Brasil Philodendron (Philodendron Hederaceum 'Brasil')
There’s a strong chance that the original, green heart-leafed philodendron (Philodendron Hederaceum) is the most popular tropical plant in North America, if not the entire world—and this variegated variant, the Brasil (or Brazil) Philodendron? Well, we think it’s even better.
Also called Sweetheart Vine, Parlor Ivy, Philodendron Scandens, at least a dozen other names (it’s seriously crazy), Philodendron Hederaceum is native to the rainforests and swamps of Mexico, Brazil, and the West Indies. This ‘Brasil’ variation has the same vine-style grown habit and near-indestructibility of the original. Its foliage, however, gets creative.
Brasil’s leaves are still glossy, heart-shaped, and roughly 2”-3” wide and 4” long. But instead of painting every leaf a basic (and admittedly gorgeous) deep, rich green, Brasil splashes in vibrant medium green and bright yellow green, sometimes in irregular stripes and sometimes on entire leaves at a time. The result is a captivating, vivacious plant you can’t help but admire like a fine work of art.
Ideal for beginners and “black thumbs”, Brasil Philodendron has an awesome ability to stay beautiful no matter how much light it gets or how badly it’s neglected. But seasoned plant parents love it even more. In their skilled hands, Brasil Philodendron can become an absolute revelation, a show-stopper of a specimen plant that can be trained to climb up a stairway rail (or trellis, or moss log, or whatever), trail across kitchen shelves or down a bookcase, or simply give a dim corner a burst of irrepressible, vivacious greenery.
Brasil Philodendron is tolerant of light conditions ranging from bright indirect to low (anything but full sun, basically). It has basic watering and fertilizer needs, succumbs to very few pest or disease problems, grows fast, and is even easy to prune, shape, and propagate. It’s the perfect gift for any plant lover—especially yourself.
Characteristics and traits of a Brasil Philodendron (Philodendron Hederaceum 'Brasil')
Scientific Name: Philodendron Hederaceum 'Brasil' or (slightly incorrect alternate) Philodendron Scandens ‘Brasil’
Common Name: Brazil Philodendron, Brasil Philodendron, Sweetheart Plant, Heart Leaf Vine, Variegated Heart Leaf, Ivy Philodendron, Velvet Philodendron, Velour Philodendron, Parlor Ivy
Indoor: All year at temperatures above 60°F
Outdoor Zones: 10-12
Type: Perennial evergreen vine; easily propagated via stem cuttings.
Mature Height: 1’-2’ high, but up to 4’-6’ long (20’-30’ outdoors)
Mature Width: 1’-2’
Plant Height when Shipped: XXXXXX
Growth Rate: Fast to medium
Flower: Very rare outside of rainforest — non-ornamental green or yellow-green spathe
Foliage: Roughly heart-shaped leaves of bright green, even brighter yellow-green, or a variegated mix of both.
Plant Care and Advice for Brasil Philodendron (Philodendron Hederaceum 'Brasil')
Grown In: Inside: all zones year round; Outside: zones 10-12
Light Requirements: Bright indirect to low
Water Requirements: Allow top 1”-2” of soil to dry out between waterings
Drought Tolerance: Average
Temperature: Likes indoor room temp. 65°F-80°F. If outside, consider bringing indoors when temperature falls below 50°F.
Air Purification: Excellent - removes airborne pollutants including formaldehyde and pentachlorophenol.
Toxicity: Toxic. Calcium oxalates in tissues can cause symptoms including oral irritation; pain and swelling of the mouth, tongue, and lips; drooling; vomiting; and difficulty swallowing.
Fertilizer: General liquid fertilizer once per month during the spring/summer growing season, none needed in winter.
Container Friendly: Yes - But requires good drainage
Brasil Philodendron grows quickly, but rarely needs to be repotted. As a rule, repotting the plant every 2-3 years is enough. In late winter or early spring (Jan-March, before the growing season has begun), take a look at the plant’s roots. If they’ve formed a tight, compact ball, it’s time to repot. Choose a new pot that is 2-3 inches larger in diameter than the plant’s existing pot and that has a drainage hole and drip tray to catch excess water. Terra cotta pots are also preferable, as they “breathe” better than plastic, ceramic, or other materials, which is good for the plant’s roots.
In its natural habitat, Brasil Philodendron is an epiphyte, which means it climbs up other plants (typically trees) and gets most of its nutrients from the surrounding air, rain, and debris such as fallen leaves rather than from the soil. As such, they prefer a light, well-draining planting mix with minimal organic matter. African Violet mix is good, as is a mix of 4 parts peat, 2 parts perlite, and 1 part sand.
One of the things plant enthusiasts love most about Brasil Philodendron is its tolerance of low-light conditions … and most any other conditions as well. Brasil thrives in low light, medium light, fluorescent light, bright indirect light, part shade … pretty much anything except full sun, which can scorch its delicate leaves.
