Philodendron Black Cardinal : A Dark Beauty

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Are you into black plants? Then you might love philodendron black cardinal. This plant comes with an interesting color change from deep burgundy, to green to almost black when it is matured. When it is juvenile, it comes as light orange or bronze. Unlike other philodendron species, the black cardinal doesn’t climb or vine. It will stay “basal”.

The black cardinal is a hybrid plant which is created in Robert H. McColley’s 1951 hybridization program, Bamboo Nursery. The plant is considered rare but of course, you still can buy the plant from a nursery house. However, the price might be pricey due to its rarity.


  • Botanical Name: Philodendron erubescens 
  • Popular Name: Philodendron black cardinal, Black cardinal
  • Mature size: Up to three feet  
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Sun Exposure: Indirect sunlight
  • Soil Type: Rich-organic and well-draining soil
  • Soil pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Toxicity: Humans and pets

Care Guide

The black cardinal loves warm and bright place. But you should place the plant under indirect sunlight. It is important too to use well-draining soil and make sure to periodically water the plant. This will make the philodendron happy and healthy.

Since the philodendron originated from a tropical place, you need to take special care. But, no, you don’t have to create a tropical paradise. All you need to do is just mimic the condition such as the humidity level and its soil mix. It will make a huge difference.


In terms of watering, the philodendron loves moist soil but is not soggy. The soil cannot also be completely dry. In this case, the right soil mixture is important too to make the soil hold moisture well.

A tips to keep your philodendron healthy, water the plant as the two or three inches of the top soil is dry. You can use your knuckle to check the soil condition.

Another condition you can use to check your watering schedule is by checking the leaves. If they are curling, it means you are overwatering or underwatering it. If this occurs, you need to adjust the frequency.

As you water the plant, try to give it a nice soak and then let the water drain out. Remove the excess water from the saucer. Later, you need to keep an eye, on how many days it takes for the soil to dry out.

Besides, you might want to adjust the watering throughout the year because each season will be different. During spring and summer, you will water the plant more than in winter and fall.

Light Requirements

The black cardinal can grow extremely well when it is given a lot of bright, indirect sunlight. When it is placed under bright light, you will see faster growth with its signature color.

You can let the plant receive morning sun or late evening sun for 1-3 hours to encourage foliage growth. This will also help the plant to maximize its darker coloring. You should be careful when the plant’s leaves start to bleach or scorch. When it shows a burn leaves, it means the plant gets too much sun exposure.


The philodendron black cardinal can thrive well in mid-range humidity. The best humidity level for this plant is around 30-50%. Thanks to its origin that the plant comes from a tropical area.

You can place the black cardinal in the kitchen or bathroom environment. It is OK too to place the plant in the living room with other plants as it will create a mini biome. What you need to remember is to avoid the plant from drafty areas such as air conditioning and heaters unit. Around windows are not suggested too because this will damage the plant.

If you are living in a dry climate, you can increase the humidity level by buying a humidifier or you can place pebbles on the tray that is already filled with water. After that, place the plant on top of it. The philodendron will get humidity from the water evaporation.


The black cardinal is frost sensitive. If you live in a colder area, make sure to bring the plant inside. However, you cannot place it in an area with dramatic temperature changes such as a near heater. Find a more stable spot.

The ideal temperature that makes the black cardinal grows well is between 68°F to 78°F (20°C to 26°C). However, it can handle lower temperatures too as long as it is not below 54°F (12°C). When the plant is placed in a colder area, the growth will be slower, and the plant will lose its signature color.

Read also : Philodendron Crassinervium : All You Need To Know


The black cardinal is not a hungry feeder. It is unnecessary to fertilize the plant very often. If you expect consistent growth, fertilize the plant monthly during spring and summer.

The best fertilizer for this plant is a liquid fertilizer that consists of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Typically it is written 10:10:10 or 1:1:1.

You can also use worm composer for a good soak. There are many liquid worm compost you can buy online.


The best part of growing the black cardinal is this plant doesn’t require regular pruning. You just need to prune the plant when you find the leaves aging and yellowing. Or you just need to cut away the damaged areas and the stop spread.

If you want to keep the plant small, as your desired size, prune it.


Repotting will depend on the growth pattern, but usually, it can be done every year. When the plant is put in an ideal condition with a good soil mix will grow faster. As the root is filling the pot, it is time to report the plant. Choose a pot that is two inches larger. Here is a tip on how to do it properly:

  • Water the soil the night before so it is easier to pull out the plant.
  • Once you have successfully pulled out the plant, check the root carefully whether there is a disease or not. Check also if the root is tangled. Untangle the roots that seem to come back to their form. It happens because the plant sits in the pot for too long.
  • Next, replant the black cardinal in a new container with the right soil mix. Water the plant thoroughly, it will help it settle around the roots.


