The philodendron ring of fire is one of the most stunning and sought after species in the world. Prized for its magnificent dragon fang shaped leaves, dazzling display and unique speckling, if you’ve managed to get your hands on one, consider yourself extremely lucky.
Its popularity is due to its beauty, as its leaves boast five vibrant and unusual colors during different seasons throughout the year. From sunset orange to brick red to chiffon pink to emerald green, each plant and leaf is truly one of a kind.
Whether you're a beginner or a bonafide plantophile, this is everything you need to know about your philodendron ring of fire.
The Questionable History Behind the Magnificent Philodendron Ring of Fire
Philodendron ring of fire is an ultra-rare species of philodendron, believed to be a hybrid between the Philodendron Tortum (polypodioides) and the Philodendron Wendlandii.
The plant was originally named ‘Henderson’s Pride’ after its breeder, Keith Henderson, but that name was later discarded for the more apt phrase ‘ring of fire’.
Why? It all comes down to controversy. Yes, there is drama, even in the plant world.
There is speculation in the plant community that the owner behind the once running Asiatica nursery (since closed) was the original cultivator who brought the plant to market, which is why you’ll see both names floating around the internet.
As for who’s right? No-one’s really sure.
Philodendron Ring of Fire Care
You’ll be glad to know that the philodendron ring of fire is considered a relatively low-maintenance plant despite its privileged high status.
The key to caring for your rare find, as with any plant, is to mimic its natural growing environment and habitat as much as humanly possible. This sounds ambitious, but it’s perfectly do-able once you understand the background of this beautiful plant.
Your philodendron ring of fire plant will cope with a variety of lightings, but it will shine its brightest when its kept in lots of bright, indirect sunlight.
In terms of what that looks like, I use a light meter to measure the overall light intensity in a room.
Light meters measure light in foot-candles (FC), and whilst not entirely accurate, they can give you a extremely good edge over what your eyes see, or rather think they see. What you deem as ‘bright’, someone else might deem ‘dark’.
For good growth, you'll want to keep your philodendron ring of fire in 400-600FC. Anything less than 200FC will cause stunted growth and a loss of vibrant coloring (something which isn't easy to recover once it's lost).
Q. Is It True That Direct Sunlight Is Terrible For Philodendrons?
Not exactly. Some direct sun can provide a real foliage boost, but some plants like it better than others. Plants are like people, they each have their own individual preferences and likes.
Some plants thrive when given 1-2 hours of cool early morning or late evening sun, others aren’t a fan.
You’re perfectly safe to place your philodendron ring of fire in cool direct sun for 1-2 hours a day without seeing bleaching or scorching (yellow, brown or black marks).
Problems only arise when the plant is kept in direct sun (mainly blazing hot afternoon sun) for hours on end.
The key to preventing any sudden, unexpected changes in your plant’s appearance is to help your plant get used to this increase in light over a period of time i.e. don’t whack it in the window and leave it their for a whole day if it’s been placed in shade all its life.
Q. I’ve Heard This Plant Loves Shade – Is That Correct?
Not in the slightest. Light is the plant’s food. Without light, it can’t photosynthesize. Whilst it’s not a cactus or succulent that loves direct, full sun, it’s not a low light plant either.
No hiding it in the darkest corner of your bathroom, hoping it will ‘thrive’.
Dim light can cause legginess (extended stalk growth, not the good kind), small leaves, a loss of coloring and stunted growth.
Soil & Mixture
Philodendron ring of fire prefers slightly moist, well-draining, organic soil. If the soil is too soggy and wet or too dry and sandy, you run the risk of root rot or dehydration.
Moist and well-draining seem like they shouldn’t go together, but philodendrons typically need a good balance of both. They need their mix to stay moist (as they can’t hold water in their leaves) whilst also allowing for excess water to be quickly wicked away.
Because of this, ordinary potting soil with no amendments added to it is not a good fit for the philodendron ring of fire.
A premium pre-made aroid mix or monstera mix, one that keeps the plant moist yet aerated will allow the philodendron ring of fire to really excel. These mixes typically consist of ingredients such as perlite, orchid bark, activated charcoal, pumice and worm castings.
There are many organic aroid mixes on the market that are targeted specifically for Philodendron ring of fire plants, but you can also mix your own if you feel confident to do so.
Here is the formula I love and use for my philos:
- 40% coco coir
- 20% orchid bark
- 10% perlite
- 10% worm castings
- 10% pumice
- 10% activated charcoal
Your plant’s soil should be kept evenly moist at all times, neither dry nor boggy. Instead of following a strict watering schedule like most plant guides tell you to do, look at your plant to see if it really needs water.
How to Tell If Your Plant Really Needs Water
The quickest way is to get a small piece of wood or chopstick, plunge it deep into the soil (away from the roots), leave it for 1-6 hours and then observe what you see after it’s pulled out.
- Wet soil will make the stick very dark in color. You’ll also see little pieces of soil clinging to the stick.
- Moist soil will make the stick slightly darker, but you won’t see soil attached.
- Dry soil won’t change the stick color, nor cling.
