This article may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more information.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to be born with a green thumb. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the picturesque thrills of a thriving houseplant collection, especially if it comprises low-maintenance beauties like those found in the philodendron family – and the Philodendron Rio is no exception.

Indeed, with plenty of varieties available, many of which look much more whimsical and delicate than their robust natures belie, it can feel impossible to choose which one best suits your needs. 

In my opinion, a variegated type is always an excellent way to go, and a queen among the multicolored philodendrons has to be the Rio.

Rarer than most, this cultivar is special in so many ways, from its gorgeous patterning to its trailing growth habits. In this article, we’ll unpack everything there is to know about the Philodendron Rio. Ready? Let’s dive right in.

philodendron rio on the floor
Source: Machado Emillyn (CC BY-SA 4.0)

What is a philodendron rio?

The Philodendron Rio is a naturally occurring mutation of the Brasil Philodendron, characterized by its distinctive tri-colored variegation with a silver center, followed by cream striping, before culminating in a light to mid-green edge. It has long, slender, heart-shaped leaves and delicate vines that can either trail or climb. 

Indeed, its distinct variegation is what sets it apart from many other varieties of philodendron, with the icing on the cake being its remarkably stable patterning. Its foliage is heart-shaped but on the long and narrow side, giving it a delicate appearance.

With a fast growth rate, the Rio can reach a height of 2.5 feet (75 centimeters) at maturity with single vines of up to 20 feet (6 meters) long.

Like its parent plant, the Philodendron Brasil, the Rio is native to the rainforests of South America and, more specifically, Southern Brazil. It was first discovered as a genetic mutation of the Brasil that occurred without human intervention in the wild. Subsequently, it has become a marketplace favorite among collectors, now reproduced in tissue labs and greenhouse environments across the world.

Another feature of the Philodendron Rio, in addition to its coloring, is its long vines formed of deceptively soft stems. These can grow and grow to reach tremendous lengths, making the Rio perfect for climbing poles and trellises. That said, it may take occasional pruning to keep this beauty in check.

Good looks aside, the Philodendron Rio is also a dream to care for, requiring very little in terms of maintenance, barring regular hydration, high humidity levels, plenty of light, and nutrient-rich, well-draining soil. With those measures in place, you should have no trouble helping your Rio thrive.

What is the difference between philodendron brasil and rio?

The main difference between the Philodendron Brasil and the Rio lies in the coloring of their leaves. Where the Rio has distinct cream and silver striping, the Brasil is colored in shades of rich dark green with lime green splashes only.

Furthermore, the leaves of the Brasil are thicker and stouter compared to the more papery, narrower leaves of the Rio. This makes it slightly more tolerant of low-light conditions, although you risk having it revert to a solid color.

philodendron rio on a white pot
Source: Clara PEREIRA (CC BY-SA 4.0)

What is a philodendron rio cream splash?

The Philodendron Rio Cream Splash is another sport cultivar of the Philodendron Brasil that is strikingly similar to the standard Rio, except that its leaves are more yellow and cream than silver and light green.

As its name suggests, the best way to differentiate a Cream Splash is to look out for a pattern of yellow, to light green, to dark green extending from the center vein outwards.

Is rio philodendron rare?

As a relatively new addition to the market, the Philodendron Rio is still considered rare and is generally not available at most nurseries or garden centers. Therefore, if you plan to invest in a Rio, you’ll likely need to get in touch with a specialist supplier or find a seller through an online marketplace like Etsy. 

Collectors are also known to exchange cuttings for propagation, although this may be harder to do given the scarcity of this plant.

philodendron rio on a brown pot
Source: Bio Ezreal (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Philodendron Rio has only been around for just over a decade, having first been discovered in 2009 and patented for commercial sale shortly after that. Today, it remains relatively unknown, although its popularity on social media has seen a meteoric rise in the demand for this beautiful plant.

As with many rare cultivars, if you’re hoping to get your hands on one, you may be out of luck from your locals. The Rio largely remains in the hands of specialist breeders or online merchants from marketplaces like eBay and Etsy. To track one down, I recommend doing your research on plant forums for Philodendron collectors.

Alternatively, you may get lucky and find someone willing to trade or gift you a Philodendron Rio cutting, which can be remarkably easy to propagate and should see you have a thriving Rio in no time.

What’s a standard philodendron rio price?

The Rio is highly sought-after, so it can cost a pretty penny to purchase. A Philodendron Rio cutting starts at around $25, with a juvenile plant costing up to $85. Fortunately, they are very easy to propagate so you can always grow more.