Propagating black cardinal is very easy. You can do it by stem cutting or rooting it in the water.

  • First, you can cut the philodendron from the base and then put it in the container that is filled with water.
  • Make sure to change the water every day until you see roots developing. Once you have seen the roots, plant them in the new soil mix.
  • You can also propagate the plant from the root while doing repotting Just detangle a section of roots. After you separate it from the mother clump, repot the new baby to a new soil mix.
  • Here, propagating the plant is ineffective because the black cardinal rarely flowers. Even though it blooms, this is a hybrid plant that will not pass down the same gene to the new seeds.


Just like most philodendron species, the black cardinal is toxic to humans and pets. It contains calcium oxalate crystal. When it is ingested, it will cause a burning sensation to the skin, mouth, and tongue. In worse cases, it will cause irritation and vomiting.

If you have children in your house, and pets, it is better to place the plant in a safer place.

Pests and Diseases

If you understand the basics, it is very easy to grow black cardinal. Besides, they can recover from stress and damage quickly. However, you might have something out of your control, so here is some of the most common problem to appear on a black cardinal.

Root rot – Root rot is very common to happen on philodendrons, including the black cardinal. It happens when the water doesn’t drain thoroughly or tends to waterlog the plant. Besides, it is a sign that you water the plant too much.

In this case, you need to make sure the water should flow out of the container. You will also need to use the correct oil mix, opt for the soilless mixture. And, check if the top of the soil is dry enough before starting to water again.

When you overwater the plant, the black cardinal will show some signs such as curling and yellowing leaves. Even though it will not kill the plant immediately, the damage of the root rot cannot be reversible.

Aphids –  Aphids can be annoying as this bug sucks the sap of the plant. The bugs are often found on the stems but it is typically not harmful to human and plants.

Removing the aphids is pretty easy, just use a cotton ball or your finger. You can also spray the affected factor using neem oil or dish soap.

Mealybugs – Mealybugs are small bugs that can be easily removed using a cotton swab. This pest loves humid places and they suck the sap too.

To get rid of them besides using the cotton swap, you can use the paper towel and then dip it in the neem oil or alcohol.


The black cardinal variety comes with its signature burgundy color at its young age and then it turns to green and changes to almost black as it gets mature. It comes with glossy and elongated leaves and it can grow up to 3 feet. But as you often prune the plant, it can stay in its shape.

Growth Rate

You can expect a 3 feet tall if the plant is placed in a good condition with 1.5 feet in width. Don’t worry, this plant will not reach this size if you repot it in the same pot and prune it to keep its shape.

Leaf, Flower, Stem And Seeds Characteristic

  • Leaf – It has interesting color-changing leaves which can transform from burgundy to green to almost black as it gets mature. The leaf is glossy and has an elongated shape.
  • Flower – It is difficult for the plant to flower.
  • Stem – It develops thick stems which look like a trunk. It is a self-heading plant that remains basal.
  • Seeds – As plants rarely bloom, it is difficult to obtain seeds. However, when these plants produce seeds, they cannot pass down the genes as it is a hybrid plant.

Soil Requirements

The black cardinal loves wet, well-draining soil mixed with rich organic matter. The best soil mix you can try is a combination of compost with peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite.

If you want a soilless mix, you can combine the peat moss and vermiculite or perlite. It will be easier for the water to drain out.

If you want to plant the black cardinal in the container, make sure it has holes so the water can drain out perfectly.

Read also : Philodendron Hederaceum : A Simple Plant That Has Its Own Appeal


Can The Black Cardinal Be Eaten?

No, it cannot be eaten! The black cardinal is not an edible plant. It contains calcium oxalate crystal which can cause fatal irritation when it is chewed.

You will develop symptoms such as swelling around the mouth, tongue, and GI tract. If it is contacted with the skin, you will develop irritation because of the sap.

Therefore, it is safer to use gloves when treating the plant and wash your hands afterward.

What Can I Do If My Pets and Children Eat The Plant?

Chewing the plant will cause instant discomfort. If you find your children and pets chewing the plants, wash their mouths with cold water and bring them to the professionals.

For temporary relief, you can use milk or ice to soothe the discomfort.

Can I Propagate The Black Cardinal From Seed?

Propagating black cardinal using seeds is kind of almost impossible. Not only because of its rarity for flowers but also because the complex hybrid which is genetic will not be passed down to the seeds. The best way to propagate the plant is using tissue, division, and stem cutting.

Why Do My Black Cardinal Have Wrinkled Leaves?

Wrinkled leaves are signs of burning. The wrinkled leaves can also be because of phototoxic reactions due to liquid fertilizer. If you accidentally spill fertilizer on the leaves and left it there dry, it will burn the plant.

