Philodendron Black Cardinal Caring & Growing Guide

Philodendron Black Cardinal

The Philodendron Black Cardinal is a unique philodendron hybrid because of its deep burgundy foliage.

Depending on where the light strikes it, the leaves come sometimes times look black. As each plant is different, the mix of dark green and burgundy leaves can vary, sometimes skewing to one color more than the other.

Nevertheless, this low clumping plant’s oval shaped leaves make a great statement wherever you put it.

Upon maturity, it can reach about 3 feet long and up to a foot and half wide. Due to its size, it lives as part of the forest understory. As such, it does well indoors as well as in shady gardens.

Another thing worth noting is this philodendron plant isn’t vining nor does it grow into a trunk as is the case for most philodendrons. Instead, it is self-heading.

It is also native to the tropical regions of Central and South America as well as the Caribbean.

Philodendron Black Cardinal Plant Care

Philodendron Black Cardinal Light

The philodendron ‘black cardinal’ thrives in different lighting conditions. It will be happy in bright spots and can tolerate lower light. But, it does best when it receives bright, indirect, filtered or dappled light.

This will allow it to maintain is dark colors.

On the other hand too much or too dim locations will affect how its foliage grows and the way your plant looks.

  • Direct light or too much intense sunlight from the afternoon or hot summer can scorch its leaves. This will turn them pale or bleach. At the very least it will cause them to become yellowish in color. While this does happen to older leaves, you should never see lots of leaves turn yellow. If this happens, it means your plant is getting hit directly by the sun’s rays.
  • Too little light or dark locations will make the plant turn more green and lose its very dark burgundy like hue. It will likewise reach out for the light source and become long and leggy. When this happens, you’ll see a few inches distance between the leaves. That’s a bad sign. Move it to more light immediately, and prune the leggy parts.

That said, the plant won’t mind a couple of hours of morning or late afternoon sun, both of which are much less intense that the hottest times of the day.

Outdoors, you want to keep it in partial shade away from direct sunlight as well. Dappled light outdoors works very well too.

Another thing to keep in minds is that when you bring the plant indoors as the weather gets colder outside, make sure to keep it in a bright and warm area. Indoors typically has much less lighting because of the walls and ceilings of the how, together with the cold weather, it can trigger the plant’s dormancy.

 

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Philodendron Black Cardinal Temperature & Humidity

Your Philodendron black cardinal is native to tropical and subtropical climates which are the conditions in Central and South America as well as the Caribbean where the plant hails from.

As such it prefers somewhat warm, but not extremely hot temperatures. This makes it do best when temperatures stay between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is hardy to USDA zones 10 to 12. And, it cannot tolerate freezing temperatures or frost. As such, if you live in areas below zone 10, it is best to keep the plant in a container. This will let you keep it as a houseplant. Or, bring it outdoors during the summertime.

But, once the weather drops mid to late fall, it is a good idea to bring it indoors or to a warmer location through the winter.

Similarly, its tropical nature makes it favor humid conditions. But, doesn’t mind average humidity that’s found in most homes. As such, its climate temperament makes the ‘Black Cardinal’ well-suited to household conditions.

That said, it is a good idea to boost humidity whenever possible. This will allow the plant’s leaves to look more vibrant and maintain their color.

As such, misting a few days a week helps. If you want something more hands off, you can group it with other plants or place it over a water tray. Both will help increase humidity around the plant.

You can likewise use a humidifier to achieve this.

 

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Philodendron Black Cardinal Watering

Your philodendron black cardinal appreciates moist soil during the spring and summer, which also happens to be its growing seasons. As such, it is a good idea to give the plant regular watering during this time. Doing so will give it enough resources to stay hydrated and to absorb nutrients as well.

However, don’t let it get wet feet. Consistently soggy or muddy soil are no-no’s.

Leaving the plant in these conditions will increase its risk of root rot as well as other fungal diseases.

