Philodendron Burle Marx Care – Complete Guide & History!

An easy to find plant, the philodendron burle marx has long been collected for its shiny bright green heart shaped leaves. Native to the tropical jungles of Brazil, the burle marx forms large clumps in the wild before eventually climbing nearby trees as an epiphyte.

This magnificent and popular philodendron was named after the infamous Brazilian landscape architect, Roberto Burle Marx, who was one of the first people in the region to introduce native plants into modern landscape design.

Type his name into google and you’ll see some of the stunning tropical gardens he designed, as well as a few pictures of him hugging massive philodendron leaves.

Philodendron Burle Marx Care

Soil

Super simple – the philodendron burle marx loves an airy, woody substrate that’s well-draining and rich in organic matter. This supports their hemiepiphytic nature and typically includes a mix of coco coir, perlite, worm castings, activated charcoal, orchid bark and a small helping of pumice. You’ll find many premium soil companies also offer this mix, or a very similar one for philos!

I love and use this mix for my philodendrons:

  • 40% coco coir
  • 20% orchid bark
  • 10% perlite
  • 10% worm castings
  • 10% pumice
  • 10% activated charcoal

The key to mastering potting mixes for the burle marx is to make sure it has elements that are fast draining as well as moisture retaining.

This mix is a little more moisture retaining than other mixes, purely because I’ve found anything less than 50% organics (coir, worm castings), causes leaf yellowing because it’s too dry. 

Too much of one or the other can lead to dehydration or waterlogged soil, neither of which philodendrons like.

What Each Element Does

  • Coco coir (instead of soil) – fast draining, neutral in pH, yet can hold moisture too, very easy growing medium
  • Perlite – a glass pearl of volcanic rock, porous structure, low water retention, aids in drainage and holds nutrients
  • Orchid Bark – an epiphyte’s FAVORITE soil amendment, it becomes a hotspot for positive microbes, root attachment and chunkiness allows for extra drainage
  • Worm castings – organic fertilizer (literally worm poo), has a full nutrient palette
  • Activated charcoal – prevents build up of soil impurities, stops mould and neutralizes pH of soil
  • Pumice – another drainage element

Light

The philodendron burle marx grows extremely well when given lots of medium to bright, indirect light. Under brighter light, you’ll see faster growth and bolder colors as well as more elongated leaves.

Placing it somewhere that gets 1-2 hours of cool morning direct sun is completely fine too – despite what many care guides tell you, keeping philodendrons in purely indirect light isn’t a hard and fast rule. In fact, many philodendron varieties, especially variegated types, will flourish when given this type of light.

The University of Florida also reports that philodendrons (both self-heading and climbing varieties) can handle 1-2 hours of direct morning sun without leaves scorching.

Leaf scorching (black or tan spots on leaves) only crop up when this plant is kept in direct light all day, especially during the warmer afternoons when light is more intense. 

What is Bright, Indirect Light Exactly & How Do I Know My Plant is In the Right Spot?

Well, it’s probably brighter than you think! Light is one of those things that’s hard to measure and is completely subjective, that’s why I love and trust my light meter to give me a fairly accurate reading. Light meters can be picked up for less than $50 and measure overall light intensity in foot candles (FC). 

How Much Light Does the Philodendron Burle Marx Need?

For maintenance, keep it in 150FC (this is the absolute bare minimum, and you’re likely just to keep your plant as it is). For optimal growth, 300-600FC is ideal. 

Fun Fact: This plant is grown intensively under 1500-3000FC in nurseries for quick sales. Don’t worry about achieving these very high light levels at home. Nurseries grow the philodendron burle marx in direct light, under a 20-40% shade cloth.

Watering

The philodendron burle marx loves evenly moist, well drained soil. The key here is well drained and not waterlogged or boggy. 

Watering is probably one of the trickiest things new plant owners have to face – not because it’s difficult, but because they’ve been given false information about plant care! Generally, you’re advised to water this plant when the top 1-2 inches of soil is dry to touch, but this is ABSOLUTELY not foolproof. Neither is using a soil moisture meter. 

