Philodendron Red Emerald Care: Everything You Need to Know

The philodendron red emerald is one of the most exotic and beautiful plants in the Araceae family. Prized for its burgundy red leaves and colored undersides that perform a dazzling display as they cascade over the pot, they are a truly stunning find.

In this complete guide, I’ll be sharing the best philodendron red emerald care tips (why you shouldn’t be using potting soil as a growing medium!) as well as some fascinating botanical information to help you keep this beauty thriving. 

P.S Armed with a background in plant science, botany, and conservation, you’ll spot some fun facts about this plant scattered throughout this post too. 

Philodendron Red Emerald History & Brief Origin

The philodendron red emerald hails from the deep luscious rainforests of Colombia and Costa Rica.

You’ll also find ‘escapees’ of this plant in Koolau Forest Reserve in Hawaii, regions of the Philippines, and Australia, though they were introduced by humans and not found natively.

In the botanical world, this plant is known as Philodendron erubescens, but you might have heard it being called by its much cuter name of the Blushing Philodendron.

It’s not known when this plant was discovered or by who, so it pretty much is a mystery! All we know is that it was documented in the world’s global biodiversity facility at some point, though the entry was never signed by the explorer or botanist.

Note: Not to be confused with the equally gorgeous philodendron imperial red, the red emerald is a climbing variety, whilst the imperial red grows more like a shrub and is a genetic hybrid of the erubescens.

Soil

Philodendrons thrive in potting mixes that are fast-draining and high in organic matter. The key is to make sure your mix is airy, well-draining, and doesn’t become boggy or waterlogged.

You can either purchase a pre-made aroid potting mix or DIY your own! I have used both methods in the past and had stellar results with both.

Recommended Pre-Made Soil Mixes

Absolutely love and use these pre-made soil mixes:

FYI, I’m not a fan of Miracle Grow’s soil – it killed off a lot of my plants and caused a fungus gnat infestation *cry*. Don’t recommend buying it.

Philodendron Red Emerald DIY Soil Mix

It’s a super airy woody substrate that mimics their natural epiphytic nature.

I developed this mix after spending some time working in a botanical garden – the philodendrons and monsteras looked so much healthier with it and variegated species such as the incredibly rare red moon philodendron and philodendron white knight looked so bright.

The reason this mix works so well is that it contains a healthy mixture of moisture retaining elements as well as moisture draining.

Plus, philodendrons love to attach their beautiful white roots to the orchid bark (like they do in a rainforest).

FAQ. Why don’t you use a pure soil or compost potting mix?

Despite what many garden websites and plant blogs say, pure soil actually isn’t a great growing environment for your philodendron! 

Philos will drown in soils that compact and become mucky with water. Soil can cut off oxygen to their roots real quick.

The complete opposite, Coco Coir is a fantastically versatile medium that is designed for:

  • Control – you can control exactly what nutrients your plants receive
  • Fast growth and bigger plants
  • Drainage and aeration to prevent root rot
  • Creating jungle or rainforest mixes e.g. for philos and monsteras
Coco coir retains moisture extremely well whilst allowing for some much needed drainage. No more worrying ‘is it too dry and compacting around my plant’s roots’. Perfect medium. 

Watering

Philodendrons in general love moist, well-draining soil. The philodendron red emerald is no different.

Many believe that philodendrons prefer infrequent watering, but that’s simply not true, at least not in the wild.

Philodendrons are rainforest dwellers where average rainfall reaches 200-350mm a month. In nature, they can experience rain on a daily basis and don’t experience rot, pests, or diseases.

This is because their growing medium is fast-draining and rainforest fogs and dewy mists increase humidity and evaporation levels, wicking away excess water relatively quickly.

How to Water Your Philodendron Red Emerald

If you’ve got your red emerald in a potted container, you’ll want to make sure the top inch of potting mix (3cm) is damp to touch, though not waterlogged.

I water my philodendrons 1-2 times a week (with a water/fertilizer solution – see below) in spring/summer and once or twice a week in the colder winter months.

