Philodendron Rojo Congo belongs to the group of non-climbing philodendrons that form a rich erect rosette. This stunning, extraordinary cultivar was created in Florida by crossing Philodendron Imperial Red and Philodendron Tatei at the very end of the 20th century.
It is the result of long-lasting efforts to obtain a self-supporting philodendron cultivar of dark leaves. Also known as Philodendron Red Congo or Congo Rojo Philodendron, this cultivar quickly gained popularity among flower growers and collectors due to its compact shape, exceptional foliage color but also simplicity with which it is grown.
What Is Philodendron Rojo Congo
Rojo Congo philodendrons are shrubby evergreen perennials that grow up to 2 feet tall and 2.5 feet wide. Since the plant is not a vine, the alluring, glossy, ovate leaves grow directly from the roots on upright long fleshy and firm stems of a reddish-brown color.
When they first appear, each young new leaf has an intensive, bright red color, but as they grow, the color changes to burgundy green as the adult leaves have.
Differently colored leaves on the same plant and playful forms in which they grow make this philodendron an eye-catching sight in any environment. Particularly attractive are cultivars with variegated leaves dotted with white or cream stripes or patches.
In addition, Philodendron Rojo Congo blooms with fragrant, white, pink, or purple flowers. Unfortunately, as an indoor plant, it seldom flowers.
Philodendron Rojo Congo Care
Rojo Congo plant may look like a picky tropical beauty, but its cultivation is not demanding since it manages to adapt to standard household conditions. Except for a slightly elevated humidity level in the air, all other ordinary indoor settings correspond to its needs.
Rojo Congo Philodendrons, as all philodendrons, prefer loose, very airy, light, and nutritious soils, which drain quickly, but can still retain the required amount of moisture without being soaked with water.
A ready-made substrate for aroids or cacti is the most practical option, but supplement it with some organic material such as coco fiber, kitchen compost, or sphagnum moss in a 50:50 ratio. Potting soil based on peat moss also does well.
Unlike some other philodendrons, Rojo Congo does not tolerate prolonged drought periods. The lack, as well as excess water, can be equally harmful. That is why it is watered more often, every three or four days in the summer, when the water evaporates quickly from the soil, and much less in the winter, about every 10 days.
However, the watering rhythm is always conditioned by all other growth factors, including the size of the plant and pot, the moisture level in the room, exposure to light, etc. When you want to adapt watering to the needs of a particular plant, follow the rule that the substrate surface should be dry to a depth of two inches (in a pot with a diameter of 10 inches) before watering again.
For the leaves of Philodendron Rojo Congo to retain their exceptional color, place the plant in a very bright place with diffused lighting. Positions along the east or west window are ideal.
Rojo Congo also responds well to fluorescent lighting, which you can use if the plant does not have enough natural light. If you opt for a fluorescent lamp, make sure that it is at least 1 foot away from the leaves so that the heat does not burn them.
Rojo Congo is a cultivar created with the aim of withstanding conditions indoors, which often implies a low level of humidity in the room. In other words, such a cultivar can be adapted and thrive in a space with a standard humidity value of 30 percent. Still, it will grow more vigorously and feel happier if you maintain the level at 50 percent.
However, you do not have to take any drastic measures to reach that level. Occasional spraying of the leaves and weekly cleaning with a damp sponge are generally enough to keep the plant from suffering from dry air.
During the winter, when heating dries the air further, you can use a humidifier. The use of a humidifier is not necessary, and the plant will survive without it. But, it is beneficial if you have a few plants of tropical origin that are more sensitive to dry air than the Congo Rojo Philodendron.
If you have planted a Red Congo Philodendron in a substrate rich in organic material, there is no need for extra fertilization. However, if your plant grows in a mixture without sphagnum or peat moss, additional feeding is beneficial.
If you are a supporter of natural fertilizers, in the spring, add a handful of worm casting and mix in the substrate around the plant. Another option is slow-release fertilizers in granules, sticks, or tablets. Avoid liquid fertilizers as even diluted ones can damage the root.
As a typical plant for indoor cultivation, Rojo Congo Philodendron does not tolerate exposure to low temperatures and is not resistant to frost. It grows best at temperatures ranging from 65 to 85 F and does not like large temperature fluctuations, drafts, or sudden cold or warm airflow.
Therefore grow it in a warm place at a safe distance from air conditioners or heaters. Temperatures below 55 F will destroy the plant, but those over 95 are equally unfavorable.
Philodendron Rojo Congo is a plant that grows fast, so the young ones should be transplanted every spring. The root does not like to be cramped but has too much space, either. The pot in which you transplant your plant should be one inch wider than the diameter of the root ball. Repot Philodendron Rojo Congo in spring before it starts the new growth.
The mature plant you should transplant only every second or third year when part of the root system begins to appear through the drainage holes in the pot.
The optimal container for an adult plant has a diameter of 16 to 18 inches. In a pot of this size, the plant can grow for years, and you do not have to change it for larger ones. Every third or fourth year, replace the substrate and shorten the root to one-third to regenerate it.
Philodendron Rojo Congo can be propagated in several ways. Let us start with the simplest and most common method: stem cuttings!
