How to Care for the Pink Princess Philodendron

About the Pink Princess Philodendron


While Philodendron erubescens is native to Central and South America, the true origin of Philodendron ‘Pink Princess’ remains a mystery.

One theory is that Pink Princess is just a spontaneous mutation of Philodendron erubescens.

Others speculate that Pink Princess was part of R.H. McColley’s extensive breeding program at Bamboo Nursery in Apopka, Florida, which specialized in hybridizing Philodendrons in the 1960s and 1970s.

However, McColley and his partner were meticulous in documenting their hybrids and patented every cultivar from their breeding program before introducing it to the world. McColley would’ve claimed Pink Princess as one of his own, but no mention of the hybrid has been found in any of his scientific papers.

The late Steve Lucas, a botanist who served on the International Aroid Society Board of Governors, also tried to trace the lineage of the unique plant. He learned that a grower in Florida claimed to have hybridized Philodendron ‘Pink Princess’ from at least seven parent plants (Philodendron species that were cross bred to develop ‘Pink Princess’).

However, many of the purported Philodendrons in the grower’s hybridization had no genetic capability of cross breeding with each other. In other words, the Philodendron crosses in ‘Pink Princess’ were botanically impossible.

So, the conclusion is that whoever discovered the Pink Princess Philodendron claimed some bogus lineage, or the hybrid occurred through a spontaneous but natural mutation.

Once the plant became known, the rights to the Pink Princess Philodendron were sold to a tissue culture company and it was mass produced.

Did you know? Due to social media’s love affair with pink plants, another pink Philodendron has appeared on the scene: Pink Congo. It looks very similar to Pink Princess, but has slightly pointier leaves that are completely pink, as if dipped in paint.

Unfortunately, the pigment is entirely fabricated by growers. It was discovered the plants are chemically gassed in greenhouses to produce plant hormones that temporarily change the color of the leaves. Over time, the pink leaves revert to green.


The most immediately charming thing about the Pink Princess Philodendron is the name. It’s even delightful in Latin: Philodendron erubescens means “blushing” Philodendron.

Once you get a look at it, you can see where the moniker comes from. This isn’t your typical Philodendron (like Philodendron gloriosum, another popular species) that’s green from leaf to stem.

On the Pink Princess, scattered among its glossy, heart-shaped, dark green to black leaves, are splashes of bright pink.

This pink color is what’s made the Pink Princess such an in-demand plant over recent years. The pigmentation is known as variegation, and it refers to when areas of the leaf lack chlorophyll.

It’s rare to find a plant in nature with black leaves, and that’s what makes Pink Princess so unique: It’s a black or nearly black Philodendron with hot pink variegation.

The Pink Princess Philodendron is an evergreen vining plant from the Araceae family (the aroids) that can grow up to 4 feet tall, but usually stays around 2 feet when kept as a potted plant.

It has burgundy stems and petioles and aerial roots that emerge from nodes. New leaves unfurl with burgundy coloration (gradually becoming variegated) or with pink and white variegation in place.

Why is the Pink Princess Philodendron so expensive?

Short answer: because it’s rare.

Although Pink Princess is a cultivar of Philodendron erubescens, which is relatively common, pink variegation in Philodendrons doesn’t happen all too often on its own. To produce the mottled bubblegum-pink pattern, the plant must be grown from tissue culture, a slow and unpredictable process that few growers are willing to risk time and money in.

Not every batch will produce pink coloring, even if the mother plant is heavily speckled with pink. And every new leaf that emerges may turn out solid-colored, lightly variegated, or heavily variegated, which adds to the excitement.

This unstable variegation, coupled with increasing demand from social media, means prices for this pink beauty remained high for a long while, though that’s starting to change now. If you’re patient and persistent, you can often find a Pink Princess cutting or plant for much less than it retailed for a year or two ago.

Pink Princess Philodendron varieties

The dazzling variegation of Pink Princess has created huge demand for the houseplant and inspired growers to breed new cultivars, creating interesting new patterns and colors.

It’s important to note that the Pink Princess Philodendron has natural variations in its pink and white patterns. Sometimes these specimens are given false cultivar names and sold at a premium for being “rare” cultivars, so always be aware of what you’re buying.