Ideally, you want to let the top 1 to 2 inches of soil dry out before you water again. The easiest way to do this is to go by feel. Using your fingers and going down to about the 2nd knuckle in your index finget will let you see how dry or moist the soil is.

If that depth is dry, it is time to water. If the soil down there is still moist, wait a day or two then test again.

Alternatively, you can use a moisture meter. This method is obviously more precise as it gives you digital readings. Thus, it is perfect for beginners while you’re trying to get the “feel” of the soil.

A couple things to watch out for is wilting and drooping leaves. This are sure signs it is time to water your plant. The good news is, the plant quickly recovers once you water it.

Once the colder months arrive, start scaling back on watering frequency. In winter, you can allow the soil to dry a little bit more.

This is a good strategy to take because it is easier to overwater in the winter. That’s because the weather is cold making it take longer for the soil to dry.

Similarly, the plant goes into dormancy during this time. So, it doesn’t need as much hydration.

 

Philodendron Black Cardinal Soil

Your Philodendron ‘black cardinal’ isn’t too picky about soil. The most important thing about soil is that it stays moist and is well draining.

Yes, the two contradict one another. But, in gardening, there’s a lot of that.

In any case, what this means is that the soil should be able to retain enough water to stay moist. This gives it enough time for the plant to absorb moisture and nutrients.

But, the medium should likewise be well-draining enough that it allows excess moisture to escape easily. This prevents the soil from waterlogging, which can result in the plant sitting in water for long periods of time. When this happens, root rot can occur.

As, using a high quality potting mix goes a long way. It is rich, light and airy. I also like to add perlite and orchid bark to improve drainage. Charcoal also helps as it improve air circulation and lets the soil hold moisture along with nutrients.

Another option is to go with 100% sphagnum moss. Here, you want to make sure your fertilizer routine is on point. That’s because, the substrate does not contain any nutrients. As such, you’ll be the one providing the plant’s sustenance.

Similarly, you can go with peat and perlite or vermiculite. The peat will help hold moisture while being well draining. And, the perlite will increase drainage.

Finally, it is worth noting that unlike many philodendrons, the ‘Black Cardinal’ is not a climbing/vining plant. instead, it will remain on the ground.

 

Fertilizing

Feed your philodendron black cardinal once a month during the spring and summer when it is actively growing. You should see the plant growing during this time. If not, check to see if it is not getting ideal light, watering or fertilizer.

Regular feeding should bring out larger leaves. If you notice slow growth, smaller and fewer leaves, it is a sign that the plant needs more nutrients. As such, more feeding is needed.

In the winter, you can stop feeding or cut down fertilizer to once every 2 to 3 months.

You have the option of using slow release pellets or liquid fertilizer. Both work. However, you will be applying each one differently due to their forms.

  • Use slow release fertilizer sparingly as the dose will be distributed over the course of weeks and months. As such, you want to apply it early in the spring. Check the product’s label for instructions since each item is different as to how much you need to apply and how long they last.
  • You can also use liquid fertilizer. Here, a balanced one (20-20-20) works well. Make sure to dilute to 50% of the recommended strength. And water the soil when you feed the plant. These will help prevent fertilizer burn due to too much concentration.

 

Pruning

The philodendron black cardinal grows as at a medium rate. In 10 years, it will get to about 2 to 3 feet tall and about 2 to 4 feet wide. Thus, it is not so much a tall plant. But, is wider than it is high.

Here you don’t need to do a lot of pruning as it will shed on its own based on how much room it is give. It isn’t too much of a fan of pinching or aesthetic pruning. Trying this isn’t a good idea as the plant will turn out to look more like a hedge than its normal self.

That said, do remove damaged, yellow and dead leaves. This will help it stay healthier.

 

Propagation

There are a few ways you can propagate your philodendron black cardinal. These include stem cuttings, division or tissue culture. The easiest way is via stem cutting. This lets you take a stem and grow it into its own plant.

The best part about it is that it grows up into a clone of the mother plant.

