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Philodendron El Choco Red Care Essentials

Philodendron El Choco Red Care Essentials

Philodendron el choco red is a climbing Aroid with velvety leaves. The leaves start out with a striking red abaxial leaf surface that is somewhat fading once the leaves mature.

This houseplant is often confused with the Philodendron luxurians choco.  Both of these plants are found in the Choco region in Colombia and hence the similarity in name. 

A fairly similar plant is the Philodendron verrucosum, another striking aroid with colorful leaves and a climber as well.

For Philodendron el choco red care you need an airy potting mix using potting soil, orchid bark, perlite, and charcoal. This Philodendron loves high humidity above 60% and temperatures in and around 77°F (25°C). Keep the soil slightly moist but never soggy and water when the potting mix is about to dry out. Fertilize in Spring and Summer about once a month using an organic fertilizer. Grow this Philodendron in bright indirect light in an east-facing window for optimal growth rates. Use a grow light in autumn and winter or all year round.

In this article, I will be talking about the Philodendron el choco red. I have several in my collection for some years now and I am still amazed by their beautiful leaves, red cataphylls and enjoy their fast-growing habit.

 


 

 

Philodendron El Choco Red Plant Care Guide

 

Soil

I personally think that the right soil mix is the single most important factor.

Either your mix is chunky and airy and you are off to a good start or your soil mix is dense and compact and you are likely to run into problems along the way.

One of these problems that arise is root rot. Root rot is caused when roots are suffocated in a dense potting mix.

Very dense mixes get very soggy as they do not drain quickly. They stay wet and cause the roots of your Philodendron el choco red to suffocate.

An indicator of a good airy potting mix is when water is draining quickly from the drainage holes in the pot when watering.

Water should flow almost immediately from the pot when you pour water into it.

This way it will almost be impossible to overwater and most aroid plants should be watered intensely when watering. They however do not like to stay in soggy soil as most aroids are epiphytes.

Epiphytes are plants that grow on other plants and rock surfaces. Their roots are not suited to be enclosed by a dense potting mix.

There are many different ingredients to choose from when creating your soil mixture.

Some components such as chunky material will help the roots of your plant to absorb oxygen. Constant airflow to the roots is a necessity for Philodendron el choco red.

Other ingredients of a soil mix such as sphagnum moss will increase water retention. And there are elements such as compost that hold nutrients that are essential for plants.

Here is a list of commonly used ingredients for aroid mixes that I personally also use for my El Choco:

  • Potting Soil (30%)
  • Orchid Bark (30%)
  • Perlite (30%)
  • Charcoal (10%)

In addition, the ideal soil pH values lays between 5.1 to 6.0. 

In the next section we will look into the right lighting conditions, a topic that is also crucial to get right.

Conducting photosynthesis is a crucial process within plants. This depends on the right lighting conditions.

 

Light

A common misconception is that plants that grow in semi-shade or shade in nature should be kept the same way as an indoor houseplant.

Under this premise, you basically say that the light intensity in your home is as strong as the sun. It is most likely not.

You can use a par light meter and do some measurements here and there.

The biggest aha moment for me is how low the light is when you are changing angles and when the distance from light sources is increased.

Philodendron el choco red is growing under the canopy of rainforest in situ. In situ means the location they grow in their natural habitat.

So you can assume a semi-shaded environment which translated to bright indirect or filtered light under houseplant conditions.

In order to achieve this your Philodendron el choco red needs to be either close to a window or you will have to supplement it with grow light.

The indirect part is important as too much direct sunlight will scorch the leaves of your Philodendron and do it no good. 

A few hours of direct sunlight in the morning is fine tough. Avoid the strong afternoon sun and a full direct sunlight exposure throughout the day.

A good location for your Philodendron el choco red is an east-facing window, where these conditions are met. 

In case you keep your plants outside in the summertime, adjust them to the light intensity in small increments and start with a shaded area and increase the light intensity every couple of days.

