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Philodendron “Imperial Red” – Complete Care Guide

Philodendron “Imperial Red” – Complete Care Guide

The latest gardening trend particularly among home growers is compact tropical evergreens. Several seasoned gardeners and even first-timers want to grow Philodendron “Imperial Red” and other similar hybrid philodendron cultivars. 

Philodendron “Imperial Red” care is very manageable even for novices. It adds body to gaps in the living space and doesn’t grow too aggressively.

It is also a known air purifier that absorbs harming chemicals in the room, which makes it a great choice for both home and office interiors. 

The plant belongs to the Araceae family of aroids. Philodendron “Imperial Red” care is simply recreating a tropical environment providing warmth temperatures, bright shade, consistent moisture and humidity. Note that the plant is toxic to pets.

 


 

How to identify Philodendron “Imperial Red” cultivar

Now, there are several nearly identical looking hybrids doing the rounds in local nurseries and in online stores. Let me help you identify this particular hybrid cultivar.

  • The plant is a self heading variety with the leaves forming compact rosettes
  • The plant spreads laterally but in a moderate way suitable for indoor growing
  • The dark green leaves are ovate to elliptical, and the new leaves are tinged red
  • The leaves are glossy and somewhat wide
  • The mid-ribs are almost the same color as the leaves
  • The petioles are a brownish green when mature. They are somewhat short compared to the leaf size giving the plant a compact, full and bushy appearance

 

Philodendron “Imperial Red” Care

Philodendron “Imperial Red” is ideally suited for ambient room temperatures between 65 – 80°F (18 – 27°C). They can tolerate slight drought but prefer consistent moisture to look healthy. However, soggy soil is dangerous for the plant, therefore the potting mix needs to be very loose, porous and well-draining. Bright shade or morning sunlight and humidity above 50% are desired for good growth. 

 

Soil

You are meant to grow Philodendron “Imperial Red” indoors in a pot.

The potting soil you use must be very loose and porous so that it drains excellently and the roots of the plant get to breathe. Anything course and chunky works such as perlite, brick bits, coco chips, crushed bark, grainy river sand, etc. 

Also advisable is to use plenty of organic matter in the mix for moisture retention and plant nutrition. After all, these are originally epiphytic in nature sustaining on organic debris collecting around the roots.

You can use peat moss, coco peat, leaf much, kitchen compost, dung manure, etc. to introduce organic content in the substrate. Just make sure that it’s well decomposed and sterile. Otherwise the roots may be prone to infection.

The ratio of organic to inorganic should be about 50/50.

An easy Philodendron “Imperial Red” care hack is to mix in peat in a good quality cactus mix along with organic manure. It may be a little expensive but a great substrate to grow Philodendron “Imperial Red” in.

 

Light

Philodendron “Imperial Red” care needs a decent amount of indirect sunlight for good growth. The wide and green leaves are a sign that it adapted for bright shade. In fact the red hue of leaves drain off in prolonged darkness.

You can grow Philodendron “Imperial Red” indoors by an east window or west window spot. In my own experience receiving a bit of direct sun exposure in the mornings for about half an hour can do a whole lot of good. The trouble is if you give full direct sunlight all day it will burn the foliage.

In the non-equatorial regions, you’ll have to grow Philodendron “Imperial Red” in fluorescent lights, particularly in the winters for 12 hours a day.

 

Watering

If you ask me, the only confusing part about Philodendron “Imperial Red” is watering. If it’s a drought tolerant evergreen tropical, do you water it well? Or do you water it sparingly? Here’s what I’ve learnt about watering these hybrid varieties. 

Philodendron “Imperial Red” care involves a little more consistent moisture than the species you find in the wild which are adapted to surviving periods of drought. But exactly what watering cycle would apply to really depends on a bunch of things.

The climatic zone you live in, season, the placement of the plant in your house, humidity, and most importantly, soil variety are factors you need to consider.

If the soil is perfectly well draining you can water regularly. In tropical weather conditions or what I call “land of always summer”, you’ll notice that the soil dries out pretty fast in the rainless months. You’ll need to water quite regularly there. 

The top soil test is a good way to decide whether or not to water. If the top two inches feel dry then water the plant. Under no circumstances should the soil be sticky and water logged. That’s surely going to kill the plant.

 

Temperature

Philodendron “Imperial Red” loves warm air and grows best in tropical regions. That said, this is a cultivar hybridized for indoor growing and takes will to the ambient temperatures of a heated room.

Room temperatures ranging between 65 – 80°F (18 – 27°C) would work well for this plant. If the temperature gets warmer just place the plant in filtered light and hydrate sufficiently.

These plants have no frost tolerance. So temperatures below 55°F (13°C) are a strict no. Therefore in winters you should keep the plant indoors always and out of the way of cold drafts. 

 

Humidity

All tropical plants do well in a humid environment and the Philodendron “Imperial Red” is no different. However, when kept indoors all the time this plant has to suffer the dryness caused by heaters and air conditioners. 