Although not a climber but a self-header, the Philodendron Rojo Congo nevertheless develops a stem that rises above the ground enough that its top can serve as a cutting from which you can get a new plant.
However, the nodes on the stem are not particularly pronounced but still, if you look closely at the plant, you will notice them between the top leaves and the next ring of leaves below. Additionally, adult plants have aerial roots that develop just below the node, which can help you more easily determine where to cut.
– Stem Cuttings
Once you identify the node, the procedure is as follows:
- You can cut the stem into several parts, starting from the top. Use sterilized scissors or a knife or garden shears to make a clean incision 0.5 inches below the node. The cut piece of the stem should have one or more leaves and aerial roots. If the stem is one or more inches thick, you can cut it in width, provided that on each side, there is an already developed leaf.
- Place the cutting in a deeper container with clean lukewarm water so that the water level is one inch above the point where the leaf appears from the stem.
- Put the container with the cutting in a bright place without direct sunlight at room temperature.
- Periodically change the water so that it is always clean and at the same level.
The rooting process will take five to seven weeks. When the root grows enough, transplant the new Congo Rojo into a potting mixture.
– Dividing the Offsets
Rojo congo grows from a single stem on which the leaves are arranged. Sometimes new shoots or offsets appear in a pot next to an adult plant. They sprout from the same root but, as they develop, they form their rootball, and therefore they can be easily separated and grow as individual plants.
Of course, you need to wait until the new plant is at least 4 or 5 inches tall before separating it since prematurely detached plants often do not have a sufficiently developed root to grow successfully.
- Before the process, water the plant to make it easier to remove from the pot.
- When you remove the plant, clean the root from the ground so that you can see where the new stem is growing.
- With your hand or using a sterile knife, separate the new stem from the mother plant with its part of the root.
- Plant the new Rojo Congo Philodendron in a prepared pot with substrate and continue to nurture it as an individual plant.
– Air Layering
Air layering is a standard gardening method to propagate all plants that form solid, thick stems, such as most philodendrons, ficus, croton, and many other immense shrubby or creeping houseplants.
It may seem like a demanding process that requires knowledge and experience, but it is a simple procedure that you will successfully do if you follow our instructions. All you need is a plastic bag, damp moss, and a sharp carousel knife.
- First, find whitish nodules on the stem below the node – these are the beginnings of the aerial root.
- Cut the stem below that spot with a garden knife or sterile razor to one-third of its total thickness.
- Insert a piece of match or a little moss at the place of the cut to keep it open.
- Coat the notched place with moss and then wrap everything together in a plastic bag.
- Secure the packet to the stem at the top and bottom with duct tape or some string.
- Make a few holes in the bag with a needle so that air can circulate through the moss.
- Spray occasionally to maintain the moisture of the moss inside the bag.
- In the next three to five weeks, a root will form in the moss. When the roots become visible through the plastic bag, carefully unpack it, trying not to damage the new rootball.
- Cut the stem just under the new root and plant it in the prepared pot with the substrate.
Rojo congo is a hardy hybrid capable of coping with normal indoor conditions. However, if plant care or growing surroundings go beyond what is acceptable as any other plant, it will react first to changes in its magnificent leaves.
Spotted leaves suggest fungal infections that are most often the result of excessive watering, excess humidity, or insufficient airiness of the leaf rosette. Remove infected leaves, and if that doesn’t help, treat the plant with a fungicide and try to eliminate the causes rather than treating the consequences.
Yellowing of the leaves is also a consequence of excessive watering or impermeability of the substrate. Cut off the yellowed leaves and establish a watering regime that will provide water to the extent the plant needs.
Soft, shriveled leaves indicate water shortage and prolonged dry periods. Water your Rojo Congo immediately, and the plants will come to life.
Pale leaves on excessively elongated stalks indicate that the plant is growing in an overshadowed position. Find it a brighter place!
Brown patches on the leaves indicate that the plant has been exposed to strong sunlight or is close to artificial lighting.
Aphids and mealybugs are pests that can appear on the leaves of Rojo Congo philodendrons. However, if you regularly clean its leaves with a damp cloth, you will probably prevent some of them from settling on plant leaves. You can preventively treat the leaves with a solution of neem oil or insecticidal soap.
- Let us recap what we’ve discussed about the Philodendron Rojo Congo.
- Water it every few days from spring to fall. It is more thirsty than other philodendrons.
- It does not tolerate temperatures below 55 F.
- The level of humidity in its surroundings has to be about 50 percent. Therefore, mist its leaves or use a humidifier.
- Transplant adult specimens every second or third year.
- Provide it with a loose substrate that quickly drains the water.
- The Rojo Congo Plant prefers organic or slow-release fertilizers.
- The intensity of the leaves’ color depends on where it grows. Place it next to the east or west window. Avoid the positions in direct sunlight!
Appreciated for its manageable size, unusual coloration, compact form, and modest requirements, Rojo Congo always stands out as a single plant and as part of flower arrangements.
It is justifiably one of the most sought-after species of philodendrons. Its cultivation will not bother you as long as you follow the tips we’ve shared in this article.
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