Even so, these beauties are a great (and wonderfully aesthetic) choice of houseplant. With their inclination toward propagation, you should see a return on your investment through the production of further juveniles as soon as your Rio starts to mature.

How to care for a philodendron rio

The best way to care for a Philodendron Rio is to try and emulate its natural, tropical environment. This involves providing it with bright, indirect light, plenty of warmth and humidity, well-draining soil, good hydration, and seasonal feeding. Occasional pruning and cleaning also help your Philodendron Rio’ overall well-being.

Philodendron Rio make great houseplants, and if you have any hesitation about their care, worry no further. These gracious green beauties are low-maintenance and straightforward in terms of their needs, making them perfect for even beginner plant parents.

philodendron rio climbing on the wall
Source: Monica Monica Lang (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Bearing in mind that Philodendron Rio are tropical plants, the best environment you can offer them is one where they’ll have a sunny spot with lots of light, relative humidity, and plenty of moisture.

In good news, most homes are already set up for this with East and South-facing windows and a generalized humidity level of around 50%. To supplement the rest of their care needs, you just need to ensure your Philodendron Rio stays hydrated, is fed with both good soil and that you occasionally fertilize your philodendron.

In the following sections, we’ll look at Philodendron Rio care in greater detail to equip you with everything you need to help your houseplants thrive.

How much light does a philodendron rio need?

Philodendron Rio prefer at least eight to ten hours of bright, indirect sunlight each day. As their leaves can be vulnerable if they receive too much light, keep an eye out for any signs of sunburn on your Philodendron Rio’s leaves, such as yellowing leaves or brown spots appearing.

Most (if not all) plants depend on sunlight energy to grow, and Philodendron Rio are no different. Native to tropical America, they’re accustomed to dappled light from the jungle canopies above them, which you can try to mimic in the home with clever positioning.

That said, as a variegated philodendron, Philodendron Rio’s light requirements are a bit higher than a solid green member of this plant family, so keep that in mind when positioning your Rio in your home.

In the winter, when it starts to cool down, and there is less indoor sun available, a Philodendron Rio’s light needs can be augmented with a bit of time spent outdoors on a sheltered patio or balcony. The fresh air will do them good, too.

Find out more: Philodendron Light Needs: The Ultimate Guide

What is the right temperature for philodendron rio?

Your Philodendron Rio will thrive in temperatures between 75°F and 85°F (23°C to 29°C). While they can survive at lower temperatures than this, don’t let them stay for too long anywhere less than 65°F (18°C) as your plant may not survive.

Clearly some plants, like Philodendron Rio, like it hot. However, the real kicker is ensuring your Philodendron Rio are placed in an area with mid-to-high humidity.

What are the best humidity levels for a philodendron rio?

Philodendron Rio prefer humidity levels of around 65% to 80%. Given that they are native to tropical Central and South America, they thrive in humidity conditions similar to their natural habitat. However, most homes won’t reach these levels, so you may need to boost this for your Philodendron Rio to thrive.

Houseplants that receive adequate amounts of sunlight daily generally don’t require supplementary humidity, particularly if you consider most homes fall in the 40% to 50% range. However, with their tropical inclinations, Philodendron Rio can benefit from a little extra care in this regard.

The easiest, in my opinion, is to invest in a small plug-in humidifier. Alternatively, you can rest your Philodendron Rio on a damp pebble tray, making sure not to let their roots touch the water. 

Alternatively, if you have a whole collection of houseplants, cluster them together so they can benefit from each other’s transpiration processes. It has the added benefit of looking great too!

What soil is best for philodendron rio?

A Philodendron Rio’s soil mix should be loosely clustered, nutrient-rich, and well-draining. The high nutrient level emulates its natural habitat, where plant material in the rainforest falls onto Philodendron Rio and nourishes them. Having light and airy potting mix helps to avoid the soil staying too soggy, which can lead to root rot.

While many Philodendron Rio varieties have aerial roots as well as ground-dwelling (terrestrial) roots, they receive the bulk of their vitamins and minerals from their soil, making it an essential part of their fundamental care.

Top pick: My preferred soil for Philodendron Rio is the Miracle-Gro Tropical Potting Mix (check the latest price here)

It’s very well draining and will feed nutrients to your Philodendron Rio for up to six months. For a tropical plant like the Philodendron Rio, it’s got everything you need.

Buying pre-blended Philodendron Rio soil from most garden centers is a simple option. Alternatively, you can easily mix your own by combining potting soil with chunky bits of bark (grab some here) and moisture-retentive perlite (get it here). 

