Philodendron Rio vs. Philodendron Brasil: What’s The Difference?
The philodendron rio and the philodendron brasil come from the same plant genus. While they do share similarities, they also have some differences. In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton walks you through what you can expect from these two plants.
Philodendron hederaceum is one of the most popular beginner-friendly and low-maintenance houseplants around. And, with cultivars like Rio and Brasil, we can add beauty to their list of benefits.
Some of the more rare cultivars can fetch a much higher price tag than other common houseplants. But even so, these plants still have a large and fervent following. Their rarity and more high-maintenance care can often justify the higher price tag.
Brasil, one of the older hederaceum cultivars, and Rio, a new sport and the only one with creamy white and silver variegation, are quite similar. But there are a few characteristics that differentiate them. Take a look at the similarities and differences between these two different types of philodendrons.
Philodendron Rio vs. Philodendron Brasil Comparison Chart
Philodendron hederaceum ‘Rio’
Central and South America
Green, White, and Silver Variegation
Bright, Indirect Light
Not Low-light Tolerant
Philodendron hederaceum ‘Brasil’
Central and South America
Bright Green/Yellow Variegation
Bright, Indirect Light
Slightly Low-light Tolerant
Both cultivars are types of Philodendron hederaceum, also known as the Heartleaf Philodendron. As part of the Philodendron genus, they are both related to other popular houseplants, but hederaceum stands out as the most sought after and well-known species.
All Philodendrons are part of the Araceae or arum family. This family includes many species of plant commonly grown indoors, such as the Peace Lily or Anthurium.
Heartleaf Philodendrons are commonly mistaken for another member of the arum family, the ever-popular Pothos. These plants both have similar growth habits and looks, but they are from completely different genera. And, when it comes to the interesting color differences of both plants, they are easy to distinguish from any Pothos type.
Philodendron hederaceum is native to the tropical areas of Central and South America. As climbing plants, they can be found in tropical forests surrounding tree trunks, soaking up the dappled sunlight and enjoying the high humidity.
Both Rio and Brasil are the result of mutations of this species. Plants often mutate, either in the wild or in settings where mutation is encouraged by growers. These mutations can be temporary or stable for long-term growth through various generations. Stable mutations become new sports of the original plant, which was the case with both of these cultivars.
According to the existing patent for Philodendron Brasil, this plant was selected in 1991 from a grower in Holambra, Brazil. It mutated from an unnamed Philodendron hederaceum type.
Once discovered, it was propagated via cuttings to determine the stability of the mutation. They found that the interesting color patterns from this mutation do reproduce through successive generations. The cultivar was named Brasil after its origin of discovery.
The story of Philodendron Rio is similar. This sport mutated in the greenhouses of Gabriella Plants in Florida after growing and propagating Philodendrons for several decades. Rio, and another cultivar known as Gabby, were selected due to their interesting mutations and found to be relatively stable in their variegation.
Rio is a sport of the Brasil cultivar, making these plants quite closely related. This relation is what resulted in the name Rio of this sport, after the Brazilian city.
Philodendron Brasil was discovered in 1991, with its patent registered in 2000. It is one of the older cultivars available.
Philodendron Rio is a more recent sport, cultivated by Gabriella Plants since 2009 and only recently sold commercially. This cultivar is one of the most recent types and is highly sought-after.
As an older cultivar, Brasil is not particularly rare. Due to its widespread popularity, it can typically be found in local nurseries around the world or purchased online.
Rio, on the other hand, is quite rare. While not quite as rare as the Philodendron Birkin, it’s still not nearly seen as much as some cultivars. As a newer cultivar only recently discovered and propagated, there are not many available. It may have been grown since the 2010s, but since new plants need to go through various generations of propagation to test their stability, Rio was only made available to purchase in the last few years.
As Gabriella Plants is the original producer of this sport, they are the most reliable source to purchase a true Rio plant. However, due to their popularity and rarity, these plants are often sold out and fetch an incredibly high price for a small plant (currently $150).
Many Philodendron species marketed as Rio are often not the true sport, resembling something closer to Silver Stripe or Cream Stripe. As these plants are not commonly available at many nurseries, any plants you see labeled as Rio that are inexpensive and easy to find are probably not the real thing.
As Rio is a sport of Brasil, the appearance of these two plants is incredibly similar. However, there are some differences in leaf shape and color that can help you distinguish between them.
Philodendron hederaceum is named the Heartleaf Philodendron after the shape of the leaves. Each leaf has a rounded base and pointed tips, with a deep curve at the stem that forms the foliage into a perfect heart shape.
Brasil retains the classic shape of the original species, with wide foliage and sharply pointed ends. The leaves can often have a wavy appearance, concaved slightly at the stem to create a gentle funnel shape.
The leaves of the Rio cultivar are more elongated. They also have a slight heart shape, but it is stretched out and far less pronounced. Due to the lengthened leaves, the pointed tips of the Rio cultivar often bend over slightly.
While Brasil rounds out at the stem, Rio’s concave shape extends along the length of the leaves, making them appear as if they were gently folded inwards along the central vein.
Color is the easiest way to separate these two plants. Their variegation patterns are very distinct and sought-after in the houseplant collecting world.
Philodendron Brasil leaves are a deep green, striped with areas of bright greenish-yellow. The yellow stripes typically run down the center of the leaves, with lighter patches of green variegation surrounding this center section.
The size of these stripes varies greatly. Some run thinly along the leaves, while others cover the center and take up almost the entire leaf. Each leaf has its own bright and colorful pattern, making this plant a true beauty to look at.
