How to Grow and Care for Philodendron Rio

Frontal shot of the philodendron rio plant

The Spruce / Phoebe Cheong

Variegated houseplants are always a popular choice, and if you're looking for one that's going to stand out from the crowd, you can't go wrong with the eye-catching Philodendron Rio (Philodendron hederaceum 'Rio.') Be forewarned, this rare plant species  has only been around for just over a decade so it may be expensive and a challenge to get your hands on one.

This is a naturally occurring genetic mutation of the Philodendron Brasil. The unique variegated foliage pattern is surprisingly consistent with mature green leaves displaying silver, cream, silver, and then dark green from the center, working outwards. Often they develop a vining habit that trails or climbs, and the leaves tend to be longer than other Philodendron hederaceum cultivars. They are perfect on a showpiece plant stand.

And, despite this heartleaf Philodendron cultivar's exotic appearance, it's surprisingly low-maintenance. So, if you're a brown thumb plant lover who's spent months searching for this plant and splurged a small fortune on it, its forgiving nature means you're unlikely to kill it off, as long as you can provide the right conditions.

You'll want to keep this on a high shelf, out of reach of curious paws if you have pets in the house. Rio, like other Philodendron species, is toxic to people and pets.

Common Name Philodendron Rio
 Botanical Name Philodendron hederaceum 'Rio'
 Family Araceae
 Plant Type Houseplant
 Mature Size Up to 2.5 ft tall, Vines up to 20 ft, long
 Sun Exposure Partial sun
 Soil Type Well-drained
 Soil pH Acidic, Neutral
 Bloom Time Doesn't bloom indoors
 Flower Color N/a
 Hardiness Zones 9-11 (USDA)
 Native Area Central America (original species)
Toxicity Toxic to people, toxic to pets

Philodendron Rio Care

These plants are relatively easy to care for. In fact, too much attention (like overfertilizing and overwatering) can result in discolored leaves and root rot. To maximize the stunning variegation, you need to get the light right (bright but not too direct) and wipe down the leaves every month or so with a damp cloth.

Closeup showing variegation on a philodendron rio plant

The Spruce / Phoebe Cheong

Closeup showing the striped variegation on a philodendron rio plant

The Spruce / Phoebe Cheong


Select a spot where your Philodendron Rio will receive bright, indirect light. Although they're somewhat tolerant of low light conditions, if the position is too shady, the variegation usually fades, and the foliage can become leggy. You don't want to go to all that effort sourcing a Rio cultivar for the leaves to end up solid green. Leaf scorch is common if your plant sits in direct sun for too long.

A couple of hours of direct morning sun shouldn't be a major problem, but avoid continual direct sun through the afternoon from a south or west-facing window. If these are the only windows your plant can sit on, covering them with a sheer curtain can help reduce the intensity of the sun's rays.


These plants do well in a potting mix specially designed for aroid species. If you want to make your own, try blending one part potting soil, one part perlite, and one part orchid bark. They prefer a slightly acidic mix, and the orchid bark helps to add this element. The blend also ensures good aeration and drainage while still retaining adequate moisture.


There's no need to panic if you occasionally forget to water your Philodendron Rio. They don't have extensive or fussy watering requirements. The main thing is not to overwater them—if they're left to stand in water, it can lead to root rot. Wait for the top 2-3 inches of soil to dry out before watering again, and make sure they're in a pot with good drainage holes.

Temperature and Humidity

As you would expect with a tropical plant, the Philodendron Rio is a fan of warm temperatures and high humidity. Although they can usually grow in all but the coldest and driest of homes (avoid temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit), they do best in temperatures ranging from 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Your plant will appreciate humidity levels between 50 and 60 percent.


If you forget to feed your Philodendron Rio, don't worry. They aren't heavy feeders and will continue to grow without supplemental feeding. In fact, overfertilizing can lead to root burn and yellowing leaves. However, this is a slower-growing cultivar than some others and feeding can boost growth rate and help produce healthy-looking foliage.

A time-released fertilizer is often added to the soil by the grower, so you won't need to rush to feed your plant when it arrives in your home. After a few months, fertilizing with a balanced liquid fertilizer every couple of months during the growing season (spring and summer) is worthwhile.


If you don't want these vining plants to climb too high, you can trim them to a more manageable length during the growing season. Also, removing weak, straggly, or dying leaves helps the plant direct its energy to the strong growth of healthier foliage.

When trimming, take a few inches off the ends of the stem above the node. Leaving the node encourages new, healthy growth, promoting a bushier, more compact form.

Propagating Philodendron Rio

The nursery responsible for creating this cultivar currently has a patent application in process for Rio. While propagation by stem cutting is relatively easy, be aware that if this patent is approved, you could risk infringing copyright laws by propagating it..

Potting and Repotting Philodendron Rio

Rios aren't big philodendron cultivars, and they don't need regular repotting. However, because the soil degrades over time, repotting them in a pot one or two sizes up every few years is a good practice.. Don't go too large, as too much moisture in the soil can result in root rot. If you spot roots growing through the drainage holes in the existing pot, that's also an indication it's time to upgrade to a bigger pot.

Fill the pot 1/3 full with a fresh batch of aroid potting mix before placing the plant into the pot and filling the gaps until the mix reaches just below the rim of the pot. Pat the soil down, water, and return your Rio to its original spot.

Common Problems With Philodendron Rio

Although Philodendron Rio is a fairly easy going plant, you want the striking foliage to look its best. You may notice some of the foliage issues below if you don't get the light, water, or humidity levels right.

Leaves Turning Yellow

Yellowing leaves on any plant isn't pretty, but it definitely isn't something you want on a stunning variegated beauty like the Philodendron Rio. While old leaves will naturally yellow and drop, you're likely watering your plant too often if you spot new, healthy growth yellowing. Also, avoid fertilizing too often as this can contribute to the problem.

Brown Tips

Several issues can contribute to the tips of the foliage on your plant browning. It's often because it needs more moisture and higher humidity levels. Investing in a humidity meter will allow you to see if the levels are below 50%. If they are, using a humidifier, misting your plant, or sitting the plant on a tray filled with pebbles and water can all help.

Sometimes too much bright light is to blame for burnt and browning tips, so consider the location you have chosen for them, too.

Curling Leaves

While the Philodendron Rio doesn't need a precise watering schedule and is pretty forgiving if you forget now and then, the first sign of underwatering is often curling leaves. Sitting in dry soil for prolonged periods isn't good for the plant, so poke a finger in to test if the top few inches of soil are dry a couple of times a week.

  • What's the difference between Philodendron Rio and Philodendron Brasil

    Philodendron Rio is a naturally occuring but stable sport (a genetic mutation) of the cultivar Philodendron Brasil. The variegation on Brasil are shades of lime green, but Rio features distinctive silver stripes as the center color on the leaves. The foliage on Rio also tends to be more elongated.

  • Is Philodendron Rio extremely rare?

    The growing demand for this beautiful plant and the limited available supply means it's not always easy to source a Philodendron Rio, and they have a high price tag. They're rarer than the Philodenron Brasil, but not as rare the Philodendron Birkin or the unstable pink princess philodendron.

  • Why is the variegation fading on my Philodendron Rio?

    Light seasonal fading of variegation isn't uncommon, but the most common reason for your plant losing the prized pattern is insufficient light. Although you don't want to position your Philodendron Rio in direct sun (which can scorch the foliage), if you see the variegation waning, try moving it to a position where it gets more bright but indirect light.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Dieffenbachia and Philodendron.

  2. Heartleaf Philodendron. ASPCA.