If you’re buying your Philodendron Rio pre-potted, they’ll likely arrive in appropriate soil from the get-go. Even so, you’ll need to replace their soil every 18 to 24 months to prevent a build-up of salts or eliminate any beasties and creatures like pests, fungi, or bacteria, so make sure you’re replanting them in the best soil for philodendrons so they continue to thrive. 

Indeed, this is a good maintenance practice for all houseplants, not just Philodendron Rio!

How often should you water philodendron rio?

You should water your Philodendron Rio when the top two inches of its soil has dried out, which you can test by sticking your finger into your plant’s potting mix. In summer, this will be around once per week, but may be less frequent in the cooler months.

It’s always good to have a watering schedule for your plants, but with so many factors (like season and sunlight) at play, I prefer to meet my Philodendron Rio’s watering needs as required – by waiting for their top inch of soil to dry out before hydrating.

The reason for this is that the leading cause of fatality in Philodendron Rio is root rot, which they tend to contract from overly soggy soil or from standing in pooled water. As they’re pretty drought-tolerant, it’s best to err on the side of caution and only water philodendrons as they need it rather than strictly once-per-week.

That said, when you do water them, a hearty dose of moisture is great, provided it doesn’t make their soil soggy and heavy, which weighs down on their root systems.

When should I fertilize my philodendron rio?

Philodendron Rio likes some fertilizer every now and again. In fact, they do their best when they are fed twice a month during their active growing season, which is the spring and summer. However, you shouldn’t fertilize your Philodendron Rio during its dormant period in the cooler months.

This is because feeding the plant during this time can interfere with its natural growing cycle.

Overall, though, occasional feeding with a balanced fertilizer is greatly beneficial for Philodendron Rio, especially at the start of their growing seasons in the spring and summer months.

If you think about it, these jungle-dwellers are used to all the rich, dense nutrients they have access to from the forest floor, which can’t be substituted by typical potting soil. An all-purpose liquid fertilizer at half strength is a good way to replace their natural feeding schedule, providing them with an extra dose of energy for new growth.

My top pick: My recommendation for the best fertilizer for your Philodendron Rio is EZ-Gro 20-20-20 All Purpose Liquid Fertilizer

It’s extremely easy to use and has the perfect balance of nutrients for Philodendron Rio. You can check the latest price here.

Should I prune my philodendron rio?

You should prune your Philodendron Rio from time to time as part of their regular maintenance, with spring being the best time of the year to do this. Removing dead foliage or browning stems will allow robust leaves and vines to draw in more sunlight and stop your plant from wasting energy. 

Just like humans shower, cut their hair, and clip their nails, Philodendron Rio can do with occasional grooming, especially when it comes to eradicating old or dying growth. Fortunately, trimming your philodendron really isn’t hard to do.

When it comes to cleaning, remember that each large leaf of your Philodendron Rio is full of sunlight receptors that are easily blocked by dust or grime. Wiping down your leaves with a damp cloth keeps them clean and free to function at their best.

When should I repot my philodendron rio

The Philodendron Rio is not a plant that needs to be repotted regularly, with it often only needing to be transplanted every two to three years. With that said, however, you should repot your Philodendron Rio if you see roots growing out of the drainage holes.

In fact, this plant does well when it is rootbound. That said, when you do transplant a Philodendron Rio, do so in spring before the plant starts to produce new growth, and select a pot that is about 3 sizes larger than the current pot. 

Alternatively, you can wait until fall to perform the transplant.

Find out more: 7 Simple Steps to Repot Philodendrons (+ When To Do It)

How to propagate a philodendron rio

The easiest way to propagate your Philodendron Rio is to root it in water. Simply place your cutting into a jar with water in it and place it in a warm sunny spot, and wait. Refresh the water once a week to keep it oxygenated and, in six to eight weeks, new roots will appear. 

At that point, your Philodendron Rio cutting will be ready for transplantation!

Philodendron Rio can be propagated from stem cuttings, provided they have a visible node and a leaf or two to draw in moisture from the air. You can either root your cuttings in water first or plant them directly into soil. 

Alternatively, if you only have a small piece of stem, you can try to root them in a nutrient-rich growing medium with concentrated humidity.

That is, a second option is to place your cutting directly into a planter with soil. This is slightly riskier as they require a lot of humidity to make up for the moisture they’d usually draw via roots, but it can be equally effective with proper care. 

If your cutting has no leaves, try laying it on a bed of peat moss and covering the tray or container with plastic to retain humidity. While this method isn’t always effective, it’s worth a try to avoid throwing away any pieces of your precious plants.