The best time to water your philodendron is when the top 1/3 layer of soil (i.e. top 1/3 of stick) is dry. The soil should never be drier than that though.
Adjusting Your Watering Frequency Throughout the Seasons
Plants are much more susceptible to overwatering in the autumn and winter months. This is because there’s less light available, lower temperatures and much lower humidity levels, which encourage the plant to go into dormant mode.
During these months you’ll want to cut down on both watering and fertilizing.
In the summer and spring months, when the plant is actively growing, you can increase both the water and nutrition your plant receives. Again, still check to make sure your plant actually needs water.
Though the philodendron ring of fire plant is a hybridized tropical plant, it does not necessarily need hotter temperatures to thrive. Your philodendron ring of fire will grow well in moderate temperatures, usually anywhere from 60°F to 80°F (15°C to 26°C).
Temperatures higher than that can cause heat stress, while temperatures that are lower than 15°C can lead to severely stunted growth.
If you’ve decided to grow your philo outside, you can and should move it inside during extreme weather. Philodendrons are not frost hardy in any way shape or form.
This plant isn’t too picky with its humidity levels. Your plant will succeed in moderately humid conditions, think 50-60%.
However, when the air is particularly dry -as in some hot-weather areas with dry heat, or during winter months – you may want to consider using a humidifier to ensure your philodendron ring of fire has some much needed moisture.
Fertilizer is an often overlooked part of plant care. Once potted plants have used up the nutrients in their soil, they have no way of replenishing that stream, unlike their wild counterparts.
Best Fertilizer For Philodendron Ring of Fire
There’s no specific fertilizer that’s better than another for this type of plant. You can choose from a premium liquid fertilizer, a balanced houseplant food or even a seaweed based organic fertilizer.
Personally, I love and use both dyna gro (7-9-5 NPK formula) and Alaskan fish emulsion/Canadian marine phytoplankton for my philodendrons, though not together at the same time. With these, foliage growth is through the roof and more of the colors on my variegated and hybridized plants are showing through!
Dyna gro is a premium, complete fertilizer that has all 16 essential nutrients your plant needs to thrive, whilst Alaskan fish emulsion and marine plankton packs a punch in terms of growth hormones.
Both fertilizers must be diluted in water before being applied to your plant. I mix 1/4 teaspoon of dyna gro with 4.5 litres of water and feed every time my plant needs watering in the warmer months. With marine phytoplankton, I mix 50ml to 1 litre and feed once every 2 weeks in spring and summer.
Friendly tip: You don’t need to double up on fertilizers, especially if you are already using a complete formulation i.e. dyna gro. Less is always more when it comes to fertilizer.
Nutrients to Look for in a Fertilizer
The most essential nutrients a plant like the philodendron ring of fire needs to survive are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium often referred to in the fertilizer world as NPK.
NPK is the basis of what makes a good fertilizer great, but there are other secondary and micro nutrients that separate the great from the best. Fertilizers that use calcium, magnesium, and sulfur in addition to NPK are considered the gold standard.
Growth – What Can I Expect?
If you’ve been staring at your philodendron ring of fire like a hawk waiting for a gorgeous new leaf to unfurl, you’ll be sadly disappointed. These plants are incredibly slow growers as far as philodendrons go, think around 8-10 years before they reach maturity.
Each toothed leaf can grow up to 60cm in length and the plant itself can reach the 7-8 feet mark under optimal conditions. In terms of width, you can expect this gem to grow to an impressive 5 feet wide.
Though it grows rather slowly, proud philodendron ring of fire owners will tell you there is nothing quite like the rare allure of owning a mature Ring of Fire (as mature as you can grow in in the home at least).
Propagating Your Ring of Fire
Propagation, or plant reproduction, may seem like a lofty task, but it’s not as complicated as you might think. All you need is a mature philodendron ring of fire, potting mix, water, a container, and possibly rooting hormone – which is optional.
Once you have these materials, complete the following steps:
- Sterilize your gardening knife or pruning scissors.
- Cut a stem with two or more leaf nodes upwards about 4-8 inches.
- Prepare a rich, organic and moist potting mix.
- If using rooting hormone, clip the stem’s ends and dip it in the hormone (It’s optional, but I find it helps the stem to root quicker than normal).
- Bury the stem into your pot of moist soil, making sure the nodes are under the soil. It should be able to stand on its own.
- Place the newly potted plant in an area with plenty of sunlight, but not direct sunlight.
- Wait for it to grow!
To check the progress of your new philodendron ring of fire, you can tug gently on the stem and feel for any resistance. The new rooting process will take a few weeks, so be patient and be sure all the environmental conditions are just right for your plant.
The philodendron ring of fire is a very slow-growing plant. Because of this, you will not need to repot your plant very often.
Most recommend repotting your philodendron ring of fire only once it doubles in size. This will typically happen about every two or three years.
This philodendron in particular has an extensive root system that needs plenty of room, but it also enjoys being snug in a properly fitting pot. It can cope with being a little root bound.