I would recommend a humidity level anywhere above 50% for the best results in terms of growth and plant health. Try misting the plant with water occasionally, wiping the leaves with a wet sponge, and using humidifiers during the dry months. 

You needn’t go crazy over ensuring humidity as long as the soil moisture is optimal. The plant can survive a bit of air dryness. That said, you’ll see a marked difference in plant health if you manage to give the humidity it needs.

 

Fertilizing

I am not a fan of chemical fertilization for my Philodendron “Imperial Red”. My plants don’t seem to need a lot more the organic soil amendments we have discussed above, such as decomposed mulch, compost, organic manure, sterile animal dung, peat, moss etc. Organic matter mixed with rich soil acts as food for the plant.

I have a preference for organic manure over chemical fertilizers, particularly for tropical aroids like philodendrons because in the natural habitats they only get slow-release nutrient compounds in the form of leaf debris and rainwater. 

That said, Philodendron “Imperial Red” care is better suited for home environments being a hybrid cultivar. So if you’ve been using chemicals in your plant care, you can extend that to this plant too. 

Just some advice, use a good quality fertilizer. Cheap chemicals are harmful. I would recommend a liquid foliage boosting one. Liquids allow you to manage the concentration easily. You should thin down the chemical to one-third of the Rx dosage. If you over fertilize the plant can die.

 

Propagation

The Philodendron “Imperial Red” cultivar was created to be manageable houseplants that don’t climb aggressively. Unlike climbing philodendrons, Imperial Red doesn’t have nodes and internodes to get cuttings from. 

For self-headers such as Philodendron “Imperial Red”, the methods are more complex and usually not feasible for home gardeners.

However, there are workarounds to this if you’re patient enough. Under optimal growth conditions, Philodendron “Imperial Red” will produce plantlets at the base that can be potted separately once they have a few leaves and a little stem.

We have a step-by-step guide on how to propagate Philodendron “Imperial Red”.

 

Growth 

Being a self-header means you can grow Philodendron “Imperial Red” in a pot almost forever. The leaf nodes of this plant are so closely packed together that the stem is invisible and the plant looks like a bouquet of red tinted leaves. The plant naturally grows into a bushy voluminous shape with just a few leaves.

When you buy a young plant you can grow Philodendron “Imperial Red” on a tabletop in a small-sized pot. The root systems are fairly compact and the plant generates plenty of aerial roots that look quite trippy.

However, as it grows bigger you will find that the plant gets top heavy. Philodendron “Imperial Red” care doesn’t call for regular pruning. All you have to do is cut away discolored leaves, stems and dead aerial roots to maintain a clean look.

It is advisable to prune the head of a Philodendron “Imperial Red” only if they are very mature plants that have sprung multiple heads at the base.  

 

Potting

You can easily grow Philodendron “Imperial Red” in a relatively small pot for a length of time until stability becomes an issue. I stake my plant sometimes if required. But it isn’t always necessary. 

They are very happy being root-bound. The roots of this plant develop well and tend to grow tightly around any chunks in soil like brick bits or bark. It also develops aerial roots that add to the aesthetics of the plant.

I will recommend repotting only when they get top-heavy and the roots pour out of the existing pot. I advise you to remove the plant along with the root ball and move it to a larger pot. Repotting may be required only once in 2-3 years. Repotting must be done in spring and summer months.

 

Propagating Philodendron “Imperial Red” – Step by Step Instructions

Professional botanists propagate Philodendrons “Imperial Red” using techniques that aren’t feasible for home gardeners, such as from seeds or through tissue culture. 

I am going to share methods that have worked for me. The thumb rule of Philodendron “Imperial Red” propagation is to carry it out ONLY in warm weather in moderate to high humidity conditions. Spring is the ideal time. This greatly impacts the chances of success.

 

Propagate Philodendron “Imperial Red” from plantlets

In this method, you have to wait until nature is ready to propagate. The plant decides the right time for you. It may take until the Philodendron “Imperial Red” plant is mature.

  • You can look for little plantlets at the base of the plant where the stem is visible after the old leaves fall off.
  • Wait for the plantlet to grow big until its stem is visible. 
  • Placing the plant in a brightly lit spot helps the plantlets emerge sooner
  • Look for a plantlet that has aerial roots.
  • Air-layer the stem (detailed below) to helps the roots grow bigger. Air layering should take about 2 to 3 weeks
  • When ready, cut the plantlet off the mother and pot it separately in soil.
  • Continue with Philodendron “Imperial Red” care as usual.

 

How to air-layer your Philodendron “Imperial Red”

Keep a 6” transparent plastic bag, some sphagnum moss and a few twisty ties ready.

  • Punch a few small holes at the bottom of your plastic bag and put a fistful of wet sphagnum moss at the bottom.
  • Fashion the plastic bag like a wrap that can go around a stem.

Now let’s get to the plant. 

