The philodendron melanochrysum is a striking aroid that many collectors are desperate to cross off their wishlist.
Characterized by its long, heart shaped leaves with a velvety surface and uber thick cream margins that look similar to the anthurium veitchii, philodendron verrucosum or philodendron gloriosum, it’s no surprise it’s so desirable.
You might be surprised however to find out that this stunning plant has some very different care requirements to the average philodendron.
That’s why in this guide, I’ll be sharing all of my best tips, tricks and hacks to make philodendron melanochrysum care a breeze.
First things first, if you’ve bought a juvenile form of this plant and are wondering why the heck it doesn’t look like every philodendron melanochrysum you’ve seen on the internet, it’s because this plant’s leaves always start small.
So small in fact they could be mistaken for a more mature philodendron micans!
As this plant grows, its leaves will lengthen into that signature cordatum shape with a coppery sheen and pale green veins.
A Brief, Fascinating Look into Philodendron Melanochrysum’s History
It was first discovered in the wet Andean foothills of Colombia by European collector and horticulturist, Eduoard Andre in 1886. It was him who then named the plant after himself, so it became colloquially known as ‘philodendron andreanum’.
The now accepted botanical name, ‘melanochrysum’ hails from the Greek word ‘melano’ meaning black and ‘chrysum’ meaning golden. This is why you might hear this plant commonly referred to as the black gold philodendron.
Mature forms of this species exhibit a dazzling display of black and gold flecks when struck by sunlight, hence the name!
Growing at a staggering 500m above sea level in the regions of Chocó and Antioquia, it’s this that makes philodendron melanochrysum care interesting, especially in relation to humidity and temperature as you’ll see later in the post.
‘Escapees’ of this plant can be found growing in regions of Ecuador, Peru and Costa Rica, all introduced by man in the 20th century.
Caring For The Philodendron Melanochrysum (Complete Guide)
Soil & Mixture
You’ll be glad to know that the ‘philodendron rule’ of providing an airy, woody and well-draining soil mix still applies here.
Philodendron melanochrysums love a soil mixture that can both hold moisture AND let excess water quickly drain away. These mixes usually include a good ratio of coco coir, perlite, worm castings, orchid bark and activated charcoal.
You can always buy a pre-made philodendron or monstera mix online, or make your own!
Try this tried and tested formula when potting up your gorgeous melanochrysum:
- 40% coco coir
- 20% orchid bark
- 15% perlite
- 10% activated charcoal
- 10% worm castings
- 5% pumice (optional)
This blend perfectly supports their epiphytic nature and allows their roots to form amazingly strong attachments to the lumpy and rugged bits in the soil (aka a very healthy root system!).
The melanochrysum will thrive when given lots of moderate to bright, indirect light. A few hours of that glorious cool morning or late evening sun can do wonders for this plant’s foliage growth.
One thing I will say though is that this plant is not tolerant of direct light. It’s leaves are quick to discolor, curl and scorch if you’re not careful.
Likewise, if it’s placed in a spot that’s too dark, you’ll have a shrinking violet on your hands – a plant that practically withers and disappears.
This is definitely not a plant to keep in a south-facing window or in a shaded bathroom.
Where Should I Place This Plant? (+ Handy Measurements)
Generally, you’ll want to keep this plant in an area of your home that receives 300-500FC (footcandles).
A handy light meter can quickly measure the overall light intensity of a room for you in footcandles. They even come in app format now.
300-500FC mark is for good growth i.e. what you’re most likely shooting for. Anything less than 200FC though, and it’s way too shaded for this plant to survive, let alone thrive.
Instead of sticking to a strict watering schedule, you’ll only want to water this plant (and all your other plants!) when it really needs water.
A quick way to test this is by plunging a chopstick or small wooden stick into the soil, leaving it for 30-90 minutes and then examining the stick after this time has passed.
Moisture in the soil will cause water lines on the stick, making it really easy to see how wet or dry your mixture is, right down to the bottom of the pot.
- Wet soil will cause the stick to turn quite dark in color, and you’ll notice soil particles clinging to the stick too.
- Moist or damp soil will turn the stick a lighter shade of dark, though no particles will stick.
- With dry soil, there will be no change in the color of the stick, nor will you see any soil debris either.
Ideally, you’ll only want to water this philodendron when the top 2 inches of soil are a little on the drier side.
Adjusting For Seasonal Changes
As with fertilizer, you’ll want to adjust your watering schedule throughout the year. In the warmer months, your plant’s transpiration rates will increase, meaning it naturally needs more water to survive.
In the cooler months, transpiration rates drop, meaning your plant is actively using less water than in the summer.
Continue to monitor the soil’s moisture levels using the method above and only water when those 2 inches are dry.
Remember how I said this plant is different to most philodendrons? This is where you’ll want to take note.
The philodendron melanochrysum needs (*craves*) high humidity levels to survive, think 70%+, minimum. The higher, the better.