If you’ve created a potting mix with adequate drainage, you’re very unlikely to see root rot. 

Try not to let your philodendrons completely dry out in between waterings, especially if you’re using a potting soil. I see this advice all over the internet and I’m afraid it’s completely unfounded! 

Once the soil dries it creates a "blanket effect" which traps moisture below and stops much needed oxygen from reaching the roots.

Light

Recommended Light Intensity

Similar to the philodendron hastatum, your philodendron red emerald will reward you with beautifully elongated and long leaves and brighter red stems if it’s placed somewhere that receives 6-8 hours of moderate to bright, indirect light.

2-3 months in low light and you’re likely to see some of that deep emerald green color fade to an off-lime or mild yellow.

Having said that, don’t be afraid to put it somewhere it can receive 2-3 hours of cool morning sun, especially in the winter when light is lower naturally.

Problems only arise when your plant is kept in direct sun all day long, not just for a few hours.

How Much Light Does This Plant Need & Measuring It (The Easy Way)

Gauging light by eye can be tricky, that’s why I use the LX1330B light meter to know exactly where to place my plants! Cheap and accurate!

It measures light in footcandles (FC).

At an absolute bare minimum, this plant should be in 200FC. For optimal growth, you’re looking at 300-500FC.

The reason plant’s growth slows down in winter is because the temperature, light and humidity are at their lowest - usually much lower than their native environment. 

If given optimal conditions all year round, philodendrons (and other plants) will continue to grow as normal!

A Quick Fix for Low Light Locations

Struggling to achieve that light level in your home?! I highly recommend purchasing a good set of quality grow lights (I’ve linked the ones I use).

They’ve been a lifesaver for my philodendron mamei, xanadu, and bob cee!

Temperature

Recommended Temperature Level

A true warmth lover, the philodendron red emerald loves to grow in a location that keeps a stable temperature of between 70-80F or 21-29C, though it will cope with warmer and can tolerate cooler (60F or 16C).

The coolest Colombia’s rainforests ever get is 70F (21C)! This is why you’ll see magnificent growth at these higher temperatures. 

Lowest Temperature This Plant Will Tolerate

Anything less than 55° Fahrenheit (12.5C) will result in severely stunted growth, small leaves, wilting, or even death.

Humidity

The philodendron emerald can cope with normal household humidity levels such as 40-50%.

Recommended Humidity Level

That said, in higher humidity environments (think 70%+), this plant will sprout some serious aerial roots which makes propagation easier and gives the plant its characteristic spindly look.

Not to mention, a higher humidity leads to wider, larger leaves and vastly thicker stems (petioles).

How to Increase Humidity Levels

There are only 2 real ways to increase humidity: use a small humidifier or by grouping. 

Grouping plants helps to create a mini biome whereby plants share ‘humidity resources’.

Why Grouping Increases Humidity: Plants continually lose water from their leaves through a process known as transpiration. The lost water vapor then immediately surrounds the plant, increasing local humidity.

By grouping your plants together, the amount of transpiration increases, and humidity levels will drastically improve.

Myth Buster: Lining a tray with pebbles and regular mistings helps to increase humidity naturally.

A. Complete myth. Misting temporarily increases humidity for around 5 seconds before the moisture is dispersed around the room. Lining a water tray with pebbles also has little to no effect on humidity. 

Fertilizer

Potted 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!

Best Fertilizer for Philodendron Red Emerald

There are lots of options open to you on the market, but I love and swear by dyna grow (7-9-5 NPK formula), it’s a complete liquid fertilizer that contains all 16 essential nutrients your plant needs to not just survive, but thrive.

It’s urea free and low in heavy nitrogen salts, which over time, alter the pH level of the soil and lead to root burn.

How to Fertilize Your Philodendron Red Emerald

I used to fertilize my plants once a month like many nursery guides say to do but it seemed completely unnatural to me as a horticulturist!

In nature, plants receive a steady stream of nutrients from decaying matter over days – they don’t take one big gulp a month. 

It’s the human equivalent of eating all the food in your cupboard in one day and then starving for the rest of the month.