Also, the best time to propagate this hybrid is during its growing season. This will let the new plant grow quickly.

How to Propagate Philodendron Black Cardinal from Stem Cuttings

  • Start by choosing a healthy stem with a least a few leaves on it.
  • Trim the stem so you get a 4 to 6 inch long cutting.
  • You can choose to root it in water or go directly to soil.
  • If you root in water, place the stem cutting into a jar or glass of water. Make sure to remove the lower leaves that will get submerged in the water. This will prevent rotting.
  • Change the water every few days to keep it fresh and clear looking.
  • After 3 or 4 weeks you should see roots growing.
  • Allow the roots to develop to about slightly over an inch. Then, move the cutting to soil in a pot.
  • If you go straight to soil, insert the stem cutting into the soil about 2 inches deep.
  • Use a stick or skewer to support the cutting if it doesn’t stand up.
  • Water the soil regularly to keep it moist.
  • After a month or so, the cutting should develop roots. To test, tug on the plant lightly. It should resist your pulling. This is a sign that roots are setting themselves up in the soil.

How to Propagate Philodendron Black Cardinal via Root Division

  • Root division is another option. It takes more work. But, you get a grown or semi-grown plant. As such, you skip the rooting and a lot of the growing time.
  • Since you need to take a part of the root ball, it is a good idea to propagate by division when you repot the plant.
  • Gently take the plant out of the pot.
  • Look for a healthy stem and trace it down to the root ball. Then look for the corresponding roots that come out at the bottom.
  • Plan out where you can separate the root ball to take the stem and its roots out without disturbing the rest.
  • Separate that section from the root ball. You can use your hands or a sterile knife.
  • Plant the new divided plant into its own pot.
  • Refresh the soil and repot the mother plant. It will be smaller now so it will take a while before you’ll need to repot it.
  • Water the mother and new plant.

 

Transplanting & Repotting Philodendron Black Cardinal

One of the things I’ve noticed about the philodendron black cardinal is that it likes being on its own. That is, it grows better without a lot of other plants around it.

In any case, at some point your plant will outgrow its container. When it becomes rootbound, it is time to move it to a larger pot. This comes around every 2 or 3 years.

Make sure to not to go up too many sizes. At most, you only want to use a pot that’s 2 or 3 inches larger.

The best time to do this is during the spring when it is starting to grow. This will allow the plant to quickly recover from the shock of being moved. And then take advantage of the extra room for growth.

How to Repot Philodendron Black Cardinal

  • A day before you plan on repotting, water the plant. This will reduce the stress it experiences. Also, it softens the soil to make it easier to handle.
  • In the meantime, prepare fresh, well-draining potting mix and a new (larger) pot.
  • On the day itself, gently slide the plant’s root ball out of the container.
  • Check the root ball and the roots. You want to trim off any black, brown or mushy roots. Brush off excess soil and dirt as well.
  • At this point you can start repotting. Or, you can do some maintenance. While the plant is out, you can divide the plant if you want to propagate it. Similarly, you can separate the plant if you want to reduce its size. You can also prune and remove any unhealthy looking leaves. it is easier to find all the messy stems as well when the plant it out of its pot.
  • Fill the new container with fresh potting mix. Go about a third to almost a half depending on the height the plant should stand out of the container.
  • Insert the plant into the pot and fill the extra space with soil
  • Water the soil and do so regularly to keep it moist.

 

Toxicity

Keep the plant somewhere young children, cats, dogs and other pets can’t get hold of it. The plant is toxic especially to dogs and cats. You don’t want them to ingest any of part of the plant.

 

Pests and Diseases

The philodendron black cardinal is susceptible to certain pests. These include mealybugs and aphids. To catch them early, you want to regularly inspect the plant. You can likewise use neem oil.

If you spot any, or the damage that they cause, spray with insecticidal soap. You can remove mealybugs with cotton and rubbing alcohol as well.

Similarly, watch out for overwatering. Overwatering your plant can cause root rot which can damage and eventually destroy your plant.

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