How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Philodendron Brasil
Philodendron Brasil has become a more popular houseplant over the last several years. Their beautiful leaves make this philodendron variety a well-sought after plant. In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton walks through all the steps you'll need to follow to successfully plant, grow, and care for Philodendron Brasil.
Few Philodendron cultivars are more well-known than Philodendron Brasil, a trailing vine packed with personality. The deep green leaves and yellowy-green centers are bound to brighten up any room, no matter where they are placed.
The brasil is a bit more popular than other rarer versions, and has become quite popular as a go-to houseplant for beginners and houseplant lovers alike. One of the more visually stunning philodendron cultivars, this particular plant is also fairly easy to grow, and maintain.
But these plants have more than looks going for them. Very low-maintenance and easy to care for, this plant is ideal for the new houseplant parent looking to branch out a bit (excuse the pun). Let’s take a deeper look at everything you need to know about the Philodendron Brasil!
Philodendron Brasil Plant Overview
Plant Type Houseplant
Species Philodendron hederaceum ‘Brasil’
Native Area Topical Forests
Exposure Bright Indirect Light
Height 2-4 feet
Watering Requirements Low
Pests and Diseases Spider Mites, Mealybug
Soil Type Airy and Well-draining
Hardiness Zone 9A-11B
What Is a Philodendron Brasil?
Philodendron Brasil is a cultivar of the Philodendron hederaceum species, also known as Heartleaf Philodendrons. Brasil is one of the oldest cultivars, first discovered in the 1990s and commonly found in nurseries and online retailers today.
Heartleaf Philodendrons are closely related to other plants in the Philodendron genus, including the rare and sought-after Pink Princess Philodendron. These tropical plants are often grown indoors due to their love of warmth and high humidity.
While they can flower under the right conditions, they are primarily grown for their glossy green leaves. This is especially true for the Brasil cultivar, thanks to its stunning deep green leaves and bright variegation patterns.
All Philodendrons are members of the Arum family, Araceae. This family is characterized by leafy tropical plants that feature pointed flowers known as a spadix. These flowers are also typically surrounded by colorful modified leaves, like the ones you see in Anthuriums or Peace Lilies.
Heartleaf Philodendrons are commonly mistaken for another member of the Arum family – Epipremnum aureum, or as most people know it, Pothos. The Brasil cultivar in particular is quite similar to some Pothos types, but the shape of the leaves and variegation can help you tell these plants apart quickly.
Unlike some other plants with mysterious origins, the history of the Brasil cultivar is quite clear thanks to an existing patent for the plant.
According to the patent, Brasil was discovered in 1991 by a grower in Holambra, Brazil. After many propagation attempts, each once increasing the chances of mutation, Brasil emerged in a controlled environment as the only plant out of thousands with the greenish-yellow variegation pattern.
Once discovered, the plant was propagated by cuttings for several generations to test the stability of the variegation pattern. Found to be stable and consistent after successive plantings, it was named ‘Brasil’ after its place of origin.
The patent for this plant was granted in 2000, giving an idea of how long this cultivar has been on the market. It is one of the oldest Philodendron hederaceums available, especially when compared to recent cultivars like Rio that were only discovered in 2009 and made available for purchase just a few years ago.
As an older cultivar, it has also been used to produce other sports with interesting variegation patterns. Continued propagation of this variety increases the chances of even further mutations in the plants, as was the case with Philodendron Rio.
Wild Philodendron hederaceum species are native to Central America and the Caribbean. These plants love tropical and subtropical conditions, evidenced by their natural habitats. Their aerial roots allow them to climb tree trunks to lift off the ground and enjoy the dappled sunlight underneath tree canopies.
Today, Philodendron hederaceum is likely more common indoors than out thanks to its popularity as a houseplant. Brasil is also one of the most popular cultivars as a result of its interesting color and wide availability.
As this mutation was discovered in a controlled environment after successive generations of Heartleaf Philodendron propagation, you won’t come across Brasil in the wild (even in Brasil, despite the name). However, it retains the same affinity for tropical conditions and ability to climb as the original species.
Philodendron Brasil has a very similar leaf shape to the green Philodendron hederaceum species. However, it is the color of the variegation that sets this plant apart from the rest.
Each leaf typically contains a yellow-green stripe down the center of varying sizes. Some stripes run thinly down the middle, while others are wide enough to take up nearly an entire leaf.
The ends are slightly more elongated and pointed than other Heartleaf Philodendron types. But, the classic heart shape, defined by the curve at the base of the leaf where the stem joins, is the same.
New stem growth starts out a reddish color, changing to an orangey-brown as the plant ages. Each new leaf is covered by a sheath known as a cataphyll – a modified leaf that dries up and falls off as the new leaf matures.