While you don’t want the roots to poke up through the soil or grow through drainage holes, you also don’t want to place the plant in a container that is too large. A pot that’s only 1-2 inches bigger is best for repotting.
Overly large pots increase your plant’s risk of developing root rot ten fold. Balance is the key.
Your philodendron ring of fire will be low-maintenance for the most part. However, some light pruning will most likely be required to keep your plant looking and feeling its best.
If you notice any sickly, dead, or severely yellow looking leaves, you should prune those parts off of your plant.
If you notice your ring of fire becoming overgrown or taking over its pot, you can opt to prune some of those rogue leaves too.
You can also choose to prune your philodendron ring of fire leaves if you simply want to give it a more manicured appearance. However, if you’re pruning solely for cosmetic reasons it’s best to approach the task with a less is more attitude. General rule of thumb, never prune more than 20% of the plant.
All philodendrons are toxic to humans and animals, including the philodendron ring of fire. Calcium Oxalate crystals are in all parts of the plant, making them dangerous if ingested.
Adults may only feel slightly toxic effects, while children and pets may become significantly more ill. If ingested, swelling of the mouth, difficulty swallowing, and vomiting may occur. For this reason it’s best to keep these plants out of reach of children and pets.
Common Pests, Diseases & Issues + How to Fix
Poor plant health and pests can wreak havoc on your philodendron ring of fire if left unattended. Whilst plants in the araceae (aroid) family are not prone to anything in particular, there are some issues you may want to be aware of.
Why are the leaves turning yellow?
Yellow leaves on a philodendron could occur for a few different reasons. The most common reasons are over-watering and too much direct sunlight. Less common causes of yellow leaves include magnesium deficiency.
Water and sunlight issues are relatively easy to amend. If you suspect your philodendron ring of fire’s leaves are yellowing due to overwatering, refrain from watering your plant until the top layer of the soil appears dry and then only provide enough water so that the soil becomes moist, not wet or soggy.
Sometimes, it’s best to err on the side of caution and completely change a plant’s potting mix. I’ve done this a few times when I didn’t want my plants sitting in soggy soil until it naturally dries.
Yellowing due to too much direct sunlight can be solved with a simple change of placement. Remove your plant from direct sunlight and move it to a place where it will receive lots of bright, but indirect light. This is likely somewhere 2-3m away from the window.
If neither a water or sunlight issue is the culprit for the yellow leaves, a magnesium deficiency may be to blame. Magnesium is included in all good fertilizers, so a fertilizer switch might be your first port of call.
Otherwise, you can mix a teaspoon of magnesium sulfate to one gallon of water and pour directly onto the soil, or use dolomite – a favourite soil amendment amongst enthusiasts.
Why are the leaf edges turning brown?
Sometimes philodendrons develop brown edges and may also droop. This is usually caused by dryness.
It’s possible that the plant has gone too long without being watered and its soil has become too dry and compacted. If the soil is compacted and tight, it will need changing before you water again.
Dry soil clumps around the roots, preventing both fresh oxygen and moisture getting to them. Overtime, this leads to decay and root rot.
Low humidity, however, could also be responsible. If you live in a low-humidity area or if it is a lower-humidity season, you may need to introduce a small humidifier to your room.
Pests + How to get rid
Mealybugs, Aphids, Spider Mites
Mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites are pesky little bugs that feast on your plant’s sap and cause them to wilt and turn yellow or brown. They can even leave behind residues that attract other types of pests to your plant.
To rid your philodendron ring of fire of these nasty insects, you can wash the leaves with soapy water, rubbing alcohol, neem oil or an insecticide wash. Rinse the leaves with distilled water after washing them.
Erwinia Leaf Spot
Erwinia leaf spot, sometimes called Erwinia blight, is a condition in which bacteria spreads on new leaves. When this happens, dark green or yellow spots form on the leaves. It can also cause older leaves to look wet and blotchy. This disease can spread quickly, so it’s important to spot it early and intervene.
Immediately isolate your plant from the rest of your collection, prune the infected leaves, change the potting mix and increase air circulation around your plant. Copper bactericides can slow down the spread of infection, but they’ve been proven to not cure it.
Out of all the problems to have, this is perhaps one of the most serious – it can kill philodendrons in a matter of days, not weeks. There’s a 80% chance your plant won’t recover from a erwinia blight infection (sorry!).
Are Philodendron Ring of Fire rare?
Incredibly so! Philodendron ring of fires are considered extremely rare. Very few plants have the elaborately varied color scheme these plants do.
They’re very hard to find and even if they do pop up on Etsy or specialist nursery sites, there’s almost always an auction.
Their rarity and staggering beauty makes them one of the most sought after plants in the entire world.
How big do Philodendron Ring of Fire become?
Philodendron ring of fire plants are very slow growers, but in their maturity they can grow to be about six to eight feet tall. However, it may take up to ten years to see this type of growth. Most plants of this breed are seen maxing out at around the 3 feet tall mark.
Does Philodendron Ring of Fire climb?
Yes! They are considered climbers. To assist their climbing, you can provide them with a mossy post or pole wrapped in burlap. This will provide them with the stability they need to reach their full climbing potential.