 

Watering

Let’s think about the condition in tropical rainforests for a second. It rains almost every day and multiple times a day.

If you would water your Philodendron every day it would almost certainly develop root rot and die very quickly. So why does it work in nature but not at home?

Well, the reason is that there is also a lot of wind and thus airflow going and there are beneficial bacteria and insects in the soil outside that improve the soil conditions for plants.

A good comparison is bioactive vivariums. I have one and I can tell you that I keep the soil in it very humid and the plants are thriving.

The reason why I can do this is that I am using small insects called springtails as well as isopods that keep the soil tidy and eat mold and other things that benefit root rot. 

In addition, I have ventilators going on and off multiple times a day.

These conditions are different for a potted plant at home. Therefore watering every day or even multiple times a day is not the way to go.

However, one aspect of rainforest conditions can and should be emulated. The heavy rainfalls. When it rains in a rainforest, it is more often than not raining buckets.

So the thing to remember here is to water very thoroughly when wearing and making sure that water is flowing out of drainage holes.

Some people prefer to put their Philodendron el choco red into the shower to achieve this.

Try to keep the soil slightly humid and never let it dry out completely so there is no risk of the blanket effect kicking in.

The blanket effect happens when the soil got too dry and is now shielding off the roots from water reaching them.

You do not want to get to this stage as you might water your plant at that point but the water will not go to the roots.

Therefore slight humid soil at all times is the answer but never soggy soil. Soggy soil is when soil stays very wet for a long time.

It should usually dry out rather quickly within a couple of days. I need to water my Philodendron el choco red about once a week.

If you live in a very warm place or during summertime chances are that you need to water multiple times a week.

In winter you can generally reduce watering your plant as the soil will stay more humid for longer due to the lower temperatures. 

And let me tell you, low temperatures and high humidity is not a good combination. It is the sure way to get from a healthy plant to a dying one in a matter of weeks.

If your soil stays constantly wet and you have problems with watering, more often than not you have to get back to step one and reassess your potting mix.

I have been there. Instead of investing in a proper mix and buy all the potting mix components, I needed in the first place, I rather decided to fight root rot on almost all of my plants in the beginning. 

The lesson to be learned here is don’t be like me and invest in a good aroid mix. Your plants and your sanity are worth it.

 

Temperature

Keep temperatures above 68°F  (20°C). If you can keep temperatures around 77°F (25°C), I guarantee you your Philodendron el choco red will thrive and grow fast.

The thing we want most as aroid enthusiasts is fast-growing plants that develop new leaves quickly and of course, we expect bigger leaves each and every time.

If our expectations are so high, we will also need to meet the expectations of our indoor plants have in terms of their environment.

Philodendron el choco red is thriving in warmer temperatures as these are the conditions in Central and South America.

If you want to grow your Philodendron outside, hardiness zones 9b-11 are ideal according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s hardiness zones

 

Humidity

It’s very simple, the higher the better. Provide this Philodendron with 60%+ humidity and you will see aerial roots popping, growth, and growth rates increasing drastically.

On the other hand, you can grow Philodendron el choco red in slightly lower conditions. A humidity level of around 40% is not a death sentence but chances are that is will not thrive as much as it could.

Luckily the el choco is not as big a drama queen as most Verrucosum types. I have some Philodendron Verrucosum that go bonkers in high humidity but look like a sickly dying plan in a humidity of 50%.  This is why I grow most in a terrarium.

Luckily a terrarium using a misting system is not the only way to increase the humidity around your plant.

I suggest grouping plants together as this helps to increase the environmental humidity around them.

In addition, a good way is to provide a pebble tray beneath the pot of your Philodendron.

Spraying your plants with a water bottle is controversial. On one hand, plants enjoy the humidity and generally like to have the leaves sprayed.

On the other hand, this bears the risk of fungus build on the leaves when water stays on them for too long.

If you make sure air circulation is a given and leaves dry quickly, there is no issue.

