The Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ is a delightful self-heading philodendron cultivar with large waxy, matte leaves. This plant is the result of crossing Philodendron Imperial Red with Philodendron tatei in the late 1990s. Bred to grow well indoors, the Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ or Red Congo Philodendron requires minimal care.
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Enjoy large, oval leaves that, when mature, are a dark hunter or olive green. The undersides blush with a reddish-bronze hue. These fascinating leaves sit atop petioles, or long branching stems. The stems, while not easily visible because of how this philodendron grows, are a vibrant red-purple.
Like I said earlier, the ‘Rojo Congo’ Philodendron is a cultivar created by crossing two other, separate species of philodendron. Philodendrons are native to the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, however the Philodendron ’Rojo Congo’ is not found in nature at all. It was crossed by a horticulturist and was bred to thrive indoors. Keep on reading to discover all you need to know about Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ care!
- Common Name: Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’, Red Congo Philodendron
- Scientific Name: Philodendron tatei ‘Rojo Congo’
- Mature Size: up to four feet tall and three feet wide
- Sunlight: bright, indirect sunlight but tolerates partial shade
- Water: when top 1” of soil is dry
- Soil: well-draining, rich organic soil
- Temperature: 65°F-86°F with moderate humidity
- Propagation: stem cuttings, offsets & air layering
- Hardiness Zone: 9b-12
- Toxicity: toxic to humans and pets
Growth Pattern and Habits
One of the great things about the Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ is that it is a fast grower and matures into a beautiful, thick upright bush with tightly layered leaves. With optimal care, an indoor Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ can grow to heights of four feet tall and three feet wide. Mature leaves can stretch as long as eighteen inches by twelve inches wide!
Philodendrons grow in one of two ways. They are either vining or self heading. The Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ is a self-heading philodendron. This means that it grows upwards with leaves tightly growing off of the thick stems. Instead of growing like a vine like other philodendrons, the ‘Rojo Congo’ looks more like a tree or upright bush.
Expert Tip – clean leaves weekly with a damp cloth to remove dust
Because the Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ is a fast growing plant, it is suggested that it be replanted every one to two years. If you are growing your ‘Rojo Congo’ in a pot with a bottom drainage hole (HINT, you definitely should!), you will know it is time to repot when roots begin growing out the bottom.
Variegated plants are extremely popular right now but continue to be rare. That is because variegated plants occur through random mutations and are only reliably created in next generations through leaf, stem, or root propagation (not via seeds). All philodendrons, including the ‘Rojo Congo’ can be variegated. If you see a variegated Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ and you’re interested in collecting plants, consider buying it because you won’t see them in stores often!
Now that you understand how this plant grows, it’s time to learn all about ‘Rojo Congo’ Philodendron care.
The Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ is a sucker for bright, indirect light and lots of it. This plant does fabulous in a bright room with a lot of windows. It doesn’t, however, like a lot of direct sunlight, especially direct rays during the afternoon when sunlight is most harsh.
A ‘Rojo Congo’ Philodendron’s light requirements can be achieved in a couple of different places throughout your home. It will do just fine in large east or west facing windows that receive full sunlight (no trees or large bushes outside to block the incoming light). A couple hours of direct light during the morning or early evening is completely fine!
If you want to house your Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ near a south facing window, make sure it is placed a couple feet away from the reaches of direct sunlight. Too much exposure to harsh, direct sunlight can cause the leaves to burn. Yellowing of leaves throughout the plant (not just at the bottom where yellowing leaves indicate age) can be a sign of too much light.
While the Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ can tolerate a decent amount of shade, it will likely lose its signature red tint. Leaves will become a much more solid green. This plant may also become more leggy.
A Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ prefers slightly moist soil as it is not a drought tolerant plant. Remember, philodendrons are native to rainforests. Always check the soil’s moisture level before watering your Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’. Only water if the top inch of soil is bone dry.
It is good to plant your Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ in a pot with a drainage hole. When watering, only water thoroughly enough to see water come out the bottom hole. Stop watering immediately when you see the first sign of dripping water.
Don’t get caught up in a regular watering schedule as the frequency of watering depends on numerous factors that change from season to season. When a Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ is actively growing in the summer due to long daylight hours, it will likely need more frequent waterings than during the winter.
The best soil for a Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ is one that is loose and rich in nutrients. The key is to meet the plants moisture requirements without the chance of completely saturating the soil and suffocating the roots.
You can easily make the perfect soil mix for your Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ using just a few ingredients:
- ⅓ organic potting mix
- ⅓ peat or sphagnum moss
- ⅓ perlite
All three of these components can be bought in gardening stores or online and don’t break the bank.
Temperature and Humidity
An indoor Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ is happy in the normal ambient temperatures of a household. Not much has to be done or adjusted to accommodate this plant in terms of temperature. A Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ is happy with temperatures between mid 60°F to mid 80°F.
A Red Congo Philodendron should only be grown outdoors if you live in a USDA Hardiness Zone of 9b or higher. This indicates that your geographic area has minimum temperatures of around 30°F. The Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ is not frost hardy so cannot survive in the ground in colder environments.
Expert Tip – Try to avoid positioning your Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ near heating and cooling vents.
Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ isn’t super fussy about humidity either. Again, the average household humidity will keep this plant content! If you live in a dry climate, you may choose to house your plant in a bright bathroom or kitchen where humidity levels tend to be higher. Alternatively, you can place your potted Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ on a pebble tray to increase the humidity around the plant, or add a small humidifier to the area.
‘Rojo Congo’ Philodendrons benefit from the supplemental nutrients that fertilizers provide. I use a balanced fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (or a balanced N-P-K ratio). It is very important to dilute the fertilizer per the company’s instructions to prevent damage to your plant!
Fertilize your Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ with a balanced fertilizer monthly during the spring and summer and sparingly during the winter.
The Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ propagation can be carried out using three different methods. These methods are through rhizome division, air-layering and offsets. The latter two, which I will discuss, do the least amount of damage to the original, mature ‘Rojo Congo’ Philodendron’s shape. Because of the cutting that is done during rhizome division, the Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ will lose its symmetrical shape.
Propagation by Offsets
For successful Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ propagation using offsets, you will need to be patient and to have provided excellent care to the original plant. Offsets are small, new plantlets that grow around the base of the mother plant. Until your Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ is mature, you will likely not see any offsets.
- Choose an offset, or offsets, that are at least four inches long. Offsets that are smaller than this likely have not developed their own root ball and are less likely to survive as an individual plant.
- Using a sterile knife or shears, separate this new stem from the original plant, ensuring that a handful of roots stay attached!
- Plant in a new container with fresh soil. Provide it with the outline Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ care detailed above.
Propagation by Air Layering
You can also propagate your Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ by utilizing the air layering method. This method is all done without removing any part of the mature plant and usually results in a higher rate of root success. Below are the steps you need in order to propagate a Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ by air layering.
- Choose a healthy, well established stem that has at least one obvious growth node. These nodes will appear as a slight bulge and may be slightly discolored, either lighter or darker than the stem.
- Use a sharp, sterile knife cut into the stem at this point at a 30° angle in an upwards motion. The cut should only be made ⅓ of the way into the stem. Do not cut all the way through (then you’re just left with a stem cutting)!
- Insert a toothpick, or something similar, into the cut to keep it open.
- Envelope the area around the cut stem with moist moss and wrap with a plastic bag. Secure the bag to the plant using string or twisty ties or even duct tape.
- Punch a couple of holes into the bag to promote air circulation.
- Mist frequently to keep the moss damp!
- New roots at the site of the cut will begin to appear within the month, give or take a week or two.
- Remove the bag when you see roots appear through the moss ball. At this time, you can completely cut the stem just under the rooted area. Place this new plant in a new pot with fresh soil.
- Begin to care for your new Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ as you would a mature plant.
Yellow and/or Brown Leaves
Yellowing or mushy brown leaves are almost always a sign that a Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ has been overwatered. Specifically, the plant is likely receiving too much water and too little light.
Be sure that your plant is receiving bright, but indirect, light for the majority of the day and that you are only watering your ‘Rojo Congo’ Philodendron when the top inch of soil is completely bone dry. In addition to making these adjustments, prune away the damaged leaves to prevent pests from being attracted to the plant.
Overwatering can lead to more serious problems such as root rot which can make the plant more susceptible to diseases and pests.
Drooping or Wilted Leaves
While this too can be a sign of overwatering, it is more likely that you are underwatering your Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’, especially if the leaves appear wilted but not discolored. This is an easy fix! Water more frequently but only re-water when the top inch of soil is dry.
Because philodendrons are native to warm rainforests, your Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ may drop its leaves when exposed to long periods of colder air. Normal indoor temperatures are just fine for the Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’, unless you like to keep your house especially cold (usually under 65°F for extended periods).
Your Red Congo Philodendron may also drop its leaves if it is too close or vents, especially during the summer when the air conditioning is blasting at full force!
The most common pests to enjoy a nibble of your Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ are spider mites, mealybugs and aphids. If you notice any active infestations on your plant, treat the entire plant by wiping all surfaces with an alcohol soaked cotton ball. Repeat until the infestation is gone.
To prevent pests, keep your Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ healthy by providing it with optimal care. Gently wipe all leaves weekly with a damp cloth to remove dust and other particles. Once a month, apply neem oil to your plant’s leaves and stems.
While rarely fatal, the Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ is toxic when ingested by both humans and pets alike. This is because, like all philodendrons, the Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ contains calcium oxalate crystals which the body is unable to digest.
It is good practice to keep your Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ off the ground and out of reach in a place that is inaccessible to these curious creatures and humans!
If you suspect that a child or pet has ingested any part of the Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ plant, immediately have them spit it out and rinse their mouth. If you suspect a continued reaction, which can include mouth pain and swelling, contact the appropriate poison control or emergency services.
The Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ has wonderfully large, ovate leaves. Their waxy leaves are an olive green on the top surface with a reddish-bronze hue underneath, giving this plant its name.
Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ care is relatively easy as this plant was bred to thrive in an indoor environment. You can however, choose to grow your Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ outdoors if you live in an ideal geographical area. Take care to keep the soil moist but not oversaturated and position your Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ in bright light to keep it happy!
Remember that you can propagate a Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ using the parent plant’s offsets or by air layering. Once you have new plants, provide Red Congo Philodendron care as you would a mature plant.