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Philodendron “Rojo Congo” Fail-Proof Care Guide

Philodendron “Rojo Congo” Fail-Proof Care Guide

Philodendron “Rojo Congo” is a unique cultivar hybridized in Florida, in keeping with the growing trend amongst home gardeners for tropical aroids suitable for indoor growing. They are very attractive plants adding a touch of luxury, and a dash of the exotic to the indoor space.

Philodendron “Rojo Congo” is a cross between Philodendron ”Imperial Red” and Philodendron Tatei. It is a self-supporting self header so you won’t have to support this plant with stakes or add an ungainly moss pole to creep on. It stands in a lovely rosette formation with its erect oval leaves of burgundy green color.

Note that the plant can be toxic to pets. Given how easy maintenance Philodendron “Rojo Congo” care really is, even newbies can handle this plant with some guidance. That said, you should learn the basics or you may lose this plant to careless mistakes.

 


 

How to identify the Philodendron “Rojo Congo” cultivar

With several similar looking hybrids doing the rounds in 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 and can get quite wide compared to other hybrid cultivars. 
  • The dark green leaves are ovate to elliptical, and the new leaves are light green tinged red. The petioles are purple brown.
  • It has longer and thicker petioles and slightly bigger leaves compared to others. 
  • The plant grows relatively fast under ideal conditions.

 

Philodendron “Rojo Congo” Care

You can grow Philodendron “Rojo Congo” perfectly well in ambient temperatures between 65 – 80°F (18 – 27°C). They do tolerate a little drought but I would advise consistent moisture for lush growth. Just note, soggy soil is a complete no-no for the plant and the most common cause of its death. Therefore, the potting soil has to be very airy, porous and well-draining. Bright light or dappled sunlight and humidity upwards of 50% are desirable.  

 

Soil

Philodendron “Rojo Congo” is meant to be grown indoors. The potting soil is a critical foundation of this plant. If you get this right, all other aspects of Philodendron “Rojo Congo” will flow automatically. Use loose, crumbly and porous soil that drains excellently such that the roots of the plant get to breathe. Anything course and chunky such as perlite, coco chips, bark bits, fine gravel, sand, etc. would work.

The mix also needs to be moisture retentive without being soggy. For this you can use plenty of organic matter which not only ensures moisture but also provides nutrition for the plant. After all, these are epiphytic plants in nature, living off organic debris collected around the roots.

I would recommend fresh peat moss, coco peat, or sphagnum moss. Alternatively you can use sterile leaf much, kitchen compost, dung manure, etc. to introduce organic content in the substrate. The ratio of organic to inorganic should ideally be around 50/50.

If you find all this too complicated, one Philodendron “Rojo Congo” care hack is to buy a good quality cactus mix and peat. 
 

Light

Philodendron “Rojo Congo” requires plenty of indirect sunlight for best growth. The wide and dark green leaves are indicative that it is a bright shade plant. In fact the plant loses the red tinting in the leaves in prolonged and dense shade.

If you want to grow Philodendron “Rojo Congo” indoors an east window or west window spot would be ideal. In my own experience, even if it receives a bit of direct sunlight for about half an hour in the day it won’t harm the plant. But it won’t do well in full direct sunlight as the sun burns the foliage.

If you live in cold zones, you’ll need to grow Philodendron “Rojo Congo” under fluorescent lights in the winter months for about 12 hours a day.

 

Watering

In my experience, watering is a make-or-break element in Philodendron “Rojo Congo” care. Too much water or too little water can both kill the plant. Here are some tips to watering these hybrid varieties. 

Philodendron “Rojo Congo” care requires a slight bit more moisture compared to naturally occurring philodendron species which are adapted to survive periods of drought. Exactly what watering cycle applies to your plant depends on the specific living conditions you provide it.

The climatic zone, the weather, the position of the plant, room humidity, and most importantly, soil type are all factors that affect the watering cycle. So here’s a simple test you can carry out. Pinch the top soil one or two inches deep. If it’s dry go ahead in water you plant.

In the summer months this works out to be about once every 3 days when kept indoors. In winters you’ll need to cut back. 

