The Philodendron Imperial Red is a rare houseplant from the Philodendron genus. You probably would have guessed that this new cultivar is sought after for its waxy red leaves and stems.
Bred to be a low-maintenance and healthy cultivar, this Philodendron is relatively easy to care for. But do avoid drafts, avoid overwatering and look out for Bacterial Blight and Bacterial Leaf Spots.
- They are suited to indoor temperatures and can tolerate dry spells.
- Avoid drafts.
- Water only when the top 2 inches of soil is dry.
- Bright indirect light, with a few hours of morning or evening light, is ideal.
- Do not mist. Bacterial Leaf spot, caused by wet foliage, is a common disease that plagues Philodendron Imperial Reds.
- Do note that this plant is toxic when ingested by pets and children.
We’ll show you exactly how to care for your Philodendron Imperial Red. 🙂
What is the Philodendron Imperial Red?
The Philodendron Imperial Red, (scientific name: Philodendron Erubescens ‘Imperial Red’) is a rare new hybrid with an interesting growth pattern.
When young, the plant starts developing oval leaves that are bright red. As they grow, the leaves darken with age into emerald green. But when fully mature, they change back to a maroon red!
Unlike many Philodendrons, the Imperial red is not a vining plant. Instead, it grows upright around the central stem, which is barely visible until older leaves fall away.
Caring for your Philodendron Imperial Red
The Philodendron Imperial Red loves ample amounts of bright indirect light, but a few hours of morning or evening light encourages its red variegation to pop!
We like placing our Imperial Red next to an East-facing window. Here, it receives some direct morning light and indirect light for the rest of the day.
West-facing windows are also a good option but place your plant about 3 feet (90cm) away from the windowpane to lessen the light intensity.
If your home lacks natural light, try using a grow light, at 800-1,200 foot candles, for a needed light boost.
It’s also a good idea to rotate your plant for even growth. We’ve found that the stems keenly point towards the light.
Those thick stems and leaves are good water stores, so you may find that this Philodendron Imperial Red needs less water than your average houseplant.
Using the usual soak and dry method of watering is better than using a set watering schedule, as changes in climate, seasons, and growth all affect water requirements.
- Using your fingers, check that the top 2 inches (5 cm) of soil is dry before watering. Around your first finger knuckle is a good gauge.
- If the soil is dry to the touch, you should water your plant. If not, don’t water!
- Water deeply and slowly until the soil is saturated and excess water starts escaping from the drainage hole. Soaking thoroughly in this fashion nourishes roots deep in the soil.
- Be sure to empty the saucer so that roots are never left sitting in a pool of stagnant water.
- Hold off from watering again until your plant’s topsoil is dry again.
Since watering is a crucial aspect of care, take time to observe your plant for “feedback.”
Curling leaves and brown leaf tips indicate that your plant needs watering. On the other hand, yellowed and droopy leaves usually indicate overwatering.
If in doubt, err on the side of underwatering!
Avoid Wet Foliage
It’s important to water at the base of your plant to avoid wetting its leaves.
Bacterial Leaf Spots and Blight, the most common Philodendron diseases, can multiply through bacteria breeding on wet foliage. Use a long-spouted watering can when watering.
For the same reason, we don’t recommend misting this particular plant.
In terms of container size, make sure you have a sufficiently deep container so that roots can grow deep. While they still have a relatively small root system, you’d still want the container to be deep enough for healthy growth.
Starting with around 10 inches (25 cm) deep is a good gauge for a small rootball.
The Philodendron Imperial Red also tends to have thick, heavy, and numerous leaves. Being top-heavy, choose a sturdy pot with some bulk to it to avoid toppling over!
As with most tropical plants, the higher the humidity, the better. They live in rainforests where moisture levels in the air can exceed 90%!
For the lushest variegation, humidity >60% is ideal. You’ll also notice more aerial roots form at these levels, and deep reds and maroons in its leaves become more striking.
Having said that, though, your hardy plant can tolerate average room humidity thanks to its glossy leaves. So don’t fret if you don’t have a humidifier. It’s definitely a nice to have, but not a requirement.
Average indoor temperatures are ideal for your Philodendron Imperial Red. Keeping temperatures between 65-85 degrees F (18-29 degrees C) helps your plant thrive.
They are not a cold-hardy species, so don’t even try. Dips below 55 degrees F (12 degrees C) causes growth to slow. Extended periods in the cold will cause wilting and eventually kill your plant.
Importantly – keep away from air vents and cold drafts! Dark patches on leaves result from cold drafts, even if your plant was only exposed for an hour or two. Philodendron Imperial Reds are really sensitive in this way.
You’ll need to trim off the damaged leaves (they can’t heal) and place your plant in a warm and stable temperature environment.
They are moderate growers.
