. The patterns on their leaves are also quite similar.
However, there are some noticeable differences between the two plants.
The leaves of the Monstera Dubia are primarily light-colored with dark green veins. The opposite applies to the Rhaphidophora Cryptantha, where the leaves are mostly dark green with light veins.
Another noticeable difference is the alignment of the leaves in which they are pointing. The Monstera Dubia are pointed diagonally downwards, whereas the Rhaphidophora Cryptantha are pointed vertically upwards.
The differences between these two plants become more evident as they mature.
The Monstera Dubia has more-so heteroblastic growth development; the leaves evolve to different shapes and sizes as it grows. In its juvenile stage, the leaves are flattened to the surface. Upon adulthood, the leaves become larger with perforations and slits. The petioles also become longer, resulting in the leaf blades no longer being pressed on the climbing surface.
On the other hand, the Rhaphidophora Cryptantha retains its shingling form from juvenile to adulthood and maintains this neotenous lifestyle.
M. Dubia vs. R. Cryptantha: Maintenance Comparison
The Monstera Dubia and Rhaphidophora Cryptantha are both tropical plants which means they both require similar environmental conditions to thrive. They both need high humidity levels, so they are not found in the wild of the Southern hemisphere or in cooler regions of the world. They’re most commonly found in rainforests.
I live in Sydney, and the weather is not tropical here. Finding either of these shingling plants is quite difficult without spending a fortune. I was lucky to get this Monstera Dubia cheaply online for 35 AUD (about 25 USD).
To maintain the Monstera Dubia in a non-tropical environment, I keep it indoors in my office room with a humidifier. Its sits next to the window with bright indirect light. It’s planted in well-draining soil containing small barks and perlite. I let the top layer of the soil dry out before watering again, which is approximately every 7-10 days.
Maintaining the Rhaphidophora Cryptantha is quite similar to the Monstera Dubia. It needs to be in a humid environment and moist soil, comparable to the conditions of a rainforest. Both of these shingling plants need a support medium such as a totem or a plank of wood.
The Monstera Dubia and Rhaphidophora Cryptantha share several similarities in that they’re both tropical shingling plants that climb vertically against a flat surface. They also thrive in conditions that mimic the rainforests: high humidity, warm weather, and moist soil.
Both of these plants look pretty similar in their juvenile stages. However, they start to deviate from each other as they mature. The Monster Dubia grows progressively larger, noticeably in the leaves, while the Rhaphidophora Cryptantha remains unchanged.
If you’re looking to buy one of these plants and can’t decide, why not just get both!
A Revision of Monstera by Michael Madison
International AROID society, Single Plants, by Michael Mattlage