Find out more: 10 Easy Steps to Propagate Philodendron Cuttings

How do you make a philodendron rio bushy?

The best way to make a Philodendron Rio bushy is to prune it in its growing season, which is spring and summer. Make sure you remove any dead or dying leaves, as this ensures your plant doesn’t spend energy on this foliage and will instead focus on new growth.

Funnily enough, regularly trimming your plant is actually key to maximizing your philodendron’s growth rate.

Regularly turning your plant so that all its angles receive sunlight is another good way to ensure consistent, rounded, and aesthetic growth with a clustered appearance to make your philodendron fuller

You can also use a moss pole so that your Philodendron Rio has space to climb upwards, which is what it would do in its natural environment – aiming upwards towards a source of light.

How fast does philodendron rio grow?

The Philodendron Rio has a surprisingly fast growth rate for a variegated plant and can double its size in as little as a year. Of course, the rate at which it grows depends on its environment, as it will require adequate light, hydration, and humidity. Regular pruning also encourages new growth and will keep your Rio energetic.

This darling of the philodendron family is not only gratifying in appearance but also in the speed at which it grows. Not one to be outdone by its solid-colored cousins, the Rio has an incredible growth rate and will thrive and spread to its heart’s content, provided its needs are met.

philodendron rio on a brown pot in a black plant rack
Source: Natalia Bandeira (CC BY-SA 4.0)

When it comes to variegated plants, there is a conception that the lack of chlorophyll cells in the lighter areas of their leaves makes it more cumbersome for them to produce energy. And while this is often true, the Rio is exceptional in that it seems completely unphased, relying only on the care you would lavish on any other houseplant to thrive.

Ultimately, all your Rio needs is weekly hydration (but not too much) and plenty of bright, indirect light. A warm, humid area is beneficial, as this species is accustomed to the tropical climate of the rainforest. And together with this, a mineral-rich soil that provides plenty of nutrients for the Rio’s long stems.

Considering the speed at which it develops, occasional pruning of dead or unruly vines can also help to keep your Rio extra healthy. This won’t harm your plant at all, instead encouraging new growth, and as a bonus, cuttings can be kept for propagation.

Can a philodendron rio plant survive indoors?

The Philodendron Rio fares far better indoors than outdoors, as it can be susceptible to sunburn. They’re also not a fan of the wind. Indeed, this philodendron sport is bred to be a houseplant and requires a somewhat controlled environment to grow and thrive.

Is philodendron rio a climbing plant?

Depending on your preference, the Philodendron Rio can either be trained to climb or left to trail from a hanging basket. Like many other philodendron cultivars, it has both terrestrial and aerial roots, making it ideal for attaching to supports like poles and trellises.

As previously mentioned, the Philodendron Rio has beautiful long vines abundant with foliage. In the wild, it grows in the shade of larger trees and plants, often attaching itself to their trunks as it vies for a place in the sun. This behavior is mimicked in the home environment, and you’ll note that your Rio will always grow upward toward its light source.

philodendron rio outdoor
Source: Dias Jeane (CC BY-SA 4.0)

For this reason, the Rio is a perfect plant for training to climb. Many collectors like to use a central moss pole as a base, encouraging their plants to grow around it through regular turning and pruning. This look is very aesthetic and makes the most of the Rio’s clustered growth habit.

Alternatively, another excellent method for teaching your Rio to climb is to provide it with a trellis. As its vines can reach lengths of 20 feet (6 meters), there is plenty of potential for the Rio to serve as a decorative wall cover. It will naturally grow toward its closest light source, which would likely be a window.

However, bear in mind that the Rio needs to be repotted every 1 to 2 years, so make sure it doesn’t become so entangled that you aren’t able to move it again.

Can the philodendron rio revert?

While the Philodendron Rio has an extraordinarily stable coloration pattern, it can revert if it doesn’t receive enough light. In cases like these, you’ll note that new leaves develop in solid colors rather than with cream and silver splashes. This usually occurs in tandem with other symptoms of deficiency, like slowed growth.

Part of the reason we love the Philodendron Rio is due to its beautiful colors. Therefore, it makes sense that we want to keep them as vibrant as possible. For this, they require adequate light.

And while this seems obvious, it’s not always in our control. Worldwide, many countries experience lower degrees of sunlight in the cooler months of the year. Some nifty tips to combat this include moving your Rio closer to the window (sunlight is less harsh in winter) or investing in supplementary grow lights.

Are philodendron rio toxic?