- Growing upright, you can expect your Philodendron Imperial Red to grow up to 30-35 inches (0.8-0.9 meters) tall and about 15 inches (0.4 meters) wide. Their large, oval-shaped leaves do tend to fan out in all directions, but still remains quite a compact plant suitable for indoors.
- Being a tropical evergreen, you can enjoy its leaves year-round.
- They are can quite top-heavy, as roots are relatively compact, and leaves grow large.
- Being self-heading, leaves grow very closely together. From the top view, the plant forms a rosette. 😊
If you are patient, this Philodendron Imperial Red delights with a bright red spathe (modified leaf or bract), protecting a central cream spadix. The spathe and spadix together are called the infloresence.
Flowers are small and numerous, growing along the length of the spadix.
Soil or Growing Medium
We’ve started growing our Philodendron Imperial Red in LECA, which has done wonders for the plant.
It’s the ultimate loose and airy mix, and the way that the clay pebbles prop up the plant means that it is never sitting in a pool of water. Pool of water = overwatered plant = root rot.
If you prefer a more traditional potting mix, we’ve found success with this mix too:
For this particular Philodendron that is prone to overwatering, we like using some succulent potting mix as this has better drainage qualities. Mix this with standard indoor potting mix.
We also lighten the mix with coco coir.
Fertilizing your Philodendron Imperial Red is essential.
- Apply a dilute solution of Dyna-Gro Grow during the spring and summer growing months.
- Add ¼ teaspoon for every 1 gallon.
- Use this every time you water so that your plant receives a steady stream of nutrients.
- Hold off fertilizing in the fall and winter months.
If you prefer an organic option, worm castings is also a great choice. Apply a thin layer, around a quarter of an inch or 0.6 cm, to your pot at the start of Spring.
Being ever the low maintenance plant, your Imperial Red doesn’t need much repotting.
Expect to need to repot once every 2-3 years. Of course, you’ll want to watch out for symptoms of being root bound first and foremost to know that repotting is in order.
They are tolerant of being slightly root-bound, so you can take your time.
- Water the day before repotting. This reduces transplant shock.
- Place your plant on its side.
- Using your fingers, gently work through any compacted soil to loosen your plant. Wriggle your plant free from its pot.
- Prepare fresh soil and a new pot that is just 2 inches (5 cm) larger. Choose a pot with drainage holes, always.
- Re-plant in its new home.
Wiping Down Leaves
Your heavily foliaged plant has thick leaves that we all love! But unfortunately dust easily settles in this foliage.
We like to apply a dilute solution of neem oil to wipe away dust and grime and, at the same time, ward away pests. Do this every week or two. It’s also a good opportunity to inspect your plant for any pests or diseases, particularly Bacterial Leaf Spot or Leaf Blight (see below for details).
Another plus is that the leaves turn out nice and shiny 🙂
Unfortunately, the Philodendron Imperial Red is toxic when ingested by pets and humans. This is due to calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause skin burns, vomiting, and nausea.
We like keeping ours on top of a bookshelf, out of reach when my mom’s dog comes over.
Propagation is a little tricky with the Philodendron Imperial Red. Unlike other climbing Philodendrons, they nodes are very close to each other, making it difficult to make a stem cutting.
Tissue culture and seed cultivation are methods used by commercial growers, but are not easily done at home.
For us home growers, propagation through plantlets is the easiest option. However,
- This can only be done only when you spot plantlets growing at the base of the stem of a mature plant.
- Do propagate only in Spring – this dramatically increases the chance of success.
If you have a young plant, you’ll have to wait!
Propagation through Plantlets
In this method, we’ll encourage plantlet’s aerial roots to grow into damp sphagunm moss, while still being attached to the mother plant.
Once the roots are established, we’ll cut off the plantlet from the parent and repot it.
Part #1: Air Layering your Philodendron Imperial Red
- Look for plantlets at the base of the plant, near the stem.
- Prepare a clean blade, clear cling wrap, sphagnum moss, and garden ties.
- Make small holes in the cling wrap, and lightly wet the sphagnum moss.
- Place the sphagnum moss on top of the cling wrap.
- Identify small aerial roots at the base of the plantlet.
- Now using the blade, make a cut around 1/16 inch (2mm) deep, under the node where you want your plantlet to root.
- Wrap the sphagnum moss and cling wrap onto the incision such that only the moss is in direct contact with the incision. The cling wrap is to secure the moss in place.
- Use gardening ties to lightly secure the cling wrap and moss in place so that it doesn’t fall off.
- Keep the sphagnum moss evenly damp, watering through the holes in the cling wrap.
- In a few weeks, you should see the aerial root growing through the moss.
Part #2: Separate the Plantlet from the Mother Plant
- When the roots are about 1 inch (2.5cm) long, it’s time to separate the plantlet from the mother plant.
- Use a clean blade to cut the plantlet below the aerial root to separate it from the mother plant.
- Re-plant the rooted plantlet into potting soil.
- Keep the plant in the shade for about a month until the roots are well-established.
