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How to Best Care for Philodendron Melanochrysum 

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The P. melanochrysum is one of the larger leaved vining Philodendrons offering long, dark, iridescent leaves that are sensitive to cold or dry environments.

The Philodendron melanochrysum, which translates as Philodendron black gold, is a medium grower that is light sensitive and requires well-draining soil and temperatures above 53 °F (12 °C). Compared to Monstera, the Philodendrons are heavier feeders, requiring a constant supply of diluted fertilizer.

There seems to be confusion between P. melanochrysum and Philodendron scandens f. micans. You can quickly identify the difference:

  • The Micans have velvet-textured heart-shaped leaves that are usually bronze with reddish-brown undersides.
  • Philodendron melanochrysum has striking heart-shaped, velvety leaves that grow up to three feet long and are blackish green with light green veins that look almost gold.
  • When the Philodendron melanochrysum heart-shaped leaves first unfurl, they are a lighter green with yellow-brown undertones. Eventually, the leaves darken to gorgeous deep green, and as the plant matures, the leaves elongate to their full size in ideal growing conditions).
  • The stems on the melano are thicker than the micans, which have long, thin, jagged stems.
  • Then there’s the startling disparity in rarity. While melanochrysums are typically only available at online auctions or specialized aroid nurseries for several hundred dollars, you can purchase micans at a neighborhood garden center or nursery for a few dollars.
  • The juvenile stages of both plants have small, heart-shaped, velvety leaves, which is the leading cause of confusion, and why unscrupulous traders can dupe unsuspecting buyers.

Some Historical Background to the Beautiful Philodendron Melanochrysum

Eduoard Andre, a European botanist and collector, made the first discovery in the moist Andean foothills of Colombia in 1886. He gave the plant his name, leading to its dated name, “Philodendron andreanum.”

Melanochrysum, the now-accepted scientific name, is a combination of two Greek words, “melano,” which means “black,” and “chrysum,” which means “golden.”

Its natural habitat, 500m above sea level in the districts of Chocó and Antioquia, offers unique temperature and humidity factors, and your challenge is to emulate these conditions in your home or office.

It’s all worth it because when exposed to sunlight, the mature plant creates a stunning display of black and gold flecks on its leaves.

Neocaridina Blue Dream Shrimp
Neocaridina Blue Dream Shrimp

How to Best Care for Philodendron Melanochrysum 

Below is a table with the basic Philodendron melanochrysum care routines, but we’ll explore these in more detail in the rest of the article.

LightBright indirect sunlight
WateringWater if the top third of the pot is dry
Temperature77 to 90 F (25 to 32 C)
Hardiness Zone9b to 11
Humidity70% and above
Soil TypeOrganically rich, quick-draining, fertile soil.
FertilizingConstant low-solution 8:1:1 fish emulsion.
RepottingAs indicated by roots emerging out of the drainage holes.
PruningPruning apical dominance will boost growth and is an effective propagation technique.
PropagationRemember that it could take three months to root in water or inert materials.
ToxicityToxic to humans and pets
Potential PestsThrips are a potential risk.
Mature Size8 to 10 feet as a houseplant

Philodendron Melanochrysum is Preferred Soil

Your homemade airy, gritty, and well-draining soil, a balance between inert and organic materials, will perfectly meet your Philodendron melanochrysum’s needs.

Your Philodendron melanochrysum‘s roots want access to moisture, air, and nutrition – all at the same time. Organic materials have a higher cation exchange capacity and better hold on to water and nutrients, while inert materials allow improved aeration and water drainage.

You can balance water and air availability by combining these materials. Below is a table showing the different materials, their suggested fraction of the total mix, and the purpose each serves.

Coconut Coir40%It provides anchorage for your plant, water retention, and adequate drainage
Vermicompost20%Compost or vermicompost boosts soil biodiversity, which is essential for nutrition availability and plant resilience.
Expanded Shale10%Expanded shale is excellent at balancing water and air availability. It also extends watering cycles without compromising root health.
Biochar10%Biochar increases the available carbon in the soil, supports the soil biota, and acts as a filter for salt accumulation.
Pumice10%You could grow your Philodendron melanochrysum in pumice only, but you would need to water more often and include fertilizer in each watering.
Hardwood Bark10%An organic material that boots drainage while still offering soil biota support. Hardwood decomposes slower and helps delay compaction. Avoid cedar wood as it has a natural fungicide, destroying the soil biota.

Their epiphytic nature is excellently supported by this mixture, which also enables their roots to create firm attachments to the rocky, lumpy, and uneven parts of the soil (i.e., a root system that is very healthy!).

