With deep burgundy leaves that can grow rather large, this self-heading philodendron is very different from your common heartleaf philodendron. The leaves of the philodendron black cardinal will turn to a shade that’s close to black as the plant matures.
It’s also a medium-sized philodendron with large leaves that steal the show when their coloration comes through.
If dark foliage plants are right up your alley, you should give a read to the plant care tips I put together below to see if you’d enjoy growing this philodendron variety in your home.
Size & Growth
When it comes to the size of the philodendron black cardinal you can expect it to grow to about 3 feet in height and about half of that in width. This isn’t a big size, in fact it’s a completely manageable one.
In my books, this is a great size to work with — it’s not too tall to keep it on a stand but it can also work great as a floor plant.
An added benefit is that you don’t have to spend much time on pruning and trimming. You can probably get away with quick clean-up of old or dying leaves or potentially unruly growths.
Generally, philodendrons enjoy bright, indirect light. This philodendron variety does best in partial shade, yet if you want the colors of the black cardinal to really come through, exposing it to morning and late afternoon sun will allow the deep burgundy color to shine through.
Don’t leave your black cardinal philodendron exposed to strong, midday sun. Indoors, don’t keep it too close to a window that gets a lot of sun. Back the plant away from the window so that it gets bright, indirect light. If exposed to strong direct light, its leaves will scorch, and the damage is irreversible.
The rule of allowing the soil of philodendron plants to dry to the touch before watering holds true even for the black cardinal variety. Water deeply, allow excess water to drain, empty the saucer, then only re-water when the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch.
With this technique, you don’t run the risk of overwatering your philodendron. You also don’t run the risk of the plant drying out if you don’t allow the soil to completely dry out.
Preventing overwatering can also be helped by potting your philodendron in well-draining soil, which brings us to the next point, namely the type of soil that works best for philodendrons.
You may be inclined to plant your philodendron as an all-purpose potting mix. Unfortunately, that does not work well for philodendrons, because all-purpose potting soil can become compacted over time, strangling the root system. It can also retain too much water, causing fungal diseases to flourish at the root level.
The best soil for philodendron black cardinal is loose, well-draining and rich in organic matter. You can use African violet soil mix, or prepare your own mix using perlite, peat moss, or vermiculite in combination with soil.
You can use only sphagnum peat moss or peat-vermiculite, peat-perlite combinations. The idea is to help the soil drain faster and improve aeration at the root level.
This will prevent water sitting for long at the roots and causing rotting that leads to irreversible damage in the root system. With time, root rot will prove fatal to your plant.
Temperature & Humidity
Average humidity and average room temperature are best for this philodendron variety. This plant is frost sensitive, so make sure it’s shielded by the cold. If you’re keeping the plant outside, as summer ends, bring it back inside.
Indoors, make sure it doesn’t sit under air conditioning units or heating vents. Don’t expose it to cold drafts either.
You don’t have to go out of your way to fertilize the black cardinal but know that monthly feeding with a weak liquid fertilizer designed for foliage plants can only help it grow into a healthy plant.
Outside the growing season, you should cut back on the frequency with which you fertilize, or if the plant is doing great otherwise, you can skip it entirely.
Potting & Repotting
Although it doesn’t grow very tall, your philodendron black cardinal will need repotting once it gets to a size that its current pot can no longer comfortably accommodate.
The repotting instructions are the same for all philodendron plants:
- Water the soil the day before for easier depotting and stress reduction.
- Check the state of the roots and remove any diseased roots that are no longer viable.
- You can do some light pruning/cleaning of the plant to remove dead leaves or damaged ones. You can also cut back on unruly ones.
- Place in a pot that’s around 2 inches bigger and use loose, well-draining soil.
- Water deeply, then allow the top soil to dry before re-watering.
Depending on how fast your philodendron is growing, you may need to repot after 2-3 years.
How to Propagate Philodendron Black Cardinal?
A philodendron with deep burgundy foliage certainly lends itself to propagation. You can root sections of the stem, or when you’re repotting, you can do a division to create more plants.
The stem cutting can be rooted in water or potting medium. If you’re rooting in water, make sure to change the water often.
When creating divisions, make sure that there are healthy stems for each division. Be gentle when dividing to prevent massive damage to the roots. You may need to use a sharp knife or shears to cut away the new division from the mother plan.
Philodendrons like the black cardinal count as a divergence from common philodendrons both in terms of leaf shape and leaf color.
The deep burgundy coloration creates an elegant foliage plant that can look great on a stand or as a floor plant.
As you may have concluded yourself from this quick guide on growing a philodendron black cardinal, once you set things up correctly (good spot to meet light requirements, good soil, optimal temperature, etc.), taking care of this plant is easy.