Philodendron Rio has a similar variegation pattern but with very different colors. The bright green leaves of Rio features splashes of cream, white, and often silver. Rather than one distinctive stripe, these colors mix in patchy patterns that cover the middle of the leaves.
Rio is the only Philodendron cultivar so far to feature this creamy white and silver color in the leaves. This makes it quite similar to some Pothos cultivars, with their intense white and cream variegation. Most Philodendron types feature a yellowed or neon green color, so the Rio is truly a rare stand-out in the Philodendron hederaceum group.
Both Rio and Brasil are vining Philodendrons. They produce leaves from nodes along long trailing stems that would climb up trees or nearby structures in the wild. These vines can be left to trail from the pots or trained up trellises for quicker growth.
These fast-growing plants can add several inches to the stems every month during the peak growing seasons. They may not grow as quickly as the original Heartleaf Philodendron due to their lower chlorophyll content, but they still grow quickly in comparison to some other houseplants.
Both cultivars have very similar care requirements. With some extra attention paid to lighting conditions, these plants will grow happily almost anywhere. They are incredibly low-maintenance, making them perfect plants for beginners.
Heartleaf Philodendrons are often labeled low-light plants. They can certainly tolerate changes in lighting conditions well and won’t show too many signs of struggle when placed in lower light. However, due to the variegated leaves of Rio and Brasil, lower light is not recommended.
Variegated sections of the leaves contain less chlorophyll or no chlorophyll at all. Chlorophyll is essential in the process of photosynthesis, which allows plants to produce their own food for growth. The lower the chlorophyll content, the less photosynthesis can take place.
That means highly variegated plants in lower light areas will not grow as well. They may even start to lose their variegation as the plant produces more chlorophyll to make up for the lack of light.
The amount of light your plant needs will depend on the level of variegation in the leaves. They can both handle moderate light but prefer bright indirect light for the best results. Due to the creamy or white variegation of the Rio, the right level of light is vital to maintaining this color.
Place your Rio and Brasil in front of a south or west-facing window covered by a sheer curtain to create the ideal conditions. An east-facing window with some gentle direct morning sun is also suitable, as long as it does not scorch the leaves.
All Philodendron hederaceum types have similar watering needs. They are not heavy water users and prefer the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.
Rather than watering on a strict schedule, which can change based on environmental conditions, test the soil frequently with your finger. Water when the top 1-2 inches of soil are completely dry. This will help prevent overwatering in both your Brasil and Rio Philodendron.
As the leaves are quite thin and don’t hold on to much water, these plants will quickly show signs of underwatering. The leaves will begin to wilt and curl inwards when the soil is too dry. If this is the case, water immediately and more frequently to keep your plants happy.
While underwatering is a danger, overwatering is far more common. Both Rio and Brasil cannot be left to sit in water for long periods. In excessively moist soil, the roots of these plants will begin to rot, preventing the uptake of water and essential nutrients.
An overwatered Philodendron will have wilting or yellowing leaves and mushy stems. If your plant does not recover after the soil has dried out, you may have a case of root rot on your hands. Remove the plant from its pot and shake off the soil. Trim off any mushy or rotting roots back to the healthy growth and repot into brand new soil to stop the problem from spreading.
Philodendron Brasil and Philodendron Rio, like most other tropical houseplants, need well-draining airy soil to thrive. Excessively dense or moist soil will result in root rot and suffocation of the roots.
You can purchase a general houseplant potting mix online or from a local nursery which will be suitable for both Brasil and Rio. Alternatively, you can mix your own by combining potting soil with coconut coir or peat moss and perlite.
While considering soil, make sure your container has enough drainage too. Even if your soil is incredibly well-draining, the water will have nowhere to go if there are too few drainage holes or if those drainage holes are blocked.
As with any Heartleaf Philodendron, Rio and Brasil will grow best when fertilized frequently during the growing season. Fertilizing soon after purchasing is not required as the soil should contain enough nutrients to keep the plant going. However, once those nutrients are depleted, they will need additional nutrients in the form of fertilizer to continue growing well.
Feed your Rio and Brasil once per month with a balanced liquid fertilizer during spring and summer. They don’t require fertilizing in fall or winter when growth slows. Check the packaging and apply the fertilizer according to the instructions to avoid over-fertilizing and damaging the roots.
Due to the stunning looks of these cultivars, you will likely want to try propagation at some point. Luckily, the process is the same for both plants. All you need is a clean pair of pruning shears and a glass of water.
To propagate your Rio or Brasil, snip off a four-inch-long section of the stem just below a leaf node. The section should have at least two leaves for successful growth. Ensure you don’t damage the node or any aerial roots while cutting as this is the point where new roots will grow from.
Remove any leaves from the bottom half of the cutting by trimming them off with your scissors. You can place the cutting in a glass of filtered water or go straight to soil by rooting in a pot filled with propagating mix.
The roots should develop within a few weeks. Once they have grown 1-2 inches long, transplant into the same soil mix as above for long-term growth. It’s best to group several cuttings together in one pot for a fuller-looking plant.
Thanks to their similar growth habits, both Rio and Brasil make wonderful décor features. Their long trailing stems are perfect for hanging baskets or resting along bookshelves. Alternatively, you can train them up a trellis to create a living wall feature.
While the Brasil is quite common, Rio’s rarity also makes it a great collector’s item. It has become a favorite among rare houseplant enthusiasts, along with other rare indoor plants like the Pink Princess Philodendron.
Philodendron Rio and Philodendron Brasil are incredibly popular houseplants. Since Rio is a sport of Brasil, both plants are very similar, with some clear differences in color to allow you to tell them apart. They require the same care and attention, making them both incredibly low-maintenance easy plants to add to your collection.