The Philodendron El Choco Red is a rare and expensive aroid. If you can find it online, odds are it will cost $200 or more. That said, it is beautiful and looks amazing.
If you have the cash, then you can splurge on it. However, I do recommend that you check out growers in Southeast Asia first if you can because you’ll find many rare ones there including the Philodendron El Choco Red.
More importantly for a very affordable price that’s nowhere near the price you’ll see online. Although do check the background since some are high quality growers and these will charge a lot of money as well.
That said, I prefer dealing with growers who have home or small businesses. This lets me visit their plot which if often a huge backyard with tons of plants.
Anyways, returning to the Philodendron El Choco Red. The plant is a climbing philodendron that will produce large, heart-shaped velvety leaves.
It is best known for its amazing looking reddish-pink underside. Do note that as the plan gets older and matures, its leaves turn completely green with stunningly visible light green veins.
The plant actually looks very similar to the Philodendron verrucosum, Philodendron glorious and Philodendron gloriosum. And I remember quizzing my daughter to see if she could identify them.
She used to have trouble doing so but now all it takes is a one second glance and she can tell the 4 plants apart.
Philodendron El Choco Red Plant Care
The Philodendron El Choco Red grows best when given bright, indirect light. It also does well with medium lighting and will tolerate low light. However, the less light there is, the slower it will grow.
This is why an east facing window is optimal if you want the plant to grow quickly and produce beautiful leaves.
The reason for this is that in the rainforest, the plant gets a good amount of sunlight while living under the larger trees and plants. As such, it enjoys partial shade outdoors.
I think it is very important to understand the difference between indoor and outdoor plant care at least when it comes to light.
This was something I had to figure out because most information on the web will tell you partial shade or a shaded environment and leave it at that.
The thing is, that works for the plant outdoors. That’s because it gets similar shaded lighting under the rainforest canopy. However, indoors things are very different.
You have your ceiling, roof and walls which block out most of the light. This leaves only the window where light can some in. So, indoor light always has lower illumination compared to outdoor light.
This means it is important to qualify indoor and outdoor lighting.
As a result, you need more light for the plant indoors to achieve the equivalent amount of light it gets outdoors that’s considered partial shade. That’s why you need bright light indoors.
To achieve this, the Philodendron El Choco Red likes to be closer to the window. Although its tolerance to lower light lets you keep it even up to 10 feet from the window provided that the room is bright during day time.
Just as importantly, avoid direct sunlight since it can damage the plant’s beautiful leaves. It will be able to tolerate morning and late afternoon sun. But keep it away from mid-day and summer sun.
Due to tropical nature of the Philodendron El Choco Red, it enjoys moderate, warm and hot conditions. Ideally, it prefers temperature between 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Although it has no problem with 90 to 95 degree heat. You do want to be careful when going higher than 100 degrees though.
Just like light, the El Choco Red will grow faster and produce better leaves if given its ideal climate.
You do want to keep it away from the cold since it is not frost hardy.
Once things go below 50 degrees, the plant will struggle. And when kept there for extended periods of time, it will sustain cold injury.
Outdoors, it does best in USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11 because it will be able to happily live outside all year long. If you live below zone 9, you can still bring it outdoors for the summer for some fresh air.
But bring it back indoors once the temperature approaches 55 degrees.
Humidity of 60% or higher is needed to get the best out of your Philodendron El Choco Red. This was something I struggled to maintain in our old home without a humidifier.
But once we moved nearer to the water, I haven’t had bother with humidity. We average around 60% or so at home. Some days it goes down to 55%. Other days it will reach 78-82%. For the most part it hovers around 58% to 66%.
And my houseplants including the philodendrons are very happy.
With the Philodendron El Choco Red, you’ll easily see the difference in growth, the size of the leaves and the quality of the leaves. Aerial roots also easily grow in more humid environments which makes propagation much quicker.
That said, even in our old house when humidity would stay around 35% to 50%, the plant never had any problems. So, there’s no harm if keeping them there although I do recommend trying to stay at 40% or higher is possible.
The real difference it the rate of growth, the size and vibrancy of the leaves.
Therefore, it is always a good idea to:
- Group plants together
- Mist it regularly (but avoid wetting the leaves too much since this can foster infection if the moisture does not dry quickly enough)
- Using a humidifier
- Place in on a water tray
These methods help increase humidity around the plant to keep it happy.
How Often to Water Philodendron El Choco Red
The Philodendron El Choco Red enjoys consistently moist soil. Be careful not to water it too much or too often such that the soil stays soggy or mucky. When you see that, it is a good idea to scale back a bit.
Ideally, you want to let the soil dry a bit before watering again.
I like to wait until the top 1 to 2 inches of soil are dry to the touch before adding more moisture. This prevents overwatering to which the plant is sensitive to.