According to the patent, Brasil reaches a height of around 6 inches with a spread of about 20 inches. If left to grow without pruning and in the right conditions, the trailing stems can grow and climb several feet, albeit slower than Philodendrons with darker non-variegated leaves.
As the leaves of this cultivar and other Philodendrons contain calcium oxalate, it is toxic to humans and pets. Keep the leaves away from children and pets and watch the length of the trailing vines to ensure they stay out of reach.
Buying a Philodendron Brasil
While some of the newer Philodendrons are quite rare and difficult to find, Brasil has been around for a while. It is one of the easier types to find at nurseries or general stores and is widely available across the world.
Check your local nursery or online stores in your area – they will likely have a Philodendron Brasil in stock. Alternatively, find a friend or family member with one and ask for a cutting.
These plants are easy to propagate (stick around for instructions below) and removing a cutting does no harm to the parent plant. In fact, a quick prune can spur growth, allowing you to propagate and grow even more of these wonderful plants.
How to Grow
Heartleaf Philodendrons are known as easy-going plants great for beginners. Brasil is no exception. The trailing stems look stunning hanging from shelves, or you can attach the plant to a moss pole or trellis to allow it to grow to its full potential.
As a general rule, Philodendron hederaceum is known to tolerate a wide range of lighting conditions, including low light. However, they will grow best when placed in bright, indirect sunlight, similar to the dappled sunlight they receive in their natural habitats.
When it comes to Brasil, the more light you give the plant, the better. Due to the variegation patterns, the leaves contain less chlorophyll than usual, meaning less photosynthesis takes place. Optimal light levels make up for this lack of chlorophyll and ensure the plant grows to its full potential.
To maintain the variegation of your Philodendron Brasil, especially if several leaves have large stripes of variegation, keep them in bright indirect light for most of the day. An east-facing window that receives an hour or two of gentle direct sunlight is also suitable.
South or west-facing windows, due to the intensity of the sunlight, should be covered by a sheer curtain to protect the leaves from burning. North-facing windows are not ideal, as plants in low light conditions may begin to lose their variegation, reverting to solid green.
If you’re unsure of the light intensity in your home, there are apps available on your smartphone that use the built-in hardware to measure the light intensity. This light sensor is the same component used to detect the light when you unlock your screen to automatically adjust the brightness.
When used correctly, these apps will measure the light intensity in lux or foot-candles. Aim for around 10 000 – 20 000 lux (1 000 – 2 000 footcandles) for the best results. For the most accurate reading, invest in a light meter and aim for the same range.
Plants in the Philodendron genus are not heavy water users. They prefer their soil drier than they do moist.
Excessively moist soil creates the prime environment for root rot and fungal growth, problems that are quite difficult to manage once they take hold. It’s better to hold off on watering for a few days than to overdo it and deal with root rot later on.
To keep your Brasil happy, water when the top 1-2 inches of soil dries out completely. This will help you maintain the right balance between moisture and aeration. Test the soil every couple of days and water when the top layer is dry to the touch.
If you’re prone to overwatering or underwatering, there are a few ways to fix the problem:
- Never water on a strict schedule. Soil conditions can change day to day with changes in temperature, humidity or light levels. Watering on a schedule – for example, once every seven days – is bound to lead to issues with over or underwatering at some point.
- Make it a habit to test the soil. While you won’t need to water every few days, checking in on your plants and their moisture levels will make sure you know as soon as they need a drink. It also gives you some one-on-one time with your plants to assess their health and to look for any signs of pests or diseases.
- Use moisture meters. While the results they provide are not always the most reliable, moisture meters are a good way to keep an eye on the soil without having to get your hands dirty every day.
Speaking of the dangers of overwatering, let’s talk about soil. Philodendron Brasil, given the risk of overwatering and preference for drier soil, needs a well-draining potting mix that is airy enough to deliver oxygen to the roots.
Regular garden soil, or standard potting mixes, typically don’t have the right characteristics when growing indoors. As pots indoors dry out far slower than those outdoors, houseplant potting mix needs to be incredibly light and well-draining to prevent root rot.
Houseplant potting mixes are typically a combination of potting soil, perlite or bark, and coconut coir or peat moss. This provides the right amount of drainage while retaining enough moisture to keep the plant happy for several days without a top-up.
You can purchase high-quality houseplant potting mixes from your local nursery or online. Alternatively, mix your own by combining two parts potting soil with one part perlite and one part coconut coir. If your potting soil is fine in texture, add a handful of bark to the mixture to increase the spaces between soil particles.
Soil will typically only be a consideration when you are repotting, since your Brasil will likely be happy in its existing soil for several months without a change.