  • Look for small aerial root projections at the base of the plantlet.
  • With a blade make a tiny slit under the node where you want your plantlet to root. About 2mm deep should be good.
  • With one palm hold the moss and and the plastic bag, against the cut on the stem.
  • Fold the plastic flaps around the stem with the other hand. Secure this bag of moss using twisty ties so that it doesn’t slip off. The roots will grow into the moss cocoon.
  • Keep the arrangement moistened by watering through the holes on the bag.
  • After a couple of weeks, the roots have grown into the moss.
  • Remove the plastic and the moss carefully without breaking your new roots.
  • Now cut the plantlet below the new roots with a pair of sterile sheers. 
  • Pot the cutting and grow it in shade until the new plant is well established.

 

Common Problems with Philodendron “Imperial Red”

 

Irregular brown patches along the leaf edge

This is one of the most common issues seen when you grow Philodendron “Imperial Red”. It is caused due to a bacterial infection called Erwinia blight. This is mainly caused due to overhead watering according to PennState University

They recommend removal of the damaged leaves and watering in a manner that keeps the leaves and petiole dry at all times. Make sure you discard the leaves far away from all the plants.

 

Translucent leaf spots

Do the spots have yellow margins and a disagreeable smell to the fluid inside? Then this must be another infection caused by Xanthomonas. You have to make sure the plant is free of it when you bring it home from the nursery. The rest of the cure and care is as above, i.e. avoid overhead watering and keep the plant leaves dry as far as possible.

Dark patches on the leaf

This happens due to cold drafts even for a few hours. Remove the damaged leaves and immediately shift your plant to a location away from open windows and doors.

 

Leaves yellowing

Yellow leaves are typically an indication that you’ve been overwatering. You need to take immediate steps to improve the drainage of your pot by adding soil amendments. You also have to generally elongate the watering cycle. 

 

Brown crispy edges

You could be underwatering your plant. Gradually improve the watering. Once the plant is well adjusted you can water deeply and wait until the soil dries out partially.

 

Pale leaf color

If the characteristic red tinted color of the leaves starts fading out or turning more green, that means Philodendron “Imperial Red” needs to be moved to a brighter spot. Low light drains the leaf colour.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Common pests

When you grow Philodendron “Imperial Red”, severe pests problems and insects are not commonly experienced. You may see an occasional attack of aphids, fungus gnats or mealybugs

The ideal preventive measure is application of insecticidal soap mixed with neem oil administered once a month or as prescribed on the package.

My Philodendron “Imperial Red” care routine includes washing down the leaves with a water jet once a week when I water the plant and wiping leaves dry.

Severe infestations require chemical treatment but you shouldn’t let it get to that stage.

 

Tips to keep Philodendron “Imperial Red” problem-free

  • Keep room temperature in the 65 – 80°F (18 – 27°C) range throughout the year
  • The plant has zero frost tolerance so keep it away from cold drafts indoors
  • Bright lighting is the best way to grow Philodendron “Imperial Red”
  • Philodendron “Imperial Red” does best with organic feed supplemented with well balanced dilute chemical fertilizer
  • Maintain even moisture during growing months
  • Wet wipe the leaves regularly to prevent pests and dust accumulation
  • Dry out the leaves after wiping to avoid bacterial infections
  • Grow Philodendron “Imperial Red” in a compact ceramic planter heavy enough to prevent toppling
  • Repot in spring just in time for the growing season

 

Frequently asked questions about Philodendron “Imperial Red”

 

Is Philodendron “Imperial Red” toxic to pets?

If this plant is chewed it can be toxic to dogs and cats due to the presence of calcium oxalate crystals. The plant causes mouth and stomach irritation. 

 

Why does Philodendron “Imperial Red” turn red?

When the growing conditions fluctuate too much this plant can exhibit red pigmentation. Fluctuations in watering, temperature and light are common reasons.

 

How do I make Philodendron “Imperial Red” look fuller?

If your plant isn’t growing new leaves for months together then the plant may lose it’s compact look. The way to get back that look is to fertilize with gentle low dosage feed every 2 weeks and to improve lighting. If that doesn’t help then perhaps the roots are overgrown. In that case it’s time to repot with rich soil.

 

Should you mist Philodendron “Imperial Red”?

Periodically showering the plant with water and applying insecticidal soap will help keep pests at bay. Besides, philodendrons are tropical plants, so higher humidity will promote lush growth and shiny foliage.

Just watch out for bacterial infections which spread due to moisture.

 

Conclusion

Due to a pandemic-induced spike in work-from-home setups, a growing number of people want to add a splash of the green in their living spaces. That is perhaps the reason behind the resurgence in philodendrons, monsteras, anthuriums and other aroid varieties.

Self heading philodendron varieties have been hybridized to suit home growing environments.  However there are other species of aroids suitable for indoor growing which you could consider too.

I encourage you to explore Monstera Adansonii and Anthurium pallidiflorum, both of which are great exotic plants for an indoor tropical corner.

Happy growing!

 

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