The reason for this is that the Philodendron El Choco Red is an epiphyte that’s native to the tropical rainforest.
So, it is used to a daily dousing, sometimes a few times a day which is what happens in the rainforest.
But because it is an epiphyte, its roots are suspended in air not in soil. This means they get good air circulation thanks to the wind which allows the plant’s roots to dry quickly.
In contrast, with soil in a container that’s wet, the roots sit in water and stay soaked. This leads to root rot.
To prevent this from happening, you want to use well-draining soil which I’ll discuss in detail in the following section. That way, it mimics the plant’s natural habitat, wherein you water thoroughly to soak the root ball. Then, the soil quickly drains excess moisture.
Of course, you need a pot with drainage holes. Otherwise, the water will sit at the bottom of the container which pretty much defeats the purpose of the soil.
For my Philodendron El Choco Red, I tend to water once a week during summer. The warmer the weather gets, the more water it will need. So this can move from as little as once every 4 days to a little of 7 days.
In winter, it is around once every 10 to 13 days. Please adjust accordingly if you live in areas where there’s snow. I live in Southern California where the sun is out all year round.
Philodendron El Choco Red Potting Soil
In addition to well-draining soil, the Philodendron El Choco Red also need good aeration so the roots get enough oxygen. To maximize growth, you’ll want to supply it with a growing medium that’s rich in organic matter content.
This is why I like using Aroid mix for my philodendrons, including the El Choco Red. You can check with your local nursery to see if they carry an Aroid mix. If not, you can use this recipe I like to use:
- 1 part organic potting soil
- 1 part perlite
- 1 part orchid bark
- ½ part agricultural charcoal
You can adjust the amounts of each but this combination of ingredients work.
The potting soil helps with moisture retention and nutrients. As much as the plant needs well-draining soil, it needs to retain some water to keep the soil moist and keep the El Choco Red hydrated.
The perlite will increase drainage to prevent the risk of waterlogging and root rot. Meanwhile, the orchid bark is chunky allowing for lots of air pockets. This improves drainage but more importantly allow for air to flow into the roots.
Finally, there’s the charcoal which kills pathogens in soil. Charcoal is likewise loose and chunky so you get extra aeration with the ability to absorb extra moisture.
Together, the ingredients give the Philodendron El Choco Red enjoy liquid but not too much. It also keeps the roots dry after they’ve had their drink so you eliminate the risk of root rot.
Does the Philodendron El Choco Red Climb?
Yes, it is a good idea to give the Philodendron El Choco Red a moss pole, trellis or some kind of vertical structure to climb on. This increases its growth rate, lets the plant get bigger and produce larger leaves.
The Philodendron El Choco Red appreciates fertilizer although it does not really need it. However, I do recommend feeding it because you’ll quickly see the difference.
Without fertilizer, the plant grows much slower. This is okay if you don’t want it to get big. Unfortunately, its growth also affects the size of its leaves and how much foliage it produces. All this slows down as well.
The other important thing about fertilizer is to avoid too much. This can cause fertilizer burn which not only damages the plant but also turns the leaves color and makes their tips curl downwards.
I like to use a balanced water soluble fertilizer. A 10-10-10 N-P-K works really well although you can go with a 15-15-15 as well. Make sure to dilute the dose by half the suggested strength.
All its needs it once a month feeding during its growing season. If you feel that it is not growing as expected, you can move that up to once every 2 weeks.
I cut back once fall arrives and ultimately stop by early autumn. I also don’t feed the plant in winter. Although I do know other growers who just scale back to once every 6 or 8 weeks during this time.
You can likewise go with a slow release fertilizer if you prefer only feeding about 3 times a year.
The Philodendron El Choco Red is a fast grower and you should see a few leaves grow each month during its growing season. It will also grow to about 3 feet tall with its leaves making up most of its size.
Because its leaves are the plant’s crowning glory, there’s really no need to prune them unless they’ve tuned yellow or brown. Similarly, you want to remove old and damaged leaves.
This makes pruning low maintenance since the plant does not get too big nor do the leaves get messy looking.
How to Propagate Philodendron El Choco Red
The best way to propagate your Philodendron El Choco Red is through stem cutting. This method is also the most popular for home growers because it is very easy to do.
Of course, you can divide the plant as well but there’s little reason to do so since it does not get overly large.
Here’s how to propagate Philodendron El Choco Red using stem cuttings.
- Pick out a stem that you want to use. There won’t be a ton of stems with the El Choco because it has large leaves. This means you have fewer options compared to other philodendrons which sometimes have lots of stems.
- The ideal stem to propagate should be healthy with a leaf and a node. The bigger the plant gets, the thicker the stems will be. They’ll also get much longer to give the larger foliage room.