Related: Soil Moisture Meters: Why You Should Never Use One (+What to Do Instead)

I’ve had way too many messages from readers to say that their philodendrons look miserable since following a once a week watering schedule. Here’s why!

Plants in higher light conditions, in warmer temperatures, will need much more water than a plant kept in lower light, in cooler temperatures. Light and temperature changes year round, with the seasons. You’ll need to water more in summer and spring than in autumn and winter. 

How Often Should I Water My Burle Marx?

It’s better to water based on what you can see is happening with your plant rather than a strict ‘once a week’ watering rule. Plus, overtime you’ll quickly develop an intuitive knowing as to what’s happening with your plant – it’s completely magical (not to mention you’ll feel like a green god or goddess).

How to Tell When Your Philodendron Burle Marx Needs Water

There are 2 methods you can use: 1) bamboo stick test and 2) knuckle test

What I do and recommend is to use a bamboo chopstick, dig it into the soil, a good few inches deep, and observe what you notice. 

  • Wet soil will cling to the chopstick and possibly make the stick a darker shade
  • Moist soil will be soft in texture (you’ll easily be able to push the stick through)
  • Dry soil will be tough, brittle and compacted and won’t change the color of the stick

Or, you can use the good ol’ knuckle test. Stick your finger into the potting mix. If it is moist at the first or second knuckle, you can hold back on watering. If it is dry, your plant needs a good drink.

Always make sure to check the color of the soil and texture too. If the mix is really dark, it’s likely it doesn’t need any more water. If the soil is light, hard and compacted, it’s become super dry and might need changing.

Humidity

Philodendron burle marx’s love high humidity, and will reward you with more textured, longer and brighter leaves if kept in a humidity of 70% or higher. Having said that, they can cope with average indoor humidity levels (think 40-50%) without drastic changes to their appearance. Humidity is an important care factor, but it’s nowhere near as essential as getting the light levels right for example. 

How to Increase Humidity in the Drier, Winter Months

There are only 2 real ways to increase humidity so that your plants benefit. 

  1. Invest in a small humidifier
  2. Group plants together to create a mini humidity sharing biome in your home.
Myth Buster: Misting drastically helps to increase humidity for plants.

A. Not true - it’s a very, very short term fix for a long term problem. When misted, the droplets of moisture linger around the plant for around 30-60 seconds before completely dispersing around the room. 

It doesn’t do much to actually help your plant, and if overdone, can cause many nasty bacterial and fungal infections.

Temperature

The philodendron burle marx can handle a wide range of temperatures, though it loves to be kept more on the warmer side. The ideal growth range lands between 68°F to 78°F (20°C to 26°C), though they can handle as low as 59°F (15°C). Anything less than 54°F (12°C) and you’re likely to see severely stunted growth, wilting and a loss of that gorgeous green tinted coloring.

Fertilizer

Unlike their outdoor friends, houseplants have no natural way of obtaining nutrients naturally once they’ve used up all the nutrients in their potting mix. This is why houseplants need regular fertilizing with a nutrient rich solution (and occasional repotting).

Best Fertilizer for Philodendron Burle Marx

There are lots of options available to you on the market, including an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer, but I love and swear by dyna gro (7-9-5 NPK formula). It contains all 16 macro and micronutrients your plant needs to not just survive, but thrive. It’s also low in heavy nitrogen salts (which can cause dreaded root burn).

I used to use osmocote but they’ve since changed the formula to include thousands of microplastics - I don’t recommend them anymore.

How to Fertilize Your Philodendron Burle Marx

I used to fertilize my plants once a month like many nursery guides say to do but it seemed completely unnatural to me knowing how plants ‘feed’ in the wild!

In the big, wide open world, plants receive a steady stream of nutrients over days – they don’t take one big gulp a month. Plus, I was always worried about burning the roots with such a ‘strong’ feed, even when diluted by half.

Now, I fertilize my philos (and lots of other plants) with a very diluted solution every time they get watered. You’ll sometimes hear this referred to as maintenance feeding. 