Why? This plant grows 500m above sea level which means it’s accustomed to much higher humidity levels than most philodendrons just mere metres above sea level.
With lower humidity levels, you’ll see wilting, drooping and possible browning and curling of the leaves too.
Getting the humidity level right is key to good philodendron melanochrysum care.
Two surefire ways of increasing humidity include introducing a small humidifier to the room and/or grouping your plants together. Grouping creates a small humidity resource sharing bubble in your home via a process known as transpiration.
Luckily, the philodendron melanochrysum tolerates a wider range in temperatures than it does humidity. Keep this plant in 60-77F (16-25C), and it will be more than happy.
Just don’t let the nighttime temperature drop below 53F (12C). Very low temperatures will cause stunted growth, and possible black ‘cold’ spots to develop.
When it comes to choosing a fertilizer, you’ll want to opt for one that’s either balanced e.g. 5-5-5 or one that has a little more nitrogen than other elements.
Nitrogen is responsible for that glorious foliage and leaf growth you see in the melanochrysum, and a lack of it can cause very small leaves and yellowing.
I have had great success with Dyna Gro’s product range, especially with their 7-9-5 NPK, 7-7-7 NPK, and 9-3-6 NPK formulas. For this plant, I’d use either the 7-9-5 or 7-7-7 formula to make sure you’ve got enough phosphorus.
You can also opt for an organic fertilizer: alaskan fish emulsion and marine phytoplankton is AMAZING stuff, if not a little stinky at first.
Plankton based fertilizers really pack a punch in terms of plant growth hormones!
Applying Fertilizer the Right Way
Firstly, instead of fertilizing ‘once every 2 weeks’ like many guides tell you to do, you’ll want to apply fertilizer every time you water your plant, but only in the spring and summer seasons (or whenever is warmest for your part of the world).
This mimics how plants feed in the wild – instead of receiving a big dose of nutrients in one sitting, they now get a steady stream of nutrients during their most active, growing periods.
Dilute, dilute, dilute!
Many beginners forget to dilute their fertilizer before applying it to their plant’s soil – this is a big no no!
No dilution leads to serious and permanent chemical burns to your plant’s sensitive stems and root system.
To dilute, I mix ¼-½ teaspoon of fertilizer (dyna-gro) with 1 gallon of water (4.5 litres) and simply feed my plant with this solution every time it needs watering. Super simple.
To be on the safe side, you’ll want to dilute to at least 50% of what your fertilizer actually recommends to do.
Allowing for Seasonal Changes in Growth
You likely already know this but you shouldn’t be fertilizing your plant when it’s in its dormant growth mode (aka the colder, winter season).
The plant isn’t readily taking up the nutrients which, when left to linger, can change the pH of the soil and cause all sorts of nasty problems, including burning.
Instead, in winter, you’ll only want to water your plant sparingly (without any fertilizer added).
In autumn, you’ll want to cut back on fertilizer and waterings, but still water when your plant needs it.
Growth – What Can I Expect?
Indoors, the magnificent philodendron melanochrysum could climb to reach a staggering 3m (9ft!) in height, sometimes more if the conditions are right.
Before you shriek with joy or groan with worry, the average indoor specimen is a fairly slow-grower, taking on average 8-10 years to reach a manageable and healthy 2-5 feet in height.
Each leaf however can lengthen to an impressive 25-55cm. In the wild, this plant’s velvety leaves can grow up to a whopping 90cm!
Pruning – Does this Plant Need Regular Pruning?
No, this isn’t a plant that needs regular pruning or maintenance. You’ll only want to consider pruning leaves that are diseased, damaged or infected with pests.
Make sure to prune with a clean pair of scissors or pruning shears.
This philodendron doesn’t need repotting very often, in fact, once every 1-2 years is completely fine as it’s a slow-moderate grower.
The only time you’ll want to break that rule is if you notice the roots of your plant becoming tightly root bound (spiralling around themselves). Being a little rot bound is okay, but you should repot if it’s severe.
When repotting, you’ll want to choose a pot that’s max 1-3 inches bigger than the last, opt for a pot with drainage holes and tease the old soil from the melanochrysum’s roots.
How to Propagate the Philodendron Melanochrysum Plant (Two Easy Methods)
Propagating a rare plant can seem like a lofty task, but there’s two simple ways to make more of this beautiful plant; stem cuttings and air layering.
Stem cuttings is the less time intensive of the two methods, but air layering only involves cutting the plant once the roots are established, not before – one reason many beginners like to give air layering a go.
Personally, I’ve done both and recommend either method – they both have fairly high success rates!
Propagating Philodendron Melanochrysum via Stem Cuttings – How To
- Choose a stem that’s got both a healthy node and one or two leaves. This stem should be a more mature stem, ideally not a stem with a new leaf unfurling.
- With a clean pair of pruning scissors, cut the stem just below the node. This is where the roots will sprout from when repotted so it’s super important to include the node.
- Leave the cutting to callous in the air for around 30-60 minutes.
