Have you been on the hunt for a gorgeous climbing plant? Philodendron erubescens could fit the bill. This plant is a prolific climber and is famous for its gorgeous leaves. In its native rainforest habitat in South America, this plant can get as large as 60 feet long! If kept as a houseplant, you can scale back that growth considerably, though. Don’t worry about your Philodendron erubescens taking over your entire home.
This plant is highly toxic to animals, so if you’re keeping it indoors be sure it’s out of reach for any of your curious dogs or cats. Safe handling is important for you, too, so wear gloves when handling it and keep this philodendron away from small children.
Otherwise, Philodendron erubescens, sometimes referred to as the blushing philodendron or red-leaf philodendron, has a simple care routine. It isn’t as hardy as some other philodendron varieties, but its needs aren’t too complex, either.
|Blushing philodendron, red-leaf philodendron
|Partial shade, no direct light
|Drought-tolerant; water when the top of the soil is dry
|Neutral or slightly acidic, nutrient-rich, well-draining
|60ºF to 85ºF
|At least 50%
|USDA zones 10 to 11
Philodendron erubescens is treasured by plant enthusiasts for its foliage. They’re quite large and waxy, with a rich green top and reddish underside. That red color sets them apart from many other house plants – even in collections full of other philodendrons! The leaves are heart-shaped and look glossy when they’re in good health. Needless to say, they offer a lot of “curb appeal” for gardeners. Since it’s a climbing plant, those spectacular leaves make quite a sight as they crawl up areas and cascade down again.
As mentioned above, these plants reach stunning sizes in their natural habitats. Growing up to 60 feet long, they seem to go until there’s no room left for them! That isn’t really feasible for a houseplant, so you’re more likely to see them stick to around three feet in size instead. Still, they can steal the show if you let them.
This plant doesn’t flower easily. Philodendrons don’t self-pollinate, so if you’re hoping to see flowers, you’ll have to pollinate them by hand instead. Philodendron erubescens produces beautiful red spathes, which fold around a spadix. They’re quite fragrant and the color of the spathes works well with that reddish underside of the leaves. If you’re patient enough to hand pollinate, seeing the Philodendron erubescens in bloom at least once is worth it!
Certain philodendron varieties are happy with nearly any setup and in a range of conditions. Philodendron erubescens is a little more choosy about its environment, but its conditions aren’t difficult to meet. If you want your plant to reach its full potential, it just takes a bit of monitoring and adjustment to get things right!
Shady spots are perfect for Philodendron erubescens. They don’t do well with direct light, as it can damage those ever-popular leaves. Bright, indirect light is fine occasionally and they’re content with medium light, too. Do what you can to avoid letting direct light touch the leaves, and you could be dealing with leaf scorch if you notice brown spots forming on the surface.
Offer morning sun rather than evening sun, if possible. Your blushing philodendron can be quite delicate.
Philodendron erubescens is drought-tolerant to a certain degree. Keep the soil fairly moist, but it’s okay to let it dry out for a while between watering. Philodendrons, in general, are very susceptible to root rot. If you overwater your plant, you could end up losing the entire thing.
The simplest thing to do is aim for a regular watering schedule and check the soil every few days. If the top few inches are dry, go ahead and water it. Lean toward underwatering, as that’s far easier to solve than root rot and fungal infection. Yellowing leaves or signs of browning near the soil line could indicate root rot.
Philodendron erubescens thrives in nutrient-rich, well-draining soil. Use your favorite potting soil or create your own; both options suit this plant just fine. If you need more drainage in your potting mix, add in perlite or increments of sand to ensure the plant isn’t waterlogged.
This plant isn’t too fussy about pH. Just keep things neutral or slightly acidic. The moisture of the soil is more critical to proper Philodendron erubescens than the actual soil contents.
The blushing philodendron does best with warmer temperatures and is content with a broad range of household temperatures. There’s nothing to worry about as long as you keep it between 60ºF and 85ºF. Your plant will grow better if you keep things on the warmer side of the scale, but it’s more important to avoid the cold. Don’t let things stray below 40ºF, which means no outdoor time in winter and no cold drafts inside.
As a rainforest native, Philodendron erubescens needs higher humidity. 50% humidity levels are sufficient, though, so you won’t have to tuck it away into a greenhouse. If your home has particularly dry air, invest in a humidifier. Just place your plant near it and the little machine will take care of the rest.
Alternatively, you could offer your plant a daily misting with room-temperature water or situate it on a pebble tray. The blushing philodendron won’t grow quite as well without adequate humidity. It’s an important part of proper care.
Philodendron erubescens puts in a lot of work and uses a lot of energy for all that climbing. It needs extra nutrition. Even as a properly pruned houseplant, fertilizer is a great idea to stimulate new, healthy growth. Find a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10 formulas are sufficient) and dilute it to half-strength.
Feed your plant once or twice a month during the growing season for the best results. You can cut back considerably during fall and winter. The plant isn’t actively growing, and over-fertilizing can stunt growth, ending up with the opposite of your desired effect.
Do you remember that fun fact about Philodendron erubescens growing up to sixty feet long? A plant with that kind of capacity will need some attention and pruning if it’s meant to live indoors instead. You’ll prune primarily to remove any dead or yellowing leaves so the plant doesn’t waste energy in attempts to preserve or revive them. Otherwise, keep an eye out for leggy growths, weak vines, or anything that looks particularly out of control.
The best time for pruning is the spring growing season. It’s the optimal time for new growth, and a good pruning session may result in a fuller plant in just a few weeks or months in the future. Removing dead or decaying leaves is acceptable all year, though, and if there are any thin tendrils and vines just remove them with clean pruning shears.
Stem cuttings are a great way to propagate Philodendron erubescens. Your blushing philodendron will put out air roots, eventually. If they survive long enough, they’re able to support a whole new plant on their own, so the only thing you have to do is remove a portion of the stem with multiple air roots. The plant does most of the work before you’ve even moved a finger!
Once you have your cutting, plant it in your prepared soil mixture, place it in bright, indirect light, water it thoroughly, and get into the routine of caring for a new Philodendron erubescens.
Since you’re dealing with a fast-grower, count on repotting new Philodendron erubescens annually. Repot them at the beginning of the growing season. They’ll have a chance to make the most of their new container that way. Choose a container about two inches larger than your previous one and fill it with your chosen potting soil.
If you’re repotting new cuttings and you want the plant to climb, it will need something to climb on. There are plenty of options out there, from stakes to obelisks, so choosing the right structure depends on what kind of space you have.
Pests and Diseases
Aphids, mealybugs, scale bugs, and whiteflies cause issues for your blushing philodendron. Aphids are particularly drawn to this plant, as they feed on the rich sap and drain your philodendron’s energy. They build up in alarming numbers and any infected portions of the plant should be pruned away.
Horticultural soaps and plant-safe oils like neem oil help treat most pest outbreaks, including those mentioned above. Start by wiping the leaves and stem clean then apply the treatment, either by spraying the leaves or rubbing it onto them.
Other warning signs that your plant is in distress include
- Brown leaf spots – These could indicate leaf scorch. If you notice brown spots or brown edges forming, move your plant to a shadier spot and see if it resolves.
- Yellowing – Yellowing leaves or stems can indicate root rot. It’s all too easy to lose these plants at the hands of root rot, so don’t ignore any signs that it’s set in. Yellowing could also indicate issues with too much light. Either way, don’t ignore it!
Successfully growing a Philodendron erubescens is like bringing the rainforest home with you. It isn’t overly fussy and its elegant, colorful leaves are an excellent reward for the minimal effort it requires. This philodendron is a must-have for your collection.