To get to a good level of humidity you will most likely need a humidifier. You can have a look at the humidifiers we are offering in our webshop. They are efficient, affordable and shipping costs are on us.

 

Fertilizer

Fertilizing your plants regularly is important to provide your plant with the necessary nutrients for growth. Your Philodendron el choco red is no exception in this regard.

The most important nutrients are described by NPK. N for Nitrogen, P for Phosphorus, and K for Potassium. Other essential nutrients are calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S).

As nutrients can be provided in different combinations and strengths when using liquid and slow-release fertilizers, they are often indicated by ratios.

Most fertilizers are using a numbering scheme such as eg. 10-10-20. In this example, the amount of Potassium is twice as high as the amount of Nitrogen and Phosphorus with 10 each.

It is advised to fertilize at least 3 times a year away from the base of your plant. I fertilize my Philodendron el choco red every other watering and I would advise fertilizing your houseplant at least once a month in Spring and Summer. 

These are the seasons where the majority of growth is happening, hence there is the biggest need for nutrients.

I reduce fertilization in winter drastically and only fertilize once a month max,

Without fertilizer expect your Philodendron el choco red to grow very slowly.

There are also growers that use guano manure and other types of manure as a fertilizer added to the potting mix every couple of weeks and swear on its benefits.

I have yet to try it but from what I read it sounds very promising as manure is high in Potassium, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus. And on top of it is a very natural way of fertilizing your plants.

 

Propagation

You propagate the el choco as you would propagate any other Philodendron plant. The easiest and most common way is the propagation from stem cuttings. 

 

Growth

A lot of Philodendron el choco red you can buy and you see on the market nowadays are pretty juvenile. 

However, I have multiple Philodendron el choco red and they are a joy to grow. Their growth is pretty rapid and almost as fast as a Philodendron verrucosum in ideal conditions, without being as fussy.

About a leave every 2-3 weeks is the rate of growth I was able to witness on my plants in Spring and Summer.

Since this Philodendron is a climber it is a good idea to provide a moss pole. Not only will the stem grow thicker that way but the leaf size will also increase considerably once the stem has attached to the moss pole using its aerial roots.

The higher the humidity the better and faster your Philodendron will be able to attach. Or you find a way to keep the moss pole constantly most.

Don’t try to keep it wet using a spray bottle though. This is an impossible endeavor. The moss pole will dry out very quickly and it is not possible to keep it moist.

The best solutions to those problems I have seen so far are either keeping the bottom of your moss pole in water somehow without the plant itself actually being in the water. 

This can be done using a semi-hydro setup for example. Another solution to the problem is if you use a plastic pipe and wrap it in moss.

Once the pipe is sealed at the bottom you can fill it with water. Have a lace of yarn in the water that you wrap on the outside of your plastic pipe before you cover it with sphagnum moss. The moss can be attached using plastic or metal fencing or wire.

More and more crafty plant enthusiasts are selling these as a side hustle if you are not planning on doing it yourself.

Back to the growth of Philodendron el choco red. A vigorous grower that can reach sizes of up to 3 feet (90cm) or even more as a houseplant.

New leaves emerge from cool-looking pinkish cataphylls. The cataphylls are deciduous. They will be shed off once the new leaves have emerged. 

 

Potting

Philodendron el choco red has great looking red roots that grow quite quickly under good conditions. I wouldn’t say that the root system gets massive but it will grow a good rootball.

El choco doesn’t need a huge pot and I personally wouldn’t go more than one size bigger every year if a change in pot is necessary.

This can be the case once your plant gets pot bound. Rootbound is a different condition. But what do these terms actually mean and where lays the difference?

If we speak about a plant being root bound we are talking about a situation where there are a lot of roots in a pot but the roots and plant are still growing well.

Pot bound means that the roots will follow the shape of the pot and have filled it so that there are almost only roots left in the pot and no more growing medium.

The difference is important as rootbound can be a desirable condition for some houseplants that prefer to be grown that way. Potbound however is a condition where roots cannot grow any longer and where the condition of the plant will diminish over time. 