For this reason, I fertilize my 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 grow with 1 gallon of water (4.5 litres) and water my plant with this solution every time in spring and summer (roughly 1-2 times a week, sometimes more if it’s particularly hot).

It’s diluted to half and then half again so it’s very unlikely to burn the plant.

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.

Alternatively, you can use another brand of liquid fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen (promotes foliage growth), dilute to the recommended strength, and feed once a month. Completely up to you.

When Should I Fertilize my Plant?

Spring and summer, the main growing months. 

Cut back during the autumn and stop during the winter months (unless of course, you can replicate optimal growing conditions all year round).

Excessive fertilization can cause leaves to curl and turn yellow on the edges.

Can I Buy a Cheap Fertilizer – What’s the Difference?

Cheaper fertilizers tend to be loaded with heavy nitrogen salts which in large amounts can lead to death very quickly due to the rapid change in soil pH. 

Can I Use an Organic Fertilizer Instead?

Yes, you can. Organic fertilizers do take longer to break down because they need bacteria and microbes to decompose the organic material so plants can readily absorb the nutrients.

Suppose you live in a region that allows you to move your houseplants outdoors. In that case, I HIGHLY recommend Alaska fish emulsion – it’s packed with micronutrients and a good dose of nitrogen and does wonders for foliage growth.

Indigenous cultures used to bury fish under crops because they recognized how potent fish was as a natural fertilizer.

Word of warning, the stuff is pretty stinky so I would only use it outdoors.

Another natural fertilizer you can use is kelp and seaweed extract.

Friendly tip: You don’t need to double up on fertilizers, especially if you are already using a complete formulation. Less is more when it comes to fertilizer. 

Growth – What Can I Expect?

In the wild, the philodendron red emerald has been known to grow to a staggering 60 feet tall.

Based on botanical field notes, this plant may convert into a full epiphyte (grows up trees) if its connection to the ground is severed. 

Indoors, you’ll never see such growth. The philodendron red emerald will never grow taller than 12 feet (3m) – this is its absolute max size.

Under most household conditions, the plant will reach a mere 3 feet (36 inches). 

Interesting fact: Botanists in the 1800’s believed that the juvenile and mature form of philodendrons were entirely different plants! 

It wasn’t until the early 1900’s they realised that philodendrons in the wild are the same plant, they just completely dwarf their indoor counterparts.

Pruning – Should I Prune This Plant?

The philodendron red emerald is a fast grower when given the right growing conditions so it will need occasional pruning to keep it looking tidy and in shape.

With a clean pair of pruning scissors, cut back damaged, diseased, leggy, or extremely long vines. 

Repotting

The philodendron red emerald can cope (emphasis on cope) with being root bound, though it’s 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
Friendly Tip: If you’ve just bought your plant from a nursery or Etsy seller, it’s likely it needs repotting straight away. 

Nurseries typically resell their plants when they’ve reached max growing capacity in that container.

When repotting your philodendron red emerald, 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 

Jumping straight from a small to large pot can lead to root rot if the mixture becomes too wet.

Friendly tip: Don’t worry too much about prying the old soil from its roots before repotting. Your plant’s roots will expand into the new pot with ease. Teasing can actually cause more stress to the root system.

How to Propagate the Philodendron Red Emerald

Taking stem cuttings or air layering the nodes have the highest success rates for home growers and enthusiasts.

I love air layering because you never cut the plant until it’s grown roots – 100% success rate. No roots? Don’t cut and try again another time. Super simple.

Propagating in the beginning of spring, at the start of this plant’s growth cycle,  or at least when it’s warm, lends a higher chance of your plant developing stronger and healthy roots.

Philodendron Red Emerald Propagation Methods – Step by Step

Cutting your plant can seem really scary, so if you’re new to propagation, I highly recommend giving air layering a go before taking any stem cuttings.

I’ll walk you through both methods, step-by-step.

Why Propagation Is Nothing to Be Afraid Of

Propagation is always made out to be a really difficult (and scary!) plant care task, but if you take a look at what happens in the wild, you’d probably be surprised that anything grows.