Remember that the soil needs to be perfectly loose and well draining to water regularly. When you pinch it needs to give in and crumble easily between your fingers. As long as that’s the case your plant will be safe.

 

Temperature

Philodendron “Rojo Congo” requires the warm air of the tropics, so if you live close to the equator you have it easy. That said, this cultivar is hybridized for indoor gardening and adjusts to heated room temperatures. 

Ambient temperatures between 65 – 80°F (18 – 27°C) would be ideal for this plant although it can take up to 95°F (35°C). This doesn’t mean that you expose your plant to wild fluctuations in temperature like placing them in front of your radiator. If it gets warmer just place the plant in filtered light and hydrate sufficiently. 

These plants have zero frost tolerance. Temperatures below 55°F (13°C) will kill the plant. Therefore, you need to outwinter them indoors and keep them out of the way of cold drafts. 

 

Humidity

This tropical hybrid thrives in a humid environment. However, when you grow  Philodendron “Rojo Congo” indoors all year long this plant has to endure the dryness of air conditioned rooms. 

A humidity level anywhere above 50% is what I would recommend for best results. But don’t go crazy over it. Just spritz the plant with water every week or so or wipe the foliage with a water-soaked sponge. A humidifier during the dry months is always a good idea. 

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 prefer to grow Philodendron “Rojo Congo” without the use of chemical fertilization. These plants just need organic soil amendments that act as effective slow release fertilizers. 

The decomposed mulch, compost, organic manure, sterile animal dung, peat, moss, etc. are rich in nutrients that the plant needs and also doesn’t harm the plant in any way.

That’s why I prefer organic plant feed over chemical fertilizers, particularly for tropical evergreens like philodendrons. After all, in their natural habitats they only receive slow-release nutrients. 

One Philodendron “Rojo Congo” care hack is dung manure from rabbits, horse dung, cow dung or chickens. Adding them to loosened top soil in early spring really boosts growth during the season.

All said and done, Philodendron “Rojo Congo” care is a hybrid cultivar that also responds well to balanced chemical fertilizers. Just use a high quality fertilizer that won’t result in salt buildup in the soil. 

I would recommend a liquid foliage boosting solution. Liquids are easy to dilute and you should reduce the concentration of the chemical to one-third the prescribed level. Drench the soil deeply if you fertilize. Stop feeding in winters.

 

Propagation

The typical propagation method for climbing philodendrons is stem tip cutting, because climbing varieties have visible nodes. However, Philodendron “Rojo Congo” was hybridized to be houseplants that don’t climb aggressively. 

These self headers are likewise, not that easy to propagate with no visible internodes to get cuttings from. They are typically propagated through tissue culture in nurseries. Tissue culture plants are known to be particularly difficult to propagate.

You basically have to wait for other mechanisms of nature to propagate Philodendron “Rojo Congo”. If you grow Philodendron “Rojo Congo” under optimal conditions, when the plant is mature enough it will produce plantlets at the base. These can be separated potted individually once they are big enough.

We have a step-by-step guide to Philodendron “Rojo Congo” propagation.

 

Growth 

Philodendron “Rojo Congo” is great as an indoor plant with a growth habit that is perfect for long term growing in pots. However the dimensions of the plant both laterally and vertically can be quite big. It grows to over 1.1 meter (42 inches) in width and about 75 cm (30 inches) in height. 

The mature burgundy green leaves fan out on thick and erect petioles. The plant is voluminous and space consuming and not something I’d recommend for tiny New York style apartments. It is a great choice for office interiors as center pieces or highlights. The fact that it is a known air purifier is also a plus.

As the plant grows bigger you will find that the plant gets top heavy so your choice of planter should be planned accordingly. Philodendron “Rojo Congo” care doesn’t need pruning. Just regular removal of discolored leaves, stems and dried up aerial roots to spruce the look is sufficient.

 

Potting

You have to grow Philodendron “Rojo Congo” in a relatively big pot. The ideal pot for a mature plant is a 15 inch (38 cm) terracotta or ceramic planter. 