When it’s time to repot, take a look at the components of the soil used and try to replicate them as best as you can. Since the plants are used to growing in that soil consistency, they won’t face too much shock when moved to a similar soil type.
Drastic changes in the soil can cause the leaves to turn yellow and the roots to stop growing as they adapt to the new conditions.
Temperature and Humidity
Heartleaf Philodendrons are accustomed to tropical jungle conditions, meaning warm temperatures and high humidity. In tropical climates, temperatures rarely drop below 65F and don’t often reach far above 90F.
That gives you an idea of the temperature range these plants prefer. Aim for day and nighttime temperatures between 65F and 85F for the quickest growth and healthiest plants. They can handle temperatures up to 90F, but not for very long due to their thin leaves that don’t hold much moisture.
These plants will stop growing in temperatures below 55F. They should be kept out of any temperatures below 50F completely. Brasil is not accustomed to cold temperatures and dips, even for a short time, can kill off parts of the plant at a cellular level.
If you’ve ever been in or near a tropical rainforest, you already know what humidity Philodendron Brasil prefers. Around 60% – 70% is suitable, at which point the plant will produce aerial roots to climb nearby structures. However, they will survive in humidity above 40% as long as all other conditions are met.
To improve humidity around the plant, group several houseplants together or place a humidifier nearby. Make sure to monitor humidity in the drier months, depending on the weather in your region, and make any adjustments as needed.
Things like drafts from open windows or air conditioners can dry out the air around your plants, as well as fan heaters in winter. Keep your plants away from these areas to avoid problems with humidity and to stop the soil from drying out too quickly.
Philodendron Brasil is not a heavy feeder. It will be happy in the pot it came in without any additional fertilizer for several months. However, as the nutrients in the soil become depleted, it will benefit from an occasional top-up.
In spring and summer, during the height of growth, feed your Brasil with a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer once every 4-6 weeks. Make sure to follow the instructions on the packaging exactly to prevent overfertilizing and subsequently burning the roots.
Liquid fertilizers are typically diluted in water and applied over the soil to be delivered where the plant needs it. However, these fertilizers wash out of the soil quickly as you water over the next few weeks, which is why you need to fertilize again about once a month.
If you want to avoid repeated fertilizer applications, opt for a slow-release fertilizer instead. Either mixed into the top layer of soil as pellets or buried in the soil in stick form, these fertilizers slowly break down over time to release nutrients to the plants when needed. They are applied once every three months, only in spring and summer – twice a year in total.
Liquid fertilizers give you more control over the process, but slow-release is less time-consuming. What you choose for your Philodendron Brasil is up to you.
Heartleaf Philodendrons are not high-maintenance plants. This goes for the Brasil cultivar too. There are a few tasks to consider doing a few times a year, but none are particularly urgent or have a major impact on growth.
The first task is pruning. Regular pruning, when done correctly, keeps the plant compact and encourages new and healthy growth. This can improve the growth of plants that have become leggy, or direct the plants’ energy to the healthiest stems, making them grow even longer.
If you want to prune your Brasil, start with a clean pair of scissors or shears. To cut the plant back and keep it compact. Remove a few inches off each stem above a node, leaving it on the plant. To encourage the stems to grow longer, remove any underperforming or branching stems at the base of growth. This will help ensure you don’t damage the node.
The second optional task is providing supports. As you can tell from the Philodendron Brasil posts taking over social media, these plants grow well when left to trail on shelves or cascade from hanging baskets.
However, they will grow faster and stronger when given some support. This encourages the growth of aerial roots and mimics the conditions these plants are used to in their natural habitats.
A moss pole in the center of the pot is the perfect option as it will also improve moisture around the plant. Alternatively, train the stems up a trellis to create a living wall or indoor privacy screen.
Finally, every couple of months, wipe down the leaves with a damp cloth or rinse them in the shower. This removes any dirt or debris collecting on leaves that would normally be washed away by the rain outdoors.
Propagating Philodendron Brasil is just as easy as caring for it. In spring and summer, during the peak of growth, trim off the ends of a few healthy stems and pop them in a glass of water. You can also propagate a mix to produce an entirely new plant within a few months.
To propagate, as when pruning, make sure your shears are clean before you start. Dirty shears are a haven for harmful germs and bacteria that will transfer to the new and vulnerable cutting, as well as the parent plant. Disinfect with a 5% bleach solution or wash with soap and water first.
Identify which stems are ready for propagating. They should be several inches long, trailing down the sides of the pot. Stems with leaves and nodes close together provide the best chances of rooting. Avoid any diseased stems or damaged leaves as this will inhibit root growth.
