Philodendrons are a tropical plant species with dramatic leaves, whose low maintenance needs make them well suited to be houseplants.
The Black Cardinal differs from the traditional heartleaf varieties with its broad, color-changing leaves that transform from burgundy to green to black as it matures.
Although Black Cardinals rarely go to flower, the beautiful colored leaves make it stand out in any plant collection. As beautiful as they are, the leaves should never be eaten.
The presence of insoluble calcium oxalate crystals causes extreme irritation and pain when chewed and swallowed.
You’ll want to find the right place for your Black Cardinal with appropriate light while still keeping it out of the reach of pets and children.
Their medium size makes it feasible to keep them on the ground, put them on a shelf, or hang them from a hook.
Growing to only about three feet tall and a foot and a half wide, you can easily keep your plant smaller by pruning or diving.
The Black Cardinal is a stunning, hardy, and versatile plant suited for all levels of houseplant parents. By following the simple care information in this article, your precious Black Cardinal is sure to thrive!
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Philodendron Black Cardinal Care
Traditionally found in the tropical understory, your Black Cardinal will be happy in a warm and bright spot with indirect light, well-draining soil, and periodic watering. These conditions will give you a happy, healthy plant that will need to be repotted every few years and is quite resistant to pests and diseases.
Since philodendrons are tropical plants, special care should be taken to adapt your space to their needs. No, you don’t need to turn your apartment into a humid, tropical paradise but choosing good potting soil, watering appropriately, and providing adequate light will make a huge difference.
Philodendrons require well-draining soil with high organic matter to keep moist. If their roots remain wet for too long, they will develop root rot which can be fatal. An all-purpose potting mix will retain too much water causing rot.
To achieve the perfect soil for your Black Cardinal that retains moisture while letting excess water flow try an African violet potting mix. Or make your own mix by adding some compost and perlite, peat moss, or vermiculite to your soil.
If you wanted to go a soilless route, philodendrons also do well in peat moss or a mixture of peat moss and vermiculite or perlite. These soilless mixtures will easily drain out excess water while preventing the roots from drying out.
If planted in containers, just make sure they have holes at the bottom to let the water drain out.
Black Cardinals enjoy the same watering habits of all philodendrons. They don’t like the soil to be wet, but it shouldn’t get completely dry between watering either.
The right soil mixture will be crucial to maintaining this balance and how often you water your philodendrons will vary depending on conditions (size of the pot, humidity of the room, temperature, etc.).
Only water your plant when the top inch of the soil feels dry. To check this, stick your finger up to the knuckle to see if it’s still damp below the surface. With time, you will get an understanding of your plant’s water needs.
If the leaves begin to curl it means you are under or overwatering, so be sure to check out for this. If curling occurs, just adjust the frequency of watering and they will bounce back quickly.
When watering, give your plant a good soak by first pouring a bit of water to soak the top.
Once that has been absorbed, water thoroughly until the water is coming out of the bottom and remove the excess water from the plate below. Now keep an eye out for how many days it takes for the top inch of the soil to dry out.
You might have to adjust your frequency of watering throughout the year to give more water through the summer growing season and less through the colder winter.
Black cardinals love to be in warm, bright spots away from direct sunlight. The best place for them is near a window where the sun’s rays won’t shine directly on the leaves.
If you notice the leaves turning yellow, it might mean they are getting too much sun. If they are not getting enough sun, the stems will elongate, and the leaves will grow with several inches between them.
To bring out the purple color in your Black Cardinal’s leaves, try exposing it to a bit of morning or afternoon sun when it’s not so bright. Strong, midday sun will burn the leaves leaving permanent damage. This damage will only affect your plant cosmetically.
You can either prune damaged leaves or wait for the foliage to naturally mature and yellow before removing them.
Philodendrons can’t survive freezing temperatures. If you live in an area with cold winters and have your Black Cardinal outside, make sure to bring it in before the frost.
Try and keep your philodendron in a room that remains between 65 – 78 degrees F during the day and 60 degrees F at night. These temperatures also coincide with the average temperature of a house.
Despite originating in humid and tropical climates, Black Cardinals are quite hardy when it comes to low humidity. The average humidity indoors (between 30% – 50%) is perfect for them.
Just make sure to keep your plants away from heating vents and air conditioners, where the extreme temperatures and dry air will surely damage them.
Philodendrons aren’t hungry feeders and don’t demand fertilizer. If you wish to encourage consistent growth, you can fertilize monthly in the spring and summer and every six to eight weeks in the fall and winter.
Use a liquid foliage fertilizer with equal parts of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) – usually written as 1 : 1 : 1 or 10 : 10 : 10.
If you have a home worm composter, you can instead use your worm tea to give the plant a good soak. Like the idea, but don’t have worms at home? You can easily find liquid worm compost at most gardening stores.