- Dab the freshly cut section of the stem in rooting hormone – this is optional but I’ve found it helps.
- Prepare a pot of moist rich, potting soil (see soil section above) and bury the node under the soil.
- Place it somewhere that receives lots of moderate to bright, indirect light and make sure the humidity level remains high.
- You can cover and seal your plant in a giant transparent ziplock bag to rapidly increase humidity levels – just make sure to check moisture levels regularly and every 2-3 days unzip the bag to allow fresh air to circulate.
Propagating Philodendron Melanochrysum via Air Layering – How To
This method works best if you’ve got your philodendron melanochrysum already climbing up a pole.
- Look for some healthy well established aerial roots shooting out from a node.
- Take some wet sphagnum moss, and fully wrap it around the healthy node and the pole. This helps support thinner stems that won’t hold their weight and the moss combined.
- Using a transparent plastic bag or press and seal food wrap, wrap it fully around the node and moss. Make sure to not catch any leaves into this wrap (they’ll go mouldy!).
- If you used a plastic bag, you’ll need a zip tie to secure it in place. Press and seal food wrap should tape itself up pretty well (I’ve always found it much easier!).
- Leave the top and bottom of the seal open. New roots like to dive downwards and this helps them do so without bunching up.
- Thoroughly mist the sphagnum moss through the open top in the plastic bag every day. This stops the moss from compacting and drying up. Don’t let the moss ball dry out.
- Wait 2-3 weeks for new roots to develop. No roots showing? Don’t worry, simply don’t cut the plant, and try again another time. Air layering is a 100% safe and secure propagation method for this reason.
- Carefully remove the plastic wrap and some of the moss around your new roots. Check that the roots look healthy! Healthy roots look white.
- Cut the stem just below the new roots with clean scissors.
- Pot the stem cutting in a normal rich potting mix (see above). Care for as usual.
The philodendron melanochrysum is fairly resistant to most pests; the only ones it’s a little more susceptible to are scale and spider mites.
Scale are small white insects that feed on the sap of the plant. Spider mites are tiny red or brown spiders that gather in clusters and weave tightly knitted webs.
Neem oil is your best friend when it comes to these two pests; it contains a chemical called azdirachtin which naturally poisons most soft scales, spider mites and many other pests too, including fungus gnats, mealybugs and aphids.
Toxicity – Is the Philodendron Melanochrysum Plant Toxic to Pets & Children?
Yes, unfortunately! Philodendron melanochrysum is a toxic plant and should be kept away from dogs, cats and small children.
If ingested, it can cause mouth swelling, stomach issues, vomiting and diarrhea, all thanks to the small calcium oxalate crystals contained in its leaves.
FAQ – Your Care Questions Answered
Why are My Philodendron Melanochrysum’s Leaves Drooping & Wilting?
Drooping and wilting can be caused by a few things, but the main culprits to watch out for are watering and light.
If the plant isn’t getting enough water it can droop. Philodendrons love their soil to be kept evenly moist, so soil that’s too dry can cause drooping.
Similarly, if your philodendron melanochrysum isn’t getting enough light it can droop and wilt as it over-exerts itself to find a better source of light. You might see stems leaning as an additional symptom if light is the problem here.
Why are the Leaves on My Philodendron Melanochrysum So Small?
Not enough light, possibly combined with a lack of fertilizer. A really simple problem to fix – check the light source in the room and move it to a brighter place if it’s too low.
Make sure you’re also using a complete fertilizer to boost nutrients and growth too.
Should I Provide a Pole for This Plant to Climb?
Absolutely! This plant needs support as it grows. Providing a pole will encourage healthy leaf, stem and even root growth.
Philodendron Micans vs Philodendron Melanochrysum – What’s the Difference?
In their juvenile forms, the philodendron micans and philodendron melanochrysum might look fairly similar to the untrained eye, but there are some hefty differences between these two gorgeous plants.
Philodendron micans is a vining variety, whilst melanochrysum is a climbing variety, meaning it grows upwards.
The leaf markings are also different – melanochrysums have wide, off-white to cream margins, whilst micans don’t.
Then there’s the staggering difference in rarity – micans can be picked up at a local garden centre or nursery for a couple of dollars, melanochrysums are usually only picked up at online auctions or specialist aroid nurseries for a couple hundred dollars.
The only real similarity between the two is the leaf shape and size in juvenile forms – they’re both heart-shaped, velvety and small.
How Expensive are Philodendron Melanochrysum to Buy?
If you were to find a melanochrysum on sale right now, expect to pay a pretty penny.
Anywhere between $135-$235 (£99-£170) is fairly normal, depending on size and condition of the plant.
Where Can I Buy This Plant?
The philodendron melanochrysum is a true rare find! You’ll be hard pressed to find this beauty in a local garden centre or average nursery.
You’ll likely need to head to a specialist aroid nursery or Etsy, a common place for plant enthusiasts to snag amazing deals on rare specimens.