As soon as your Philodendron el choco becomes root-bound, it is generally time to repot. Don’t wait for it to become pot bound.

I personally use a variety of different pots and all have their advantages and disadvantges.

Some of my Philodendron plants are in clay pots. I love clay pots for their breathiness due to the porous material and for their ability to intake excess water.

On the flip side, this can lead to your Philodendron el choco drying out rather quickly.

Another part of my aroid collection is in plastic pots. I will always drill holes so the plastic is not hindering my plants or specifically their roots from breathing.

The big advantage is that you can get transparent plastic containers. You either buy them or you find the perfect meal that serves you with free containers for your plants.

Last but not least I am a big advocate of semi hydro. I am using a volcanic growing substrate called Pon and pots with a water reservoir and yarn that is reaching the reservoir and feeding the plant with water constantly.

This is also how I currently care for my Philodendron el choco.

However, I think the ultimate growth might be achieved in terrarium conditions where you can keep the humidity high and where your el choco can grow in ABG mix.

The challenge here is to find one big enough to host this climbing Philodendron that can reach several feet in height.

How Not To Kill Your Philodendron El Choco Red

Philodendron El Choco Red Photo Credit: @flat_jungle on Instagram

 

Philodendron El Choco Red Propagation

The Philodendron el choco can be propagated using multiple ways and techniques. Let’s start with the propagation from stem cuttings, as it is the most common method and also the easiest.

 

Stem cuttings

Other Philodendron plants such as Philodendron Selloum, Philodendron Gloriosum, or Philodendron Birkin can be propagated exactly the same way.

Step-by-Step Philodendron el choco red propagation:

  1. Chose where you want to cut on your plant.
  2. Ensure you get an area with at least one node
  3. Use pruning shears or a sharp knife or clipper to make a clean cut
  4. Always disinfect the blades first using rubbing alcohol as well as holding the blade in a flame
  5. This decreases the chance of any contaminations
  6. Once you made a cut, let it rest for 30min or much longer depending on the thickness of the plant
  7. Put some cinnamon on the cut area as well as on the cutting
  8. This will help to prevent fungus and also will induce rooting of the cutting
  9. Now it is important to focus on humidity, warmth, and light
  10. Use your propagation media of choice. Common are water, sphagnum moss, perlite, or straight soil
  11. Put the cutting in a plastic container or cover it with a plastic bag
  12. Have a heat mat underneath as this will speed up the process

It generally takes 3-4 weeks until anything happens. Sometimes it is much faster, other times it takes much longer. And in some cases, nothing will happen. That is the way of life I guess.

The most important skill when propagating plants is having patience.

Spring and Summer are the best months to propagate plants. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done in Autumn and Winter.  I do multiply my plants all year round.

 

Air Layering

Another approach is to air layer. Air layering is a fancy name for wrapping sphagnum moss and some plastic foil around a node and of your Philodendron el choco.

The big advantage of this approach is that you are only cutting off something from your motherplant once it has already grown roots. 

Chances of success are much higher this way and the probability that you will lose your cutting are slim.

When the roots are long enough, you can cut. The cutting will already have rooted and can then be transferred to your favorite growing medium.

It’s not a process for absolute beginners as you need to make sure that the Sphagnum moss is fixated exactly where the node is.

You will also need to make sure that the moss is neither drying out nor getting too wet.

Although I have never tried it personally, I do not suppose it is rocket science and more than doable in case you do not have two left hands.

 

Seeds

Seed propagation is a nice way to get loads of plants. The challenge here is to get the seeds. Philodendron seeds are almost nowhere to be bought and they usually only last for a very short time.

Aroid seeds in general deteriorate quickly. In addition, buying seeds online is often not clever as the chances you will end up with bird food are not slim, to say the least.

The most realistic scenario to get to seeds is if you have two plants that bloom at the same time. It is also possible to collect and freeze the pollen once one of your Philodendron el chocos blooms.

