The philodendron scandens brasil, aka a variegated heartleaf philodendron, brightens any area of the home with its stunning green and golden yellow leaves. This trailing plant with large, glossy heart shaped leaves earned its name thanks to its close resemblance to the Brazilian flag.
In this guide we’ll show you how to keep that variegation shining bright, how to keep its foliage bushy, and more importantly how to provide the best care for your philodendron brasil.
Quick note: You’ll sometimes notice the Brasil spelt with a ‘Z’ instead of an ‘S’ – it’s the exact same plant.
Philodendron Scandens Brasil Care
I keep my philodendron brasil in a standard moist aroid potting mix with organic matter in a hanging basket. The key is to make sure it’s fast draining! The mixture I use is made up of a quality loose potting mix combined with coco coir, orchid bark and perlite, added for drainage.
I’ve also grown philodendrons in a soilless medium (you’ll see this all over youtube too!) – simply mix perlite, orchid bark and sphagnum moss together. I find a soilless mix works better with juvenile plants, but a potting mix with soil does wonders for long term growth. Either is totally fine!
You might be surprised to find out that the philodendron brasil is a shade tolerant plant, but to keep its stunning variegation shining bright, you’ll want to keep it in a place that receives lots of bright, indirect sunlight. This type of light not only mimics the filtered, dappled sunlight that shines through Central America’s forest canopies, but it produces thick, glossier leaves with a stronger variegation.
Pro Tip: It actually needs more light than its famous counterpart, the heartleaf philodendron, to keep its striking colors. But you’ll want to make sure it doesn’t receive too much direct sunlight. This can scorch and singe your plant, leaving blackened spots or browning edges.
Only have sunny windows? You can diffuse the light with a sheer curtain, net or blinds.
This plant is definitely a warmth lover. As a general rule of thumb, between 70-80 Degrees Fahrenheit is ideal, though on the warmer side is better for growth. 60-70 Degrees is fine, but you might see slower growth. Anything less than 55 Degrees Fahrenheit will result in stunted growth, poor variegation and smaller leaves.
This is one plant that hates extremes; I’m talking about extremely wet or extremely dry soil. The Brasil loves moist, well drained soil that’s never completely dried out. Overly wet soil without drainage will lead to nasty diseases such as root rot, erwinia blight or even pseudomonas leaf spot. Luckily, if you’ve got a high quality potting mix that has perlite in it, you should have adequate drainage!
I water my philodendron brasil just enough to keep the top inch (3cm) of soil moist to touch. I do this once a week to make sure the roots are getting some much needed moisture. If the soil or mixture looks clumpy or it’s pulling away from its pot or hanging basket, it needs more water as soon as possible.
Pro tip: Check your hanging basket has adequate drainage. Good hanging baskets will have a drainage reservoir or net at the bottom that holds excess water. Simply tip the basket at an angle to drain the excess water that gathers there!
A tropical plant, it’s no surprise excellent philodendron brasil care involves maintaining a high humidity level. Humidity levels ranging between 60-80% is ideal for the Brasil. This level of humidity leads to larger, thicker leaves with a deeper and brighter variegation and gorgeous thick trailing vines. The golden yellows look brighter and the deeper greens look darker. You’ll be surprised just how important humidity is to this plant’s growth.
Update: I’ve read so many posts that say the philodendron brasil can tolerate lower humidity levels, but…none of mine have ever liked it. I’m originally from the UK where humidity ranges from 40-50% most days, and the leaves looked dull and miserable. I moved it to my bathroom where a hygrometer told me humidity was around 60-85% and within 2-3 weeks my plant really perked up! In short, I think humidity is important for this variety.
I recognise that this humidity level isn’t exactly comfortable for most homes so your plant will benefit from:
- The use of a humidifier to keep moisture levels in a dry room up
- Lining a water filled tray with pebbles, and placing the pot on the pebbles (not in the water)
- Plant grouping. Studies have shown that grouping tropical plants together creates a mini humidity bubble or biome where plants share ‘humidity resources’ through a process known as transpiration. Clever, really.
- Being placed in a naturally humid room e.g. a bathroom.
Pro Tip: Regular mistings actually do very little to help your plant humidity wise. As soon as you’ve spritzed your plant, that’s it. It’s a 5 second temporary fix to increase humidity.
Best Fertilizer for Philodendron Brasil
If you’ve followed this plant blog for a while, you’ll know that I always fertilize my houseplants. Why? Unlike their outdoor counterparts, indoor plants have no way of getting nutrients naturally. Once the soil is depleted, that’s it! They need a little extra fertilizer for that steady, healthy growth.