Natural propagation includes a leaf or stem (petiole) with nodes breaking off, falling to the ground somewhere nearby, and taking root over a period of weeks or months after being doused with lots of rain. That’s it.

It’s primitive, basic, and seems like it shouldn’t work, but it does.

After all, there’s no-one to take stem cuttings or wrap the nodes in the rainforests, right?

Method #1 – How to Take a Stem Cutting

  • Choose a healthy stem that has 2-3 nodes on it (the more nodes the better chance of success). Nodes are the little stop gaps that produce aerial roots.
  • With sterilized pruning scissors, cut the stem just below the nodes.
  • Prepare a small pot of moist 50-50 sphagnum moss and perlite. The moss should be wet, but not soaking.
  • Dip the freshly cut stem into a rooting hormone solution or powder.
  • Plant the stem into your pre-made potting mix, making sure the nodes are covered – this is where roots will come from.
  • Fill the rest of the pot with your spag moss and perlite mix.
  • Place in a warm area that receives lots of bright, indirect light.
  • Water and make sure the moss is kept moist.

Roots tend to develop fairly quickly. Within 2-3 weeks you should have some roots starting to take hold (sometimes longer).

Once the roots are around 1 inch (3cm) long, you can move it to a slightly larger container with a normal richer potting mix and care for as usual.

Method #2 – How to Air Layer your Philodendron

The air layering method works for mature, well-established philodendron red emeralds that are already creeping up a pole.

  • Look for some healthy well established aerial roots shooting out from a node.
  • Take some wet sphagnum moss, and wrap it around the healthy node with roots and the pole. This helps support thinner stems that won’t hold their weight and the moss combined.
  • Using a transparent plastic bag or press and seal food wrap, wrap it fully around the node with moss. Make sure to not catch any leaves into this wrap.
  • If you used a plastic bag, you’ll need a zip tie to secure it in place. Press and seal food wrap should tape itself up pretty well (I’ve always found it much easier!).
  • Leave the top and bottom of the seal open. New roots like to dive downwards and this helps them do so without bunching up.
  • Thoroughly mist the sphagnum moss through the open top in the plastic bag every day. This stops the moss from compacting and drying up. Don’t let the moss ball dry out.
  • Wait 2-3 weeks for new roots to develop. No roots showing? Don’t worry, simply don’t cut the plant, and try again another time. Air layering is a 100% safe and secure propagation method for this reason.
  • Carefully remove the plastic wrap and some of the moss around your new roots. Check that the roots look healthy! Healthy roots look white.
  • Cut the stem just below the new roots with clean scissors.
  • Pot the stem cutting in a normal rich potting mix (see above). Care for as usual.

Common Pests & Diseases to Watch Out For

You’ll be glad to know that the philodendron red emerald is a very resilient plant when it comes to pests, not much affects it.

Mealybugs, thrips, aphids, spider mites, and scale can all be removed with some diluted neem oil, an eco-friendly insecticide. 

The main culprits to watch out for are erwinia blight disease and pseudomonas leaf spot, both nasty bacterial infections that start when the roots have no oxygen and are left to rot in overly wet soil.

The bacteria festers just below the soil level before causing wet, mushy lesions on stems and leaves. If left unchecked, it can kill your plant within days. It’s much easier to prevent than cure. 

You can try to save your plant by changing the potting mix to include more fast draining elements, pruning infected and diseased leaves/stem right back, and treating with a diluted copper sulfate solution.

Friendly tip: This is another reason why I don’t recommend misting your plants. Misting has been shown to cause all sorts of bacteria to develop if the water isn’t evaporated quickly.

Toxicity – Is The Philodendron Red Emerald Toxic?

Yes. The philodendron Red Emerald is toxic to small children and pets, including cats and dogs as its leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals.

If these crystals are eaten, they can cause local swelling in the mouth, abdominal region, and throat. Always best to keep philodendrons away from pets and children.