Melanochrysum Light Needs

When exposed to plenty of moderate to bright, indirect light, the melanochrysum will flourish. You can boost the growth of your Philodendron melanochrysum’s foliage by a few hours of that delightful morning or late evening sun.

The plant is not tolerant to direct light. If you’re not careful, its leaves will quickly discolor, curl, and burn in direct sunlight.

Similarly, if it’s placed in a location that’s too dark, you’ll have a plant that essentially fades.

It is not a plant you want to keep in a bathroom with shade or a south-facing window.

Healthy Plants Rely on Great Locations

Typically, you should put this plant in a spot where it will get 300-500 FC (footcandles) – that is light enough to read a newspaper in.

A simple light meter can rapidly determine the foot candles of total light in a room. They are even available now as apps that allow you to read the amount of light in your surroundings.

The 300-500FC range will boost strong growth, but anything below 200FC will slow growth. Philodendrons can survive in light as low as 50 FC, but surviving and thriving are hugely different things.

Philodendron melanochrysum Watering

You won’t want to water this plant (or any of your other plants) on a schedule; instead, you should only water it when they need it.

An easy way to check this is to place a chopstick or other tiny wooden stick into the ground and wait 90 seconds before removing and inspecting it.

It is pretty simple to observe how wet or dry your combination is, all the way to the bottom of the pot, thanks to the water lines that moisture in the soil will create on the stick.

The stick will get rather dark in color when it comes into contact with wet soil, and soil particles will also adhere to it. The tester will turn a lighter shade of dark in moist or damp soil, but no particles will stick.

The stick’s color won’t alter in dry soil, and you won’t notice any dirt particles, an indicator that the plant needs water.

Keep the soil moist. Never allow the potting mix to dry out. One of the essential factors in keeping philodendrons growing evenly with large uniform leaves is ample water.

Make sure that all excess water drains. Overwatering can cause root injury, which may cause leaves to turn yellow and eventually fall off.

Adjusting For Seasonal Changes

You should modify your watering regimen throughout the year, just like fertilizer. Your plant will transpire more frequently during the warmer months, which means it will require more water to live.

Because transpiration rates decrease in the cooler months, your plant actively utilizes less water than it would in the summer.

Using the method outlined above, keep an eye on the soil’s moisture levels and only water when those two inches are dry.

P. Melanochrysum Humidity Needs

For the philodendron melanochrysum to live, humidity levels must be high—at least 70%. Better if it’s higher.

Because the plant’s natural habitat offers high humidity, it will not survive anything less. This is unlike most Phillies, as mentioned earlier – temperatures and humidity are the two essentials for Philodendron melanochrysum.

You’ll notice the leaves wilting, drooping, and maybe browning and curling at lower relative humidity levels.

Two tried-and-true methods for boosting humidity are placing a small humidifier in the space or clustering your plants. Through transpiration, grouping in your home produces a tiny humidity resource-sharing bubble.

Philodendron Melanochrysum Temperature Needs

Fortunately, the philodendron melanochrysum can withstand a broader range of temperatures than humidity fluctuation. This plant will thrive if kept between 60 and  °F (16 and 25 °C).

Just don’t let the temperature at night fall below 56 °F. (15 °C). Low temperatures will impede growth and can result in the appearance of black areas on the foliage.

Fertilizing Melanochrysum

You should choose a balanced fertilizer, such as 5-5-5, or one with a little bit more nitrogen than other elements.

Because melanochrysum has such beautiful foliage and leaf growth, nitrogen deficiency might result in relatively small leaves.

You can use organic fertilizer, such as marine phytoplankton and Alaskan fish emulsion, both of which are great but may be a bit odoriferous initially.

Plants growing in low light conditions require less fertilizer than actively growing plants. Some plants can live for a long time without supplemental fertilization.

A regular feeding program with a nitrogen fertilizer will increase the leaf size and makes a larger plant. Philodendrons can be considered heavy feeders.

Applying Fertilizer the Right Way

First, you should apply fertilizer every time you water your plant rather than once every two weeks as many instructions advise, but only throughout the spring and summer months when growth is vigorous.

Drip-fed fertilizer is better than the occasion feast that could burn roots and cause salt accumulation. This is especially important during the growing season.

To do this, it’s essential to adjust the concentration so that the advised dosage is spread to total the suggested amount over time.

Apply fertilizer only to moist soil to prevent root injury. Again, it is safer to fertilize lighter and more frequently than to apply one strong dose. Mix the reduced dosage with water.

Allowing for Seasonal Changes in Growth

You probably already know this, but when a plant is dormant in winter, you shouldn’t fertilize it.

The plant’s nutrients aren’t readily absorbed, which, if left unchecked, can modify the soil’s pH and result in various unpleasant issues, including burning.