I dilute 1/4 teaspoon of dyna gro with 1 gallon of water (4.5 litres) and water my plant with this solution every time in spring and summer (when the plant is showing signs of needing to be watered). I cut back both on waterings and feedings in autumn, and stop fertilizing completely in the winter months to prevent oversaturation during the more dormant part of their growth cycle.

Will this Burn my Plant?

Nope, that’s the beauty of this method. It’s diluted to half and then half again so it’s very unlikely to burn the plant. I’ve never had any issues across 4 years of using this method.

Growth – What Can I Expect?

The philodendron burle marx is characterised as a fast grower (and I can vouch for that!). Given the right conditions, it will grow up to 2 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide. It’s a very ‘leggy’ plant naturally and loves to spread its arms out.

Tip: The more light it receives, the bigger this gem will grow. It’s a very fast grower when kept in the right conditions. If you want a smaller more manageable house plant, then placing it in medium, indirect light is the way to go. 

Pruning – Should I Prune This Plant?

The philodendron burle marx generally doesn’t need much pruning. The only time I prune mine is to cut back damaged or diseased leaves. 

Repotting

Like most philodendrons I’ve written about, the philodendron burle marx can tolerate being root bound, but it’s always best practice to move it to a slightly bigger pot as soon as its roots start to curl around the base of the potting mix.

Being root bound means your plant is growing well and needs a little more room to expand. 

Signs your plant needs repotting includes:

  • Roots are starting to show through drainage holes
  • Your plant is root bound
  • Growth is stagnant
  • Roots are shooting through the top of the mix
  • Potting mix isn’t draining as well as it used to

Friendly Tip: If you’ve just bought your plant from a nursery or Etsy seller, it’s likely it needs repotting fairly soon. Nurseries resell their plants when they’ve reached max growing capacity in that container.

When repotting your philodendron burle marx, keep these things in mind:

  • Choose a pot that has drainage holes
  • Only select a pot that is 1-2 inches inches bigger than the last (no more).
  • Fill with a high quality, loose, well draining potting mix 

How to Propagate a Philodendron Burle Marx

Philodendron Burle Marx is super easy to propagate and generally takes pretty quickly. The most common and straightforward method to use is stem cuttings. It has a 80-85% success rate for home growers, making it an ideal choice for beginners.

Propagate Philodendron Burle Marx from Stem Cuttings

  • Prepare a pot of fresh, moist potting mix (see soil section above). Fill a small container (3-6 inches is generally more than enough) with the soil.
  • Choose a healthy stem that has at least 2 or 3 leaf nodes.
  • With a sterile pair of pruning scissors cut a 3 to 7 inch stem just below a leaf node.
  • Dip the freshly cut stem in rooting hormone solution or powder.
  • Plant the stem cutting into the potting mix, making sure the nodes are well buried (this is where roots will sprout from).
  • Place the plant in a warm spot that’s well-lit but with no direct sunlight. 
  • Cover the plant with a plastic bag if humidity levels are low.

In around 3-5 weeks, the stem cutting should have developed its initial roots. It will take a few more weeks for them to become established, so I’d hold off on doing too much to your plant.

Toxicity – Is the Philodendron Burle Marx Toxic?

Unfortunately, yes! The philodendron burle marx is toxic to small children and pets if eaten, including dogs and cats. Its leaves contain high amounts of small oxalate crystals which can cause local swelling in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract, according to the ASPCA.

Help! What’s Wrong with My Plant? – Common Care Problems with the Philodendron Burle Marx

Weird Water Spots on Leaves

Super simple! Change the type of water you’re watering with. Hard water, in particular, causes those water spots to appear on plant leaves. Similarly, water high in impurities causes the same effect. Watering with distilled or freshwater is ideal.

Leaves and Stems are Weak & Cuttings Don’t Root

This is usually caused by poor light levels combined with too little fertilizer. Increase light levels first. If the leaf color is light green after increasing light levels, increase fertilizer (and make sure it has all the right nutrients your plant needs). This will increase the overall carbohydrate level within the plant which will improve rooting and initial growth. 