Why does My Philodendron Black Cardinal Have Pale Leaves?

The pale leaves are typically caused by calcium or magnesium deficiency. To solve the problem, you can use a well-balanced fertilizer.

Help! Dark Patches Are Appearing On The Leaves, What To Do?

Drastic temperature can cause dark patches on the leaves. Note that the black cardinal is sensitive to cold temperatures and drastic temperature changes. Make sure you place the plant away from cold and draughty windows.

Why Do My Philodendrons Have Yellow Leaves?

The yellow leaves can be a sign that you are overwatering the plant. It can also be a sign that you don’t provide sufficient water. To check this condition, you can touch the soil to see whether it is dry or not and then correct the watering.

The yellow leaves can also be caused by low temperatures, high temperatures, pests or you have just repotted the plant. If you have just repotted the plant, let it just adjust to the new soil mix. You will just need some observation in this case.

How To Fix Browning Edges?

Browning edges are the signs that you don’t water your plant properly. Water the plant thoroughly and make sure the soil mix is moist but not soggy.

How To Fix Drooping Philodendron?

Droopiness with leggy stems is a sign that you don’t give the plant sufficient bright, indirect sunlight. The plant’s growth depends on the amount of light it gets. Too little light can stunt the growth.

Why Is My Philodendron Have Wet, Mushy Patches?

The wet, mushy patches that look like a lesson on the leaves are signs of bacterial infection which is called Erwinia blight disease.

If you spot this, you will need to isolate the plant and change the potting mix as soon as possible. However, the chance to be successful in fixing Erwinia blight disease is low. Most of the time people fail. It is better to do prevention which you begin with the correct watering method.


My Philodendron Has Mushy, But Not Water Soaked Lesions, What To Do?

If the lesions don’t look mushy, then it is probably a sign of pseudomonas leaf spot. Treating this problem is the same with Erwinia blight disease.

Is The Philodendron Black Cardinal Considered Rare?

Yes, it is! The black cardinal is considered a rare plant. However, you still can get this plant from the nursery home, but this might be pricey due to its rarity. The plant has unique leaf color which makes it in high demand.

Why Does My Philodendron Black Cardinal Look Dying?

If you have done everything and find out the leaves are still wilting, yellowing, and dropping off you may need to take a look at some factors. The factors that influence this condition are the size of the pot, the watering frequency, and the intensity of the light.

Caring for the philodendron black cardinal is similar to the prince of the orange and dark lord. If your plant looks dying, probably you also place the plant in a pot that is way too bigger which can trap the water inside and make the soil too wet.

How Much Light Does A Black Cardinal Need?

The philodendron black cardinal needs at least 200 FC. If you want the plant to thrive well, place it in an area between 400-600FC. It is the ideal condition.

How Often Should I Water The Philodendron Black Cardinal?

Instead of following a watering schedule, you need to check the soil conditions and the seasons.

Check the top inches of the soil. Usually, it is the top 2-3 inches of the soil. If it is dry, then water it and vice versa.

Besides, if the temperature is warmer, you will need to water the plant more. Lights and temperature always change over the year. You will need to adjust the watering.

How To Tell If The Black Cardinal Needs Water?

You can always use two methods in this case, which are using a bamboo stick and a knuckle test.

We recommend you use a bamboo chopstick and then dig the chopstick into the soil until a few inches. Then pull out the chopstick. The wet soil will cling to the bamboo chopstick and change its color to a darker shade. The same with moist soil, but the soil will not cling to the soil.

On the contrary, the dry soil will not be easy to be pushed through because it is compacted. If it happens, then you know the plant needs water.

Another common way is using the knuckle test. First, just stick your finger into the soil mix. If the first or second knuckle feels moist, you don’t need to water the plant.

Besides using the two methods above, always consider the texture and the color of the mix too. If the soil mix is very dark, you don’t need to water it and vice versa.

How To Water The Black Cardinal The Correct Way?

You shouldn’t let the water waterlog the plant. Let the water drain out. Watering should be different based on its season. If it is spring and summer, you will need more watering. If it is winter and fall, the plant will need less water.

How Do You Grow Black Cardinal?

Growing the black cardinal is pretty easy. You will need to place the plant at least room temperature and humidity between 30-50%.  Make sure the plant is planted in well-drained, moist soil with sufficient indirect sunlight. Besides, the black cardinal also doesn’t like wet soil, but you should keep the soil moist. Besides, avoid alkaline soil too.

In terms of fertilizing, the best way is to use a liquid fertilizer that contains phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. This plant also doesn’t need regular pruning. You just need to prune the plant when it is necessary.  

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