When you buy a juvenile you won’t need a big planter right away. But in the initial couple of years this plant grows pretty fast. So you’ll need to repot every year to a slightly larger pot. When the roots the sides or grow out of the drain holes you know it’s time to repot

They are very happy being root-bound. The roots of this plant 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.

 

Propagating Philodendron “Rojo Congo” – Step by Step Instructions

The tissue culture method that botanists use to propagate Philodendrons “Rojo Congo” aren’t feasible for home gardeners. But I am going to share a couple of methods that have worked for me. I strongly advise that you carry out Philodendron “Rojo Congo” propagation in warm weather and high humidity conditions. Spring is the ideal time. This greatly increases the chances of success.

 

Propagate Philodendron “Rojo Congo” from plantlets

In this method, you basically have to rely on nature’s moods. Chances are that you have to wait until the Philodendron “Rojo Congo” plant is quite mature.

  • You can look for little plantlets at the base of the plant where the stem is bare after the old leaves die out.
  • Wait for the plantlets to grow to about 4 to 5 inches or until the stem is visible. 
  • Pro tip: This could take between a month to three months depending on the growth environment. Growing the mother plant in a well lit spot helps the plantlets grow faster
  • Preferably choose a plantlet that has aerial roots.
  • Use an air-layering technique (detailed below) to grow out the roots further. 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 “Rojo Congo” care as usual.

 

How to air-layer your Philodendron “Rojo Congo”

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

  • Make holes at the bottom of your bag and place enough wet sphagnum moss inside it.
  • Cut flaps or wings at the top of the bag so they can wrap around the stem that you want to air-layer.

Now let’s get to the plant. 

  • Look for small white bumps on the stem of the plantlet that are aerial root projections. 
  • With a sharp clean knife make a small slit about 2mm deep under the projection where you want your plantlet to grow new root.
  • Now hold the moss in the plastic bag against this cut with one hand making sure you don’t break the plantlet.
  • With the free hand wrap the wings around the stem. 
  • Secure this moss nest to the plant with twisty ties.
  • Moisten the moss regularly by watering through the holes in the bag.
  • A few weeks later, you’ll see new roots grown into the moss.
  • Remove the moss nest carefully without snapping the roots.
  • With a sharp garden scissors cut the plantlet below the new roots and separate the cutting.
  • Pot the cutting in shade until the new plant is well established.

 

Propagate Philodendron “Rojo Congo” from root/stem division

I must warn you that this method destroys the rosette shape of the Philodendron “Rojo Congo” but you’ll be able to produce several plantlets pretty quickly if you’re successful. It works better on a mature plant with a thick and healthy stem.

  • Take the plant out of it’s pot and remove all the soil from the roots. You can even wash the roots so that the thick stem in the center is clearly visible
  • Mark how many divisions you’d like along this stem. 2 to 3 leaves per division is good
  • With a super-sharp garden knife cut through the thick stem and separate each section out along with the roots
  • Rest them for a day for the cut to callus before planting in individual pots
  • You can place the individual stem cutting in pots containing moistened sphagnum moss
  • Place them in a humid location ideally near a humidifier
  • In 2 to 4 weeks you will see fresh roots and possibly even the beginning of a plantlet
  • Once the plantlets becomes 2 inches tall you can transfer it to a 50:50 peat perlite mix
  • In 6 months the plant will be ready to be repotted the usual way


 

Common Problems with Philodendron “Rojo Congo”

 

Brown lesions along the leaf edge

One of the very common diseases in Philodendron “Rojo Congo ” is a bacterial infection called Erwinia blight. It occurs if the plant leaves remain constantly wet due to overhead watering according to PennState University

You must immediately remove the damaged leaves and water in a manner that keeps the leaves and petiole dry quickly. Make sure you discard the leaves far away from all the plants. Good air circulation is key for healthy growth.
 

Translucent leaf spots

If you see a yellow outline around the spots and a disagreeable smell to the fluid inside, then it must be an infection caused by Xanthomonas. Ensure the plant is free of these spots when you buy it at the nursery. The care is the same as above, i.e. don’t water overhead and keep the crown of plant dry.