Philodendron Rio are toxic to humans and animals, as they contain sharp calcium oxalate crystals that cause skin irritation through direct contact, or gastrointestinal distress and other potentially dangerous symptoms when ingested. All parts of the plant contain these crystals, which are most prevalent in its sap.

While Philodendron Rio are indisputably beautiful in the home, it is best to keep them away from curious kids and pets, as skin contact and ingestion can be highly irritating at best and have real health consequences at worst.

These plants’ sticky white sap is full of needle-like calcium crystals. When they make contact with bare skin, they can cause welts or irritating rashes, which, fortunately, can usually be treated with a topical skin ointment.

Be aware: Ingestion of any part of a Philodendron Rio can cause swelling of the throat tissue, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, and other symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. In a worst-case scenario, ingestion can cause difficulty breathing, in which case, medical treatment should be sought as a matter of urgency.

While this all sounds very daunting, the good news is that these plants don’t taste good, so there is no real reason (other than curiosity or carelessness) why rogue children or pets would eat them. Even so, prevention is better than cure, so place your plants out of reach if you’re concerned they may get chomped.

Why are my philodendron rio’s leaves turning yellow?

There are a few reasons why Philodendron Rio leaves turn yellow, but the primary cause is overwatering, with yellowing leaves being an early sign of root rot. Damaged roots cannot transport nutrients, oxygen, and water to a plant’s leaves, which causes cell death, and by default, turns them yellow.

I find watering my plants to be the most cathartic exercise on earth. However, with some trial and error, I’ve learned that my Philodendron Rio, in particular, doesn’t do well with being over-loved. 

philodendron rio near a brown pot
Source: Birta Maria Helena (CC BY-SA 4.0)

While they’re super hardy, too much hydration can quickly cause root rot in philodendrons – a fungal or bacterial infection that destroys your plant’s root system.

Therefore, if you notice yellowing leaves on your philodendron, run a diagnostic immediately. Is your soil damp or soggy? Allow it to dry out, which may reverse some of the damage. Lots of sun helps. Or if the damage is progressed, try repotting your Philodendron Rio, removing damaging roots in the process.

A secondary cause of yellowing leaves is chemical burn, which your Philodendron Rio may contract from over-fertilization. In this case, transplantation is also recommended, followed by a restriction of your feeding practices.

Why is my philodendron rio drooping?

Drooping and wilting in Philodendron Rio is more often than not related to watering practices. Too little water can cause fatigue which will make your plant look droopy, while too much water (or root rot) can also cause ill health. Generally, when a plant wilts, it is trying to communicate that it’s unwell.

While a drooping Philodendron Rio is distressing, it’s not usually terribly serious and most likely due to dehydration. This can be solved with a dose of water and sunlight and, of course, more consistent care going forward. In no time, your plant should be back to its old self.

Conversely, if this doesn’t do the trick, your philodendron leaves curling may indicate an underlying issue like root rot, which, ironically, is caused by overwatering. If you suspect this is the case, you may be best off transplanting your Philodendron Rio into fresh soil and readjusting your watering schedule.

A third cause of drooping is related to light. If a Philodendron Rio isn’t receiving enough sun, it will tell you by dropping its leaves and wilting. Remember, six to eight hours a day is critical, and if you can’t provide this, mitigate potential drooping with supplementary grow lights.

Related: 10 Causes Of Your Philodendron Not Growing (+ How to Fix It)

Why are there brown spots on my philodendron rio?

Like yellowing and drooping, brown spots on a Philodendron Rio are a sign of a health ailment. Browning, in particular, is mainly caused by pest infestations or bacterial and fungal infections. The best way to get rid of brown spots is to identify the cause and then treat your plant accordingly.

None of us want to see our Philodendron Rio suffer, and brown spots usually aren’t a very good sign. If you notice your philodendron leaves turning brown, the first thing you want to do is identify the cause, whether it be pests or soil-related.

In the case of creepy crawlies, you can treat your Philodendron Rio by washing it down with a horticultural soap, followed by a wipe with neem oil. Remove damaged growth, and give your plant lots of love, water, and light.

On the other hand, bacterial and fungal infections are best treated by getting rid of old soil. I highly recommend transplanting your Philodendron Rio (preferably in spring or summer), and cutting away any visible root and leaf damage, provided it’s not more than 30% of your plant’s total volume.

Brown spots on philodendrons can also be caused by sunburn, but in this case, they’ll look more like a sheen than a spot, per se. Sunburn can be prevented by keeping your Philodendron Rio out of direct light.