- Next take the cutting. You want to cut below a node using a sterilize blade. You can use a knife, large pair of scissors or pruning shears. Use rubbing alcohol to sterilize the blade.
- Once you have the cutting, it is time to prepare the pot. Choose a pot that fits the size of the cutting. You also want the pot to be able to balance the leaf so it does not tip over. Make sure the container has drainage holes.
- Fill the container with fresh potting soil.
- Then plant the cutting into the soil.
- Place the plant in a spot with medium to bright light. Ideally the area should be warm and humid. You can use a plastic bag to cover the plant to increase humidity. Just make sure to remove the bag every now and then to allow fresh air to get in.
It will take about 4 weeks for the roots to develop. Take care of it like you would the parent plant.
Over the next few months, the plant will get bigger and begin to sprout. When it outgrows its container, it is time to repot it.
How to Repot or Transplant Philodendron El Choco Red
The Philodendron El Choco Red will quickly grow roots when healthy. It will also have a good sized rootball although nothing overly large.
Thus, you don’t want to keep it in a small container or one that is too tight for it. Once roots start showing up beneath the drainage holes or from the surface of the soil, it is a sign to repot.
Don’t leave the Philodendron El Choco Red in the pot until all its roots circle the pot and get tangled up. This will only stress the plant.
The best time to repot is during the spring or early summer. Avoid days that are cold or very hot.
Move the plant to a container that is 2 inches bigger than its current one. You can go with plastic or clay pots. I haven’t really noticed much of a difference between the two in terms of moisture release so I don’t bother about it.
Although some growers will tell you that terracotta is porous and will let more water drain. I know the science is sound there. But I just haven’t seen a significant difference when using plastic.
Plus, plastic gives me the ability increase aeration and drainage simply by drilling small holes on the sides of the pots. They also don’t break if you drop them and are lighter which makes it easier for my daughter to carry.
Is It Toxic/Poisonous to Humans, Cats & Dogs
Yes, it is. Please be cautious where you place the plant because its leaves and other plants are toxic when ingested. When within the reach of young children or pets, they may end up chewing or eating some leaves that can cause gastrointestinal issues after.
Problems & Troubleshooting
Brown Leaves and Tips
Brown tips and leaves usually point to a moisture problem. This can be from:
- Low humidity – I will check my hydrometer first to see what the indoor humidity is. I highly suggest keeping a digital one near your plants so you always know what the humidity is. If the air is too dry, the leaves will turn brown on the edges and tips. They’ll also feel dry and crisp up.
- Lack of water – if you suspect underwatering, check the soil. Often it will feel dry. And this will go down into the soil sometimes all the day down. The plant will also droop and look sluggish. If the soil feels dry water the plant. It should recover fairly quickly in the next 2 to 3 days.
Yellow leaves can mean many things.
- Old leaves – this happens naturally when leaves get old. Therefore it is nothing to worry about. But leaves only turn yellow with age one or two at a time. If many leaves become yellow together, something else is happening.
- Overwatering – this a more common problem. If you see yellow leaves, immediately check the soil. Feel the surface of the soil and top inch or so to see how dry, moist or wet it is. Usually, it will be wet, soaked or soggy. If this is the case, cut back on watering since it is getting too much moisture.
Drooping & Wilting
Drooping and wilting can be caused by too much or too little water.
So, you want to be careful and not just immediately assume the plant needs more water.
Check the soil for wetness. You can stick your finger down 1, 2 or 3 inches down into the soil to get a get read on how dry or wet the soil is.
If the soil feels dry, the plant needs more water. But if the soil is soggy, mucky or wet, it means you’re overwatering. Thus, scale back on your watering routine.
Keep an eye out for mealybugs, spider mites, scale thrips and aphids. While the Philodendron El Choco Red is resistant to pests, there’s no way to completely prevent them.
This means it is important to always be ready. Knowing what to do when you find pests is important.
Just as essential is regularly inspecting the plant for pests. Because the Philodendron El Choco Red has large leaves, I’ve found that dusting them once a week or even once every two weeks goes a long way.
This does not only help with light absorption but also helps keep pests away (since the critters like dust)
Root rot ranks among the more common plant problems simply because it is caused by human error. Often it is due to one of two reasons.
- Watering the plant too much or too often – this will overwhelm the plant since you keep adding water even when the soil is still west. For this reason waiting until the top soil dries out before watering is important.
- Using the wrong kind of soil – if you water properly with the right frequency and amount but use the wrong soil, you can still end up with problems. That’s because if the soil is too heavy or holds too much liquid it will retain most of the liquid you put instead of draining it. Therefore, the soil will get waterlogged eventually causing root rot.
Therefore, be mindful of watering and avoid these issues.