  • Pink Princess (Common Variegation or ‘Sparkle’): The most common form of Pink Princess Philodendron has large chunks of pink alongside its green leaves. Sometimes the plant pushes out “half moons” where half the leaf is completely pink and half is completely green! While the look is spectacular, this can be risky for the plant if it reverts to all green leaves (losing its signature variegation) or pushes out all pink leaves (which lack chlorophyll). I’ve seen some sites market this type of Pink Princess as ‘Sparkle,’ but this an unregistered cultivar name.
  • Pink Princess (Marble Variegation): Another type of variegation that occurs in Pink Princess is marbling, which is common in variegated plants. With marbled variegation, the leaves have a speckled appearance with random splashes of pink and white.
  • Pink Princess ‘Black Cherry’: This is an unregistered cultivar with vibrant red variegation on black leaves. The leaves also appear to be thicker than those on the original Pink Princess. Owners of ‘Black Cherry’ claim that the red and black coloring remains constant even as the plant matures, though if you try to buy one, be warned that there’s no guarantee this type of variegation can be maintained in the long term.
  • Philodendron ‘Pink Anderson’ or ‘White Anderson’: This unregistered new cultivar is native to Indonesia and I couldn’t find very many details on it, but it’s supposed to be a cross of Philodendron ‘Pink Princess’ and Philodendron ‘White Knight.’ Its burgundy petioles, leaf shape, and color patterns are similar to Pink Princess, and the variegation in the leaves emerge pink but turn white as they mature.

Caring for the Pink Princess Philodendron

Light and temperature

To understand what kind of light and temperature the Pink Princess Philodendron prefers, think of where its mother plant (Philodendron erubuscens) naturally grows: in the lush, tropical rainforests of Central and South America, where the climbing plant is part of the understory.

Water and humidity

While the Pink Princess Philodendron is fairly adaptable, there’s one thing it can’t stand: being improperly watered.

Many people err on the side of overwatering since they assume tropical plants like more moisture, but as a climbing plant, your Pink Princess Philodendron can actually tolerate short periods of dryness.

Let your plant partially dry out before giving it a good, deep watering. To check the soil, simply use the finger test: If the top 2 inches feels dry, it’s time to water. Pour water over the plant generously until it flows freely out the drainage hole.

Never let the plant sit in standing water, as this can lead to root rot, killing your beautiful (and expensive) Pink Princess.

How often you have to water will depend on the light, temperature, and humidity in your home. In summer, keep the soil slightly damp. In winter, reduce watering so the soil doesn’t get waterlogged.

Most people don’t live in this moist of a climate (especially in winter when the heat is on), but there are some relatively simple fixes to increase the humidity in your home:

  • Use a humidifier. There are many humidifiers on the market, and they can be highly beneficial for your plants (and your skin!). A humidifier can raise relative humidity levels by 50 to 60 percent, creating the perfect environment for your Pink Princess Philodendron.
  • Group your plants together. By displaying your plants in large groupings, you end up creating a more humid microclimate. This happens via transpiration, a process whereby plants release moisture through their leaves.
  • Mist your plant. Some gardeners swear by misting, while others find it doesn’t make much difference. To give it a go, simply use a spray bottle to mist the leaves with a fine layer of water once a day.
  • Place your Pink Princess in the bathroom. The bathroom is a naturally humid environment and a surprisingly good place for a Philodendron to thrive. If your bathroom has filtered sunlight streaming through a window or skylight, this could be the perfect spot.
Soil and planting

Most aroids prefer loose, fast-draining, nutrient-rich soil mixes.

You can buy a specialty soil mix like this one that’s formulated for Philodendrons, though personally, I’d add a handful of perlite to make sure the mix is well aerated.

If you like things a little more hands-on, however, you can easily create your own aroid mix. You need a good balance of moisture retention and aeration, and I use this simple formula for remembering how to make it: 4-3-2-1.

That means 4 parts orchid bark, 3 parts houseplant potting soil, 2 parts coco coir, and 1 part perlite. (A part is any unit of measurement, such as a handful, a scoop, a bucket, or a gallon.)