- Treat as you would any other Philodendron Imperial Red.
Your plant doesn’t need much pruning but trim off any diseased or yellow leaves.
This helps your plant focus on new growth.
Common Pests and Diseases
The Philodendron Imperial Red is bred to be a pest-resistant variety, so pests are usually a big issue.
That’s why we recommend applying a dilute neem oil solution when you wipe down those leaves. This kills off and wards away these pests!
Yellowish, brown or copper-colored spots on leaf edges: Leaf Blight or Leaf Spot Disease
Something you definitely need to look out for is the Leaf Blight of Leaf Spot disease. These may present as:
- An irregular spot or two on the edge of the leaves that quickly multiply;
- Translucent spots with a yellow, brown or copper-colored halos;
- Water-soaked legions;
- You may also notice a foul smell.
These are signs of Erwinia Blight or a related Leaf Spot bacterial disease. Such diseases are mainly caused due to overhead watering, according to PennState University.
Bacteria thrive in warm, humid, moist environments that don’t have good air circulation. So,
- Keeping foliage dry is important. Do not mist!
- When wiping the leaves, wipe dry after using a damp cloth.
- Don’t overwater!
It’s important to be aware of this bacteria ASAP, as they can overcome your plant in a matter of days.
- Quarantine your plant away from all other houseplants.
- Diseased foliage cannot heal, so the best option is to use sterilized garden shears to trim off the diseased portions to avoid further spread.
- Importantly, sterilize your garden shears with 70% isopropyl solution, and sterilize again afterward. The last thing you want is your dirty garden tools to contaminate other plants!
- It will likely take a few months for your plant to recover. Ensure you follow the care guide to give your plant the best growing conditions for survival.
Yellow leaves most commonly indicate an overwatered plant. However, if you’ve just brought a new plant home, acclimitization can also produce yellowing leaves (in this case just leave it be and it will adjust).
- Check that you’re only watering when the top 2 inches of soil is dry. Though it’s tempting to water your plant more frequently, resist!
- Make sure your potting soil is well-draining. But you also need a mix that retains some moisture or else you’ll run into other issues. We like using 1/3 indoor potting mix, 1/3 succulent mix and 1/3 coco coir.
If you have an overwatered plant on hand, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to rescue it before root rot takes hold.
Curling Leaves with Brown crispy edges
This is a sign of a lack of moisture – either from underwatering or from too-dry air. Soil that is compacted and cakey confirms that the problem is underwatering.
Using a humidifier is the easiest way to solve too-dry air.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Philodendron Imperial Green Climb?
The Philodendron Imperial Red doesn’t readily climb. They are a self-heading and non-vining species. They grow upright!
You don’t need a moss pole.
Where can I buy a Philodendron Imperial Red?
Being quite a rare plant, you’ll likely need to look online to get your hands on one! We like looking for rare plants on Etsy.
Philodendron Imperial Red vs. Red Congo
With similar red stems, a look-alike is the Philodendron Red Congo. The Red Congo is another tropical evergreen, and closely related to the Imperial Red as a fellow cultivar from the Philodendron genus.
Here’s how to tell them apart:
- The Philodendron Red Congo grows larger than the Imperial Red, which is a more compact plant.
- Red Congo has bigger and wider leaves, while the Imperial Red’s leaves are more elongated and narrow.
- Red Congo is a faster grower than the Imperial Red.
Philodendron Imperial Red vs. Prince of Orange
Another self-heading cultivar is the Philodendron Prince of Orange. But its bright, vibrant orange leaves are a dead giveaway that you have a Prince of Orange on your hands, rather than an Philodendron Imperial Red!
When young, the Prince of Orange leaves start off yellow, then grow to a bright orange before finally maturing into a deep green.
Philodendron Imperial Red vs. Imperial Red Emerald
This one is another beauty – the Philodendron Red Emerald. The biggest difference is that the Philodendron Imperial Red grows upright while the Red Emerald loves to climb.
Philodendron Imperial Red vs. Imperial Green
They are both cultivars of the Philodendron Erubescens. They also have large, glossy leaves, but the Imperial Green’s leaves stay green. They never grow red like the Imperial Red.
- Philodendron Atom
- Silver Philodendron
- Philodendron El Choco Red
- Philodendron Atabapoense
- Philodendron Melanoneuron
The Philodendron Imperial Red is a compact, self-heading cultivar of the Philodendron Erubescens that has stunning color-changing leaves.
- East or West facing windows are best.
- Be careful not to overwater.
- Don’t mist your plant.
- Fertilize lightly.
- Choose a well-draining mix. 1/3 indoor potting mix, 1/3 succulent mix and 1/3 coconut coir is ideal.
- Avoid drafts. Warm, stable temperatures and high humidity is best.
- Do wipe down leaves and wipe dry to keep leaves looking great.
If you love the Imperial Red, check out the Philodendron McDowell next!
Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.