Instead, you should only sparingly water your plant during the winter, sans added fertilizer.

You should use less fertilizer and water in the fall, but you should still water your plants as needed.

Growth – What to Expect?

The spectacular philodendron melanochrysum may grow up to an astounding 9 feet (3 meters) tall indoors and, under the right circumstances, even higher.

The typical indoor specimen grows very slowly, requiring 8–10 years to attain a manageable and healthy 2–5 feet height with more giant leaves.

Should I Prune my Philodendron Melanochrysum?

Older plants will eventually grow beyond their supporting trellis or pole. If this happens, cut back the apex to force new branches to develop.

Give the plant more light and decrease the water until new growth starts. Once there is growth, you can up fertilizing levels to strengthen it.

Repotting You Melanochrysum

This Philodendron doesn’t need repotting very often; once every 1-2 years ought to be enough as it’s a slow-moderate grower.

You’ll only want to break that rule if you notice your plant’s roots becoming root bound, spiraling around themselves, and emerging from the drainage holes. Being a little rot bound is okay, but you should repot if you need to water more frequently.

When repotting, you’ll want to choose a pot that’s max 1-3 inches bigger than the last, opting for a container with drainage holes. Bonsai-like clipping of some of the melanochrysum’s roots will help manage the compaction.

A Safe Method to Propagate the Philodendron Melanochrysum

This plant propagates well from stem cuttings. Stem cuttings root easily in water or inert growing mediums mile perlite or coconut coir. Follow these simple methods to propagate stem cuttings:

Steps in Propagation

  1. Clean your shears or a sharp knife to prevent plant infections from surface bacteria and fungi.
  2. Cut the apex off, including at least three leaves and a growth node. Cut at a 45° angle to maximize the exposed plant surface area.
  3. Remove the lowest leaf (closest to the cutting).
  4. Take care not to damage the node.
  5. Dip the cutting into allocated growth hormones and shake any excess off. Don’t dip it into the jar, as you risk contaminating the batch.
  6. Emerge the cutting into water or damp perlite and start the wait.
  7. Ensure the cut tip has continuous access to water and the leaves get adequate light.
  8. Roots will form faster if the water or perlite is kept slightly warmer at 77 °F (25 °C) than the ambient temperature.
  9. Wait until root development is visible and about one inch long. Expect it to take as long as three months, so be patient.
  10. Plant the clipping in the soil advised above in a 12-inch pot.
How to Propagate Philodendron Melanchrysum

Potential Pests

The only pests to which the philodendron melanochrysum is slightly more vulnerable are scale and spider mites.

Scale are tiny white insects that consume plant sap. Tiny red or brown spiders called spider mites to congregate in groups and spin intricate webs.

Is the Philodendron Melanochrysum Toxic

Unfortunately, yes, but only when consumed. Philodendron melanochrysum should be kept away from canines, felines, and young children.

Because of the minute calcium oxalate crystals present in its leaves, when swallowed, it can result in tongue swelling, stomach problems, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Potential Philodendron Melanochrysum Challenges

Most philodendron melanochrysum issues are caused by inadequate lighting or hydration. Fortunately, these plants are relatively tough, and if the problem is discovered in time, there is a good chance that they will fully recover.

Browning Leaves

Typically, brown, crispy leaves mean your plant is either not getting enough moisture or is receiving too much direct sunlight (i.e., sunburn).

Soluble salts will cause tip burn or edges of the leaves to turn brown. Salts may be flushed out by letting the water run slowly through the pot for one hour.

Browning of tip margins also may result from drafts, over-watering, poor drainage, or lack of water or fertilizer.

However, there are occasions when older leaves turning brown and dropping off are a normal part of the leaf’s life cycle and are of no concern.

A more significant reason to be concerned is if you see brown patches appearing on newer leaves.

Yellowing Leaves

The most frequent reason for yellowing leaves on a Philodendron melanochrysum is overwatering. Remove any damaged leaves, and make sure the top few inches of soil have a chance to dry out in between waterings.

The plant is overwatered. Ensure the pot has drainage and the plant isn’t sitting in water. Too much or too little light and lack of fertilizer may be contributing factors.

If the plant appears healthy, the problem may be too much light – also, check for scalded leaves.

Leggy Growth

Many vining plants experience leggy growth, which signifies your plant isn’t getting enough light. Pick a location that receives at least six hours of bright, direct sunlight.

FAQ – Your Care Questions Answered

In Closing

The Philodendron melanochrysum is a rare variety and requires some skill to grow. Most notably are some patience during its juvenile stage, adequate water, heat, and humidity, and some TLC. The advice above will help.

Most importantly, keep the humidity levels up, especially in winter, with air conditioners tend to cause a drop in relative humidity levels.

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