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What Is an Arrowhead Plant?

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  • Written By: Ray Hawk
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 06 December 2014
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The arrowhead plant is a popular house and office plant that can be grown as a bushy specimen in pots when young or a trailing vine as it gets older. It has pointed leaves that bifurcate at the back, giving them the appearance of large arrowheads. Though there are many species for the plant, the most common one that is cultivated as of 2011 is Syngonium podophyllum. This version normally has solid green leaves, but the plant has been bred over the years to display a variety of colors in the leaves, including streaks of white and shades of bronze or pink. Since it is so popular, it often goes by other names including Goosefoot, American Evergreen, and Five-Fingers.

The arrowhead plant is sometimes also referred to as a Nephthys, which is the name of the Egyptian goddess of death rituals. This is a mislabeling of the plant as a Nephthytis genus, which is also a vining plant with African origins, has very similarly-shaped leaves, though they have a more rounded nature than the arrowhead plant does. The origin of the arrowhead plant has been traced to Mexico and Central America, where over 30 species of it have been cultivated as ornamental plants at least as far back as 1881. While some species of Nephthytis are known to be poisonous to cats and dogs, the arrowhead plant itself is also poisonous to people if eaten, as its sap contains a toxic compound known as calcium oxalate.

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Another common variety of house plants to which arrowhead plants are closely related are philodendrons. Both plants come from the same parent family of Araceae and are easy-to-grow, trailing vines. Philodendrons and Nephthytis plants can also be confused with the arrowhead plant because the shape of the arrowhead's leaves change as the plant matures. When it is young, the leaves start out with a broadleaf arrowhead or rounded-heart shape to them. As the plant gets older, however, the leaves become elongated and pointed while splitting more widely at the back, which makes the plant more recognizable.

Growing arrowhead plants is relatively easy, as they don't require strict growing conditions. Like philodendrons, they start out bushy and rapidly become vines as they mature. The stems of the plants will sprout aerial roots that will seek new locations in soil as they get longer. These stems can be cut and easily propagated into new plants as well when the plant has reached maturity during the summer. The arrowhead grows to a height of 2 feet (61 centimeters) when it is young, but, as it vines, the individual stems can reach a length easily in excess of 4 feet (122 centimeters).

Caring for the plants includes giving them indirect light and moist soil that is allowed to dry out periodically. Since they are tropical plants, they enjoy humid environments and a warm temperature range of between 60° to 75° Fahrenheit (16° to 24° Celsius). The arrowhead plant is generally not considered tbe o a flowering plant like the Nephthytis is, so it doesn't require a lot of fertilization, with a feeding every two weeks of diluted concentration fertilizer being adequate.

One of the main tips to keep in mind when cultivating the arrowhead plant is the lighting conditions. The plant should be turned periodically so that each section of it receives adequate light. As house plants go, it is among the species that can tolerate low levels of light, but, if too low, the plant will lose its distinctive colors and markings on the leaves.

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