For a more hands off solution, I use slow release osmocote tablets and push them into the mix. They’re coated with a resin that once watered supposedly don’t lead to any kind of root burn, which is just what you’re looking for. They’ll release key macro and micronutrients as and when needed by your plant. They contain the key ingredients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium as well as many other essential micronutrients a plant needs to thrive such as magnesium and iron.
Can I use a liquid fertilizer instead?
You can, if you want a more hands-on approach. I’ve used dyna grow pro before with stellar results. It’s a premium, complete formulation liquid fertilizer that offers all of the key macro and micronutrients your plant needs. It’s also urea free (which is a good thing!). Urea, found in cheap fertilizers, contains lots of heavy residue salts that can build up on the soil over time and eventually cause root burn or death (plant death, that is – you’re good).
Mix a ¼ teaspoon with 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of freshwater, spring is ideal. Tap water, at least where I live, is quite high on chlorine. Too much of it can lead to chlorine toxicity in plants. Fertilize away from the roots as much as possible i.e. on the outskirts of the pot.
When Should I Fertilize my Plant?
It’s best to fertilize once a month in spring and summer, the main growing months and cut back during the winter and fall months. You can fertilize every other month in the fall and winter. This minimizes the risk of residue salt build up or root burn. Excessive fertilization can cause the leaves to curl and turn yellow.
Does Organic Fertilizer Actually Work?
They do, but they need to be ‘activated’ to work. Organic fertilizers need microbes or bacteria to break down the key nutrients for the plant to absorb. In the past I’ve added either seaweed extract or fish emulsion to my plants. So far, I’ve noticed variegated plants develop richer colors because of it, possibly because they’re loaded with micronutrients and plant growth hormones. If you’re using a complete formula you don’t need these extra organic fertilizers. Less is more when it comes to fertilizers!
Growth – What Can I Expect?
The philodendron brasil plant can grow up to 1.2 m (4 feet) tall (if grown as a climber on a moss or bamboo pole) and 0.4m (1.2 feet) wide if grown indoors. It’s a pretty compact plant which makes it an excellent choice for hanging baskets.
How to Propagate your Philodendron Brasil
Propagating this plant is super easy! Taking stem cuttings and planting them either in soil or water is the most successful method I’ve tried so far.
Philodendron Brasil Propagation Methods – Step by Step
Cutting up your plant can be really scary but don’t worry, it’s a real simple process. I’ll walk you through it step by step.
Pro Tip: Propagating in the beginning of spring, at the start of this plant’s growth cycle, lends to strong and healthy roots.
Method #1 – How to take a stem cutting
- Choose a healthy vine or branch that has 2-3 nodes on it. Nodes are the little stop points between the intersections that creep up to the leaf. This is where new roots will grow from.
- With a clean pair of pruning scissors, cut the stem below the nodes.
- Prepare a small pot of moist potting soil and perlite (2:1 ratio).The mix should be wet, but not soaking.
- Dip the fresh stem cutting in rooting hormone. This is optional but I find it helps roots take hold quicker.
- Plant the stem into your pre-made potting mix (2-3 inches into the mix). The nodes should be well buried under the mix.
- Fill the rest of the pot with your potting soil and perlite mix.
- Place in a warm area that receives bright, indirect light.
- Water as usual.
- In 2-3 weeks roots should develop. Tug very gently to check for roots.
- Transfer to a bigger container or small hanging basket once roots have taken hold.
Method #2 Water propagation
- Have a small clean jar of freshwater ready, ideally the jar is transparent so you can see root growth.
- With a clean pair of pruning scissors, cut a healthy stem with at least 2-3 leaves on it. Make sure to cut just below the leaf node (this is where the roots will grow from).
- Place the stem cutting into the jar of water, leaving the main leaves above water level.
- After 2-5 weeks, you should see some roots beginning to sprout.
- Once the roots are around an inch long (3cm) you can take them out of the water and plant them in a small pot with moist, well draining potting soil with perlite.
- Water and care for as usual before transferring to a larger container.
Common Pests & Diseases to Watch Out For
You’ll be glad to know that the philodendron brasil is a very hardy and resilient plant. Luckily it’s not prone to anything in particular. The main suspects to watch out for are:
- Mealybugs – white unarmored sap sucking bugs that are round in shape
- Scale – white, yellow or orange tiny sap sucking bugs
- Thrips – small, orange or brown slender bugs that suck sap
- Aphids – tiny sap sucking insects that tend to gather in clusters
- Erwinia Blight Disease – wet, mushy looking lesions on stems and leaves
Mealybugs, scale, thrips and aphids can all be removed with an eco-friendly insecticide such as neem oil. Neem oil has natural insecticidal properties when pressed. Make sure to dilute and brush over the leaves to remove any common pests.