The frozen pollen can then be applied using a brush once your other Philodendron el choco blooms.

Or you might try to create a completely new crossing between two different Philodendron.

Examples of such experiments are plans such as the Philodendron Verrucosum x Melanochrysum.

Whilst multiplying your plants is a lot of fun there are also the less pleasant parts of plant husbandry.

Dealing with plant-related problems. If you want to be successful at keeping indoors plants, you need to become a master at interpreting the signals your plants are providing correctly.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by @flat_jungle

Let’s thus move into the next session where I will highlight common issues with the el choco.

 

Common Problems with Philodendron El Choco Red

 

Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves are a common sight on houseplants. When the oldest bottom leaves turn yellow it is usually nothing to worry about. Old leaves eventually yellow and then fall off.

Ir is a different story when the new leaves of your Philodendron el choco start to yellow. In this case, yellowing mostly means that you are overwatering your plant.

Make sure to check the soil of your plant. If the soil is soggy wet, the roots of your plant might be in danger and you are risking root rot.

 

Drooping Leaves

When leaves are drooping, most people draw the conclusion that the plant needs more water. I would suggest making sure for certain that underwatering is the cause.

You can double-check and verify this by sticking your index finger into the soil. If the soil is bone dry you are most likely right.

However as it is with the signs plants provide, they often can mean either of two extremes. Drooping leaves can also be caused by overwatering.

If you are watering too much the soil is soggy and compact. This prevents necessary oxygen from reaching the plant roots.

The roots are basically suffocating and are unable to take in the water at this stage. So no matter how much you are watering, your Philodendron el choco cannot take in the water anymore.

The only thing you can do in such a scenario is to completely remove the soil and check for mushy roots. If roots are mushy cut them off and completely replace the soil.

Disinfecting the pot is important and bacteria and fungus are building at this stage and you need to make sure to get rid of it.

When replacing the soil make sure it is chunky and airy using ingredients such as perlite, orchid bark, and so on.

With a good airy potting mix it is almost impossible to overwater your Philodendron.

 

Root Rot

Root rot is every indoor gardener’s worst nightmare. It happens quickly and from the point where roots are starting to rot, it is all downhill.

Root rot spreads quickly to healthy roots and soon the whole root system of your houseplant is mushy and about to fall off.

A plant without healthy roots can get bad to the point where you have to toss or completely cut off the root system with the hope to propagate the remaining bits and pieces within weeks.

Root rot is serious. I have lost multiple plants to root rot and the mistakes I made often started before I overwatered. 

Make your life as easy as possible and mix a well-draining potting mix and use a pot with drainage holes. You are going to spare yourself a lot of hassle

If you are in a situation where you think you might be confronted with root rot I suggest you read the following two articles about identifying root rot and root rot treatments.

 

Pest Infestation

It is very likely unfortunately that you might be having plant pests on your Philodendron el choco at some stage in your plant parenting journey.

I had everything from whiteflies to mealybugs to scale and thrips. Sometimes these pests can be brought in with new plants you bring into your indoor jungle.

Sometimes they invite themselves into your house. Specifically, in summer it seems that the infestations are the worst.

Many prefer drier environments and when you open up your windows you might not only invite fresh air to come in but also whiteflies and more.

Over the years I have written many articles about all different kinds of plant pests and what to do about them. I always feel that the most difficult thing about pests apart from getting rid of them is to spot and identify them correctly.

Sometimes you only see that something is wrong with your plants only to find bugs when having a closer look. Most of these insects are small and hard to spot. 

Hardly seeing them can also make it difficult to tell them apart.

Here is a list with the most common plant pest for indoor plants:

In each of these articles, I will go into how to identify the bug at hand correctly and what the best remedies are.

There are some common ways to counter bug infestations on your houseplants that I wanted to share with you.

These are proven methods that worked for me in the past.

Once you spot insects on your Philodendron, start with spraying the leaves of your plant with water. The higher the water pressure the better.

