How I Rescued a $2 Philodendron Imperial Green (Care Guide)

philodendron imperial green care guide

One day at a big box store, I found a sad plant on a corner shelf in the garden center.

It had one brown leaf and one new leaf unfurling. The leaves were large, and I was interested to know what kind of plant this was. The pot was light as a feather, the soil bone dry, and no label or price. Where there were once more leaves, a few bare stems remained.

With one new leaf unfurling, I could tell this poor plant was desperately trying to live. The store employee told me they were just going to throw it away, so I wanted to give it a chance. I ended up buying the plant for 2.00 USD, but I didn’t know what I had.

Later I learned that I had just brought home a Philodendron Imperial Green. 

Get To Know the Philodendron Imperial Green

Philodendron Imperial Green care guide
How my Imperial Green looks today!

Philodendron Imperial Green plants are part of the Araceae family, which means they are aroids. The Imperial Green is a cultivar of Philodendron Erubescens with origins in Columbia. They grow up to 10 feet tall under the jungle canopy as self-heading plants but stay much smaller as houseplants.

Although Imperial Greens are non-vining, they become epiphytic (attach to other plants) in their native habitat by detaching their ground roots and climbing trees. This gives Imperial Green the versatility to grow practically anywhere with warmth, humidity, and filtered light.

As an aroid, they are prone to root rot. This can occur when they are not given enough light, in poorly draining soil, or if they are given too much water. 

General Care – Philodendron Imperial Green

NamePhilodendron Imperial Green
OriginPhilodendron Erubescens, Araceae family
Light Bright indirect light/ Avoid direct sunlight
WaterBottom-water once the soil is dried out/ Avoid getting water on the leaves
SoilWell-draining Aroid mix
Temperature60-85°F(16-30°C). Very sensitive to cold drafts
FertilizerUse water-soluble every month during spring & summer or extended-release fertilizer every six months
HumidityModerate to high humidity of 40-60%
Re-PottingRepot when rootbound. Does best in small pots.
Diseases and PestsMostly pest resistant. Bacterial infections can occur if overwatered. 
ToxicityMildly toxic to people and pets

6 Bonus Tips To Give Your Imperial Green Excellent Health

When I took home the nearly dead Imperial Green from the clearance shelf, my houseplant experience was intermediate at the time. It turns out this is a beginner-friendly plant with qualities that experts appreciate as well.

I’ll share the few things I did to nurture my clearance Imperial Green back to excellent health and what I learned. This experience taught me a lot about what Imperial Greens need to thrive and what they don’t like

1. Provide well-draining soil

As mentioned, this plant must have soil with aeration for proper drainage. If left in wet soil, their roots are likely to rot. 

While my Imperial Green’s soil was very dry when I brought it home, I noticed the soil was also very compacted and wouldn’t drain at all. This is a bad combination. Therefore, I switched out the soil the day I brought it home. 

I used portions of the soil mixes I had on hand. This is the soil mix I used: 

  • 50% cactus/succulent mix 
  • 30% commercial potting mix (included worm castings, peat, and coco coir)
  • 20% orchid bark

This soil mix ended up being great for my plant! With more experience, I can now say that any proper aroid mix would work well for Imperial Green. 

2. Keep it in a small pot as long as possible

Although its roots were slightly bound, I kept my plant in the same pot size. At the time, I did this because I didn’t have the next size up. I later learned this was a happy accident! 

They actually like to have tight feet and be somewhat rootbound. 

Once my Imperial Green started drying out faster between waterings, I checked the root system again. There wasn’t much soil left on the outside, and the roots were cramped. This was when I moved up just one pot size, and that solved the issue.

big Philodendron Imperial Green in small pot
Philodendron Imperial Green like to be kept in a small pot

3. Water when the soil dries out completely

Since the new soil was very moist after the initial soil change, I only gave my plant topwater until it started draining from the bottom on that first watering. This is a good method to avoid waterlogging your new plant if you need to change the soil just after buying it. 

After that, I waited for my Imperial Green to dry out completely before each watering. This worked very well. It is best to water this plant once the soil is dried out completely, and the pot feels light when you lift it. 

While it’s best not to wait for plant stress, the Imperial Green will also let you know when it is getting really thirsty by bending its leaves down slightly. This is subtle, but anyone regularly around the plant can easily notice the difference. 