 

Dark patches on the leaf

This typically happens if you leave the plant exposed to a cold draft overnight. You need to relocate the pot to a warmer spot away from opening.

 

Leaves yellowing

One often sees yellow leaves in plants that are consistently overwatered. Often inexperienced gardeners get quite excited about the purchase of a new philodendron and water very enthusiastically. You just need to put brakes on the watering to stop the yellowing. You may lose a few leaves but if the root hasn’t rotted the plant will survive.
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Brown crispy edges

This is the opposite scenario as above. If you ignore the plant for a week or ten days and the soil goes bone dry you’ll end up with crispy edges. Don’t immediately drench the soil and give the plant a watering shock. Ease into it until the plant is used to a healthy watering schedule.

 

Pale leaf color

If the characteristic burgundy tinted leaves start fading out or the plant shows slow growth, that means Philodendron “Rojo Congo” needs to be moved to brighter lighting. Low light weakens the leaf color.

 

Common pests

When you grow Philodendron “Rojo Congo” pests are mostly not something to worry about. Sometimes it can be affected by aphids, and mealybugs.

The ideal preventive measure is application of insecticidal soap and neem oil once a month or as prescribed on the package. My Philodendron “Rojo Congo” 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 more detailed treatment typically involving chemicals.

 

Tips to keep Philodendron “Rojo Congo” problem-free

  • Maintain room temperature in the 65 – 80°F (18 – 27°C) range throughout the year. 
  • The plant is not frost tolerant, so keep it indoors and protected from cold drafts
  • Indirect sunlight is the best lighting to grow Philodendron “Rojo Congo”
  • Philodendron “Rojo Congo” grows well with organic feed or very dilute chemical fertilization
  • Keep the soil evenly moist during growing months
  • Wash the leaves and use insecticidal soap and neem oil spray regularly to prevent pests
  • Provide air circulation to avoid bacterial infections
  • High humidity promotes lush growth and shiny foliage, so it is a good idea to mist the plant regularly.
  • Grow Philodendron “Rojo Congo” in a sizable ceramic or terracotta planter heavy enough to provide the plant with a stable base. 
  • Repot in spring before the active growth season 

 

Frequently asked questions about Philodendron “Rojo Congo”

 

Is Philodendron “Rojo Congo” toxic to pets?

This plant is toxic to dogs and cats. This plant contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals similar to other plants in the Araceae family. Chewing or biting into this plant releases these crystals causing irritation of the mouth and GI tract. Pets may exhibit vomiting, pawing at the mouth, lack of appetite, and drooling.

 

Does Philodendron “Rojo Congo” grow from seeds?

Professional botanists propagate through tissue culture. Seeds are difficult to obtain in this plant. Particularly when grown indoors these plants don’t flower. So homegrowers have to resort to methods of propagation explained above.

 

How do I make Philodendron “Rojo Congo” look fuller?

If your plant is very slow growing you should give it some nutrient supplements for foliage growth. Please check the fertilization section for more details. Also checked if the roots are too cramped. You can repot in a bigger planter with fresh nutrient rich soil.

 

Should you mist Philodendron “Rojo Congo”?

Foliar feeding with rainwater is a good idea for Philodendron “Rojo Congo”. In addition to that misting keeps pests at bay but invites bacterial infections. So wipe the leaves dry after misting.

Conclusion

If you’re looking to create a tropical hub in your house Philodendron “Rojo Congo” is a great plant to add to your collection. In fact, as far as indoor self-headers go, this is a fantastic cultivar to consider because it adds volume to your collection.

I personally like this plant for its unique leaf color. The burgundy green is a great backdrop against which all other plants simply pop out. 

If you have a tropical station set up in your house with adequate lighting, warmth and humidity, you should also consider growing anthuriums, begonias and peperomias to add different colors and textures in the foreground. 

I recommend you go through our plant care guides for Peperomia Japonica, Begonia Rex and Anthurium Villenaorum. We have a vast repository or tropical plant care guides you can explore.

Happy gardening!

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