Most plant pests hate humid environments and for some of them, you can directly kick them off your plant using a jet of water.

It is best to either do that outside depending on the season or if that is not possible you can do it in the shower.

The second suggestion I want to give you is to invest in neem oil. It is either available as a premixed spray or as a pure oil that you can mix with water yourself.

Spray the leaves and soil of your plant every 2-3 weeks with the neem oil. Plant pests hate the smell and will eventually disappear or not even come close.

 A very similar method is to use a pure Castille soap that needs to be distilled with water. Soap in diluted concentrations is great to get rid of plant pests.

Make sure the leaves of your Philodendron el choco and other plants can deal with the soap. I suggest to first try it in a small area and wait a couple of days. 

The last thing you want is to burn and damage your plant leaves. For Castille soap, you can use one quart of water with one tablespoon of pure Castille soap.

A different remedy is rubbing alcohol. It has the power and strength to dissolve some of the plant pests when they come in contact with it. You can use a qtip that you drench with rubbing alcohol. I usually use 1/2 cup of rubbing alcohol with 1 quart of water.

And you also have a different very way of dealing with these buggers by inviting even more insects into your home. I am speaking about predatory bugs.

There are good bugs that eat bad bugs to simplify the point. Insects such as Green Lacewing, Amblyseius Swirskii and Amblyseius Cucumeris have bad bugs such as thrips and spider mites on their menu.

I understand that this might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But at least for me, knowing that there are good insects that are constantly decimating the colonies of thrips and spider mites as well as mealy bugs is a great feeling.

 

Let’s now summarize how to keep your Philodendron problem-free in the section below.

 

Tips to keep Philodendron El Choco Red problem-free

Let’s look at the top 3 tips to keep your Philodendron el choco happy, problem-free, and looking best:

  1. Let’s face it. Humidity is very important. You can grow this plant in low humidity but it will certainly not look its best and will definitely not grow very fast. Get a humidifier if you are not living in the tropics.
  2. As hemiepiphyte, airy potting mixes are a must. When I got into Philodendron at first I knew that airy potting mixed would be great but I didn’t have the necessary ingredients at home. Big mistake. I had to deal with root rot about every 3 weeks. Invest in a well-draining potting mix that you are more than able to do yourself by buying the necessary ingredients.
  3. Provide sufficient light. The light level you are providing will determine how fast your plant will grow among other factors. Bright indirect light is best. Refrain from direct sunlight for more than 2-3 hours per day max.

 

Frequently asked questions about Philodendron El Choco Red

 

Why are the leaves of my Philodendron El Choco Red drooping?

Drooping leaves is a trick once. It can mean either of these two extremes. It can be caused by under or overwatering. In case you are certain you did not overwater and your soil is not soggy and airy it is most likely underwatering.

 

How to care for a Philodendron El Choco Red?

This philodendron prefers bright indirect light, humidity above 60%, and slightly moist soil. Water before the soil dries out completely and use an airy soil using orchid bark, perlite, potting mix, and charcoal. Fertilize using organic fertilizer in Spring and Summer.

 

Is Philodendron El Choco Red a fast grower?

Philodendron El Choco Red grows fast. A leaf every 2-3 weeks is not uncommon.

 

What family does the Philodendron El Choco Red belong to?

Philodendron el choco red belongs to the Araceae family as does the Monstera genus. It is not a subspecies of Philodendron Verrucosum.

 

Conclusion

When I first saw the Philodendron el choco red exists I couldn’t believe my eyes. It looks like an extremely good looking Philodendron El Choco. 

The el choco has mesmerizing red undersides and is a vigorous grower. It isn’t fussy at all and will pop out leaves constantly if your care is on point.

One challenge might be to actually get one of these specimens as they are mostly not readily available and are somewhat a collectors plant.

The prices for these plants heavily depend on the location you are living in. But for the most parts in the world a Philodendron el choco will cost you between $100 – 200 USD.

Why not have a look at our Philodendron Verrucosum article next?