I accidentally let my Imperial Green go too long without water once when out of town. The leaves were down and easily bendable. My plant was very forgiving, but now I know how long is too long.  

4. Bottom watering is best

My Imperial Green has done wonderfully with bottom watering. This helps retain some soil nutrients since they are prolific growers, and the nutrients are flushed out with regular top watering. 

I believe this is why my Imperial Green hasn’t required fertilizing (other than the extended-release fertilizer in the soil mix) but keeps growing well.

Plant enthusiasts state that Imperial Green doesn’t like having its leaves wet, and I agree. Water can leave a barely noticeable waxy water spot on the leaf. It seems harmless, but the spot on the leaf later becomes more susceptible to browning, especially in higher light situations. 

With all things combined, this makes a strong case for bottom-watering this plant. 

5. Prioritize bright indirect light for this plant

So many houseplants are said to need bright indirect light but often tolerate a wide range of lighting conditions. I would argue that Imperial Green seems to require bright indirect light. I wouldn’t give this plant low light since it will likely stop growing and may grow crooked as it leans toward the light.

It does okay in medium indirect light, but be very careful not to overwater & expect slower growth than you would see with bright indirect light. 

philodendron imperial green in bright indirect light
Philodendron Imperial Green loves bright, indirect light

My suspicion from the start with the Imperial Green was that it thrives with lots of bright indirect light. Mine sure has!

In my case, I needed to experiment and see how much light wouldn’t be too much. My remote office became home to this plant, and it only has two western exposure windows. That means that the office gets harsh afternoon sun. 

In the intense summer sun, I tried putting my Imperial Green in two different locations to see what was best.

  •  One location I tried was 6 feet back from an unshaded west window
  • The second location is directly in front of a west window with a filtered shade curtain, which is where it seems to do the very best.

I found that it leaned toward the sun in the winter when I had it six feet back from the unshaded window. The winter sunlight wasn’t strong enough to have it that far back. I also barely had to water it all winter and worried it could get root rot. Therefore, I leave it in high indirect light with the filtered curtain year-round now. 

It is best to avoid direct light to ensure that the leaves don’t get damaged. With that said, my Imperial Green has tolerated brief, direct light. It received direct light when it was 6 feet back from my west window in the summer and didn’t have any issues. 

However, I would caution against giving your Imperial Green direct light without having it pulled back from the window. Now that I keep mine right in front of a west window with the shaded curtain, it does not need any direct light.  

6. They like humidity!

Since I already had another humidity-loving plant when I brought home this Imperial Green, it immediately benefited from my office humidity. I keep it at 60% in the summer, and it falls to 40% in the winter. 

As I mentioned, this poor plant had a brown leaf when I saved it from the clearance shelf. However, you might be shocked that it tried to recover that leaf when I gave it 60% humidity!

Some areas of the leaf turned green again, but I did end up removing this leaf eventually since the plant couldn’t photosynthesize with a 90% damaged leaf. It had already put out another two new leaves by then, and I figured it was okay without this brown one. I was impressed by the effort, though! 

How the Imperial Green Astonished Me 

My Imperial Green grew to be more beautiful than I ever anticipated, especially since it started with only one viable leaf. Although my plant had been severely neglected, it turned out to be a low-maintenance plant.

All it needed was just a little care. 

Again, I was surprised that it tried to recover the 90% damaged leaf once it was given the right growing conditions. I believe this plant is a survivor, and I appreciate that it communicates what it needs. 

When I didn’t provide enough light, it leaned. When I waited too long to water my Imperial Green, the leaves drooped slightly. 

Although my plant initially had some recovering to do, it is a beautiful part of my collection. Imperial Green is an excellent choice if you want a plant with large deep green leaves and a tropical look. 

You can green up any space just with a large one of these or a few small ones. I believe my plant would be huge now, had it not started all over after neglect on the clearance shelf. 


Naturally, we get attached to our plants. This is especially true for those plants that have a story. After having this plant for a while, I think they are a very underrated houseplant. I wouldn’t trade mine! 

Lucky for us, Imperial Green is not an expensive plant though they can be hard to find in regular stores. If you can’t find this plant at your local store or nearby plant shop, you can try Etsy.

I learned that anyone could care for this beautiful and rewarding plant! I fully recommend it.

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