Another of Brasil Philodendron’s best features is its ability to take on whatever shape you want it to have. If left to its own devices, each stem will grow into a long vine. However, there’s an easy way to encourage fuller, bushier growth. Simply pinch or cut the stem right in front of a leaf node (the spot where a leaf attaches to the main stem). The plant will respond by sprouting at least one, but possibly two new stems from the node.
However, don’t trim the plant’s aerial roots, which look quite a bit like little chow mein noodles. Even if they have nothing to anchor onto, they play an important role in the plant’s physiology.
Brasil Philodendron does best when a “seasonal” approach is taken to water. During the spring and summer, when the weather outside is warm and the plant is growing, strive to keep the soil moist, but never soggy. Planting in well-draining soil and allowing the top inch or so of soil to become dry between waterings should do the trick. Once the cooler months roll in and the plant goes dormant, reduce both the amount and the frequency of the watering, so as to avoid the odds of the plant sitting in wet soil for extended periods of time (which invites the dreaded root rot).
No matter what time of year it is, it’s a good idea to let tap water sit for 24 hours before using it to water Brasil Philodendron. This has two benefits. First, it will give “impurities” such as added fluoride and chlorine (which could cause yellow leaves) time to dissipate out. Secondly, it will enable the water to reach room temperature, which is helpful because cold water could actually shock the plant and cause yellowing of the leaves. If letting tap water sit seems like a hassle, you could also use distilled water or collected rainwater.
Brasil Philodendron is a fairly quick grower when healthy, so it benefits from fertilizer during the growing season. Give it a balanced general liquid feed once a month in spring and summer, keeping an eye on the foliage. If the leaves start to yellow, dilute the fertilizer to half strength. Once the plant goes dormant in fall, hold off on fertilizing until the following spring.
Finally, Brasil Philodendron is tolerant of a wide range of humidities, but as it is native to the rainforest and swamp, it does appreciate a nice light misting one or more times a day. You can also raise the humidity by placing the plant’s pot on a drip tray filled first with pebbles and then with water just a bit lower than the pebbles (so the water doesn’t reach the bottom of the plant’s pot).
Philodendron Hederaceum 'Brasil' is remarkably durable. Better yet, when something is less than perfect, it has clear signals to let you know.
If the leaves start to yellow, there are several possible causes. The most likely cause is that your Philodendron Hederaceum 'Brasil' is getting too much water (especially possible in winter). If overwatering seems unlikely, the plant may be nutrient-deficient and in need of fertilizer. Finally, it could be temperature shock. Make sure you’re giving the plant room temperature water instead of cold water straight from the tap. Also check for cold air drafts.
If the leaves look wilted, give the plant a bit more water. If the leaves seem small and/or the spaces between them seems overly long, the plant may need a bit more light (this is rare, but possible).
Philodendron Hederaceum 'Brasil' is quite pest-resistant, but it’s not immune. If you see scales or other unwelcome pests on the underside of the plant’s leaves, wipe them with a wet cloth and/or treat with neem oil, insecticidal soap, or by dabbing them with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Similarly, Philodendron Hederaceum 'Brasil' is resistant to most plant diseases, but if you see brown spots on the leaves, it’s likely a fungal infection (possibly caused by mist water sitting too long on the leaves). Reduce the intensity of misting (especially in cooler months) and trim off the affected foliage. Don’t worry, it will almost certainly regrow quickly.
Propagation of Philodendron Hederaceum 'Brasil' is as easy as it gets. Simply cut off a section of stem with at least 3-4 leaf nodes, strip the leaves from the lower couple nodes, and insert the cutting in water or moistened soil. You should see roots forming from the leaf nodes within weeks. Spring and summer are the best time of year to root cuttings, but there’s really no bad time to do it.
In its natural habitat, or if planted outside in a warm enough climate, Philodendron Hederaceum 'Brasil' can become truly gigantic, with leaves up to 19” long and more than 13” wide that climb up to 20’ or more into the trees.
Philodendron Hederaceum is often mistakenly labeled Philodendron Cordatum by well-meaning plant lovers, and even some botanists. In truth, Philodendron Cordatum is an altogether different species that looks very similar, but is much less common in the wild and very rarely seen in the plant trade.
As if that wasn’t confusing enough, Philodendron Hederaceum also has several additional scientific-sounding (but often unofficial) names, including Philodendron Oxycardium, Philodendron Scandens, Philodendron Miduhoi, and Philodendron Micans. These names are often used by plant growers to indicate slightly different variations of the plant—but not by botanists, who maintain that the differences are just natural variation (like hair color in humans) or re-descriptions of the same plant and therefore all of the names apply to a single species, officially named Philodendron Hederaceum.