Wrinkled Leaves

What you’re seeing is burning. More common than you might think, wrinkled leaves on vining and creeping philodendrons are caused by a phototoxic reaction to liquid fertilizers. When fertilizer is left to dry on leaves, it burns the plant. This is only seen in plants that are watered overhead rather than at the base. Switch to base watering. It won’t de-wrinkle the old leaves, but new growth will come in fine.

Leaves are Pale and Sickly Looking

Pale leaves are usually a sign of a magnesium or calcium deficiency. A well-balanced and complete fertilizer will solve this problem. If you’re interested in the science behind plants, this is known as chlorosis type 1. 

Dark Patches Appearing on Leaf

Dark patches appearing on leaves can be caused by drastic temperature changes overnight, or at least what your plant considers drastic changes! Philodendrons are not tolerant of cold temperatures and they definitely don’t like frost! Make sure to keep them away from cold, draughty windows too.

Yellowing Leaves

Yellowing leaves can have many causes including too much watering, too little watering, too low temperatures, too high temperatures as well as pests (yikes, that’s a lot!). If you’ve just bought your plant or repotted it, it’s possibly a natural reaction to a change in growing conditions. Your plant could simply be adjusting! Common sense and a little observation is usually all that’s needed to work out what is causing those yellow leaves.

Oversized Leaves

This is a wonderful ‘problem’ to have, but I completely understand that some plant parents want to keep their plant fairly small for maintenance purposes! I’ve only ever seen this once, and it was caused by excessively high levels of light combined with a nitrogen heavy fertilizer. You might see this in nurseries or if your plant has been kept outdoors in a warm zone. As soon as plants are moved to an indoor home environment where conditions are completely different to a nursery environment, leaves tend to shrink in size, and even turn yellow and drop off before new foliage grows back.

Brown Edges or Leaf Tips

Browning tips are a good sign your plant is chronically underwatered or not watered properly. Every time you water, some water should run through the drainage holes. It’s better to thoroughly water a plant less frequently than to give it small amounts of water frequently. This makes sure the entire mix is evenly moist and not just the top layer.

Stems are Leggy

The burle marx generally has longer, leggier stems than most plants, but leggy stems combined with droopiness are usually caused by a lack of enough bright, indirect light. A plant’s growth is entirely dictated by the amount of light it receives, too little and you’ll see a more wide, open appearance with less foliage. 

Wet, Mushy Patches Appearing on Leaves

Wet mushy patches that look like water soaked lesions are caused by a bacterial infection called erwinia blight disease or erwinia leaf spot. Spots on smaller, juvenile plants rapidly expand into tan or black areas on leaves within as little as 2 days (and can kill your plant within 3 days). You’ll want to isolate the plant from your collection, change the potting mix, prune the damaged leaves and give it as much ventilation (moving air) as possible to let the leaves dry out. Unfortunately, bactericides such as copper sulfate have proven to be ineffective in curing the infection. 90% of the time the plant needs to be discarded, sorry!

Mushy, not Water Soaked Lesions on Leaves

This disease looks very similar to Erwinia blight disease except that the lesions rarely become mushy and do not look water-soaked. You should treat this infection the same way as you would erwinia blight (see above).

FAQ – Commonly Asked Questions

Is the Philodendron Burle Marx Rare?

No, the philodendron burle marx isn’t considered a rare plant, although some retailers will try to convince you otherwise. It’s found abundantly in its natural habitat in Brazil and there are many cultivators growing this plant via tissue culture or seed. 

The philodendron burle marx fantasy however is a rare, but popular plant.

Is the Philodendron Burle Marx a Climbing Plant?

Yes! The Burle Marx philodendron is a vining variety that slowly climbs as it transforms from a hemiepiphyte to an epiphyte in the wild. Potted, you won’t see this kind of behaviour. 

1 thought on “Philodendron Burle Marx Care – Complete Guide & History!”

  1. Thanks this helped so much! I bought a 10″ burle marx from a shop and its leggy and has new growth but I saw inscets in the soil and may need to repot soon.

    Reply

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