Make a cut just below a leaf node to remove a cutting at least four inches long. The cutting should have at least one node at the very bottom and a few leaves at the top. Remove any foliage from the bottom half of the cutting to stop them from rotting in the water or soil when planting.
Gather your cuttings and place them in a glass of filtered water or in a pot filled with propagating mix. While rooting in water is quicker, rooting in soil produces the strongest roots. Ultimately, the method you choose is up to you.
Place the glass or pot in a warm area in bright indirect sunlight. Frequently top up the water or keep the soil moist until the roots have grown several inches. When you are ready to transplant, group several stems to plant into one pot for a full and bushy plant.
Repotting houseplants is an essential task every plant owner needs to tackle at some point. As important as it is, it’s always better to hold off on repotting as long as you can and avoid repotting the second you bring a plant home.
Repotting disturbs the roots and changes the conditions the plants are used to. As plants are not fans of change, they can become stressed and endure transplant shock when repotted. Always repot only when your plant is rootbound or has been in the same pot for several years without a soil refresh.
Choose a pot just one or two sizes up to start. Most plants grow best when they’re a little crowded. Plus, any additional space in the pot not occupied by roots will hold onto too much moisture, encouraging fungal growth and increasing the risks of root rot.
Remove your Brasil from its existing pot and shake off the old soil around the roots. Fill the new pot 1/3 with the houseplant potting mix discussed above. Gently lower the plant inside until the base is resting just below the rim of the pot.
Fill in any remaining gaps with additional soil, gently pushing it down around the roots to eliminate large air pockets. Once the pot is filled to a few inches below the rim, leaving space above the soil line to prevent any spilling out when watering, press down around the soil to secure the plant in place.
Water the plant immediately to soak the roots and limit chances of transplant shock. Place the plant back in its original home as soon as possible to allow it to settle into the new pot without a drastic change in conditions.
While they are relatively carefree plants, they are not without problems. From watering issues to lack of humidity or pests and diseases, there are a few signs that your plant is struggling. Luckily, there are also plenty of fixes to get your plant back to good health in no time.
- Yellow leaves: Typically caused by overwatering. Adjust your watering frequency and repot if leaves start to wilt due to root rot. Can also signal nutrient issues, most commonly due to over fertilizing. Flush the soil with distilled water and hold off on fertilizing for several months.
- Brown leaves: Brown tips indicate a moisture issue, usually underwatering or lack of humidity. Brown spots in the centers of the leaves in areas of the plant facing the light source indicate leaf scorch. Move the plant to a spot away from harsh direct sun or cover the window with a sheer curtain.
- Wilting or curling: Usually due to underwatering, but also caused by overwatering. Check the soil moisture to determine which is more likely and change your watering frequency to manage the problem. Curling is also a response to direct sunlight as the plant tries to protect itself and conserve moisture.
- Spots on leaves: Caused by common houseplant pests like spider mites or mealybugs that feed on leave tissue. Remove with insecticidal soaps or horticultural oil.
- Lack of variegation: Receding variegation is caused by low lighting conditions. Move the plant to a spot with bright indirect light and the variegation should return to normal, and may even expand.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Philodendron Brasil grow in water alone?
Due to their ability to root in water, Philodendron Brasil can also grow in water long-term. However, you will need to add a few drops of fertilizer to the water to provide the plant with essential nutrients.
Only cuttings should be grown in water long term – plants originally in soil should not be moved to water or they may encounter root rot.
Is this variety considered rare?
As one of the oldest cultivars, they are not rare and can be commonly found in local nurseries or reputable online stores.
Is Philodendron Brasil a pothos?
Philodendron Brasil is part of the same plant family as the Pothos, but they are not the same plant. Brasil is part of the Philodendron genus, while the Pothos is botanically known as Epipremnum aureum.
If you have trouble telling them apart, take a look at our guide detailing the differences between the Philodendron and the Pothos.
Can they grow in low light?
Heartleaf Philodendrons manage in lower lighting conditions. However, for Brasil to maintain its high levels of variegation, bright indirect light is preferred.
How can I make a Philodendron Brasil bushier?
Pruning long trailing stems will keep the plant compact and encourage bushier growth. Prune just above a node, leaving it on the plant to encourage new growth at that point.
Is Philodendron Brasil toxic?
Philodendron Brasil, like other Heartleaf Philodendrons, is toxic to humans and pets. For this reason, it should be stored away from both pets and small children that may find it too difficult to resist putting in their mouth.
If you’re a budding houseplant collector, or simply love the look of bright and colorful foliage, Philodendron Brasil is the plant for you. This cultivar is extremely easy to care for, and is quite common compared to other varieties. Their ease of growth and glossy leaves make a wonderful low-maintenance statement wherever they are placed.