How to Care for Dischidia Ovata?
Found in the tropical regions of Asia, the Dischidia Ovata plant is a creeping epiphyte with oval-shaped leaves whose patterns are similar to the patterns on a rind of watermelon.
Because of this similarity, the Dischidia ovata is often mentioned as the Watermelon Dischidia.
Although not as widely available as other epiphytes kept as houseplants, there are over 100 species of Dischidia, among which the Watermelon Dischidia is gaining popularity as a houseplant.
For those familiar with growing epiphytic plants, the Dischidia will not present any surprises. For those new to these plants, I recommend reading my plant care guide that will cover everything you need to know about caring for this plant.
Size & Growth
As a creeping epiphyte, the Dischidia can reach several feet in length. The best way to display its cascading stems and watermelon-like leaves is to grow it in a hanging basket or in a regular pot placed on a high shelf.
Likewise, the Dischidia also lends itself to growing in a terrarium, just make sure to mount it and place it somewhere higher up so it can cascade down.
Regardless of the pot you choose for this plant, make sure to choose a well-draining potting mix and position the plant somewhere where its light requirements can be satisfied.
One thing to keep in mind about Dischidia is that it doesn’t like extremes. Nor when it comes to light exposure and neither when it comes to watering.
If you’re looking for the best spot for the plant indoors, choose a well-lit room with plenty of natural light coming in.
Bright light is best for this epiphyte but make sure it isn’t direct light. Filtered light, dappled shade and bright, indirect light are what work best for the plant.
When deprived of enough light, the stems of the plant tend to grow thinner with leaves becoming smaller and growing sparse.
This is because the plant is trying to find its way towards more light and uses its low resources on that rather than growing its leaves. When this happens, move your plant to a brighter location.
If you can’t make do with whatever natural light goes into your home, I recommend using LED grow lights or fluorescent lights to supplement the plant’s light requirements.
Direct light exposure isn’t appreciated either. Dischidia ovata leaves turn a reddish purple when left too long under direct sunlight.
It doesn’t take long for the leaves to get scorched, however, so it’s best to move your plant to a different location if its leaves are starting to turn reddish.
Another department in which it’s best to avoid extremes is the watering department. Don’t overwater this plant or you’ll be dealing with root rot issues, but also don’t allow its soil to completely go dry, and then forget to water it for even longer.
Although it doesn’t mind its soil going a bit dry here and there, this isn’t a drought-tolerant plant and needs moisture to stay healthy.
When watering, you can keep watering until you see water pooling in the saucer. Empty the saucer and don’t water the plant again until the top two inches of soil feel dry.
This method will usually keep you from over or under-watering. But it’s important to keep checking the soil to see if it’s still moist or getting dry.
In summer, heatwaves and rising temperatures generally will increase evaporation, which means you’ll need to water more often to keep your Dischidia ovata well hydrated.
Although I’ve seen Dischidia plants grown in regular potting soil, I generally advise against it. Being epiphytes, they prefer a well-aerated, free-draining soil.
Soils that are heavy and get too saturated with water will lead to problems if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Therefore, use a potting mix similar to that of orchids or work some coconut husk into a regular potting mix to create a more aerated mix that drains better.
Eliminating the risk of root rot is important because you’re more likely to overwater this plant than underwater it, so it’s best to have a potting mix that will help with drainage.
Temperature & Humidity
You can grow the Dischidia Ovata in USDA zones 9-11, while in other zones you need to be careful about cold temperatures and winterization.
Taking your plant indoors when nighttime temperatures start to drop to around 50-55 °F is essential to prevent damage to the plant. The Watermelon Dischidia won’t survive frost or extreme cold.
The temperature range in which it survives is between 55 °F – 90 °F, so average indoor temperatures are right up this plant’s alley.
As far as humidity goes, it needs medium to high humidity (50-90%). When humidity levels drop, you will need to increase humidity levels around the plant to keep it from wilting.
A humidifier is one way to bridge this issue, another way would be to use a DIY evaporation tray, which consists of a tray, some pebbles and water. As water evaporates from the tray, it supplies the plant with a needed boost.
Not heavy feeders by any standards, a bit of fertilizing does help the plant grow lusher and greener.
You can use a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to ¼ of its strength and fertilize monthly starting with spring all through summer until fall.
In fall, cut back on the fertilizer, then stop altogether by the end of fall since the plant will go into a resting period during the winter and stop using up resources. In early spring, you can resume fertilizing.
Overfertilizing is a real concern with this plant that needs only a bit to stay healthy, so don’t use undiluted fertilizer nor should you use it more often than once a month.
Potting & Repotting
I’ve talked a bit about how this Dischidia lends itself to growing well in pots, hanging baskets and even terrariums.
For plants that are prone to root rot, I prefer using unglazed terracotta pots that help absorb moisture from the pot.
Repot as needed, but in my experience, once they become mature, you will only need to repot these plants every two years or so.
How to Propagate?
The Dischidia Ovata is easily propagated from stem cuttings, a method that works easily and it’s just like propagating any other houseplant that can be propagated from a stem cutting.
This method involves harvesting stem cuttings that are about 5 to 8 inches. Stem cuttings should be cut just below a leaf node and should have at least 2-3 leaves on the stem as well.
Next, place the cuttings in water or moist potting mix to root. Spray the potting mix to keep the soil moist or replace the water every 3-4 days when rooting in glass jars.
Keep the cuttings in a warm place, out of direct sunlight, but still in a bright place. Within a couple of weeks, roots should appear and then you can transfer your plant to a final pot.
You can also root the stem cuttings in moist sphagnum moss and even mount the cuttings on a piece of cork or bark to have them displayed somewhere. If you do go by this method, you’ll need increased humidity and moisture for the plant to survive.
Why are the Leaves on Dischidia Ovata so Small?
Etiolation can cause the leaves on your Dischidia Ovata plant to grow small and scarce. This is caused by a lack of light.
When the plant doesn’t get enough light, it shoots out thin stems in search of light. These thin stems don’t have the energy and resources to grow large leaves, so they often grow smaller leaves or none at all.
Move your plant to a well-lit location, where it can receive more light. Alternatively, invest in an LED grow lightbulb to provide the plant with artificial grow lights that will supplement any lack of natural light.
Does the Dischidia Ovata Plant Bloom?
Yes, this plant produces non-fragrant flowers that grow in clusters in spring and summer. They’re pale green or yellow and feature purple stripes. Its flowers are no larger than 2-3 cm.
Some varieties like the Dischidia ruscifolia or Million Hearts Plant produces white, fragrant blooms.
Is the Dischidia Ovata Plant Toxic?
Yes, the Dischidia Ovata is considered a plant that’s toxic to pets and even humans. Its sap contains compounds that can cause severe dermatitis if it gets into contact with the skin or mucous membranes.
Therefore, avoid contact with the sap of the plant and keep out of reach of dogs, cats, and small children.
The Dischidia ovata is another epiphyte plant that can be grown successfully as a houseplant if light, moisture, and humidity are provided.
Prone to root rot when overwatered and prone to growing stretchy if not given enough light, its needs are mostly manageable even by beginner gardeners.
To reduce the chances of causing root rot, you should use a free-draining potting mix and understand the plant’s watering requirements.
Don’t overwinter this plant outdoors if winters are cold or frosty in your area but take the plant inside and protect it from cold temperatures.