Help! What’s Wrong With My Plant? – Common Philodendron Red Emerald Problems

Problem #1 – The leaves on my philodendron red emerald are turning yellow

Yellowing leaves have many causes, but the main culprit to watch out for is root rot.

If left in waterlogged soil, the roots are stuck in a constantly damp place with no air, which is the perfect environment for decomposition to start.

Bacteria then festers and hey presto – you have root rot.

How to Fix: Change the potting mix as soon as possible, prune the yellowing leaves and let the plant ‘de-stress’ in its new pot before doing anything else.

Problem #2 – Pale Leaf Color

Pale leaf color is always a low light problem where tropicals are concerned. You’ll typically see it in winter if you live in a region that gets very little light in the colder months e.g Northern Europe.

How to Fix: Move to a brighter location or install some grow lights to keep that luscious deep emerald green intact.

Alternatively, pale leaves can indicate a lack of essential micronutrients such as magnesium. Make sure you’re using a complete fertilizer.

Problem #3 – Some Stems are Red, Others Aren’t

It’s possible you have a philodendron green emerald instead of a philodendron red emerald.

Philodendron green emeralds can have a slight tinge of red on new stems, though it’s fairly faint.

It’s also possible for the philodendron red emerald to have a weaker burgundy color on one side of the stem only, and the other side to be green.

How to Fix: Not really a care problem! Yay.

Problem #4 – Wet Patches on Leaves

This is likely erwinia blight disease or pseudomonas leaf spot, both nasty bacterial infections that need to be treated as soon as possible.

These wet, mushy looking batches often have a bad smell with them.

How to Fix: Change the potting mix, check for rotten roots and treat the plant with liquid copper, a natural bactericide. 

Problem #5 – Browning Edges or Tips

This could be a sign your plant is getting too much bright, direct sunlight (more than 2-3 hours a day) or it’s being underwatered. Underwatered plants tend to have curling leaves.

Problem #6 – Leggy Stems

Move your plant to a brighter location. A process known as etiolation in the world of botany, houseplants kept in low light will stretch to grow towards the light, resulting in weak, leggy stems. 

Common FAQ – Your Philodendron Red Emerald Questions Answered

Is the Philodendron Red Emerald Rare?

Yes, the philodendron red emerald is a rare aroid, though not as rare the red moon or white knight. Whilst it’s grown naturally and found abundantly in Colombia, it’s a rare and coveted find in the American and European commercial markets. 

How Much Does a Philodendron Red Emerald Cost to Buy?

A philodendron red emerald cutting can cost anywhere between $10-$25 (£7-£17), whilst a mature plant can cost $55-$90 (£39-£65).

Where Can I Buy a Philodendron Red Emerald?

They can be bought at specialized aroid plant nurseries, some garden centers, and on Etsy. 

Can I Propagate the Philodendron Red Emerald by Seed or Tissue Culture?

Horticulturists and nursery growers can grow the philodendron red emerald by seed and tissue culture but they’re not beginner-friendly methods. Stem cuttings and air layering have the highest success rates amongst home growers and enthusiasts.

2 thoughts on “Philodendron Red Emerald Care: Everything You Need to Know”

  1. We’ve had our plant for about 46 years. It survived numerous moves somehow. We reached a point where we couldn’t remember what it was and after hours of researching discovered it’s a Philodendron Red Emerald. With the research we now know it’s a climber, which answers why it would never grow straight up. We’ll be repotting it for the first time in decades, so we’ll follow your directions about soil.
    Now finally to my question. From what I’ve seen, when we repot, we should use a pole about 1 to 2″ in diameter wrapped with sisal rope. Now what about pot depth? Seems the pot needs to be deep enough to support the plant, especially when using the mix of soil you recommend. If you can give us some direction on this, we’d be grateful and again I apologize for the length of this.

    Reply
    • Hi John! Thank you for your comment. One of the key things with the red emerald is not to bury its roots too deep into the new soil mixture – ideally only around 3-4 inches deep, depending on the size of your plant. You can absolutely stake or pole your philo, in fact I recommend it for growth.

      Reply

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