Your philodendron will need repotting every few years depending on its growth patterns. Plants in ideal conditions with excellent soil and consistent fertilizing will likely grow faster than neglected and damaged plants.
When your Black Cardinal has filled out its pot, it is time to repot it into something about 2 inches larger.
- Start by watering the soil a few hours or the night before to make the roots easier to pull out.
- Once out of the pot, check the roots and gently untangle any that seem to be growing back into the plant (this mostly happens when the plant was left in the container for too long and the roots have formed a dense wall along the bottom).
- Next, replant it in the new container with appropriate soil or peat moss mixture and water deeply. Watering will help the soil settle around the roots. If the soil level goes down a lot, simply add some more on top.
Black Cardinals don’t require much pruning. As the leaves age and yellow you will want to pull those off or trim any damaged areas.
Keep your plant small by pruning to your desired size and use the cuttings to give free plants to your friends.
Propagating a Black Cardinal plant is a great strategy if you want to keep the plant small, get new free plants, or gift a new plant to a friend. You can multiply the plant by rooting sections of the stem or division while repotting.
The easiest way to propagate your Black Cardinal is by taking a stem cutting and rooting it in water. Do this by cutting a piece of your philodendron from the base and putting it in a small container with water.
Change the water every day until you see some white bumps develop and begin to grow into roots. Stick these cuttings in soil and, voilà, you have a new plant!
While repotting is also a good time to propagate your plant from the root. Carefully cut and detangle a section of roots with their corresponding stems. Once separated from the mother clump you can repot it into its own container.
Reproducing your plant through seed is ineffective since they rarely go to flower. Even if they did produce seed, the Black Cardinal is a complex hybrid that will not pass down its same genetic traits through seed.
Philodendrons rarely bloom, however, their eye-catching leaves more than makeup for it. As new leaves emerge, they are a stunning burgundy red, then they transform to dark green before turning black when mature.
Black Cardinal: Common problems
Philodendrons are easy houseplants to take care of once you understand the basics. They recover quickly from damage or stress, so it’s possible to learn from your mistakes.
Following the information above you’ll be able to take excellent care of your Black Cardinal, but what if something happens out of your control?
Philodendrons don’t usually fall prey to pests and diseases, but should you find your plant under attack, these are the most likely culprits:
The biggest problem affecting Black Cardinals is root rot. This happens if the pot doesn’t have any drainage holes, the soil isn’t well-draining enough, or you are watering too frequently.
Prevent root rot by keeping an eye out for signs of overwatering such as:
- Making sure water can flow out of the container
- Ensuring you’re using the correct potting soil or opting for a soilless mixture
- Checking that the top inch of the soil is dry before watering again.
Your plant will also show signs of stress through curling or yellowing leaves. Overly wet conditions will not immediately kill your plant, but with time the root rot will become irreversible.
Try and catch the signs early and treat your plant to prevent fatal root rot.
Aphids are tiny insects that hang out on the stems of plants and suck their juices. They are completely harmless (to humans, not plants) and can easily be wiped off with your fingers.
If the gross factor is too much or you want to take a more thorough route, spray the affected area with dish soap and neem oil solution. If your plant is outside, you can give it a good spray with a hose.
Mealybugs are a small pest that looks a bit like a piece pulled from a cotton swab. These tiny insects love humid places and like aphids, they feed off the plants’ juices.
To get rid of them, wipe the bugs off with a paper towel dipped in rubbing alcohol or neem oil. Make sure to spread on all the affected areas.
Tips for growing Philodendron Black Cardinal
- Use a well-draining soil such as African violet mix or make your own
- Put your finger in the top inch of soil to test the humidity before watering
- Keep your plant in bright indirect sun
FAQ’s about Philodendron Black Cardinal
Is the Black Cardinal edible?
The Black Cardinal is NOT edible. The leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals that aren’t fatal but cause extreme irritation and pain if chewed and ingested.
What to do if my child or pet eats a leaf?
The extreme discomfort caused by chewing the leaf usually prevents pets and children from consuming much. If they do manage to ingest some of the leaf wash their mouth and tongue out thoroughly with cold water and call the relevant poisoning control number.
You can use ice or milk to soothe the discomfort but should always seek the advice of a medical or veterinarian professional.
Can I start a Black Cardinal from seed?
Black Cardinals cannot be reproduced from seed. Not only do they rarely go to flower, but these plants are alsoa complex hybrid whose genetics wouldn’t be reflected in the seed. Reproducing Black Cardinals must be done through cutting, division, or tissue cultures in a lab.
Black Cardinal philodendrons are a stunning tropical plant with low maintenance that is well suited for all levels. As houseplants, they bring a little bit of color, drama, and flair to any plant collection.
These special plants don’t require specialized care and by following the care tips provided in this guide you’ll be sure to have a growing, thriving, propagating plant.
Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.