Erwinia blight and pseudomonas leaf spot disease however, is easier to prevent than cure. Both diseases are caused by too much overhead watering or leaf misting. These are serious infections that can kill your plant within days.
Pro Tip: This is why I don’t recommend you mist your plant – it’s difficult to gauge when you’re overdoing it!
Toxicity – Is this plant toxic?
Yes. The philodendron brasil’s leaves are toxic to small children and pets, including cats and dogs if ingested. It leaves calcium oxalate crystals that typically cause swelling of the esophagus, mouth, and tongue.
Help! What’s wrong with my plant? – Common philodendron brasil problems
Problem #1 – Why are philodendron brasil leaves curling?
Curling leaves are an indicator that your potting mix or soil is lacking moisture and is way too dry. Curling leaves are always a sign your plant is under too much stress. If the potting mix is too dry, go ahead and water it thoroughly.
Problem #2 – Why are my plant’s leaves wrinkling or creasing?
Again, it sounds like your potting mix is too dry or has been left too long between waterings. A lack of moisture causes the leaves in this plant to wrinkle, curl or crease. Make sure your potting mix is thoroughly moist.
Problem #3 – Why does my brasil plant have small leaves?
Small leaves are usually a light or humidity issue. Try moving to a brighter spot that has higher humidity e.g. near a bathroom window. If you’ve just bought your plant, it’s worth remembering that it’s unlikely you’ll replicate the optimal growing conditions found in a nursery so some reduction in leaf size can be expected.
Problem #4 – Why is my philodendron brasil losing its variegation?
If your philodendron brasil is losing its variegation it’s likely your plant isn’t receiving enough bright, indirect sunlight. Whilst this plant is deemed as a shade tolerant or low light plant, it rarely produces that stunning gold and green variegation under these conditions. Move it to a new location with a brighter source of light and continue to monitor its growth over the next few weeks.
Problem #5 – Why is my philodendron brasil growing all green leaves?
This is typical of a brasil that needs more pruning. Some hybrid specimens with a less stable genetic mutation are more prone to this than others. To encourage your plant to get back into balance, you’ll need to delicately trim all of the all green leaves just above the leaf node. Cut back the vine until you reach a leaf that has normal variegation. This type of pruning can help promote more variegated leaves to appear overtime.
Problem #6 – Why is my philodendron brasil leggy and sparse? What do I do?
Leggy and sparse philodendrons are usually caused by a lack of light. To fix, move to a brighter location and trim the plant back. This encourages new growth and if placed in a location that gets the right amount of light, you’ll see more dense foliage during new growth cycles.
Problem #7 – Why does my plant have wet, mushy patches on it?
Wet mushy patches or lesions on your philodendron indicate erwinia blight disease which is a bacterial infection that starts below the soil. It’s caused by too much overhead watering or inadequate drainage and can cause plant death in a matter of days. Change the potting mix immediately, prune the dead and damaged leaves and refrain from misting or adding too much water into your mix.
Problem #8 – Why are my philodendron brasil leaves yellow?
Yellow leaves are typically a sign of overwatering. This is the first sign your plant will give you if it’s being drowned in water. If this happens, I tend to change the potting mix just in case the mix is way too soggy and check for root rot. Rotten roots will look black in color and often they smell pretty bad.
FAQ – Your Questions about the Philodendron Scandens Brasil answered
Should I provide a pole for the philodendron scandens brasil to climb?
The philodendron brasil can be grown as either a climber or a trailing vine from a hanging basket. Providing a moss or bamboo pole will provide extra support for the brasil as it climbs. Over time this will lead to thicker, wider leaves and denser foliage.
Should I prune my philodendron scandens brasil?
The philodendron brasil doesn’t need pruning regularly. Simply trim out any dead, discolored, damaged, or diseased leaves and stems as they appear with a clean pair of pruning scissors. Snip stems just above the leaf node to encourage new growth.
Can a philodendron brasil revert?
Yes. A philodendron brasil can revert back to an all green heartleaf variety. This typically happens when there’s not enough bright, indirect light or if the individual specimen has a weak genetic mutation that isn’t stable.
Does a philodendron brasil grow fast?
Yes, the philodendron brasil plant grows fast, especially when it’s placed somewhere with warm temperatures, high humidity and lots of bright, indirect light.
Philodendron brasil vs pothos – what’s the difference?
The main difference is that the philodendron brasil produces more heart-shaped leaves that are thinner and softer in texture, whereas the pothos produces more pointy, elongated leaves with a very visible rigged texture. Pothos also tend to have thicker, less glossy leaves.