Philodendron erubescens, with the common name of Blushing Philodendron or Red-leaf Philodendron, is a stunningly beautiful perennial member of the Aroid family (Araceae) with large, dark green leaves that have undersides of reddish-copper. It is truly a show-stopper as it climbs up a moss pole or spills over the sides of a hanging basket, showing off its colors.
Blushing Philodendron is native to tropical rainforests of Colombia and areas of South America, where it climbs up trees as an understory vine in the dappled sunlight. It has heart-shaped leaves that grow up to 16 inches long, reddish-purple stems, and 6-inch fragrant, deep red flowers that develop in the summer and fall.
Philodendrons have two growth habits: vining with long, trailing stems or “self-heading” with short, compact growth. Philodendron erubescens varieties are beautiful, rare, and costly houseplants with their unusual coloring and either vining or self-heading habits.
Here are several of the most popular ones.
Types Of Philodendron Erubescens Varieties
|Variety||Vining / Self-heading||Leaf Color||Leaf Size / Shape|
|Black Cardinal||Self-heading||New foliage emerges bright burgundy-red and ages to nearly black||10-12-inch-long broad, oval leaves|
|Burgundy Princess||Vining||Dark purple leaves with pink variegation, burgundy veins, and red stems; darker pink variegation than Pink Princess||8- to 12-inch-long cordate leaves|
|Green Emerald||Vining||Deep green leaves with reddish-purple undersides||Oval leaves to 24″ long|
|Imperial Green||Self-heading||Smooth, glossy green leaves||18-inch-long, broad, arrow-shaped leaves|
|Imperial Red||Self-heading||Rare new hybrid with new leaves bright red, changing to dark emerald green, then maturing to maroon||Oval leaves, up to 15″ long|
|Pink Princess||Vining||Heart-shaped leaves with splashes of light pink on dark purplish-green – expensive and highly popular||8″ long, heart-shaped leaves|
|Prince of Orange||Self-heading||New leaves orange maturing to green||Oval leaves 18″ long|
|Red Emerald||Vining||Red petioles, midribs, and veins on young burgundy leaves that mature to dark green||Arrow-shaped leaves 18″ long|
Care Of Your Blushing Philodendron
All these varieties are low-maintenance and need essentially the same care. A variegated cultivar will need a little more TLC than a darker one, but if you provide it with the proper care, you will have a gorgeous plant for years to come.
Whether your plant is a vine or a self-heading plant, it will need bright indirect light rather than direct sunlight, which could burn its leaves.
An east- or north-facing window will give it the right light, but if that exposure is unavailable, set it back a few feet from a west- or south-facing window or hang a sheer curtain to soften the direct sun.
Variegated cultivars, like Burgundy Princess and Pink Princess, will need brighter light than the green varieties since they won’t have as much chlorophyll in their leaves to make food energy.
Low light may make them revert to all green, so give them the brightest indirect light from your windows or supplement it with grow lights if it’s too dark.
If you put your plant outdoors in the summer to soak up the warmth and light, set it under a tree, an awning, or a covered porch so it’s in the bright or partial shade and not in the full sun.
Philodendron erubescens and its varieties grow best within the average household range of 60-to-85-degree F temperatures. If your plant is outdoors in the summer, keep it from wilting when the temperatures soar to 90 degrees or higher by keeping it under a covered porch or patio.
The plant will die below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so bring it in during the late summer when temperatures begin to drop.
NOTE: Your plant will do best in steady temperatures protected from cold windows, air conditioner drafts, or hot, dry heating vents.
Since Blushing Philodendron is native to rainforest climates, it prefers a humid environment with humidity levels of 50% or higher. Average household humidity is 30 to 50% and is at its lowest in the winter when the heat is on.
You can boost the humidity level around your plant by setting it on top of a pebble tray with water, keeping the bottom of the pot above the water line. A humidifier is effective, too, if you have one, and misting every few days is helpful.
Soil and Pot
Philodendrons need light, porous, well-draining soil. A commercial succulent soil will do nicely, or you can make your own with an indoor soil mix amended with perlite, peat, coco coir, coarse sand, or pumice to lighten it and assure good drainage.
Soil is made up of pieces of organic matter, some inert material like sand, and air spaces. The material is an anchor for the roots and provides nutrients for the plant’s growth. Air spaces make oxygen available to the roots and allow water to drain through so it’s available for the plant.
When soil is too dense, there are fewer air spaces for the roots to breathe and for the water to drain through. Water can build up in the soil and cause root rot, a fungal infection that will kill the plant, so it’s important to have loose, well-draining soil.
There are many beautiful pots to choose from – ceramic, plastic, terracotta, or composite.
