If houseplants with rich, dark leaves are your thing, Philodendron ‘Black Cardinal’ might be the next plant on your list.
It features large leaves in shades of very dark red and deep green, with bronze or coppery stems, making an instant impact in any space.
The understated beauty of this plant is the perfect focal point, and it has an ever-changing appearance, thanks to the way the leaves mature. They start a deep burgundy, turning green and then maturing into a near-black as they age.
Interested in growing this plant, but you’re not sure if it is right for your home? Here’s what you need to know, including its care requirements, how to propagate it, and common problems to watch out for.
At A Glance: What You Should Know About Philodendron ‘Black Cardinal’
Philodendron Black Cardinal is botanically known as Philodendron erubescens, and despite its unusual appearance, it’s quite easy to care for.
You will have to be patient, however, as this plant takes its sweet time to grow. It will eventually reach about 3 feet tall, spreading to just under 2 feet wide.
Each stunning leaf is capable of reaching a foot long, and the plant can also bloom in the right conditions, though flowering is rare in this plant.
It’s worth knowing that this plant can be harmful if ingested, so keep it well out of reach of children and pets to be safe.
Best Light For Philodendron Black Cardinal
For most tropical, leafy houseplants, bright and indirect light is best. Philodendron ‘Black Cardinal’ is no exception.
This plant will do well within a few feet of a window, provided that there is no prolonged direct sunlight, as this will burn the leaves.
Old leaves will eventually turn yellow on the plant, but if you find that a few leaves are turning yellow at the same time, this can mean that the plant is in too bright light.
You’ll also notice if this plant isn’t getting enough light, it will turn leggy, and the space between leaves will elongate.
Ideal Temperature And Humidity For Philodendron Black Cardinal
In terms of temperature, try to keep a Philodendron ‘Black Cardinal’ in a room between 65°F and 78°F (or 18°C and 25°C).
This plant will not do well in a very dry room with little humidity. For the best growth possible, aim to give your Philodendron plant about 70% humidity.
You can achieve this by keeping your plant in a mini greenhouse setup, investing in a humidifier, or grouping several of your plants to create a microclimate.
Ideal Soil And When To Feed Philodendrons
Philodendrons like rich soil with plenty of drainage, as well as lots of nutrients, and a good amount of airflow.
It sounds like a tall order, but this is not difficult to achieve.
If you can get your hands on some African Violet compost, this is perfect for your Black Cardinal, as it contains lots of organic material, usually sphagnum moss, as well as material that helps sharpen up the drainage, such as perlite and vermiculite.
You could also use sphagnum moss with nothing else if you want to keep it simple.
It’s a good idea to feed your Philodendron once every fourth watering or so, with a balanced houseplant fertilizer.
Scale back the feeding schedule in the fall, and do not feed your plant at all during winter, only doing so when you see new growth emerge in spring.
When To Water Black Cardinal
Depending on the size of the pot, aim to water your plant when the first inch (if the pot is small) dries out, or two inches if the pot is on the larger side.
Check the soil weekly to see when your plant needs watering, and always throw away any excess that collects in the bottom of the pot or saucer.
Just as you would with the fertilizer, scale back the watering during fall, and only give your plant just enough water to keep it from drying out during winter.
Can You Propagate Philodendron Black Cardinal?
You can propagate Black Cardinal in two ways: either through stem cuttings or by dividing the plant at the base when it’s time to repot.
If you want to propagate through cuttings, choose a mature and healthy stem, and take a cutting that includes two nodes and two leaves.
Remove any lower leaves, and put the cuttings straight into the water or damp compost, whichever you prefer.
If you want to try your hand at dividing the plant, take the plant out of its pot, and use your fingers to pry the root ball into two, making sure there is plenty of top growth and roots on each division.
The root ball may be quite tangled, in which case it’s a good idea to use a sharp knife or even a handsaw to separate the plant at the roots.
Pot each division up as a separate plant, using an appropriate potting mix.
Growing Black Cardinal: Problems To Watch Out For
Philodendrons are pretty robust plants, but you may occasionally see problems in terms of pests more than anything else.
Watch out for the likes of scale, aphids, and mealybugs.
Keep checking the leaves and stems for pests, every week or two. The earlier you catch them, the easier it is to treat your plant.
Use a horticultural soap to treat the leaves, and in between treatments rinse off the leaves with tepid water to knock off any pests.
Other Things To Consider When Growing Philodendron Black Cardinal
Can You Grow Black Cardinal Outdoors?
Black Cardinal is a tender plant, so it’s worth keeping it indoors as a houseplant. However, it will survive in a sheltered position outdoors in USDA zones 10 through 12.
A Note On Toxicity
This plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, so it is classified as toxic to both humans and animals. Keep it out of reach.
Should You Prune Philodendron Black Cardinal?
There are only two reasons you’ll need to prune this plant: to cut back damaged foliage or to trim back leggy growth.
Otherwise, this plant does not need regular pruning.
Does Black Cardinal Need Support?
This plant is what’s known as a self-heading Philodendron, which means it supports its growth and does not need any sort of support, provided it gets enough light to stop leggy growth.
Philodendron ‘Black Cardinal’ is a striking houseplant worthy of any collection, but it’s important to pay attention to the soil moisture levels and make sure that the plant has enough light for healthy growth.