Terracotta is an excellent choice since it “breathes” and allows moisture to evaporate from its walls. But whichever type you choose, make sure it has at least one drainage hole in the bottom so that water can drain and keep the roots healthy.
Your Blushing Philodendron needs the soil to be evenly moist – never overwatered or completely dried out. Instead of keeping to a watering schedule, observing and testing the soil is better. How fast it dries out will fluctuate with the seasons and conditions in the house.
Look at the soil and feel it with your finger. If it’s dry on the surface to a half-inch down, it’s time to water. But if it’s still moist, wait a few days and test it again.
When you water, let it run through the soil and out the drainage hole. Allow it to drain completely so that no more water is dripping through. Your plant will require more water during the growing season in the spring and summer than in the fall and winter.
NOTE: Public tap water usually has chlorine and mineral salts in it. Variegated plants, like Pink Princess and Burgundy Princess, are sensitive to these chemicals that can cause the leaves to dry and curl at the edges, so watering your plant with rainwater or distilled is healthier.
As an alternative, you can let a pitcher of tap water sit out overnight for the chlorine to evaporate.
You can give your plant a boost of nutrition with fertilizer. Use half strength of the recommended amount of liquid fertilizer once a month during the warm months or a bit of granular fertilizer once in the spring.
Don’t fertilize it at all during the winter during the plant’s slow growth time to avoid fertilizer burn.
Your Blushing Philodendron will grow quickly during the spring and summer. You can prune the stems in the spring with clean scissors or shears between the leaf nodes to keep the vining varieties in shape and from getting leggy stems.
The self-heading types won’t need pruning except for removing a dead or damaged leaf.
After pruning your vining P. erubescens, you can easily propagate the cuttings, and it’s a great way to increase the number of plants in your home. If you have a self-heading variety, you will need to cut a section of the stem.
You can propagate either vining or self-heading varieties in two ways: in water or soil.
Put a vining cutting with 4 or 5 leaves and some aerial roots in a clean jar with clean water and remove all leaves below the waterline. Take the bottom leaves off the self-heading stem and put the stem in water.
Set the cuttings in a warm spot in indirect light, and change the water every 4 to 5 days to keep algae from growing.
Your cuttings should begin to grow roots in 2 to 3 weeks. Plant them in loose, well-draining potting soil when they have sprouted to 2 or 3 inches long.
Take stem cuttings of either a vining or self-heading Philodendron with 2 to 4 leaves and remove at least one leaf at the bottom so there is 3″ to 4″ of bare stem. Stick the cuttings in fresh, loose potting mix with perlite or coarse sand in a pot with drainage holes. Keep them moist, and set them in a warm spot in indirect light. They should begin to grow roots in 2 to 4 weeks.
- Dip the ends in rooting hormone to promote growth before sticking them in the soil.
- Tie a plastic bag around the whole pot and plant to increase the humidity and speed up the rooting.
- Leaf cuttings may produce all-green growth, so it’s better to use stem cutting when propagating.
Spider mites, aphids, mealybugs, and scale are common pests of Philodendron plants.
These pests suck the juices out of the plant and can cause the leaves to have a stippled appearance and become distorted. A heavy pest infestation may cause weakened, yellow leaves that may drop off.
Control spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs with insecticidal soap or Neem oil per instructions, and wipe the foliage down with rubbing alcohol.
Scale are hard-bodied insects that need a different control strategy because sprays will not penetrate their armor. Hose the plant to knock as many off as possible, and then wipe the plant down with rubbing alcohol.
The primary disease of P. erubescens and its varieties is root rot, a fungal infection caused by overwatering the soil. When too much water fills the air spaces in the soil for too long, the roots can’t get enough oxygen and root rot will start to grow.
Check the roots if your plant is droopy and the leaves are beginning to turn yellow. Gently take the plant out of the potting mix and wash the roots to see what they look like.
Healthy roots are white and firm, but if any are black, mushy, and smell foul, cut them off with clean scissors or shears.
Treat the remaining roots with hydrogen peroxide and water, a fungicide like Neem oil, or powdered cinnamon, a natural fungicide. Then plant them back in fresh potting mix in a clean pot with a drainage hole.
All plants in the Arum family, including Blushing Philodendron, contain calcium oxalate crystals, which are toxic to people and pets if eaten. Keep your family safe by setting the plant away from curious little hands and paws.
Nancy has been a plant person from an early age. That interest blossomed into a bachelor’s in biology from Elmira College and a master’s degree in horticulture and communications from the University of Kentucky. Nancy worked in plant taxonomy at the University of Florida and the L. H. Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, and wrote and edited gardening books at Rodale Press in Emmaus, PA. Her interests are plant identification, gardening, hiking, and reading.