Did you add a philodendron rojo congo to your houseplant collection? This stunning upright tropical baby makes a wonderful statement plant in a bright room. Learn all about how to care for it here!
Philodendron rojo congo care
Today I’m adding another philodendron care post to my care post library, and it’s a philodendron rojo congo! Surprisingly, this was actually sold to me as a philodendron black cardinal.
I was initially disappointed that it was mislabeled, but after getting a positive ID thanks to Facebook groups and realizing it was a philodendron rojo congo, that disappointment let up a bit. Because the rojo congo is actually a gorgeous plant.
What is a philodendron rojo congo?
The philodendron rojo congo is a hybrid philodendron variety that was created by crossing philodendron imperial red with philodendron tatei. The color of the rojo congo seems to be more like an imperial red, while the leaf shape is more like a tatei.
The philodendron tatei is nicknamed the “philodendron congo.” That’s where the name “rojo congo” comes from for the post featured in this plant—rojo means “read” in Spanish.
What is the difference between rojo congo, red congo, and imperial red?
This is difficult to answer because “red congo” seems to be commonly used to describe a number of red-tinged philodendrons. Namely the rojo congo and the philodendron imperial red.
When I was trying to figure out what my not-a-black-cardinal philodendron was, I settled on either rojo congo or imperial red. I looked at tons of pictures (not knowing it those IDs were all correct) and asked others in Facebook plant groups.
Ultimately the consensus was that I had a philodenron rojo congo because of the leaf shape, size, and growth pattern. It is extremely difficult to tell the difference between a rojo congo and an imperial red. And “red congo” is used to describe both!
And that makes sense because both are red. And remember—the rojo congo is a hybrid of the imperial red. (And imperial red is itself a hybrid!). I have read that rojo congo has larger pointier leaves, but I have also read that about the imperial red.
So if you have any insight on this and primary sources I could link to, I would love to know! I hate not knowing exactly what type of plant I have…but since the care routine for rojo congo and the imperial red congo are so similar, we’re running with this post.
Is red congo a rubber plant?
No, philodendron red congo is not a rubber plant. “Rubber plant” is the common name for a variety of ficus plant called the “ficus elastica.” The most common type of rubber plant is the “ficus elastica burgundy,” or “burgundy rubber plant.”
From a distance, these plants do have some similarities. The leaves can have a similar color, and the new growth tips on a rubber plant can have a bright red color that might remind you of the stems on a rojo congo. But the rubber plant is part of a totally different genus: ficus. The genus for a rojo congo is philodendron.
What does a rojo congo plant look like?
Unlike many other philodendrons—even philodendrons that look a lot like the rojo congo—this variety is not a climber or trailer. It grows upright on its own, and its growth pattern reminds me a lot of the stunning bird of paradise plant.
All of the rojo congo’s leaves emerge from a central stem, unfurling glossy deep red-brown with hints of green. As the leaves mature, they deepen to more of a hunter green. The stems range in color from bright red to purple, red-brown, and brown.
Want more philodendrons? Check out my posts on How to Care for Your Philodendron Birkin, Philodendron White Knight Care, and Pink Princess Philodendron Care & Stem Propagation!
How do you care for rojo congo?
While the philodendron rojo congo might look a bit tropical and high-maintenance, it definitely isn’t. It grows quite well as a houseplant and has adapted nicely to life indoors. So let’s talk about the care basics.
How much light does a congo rojo need?
Philodendron rojo congo enjoys bright indirect light. As a tropical plant, philodendrons have evolved in nature to survive under a dense canopy of trees. So it’s best to mimic these conditions when growing rojo congo as a houseplant.
Near a sunny window is great. But you can move this one out of your most premium sunny spots, because rojo congo can adapt to medium light levels as well. Just make sure to rotate the plant every few weeks so it doesn’t grow lopsided toward a single light source.
Too much bright indirect light can burn the plant’s foliage. If you want to move it outside for the spring and summer, keep it in bright shade. You can slowly acclimate the plant to some direct sun, but you’ll need to do it slowly.
If you have the rojo congo in too little light, the growth will slow and the plant will likely loose some of its gorgeous red tinge. This is not a low light plant—bright shade in a rainforest is very different from low light.
What kind of soil should I plant a rojo congo in?
Pop on over to a local plant nursery and find a bag labeled for houseplants or indoor plants. Sometimes the soil will be labeled as something for potted plants. Ultimately, you want something that is light and well-draining.
For my philodendrons, I usually lightly amend a potted soil mix from my favorite nursery. The mixture comes with things like moss and perlite added in already, which help with lightweight moisture retention and drainage.
However, I generally add in a bit of shredded coco coir for additional lightweight moisture retention. I also add in either a bit more perlite or some chunky orchid bark.
If you just use a regular potting mix, you’ll probably be just fine. These mixes are lovely, but I tend to have a heavy hand when I’m watering. So lightening soils up a bit helps me maintain healthy plants.
If the soil you use is too dense—like a top soil or a garden bed soil—the roots will suffocate. The philodendron rojo congo’s roots must be able to access oxygen, and using a well-draining chunky soil helps with that.
How often should I water my rojo congo?
As mentioned in the previous section, you don’t want to suffocate the roots with dense soil. Even if you have a lightweight soil, overwatering the rojo congo is also a guaranteed way to suffocate your plant’s roots and lead to root rot.
I recommend letting roughly the top half of your plant’s soil dry out before watering it again. You can use a moisture meter to monitor this, but I generally use my finger until I get on a good seasonal schedule.
I would not recommend letting the soil completely dry out. In my home, this generally means I water the plant once a week in the summer and once every two weeks or so in the winter. The spring and fall are always a crapshoot as the seasons and growing conditions change.
As with all plants, your personal environment has a huge impact on how often you water your plants. Light levels, the type of soil, humidity, and temperature all matter, so keep an eye on that soil moisture as your main indicator.
Why is my congo rojo drooping?
There are a few reasons why your rojo congo could be drooping. First look at the leaves: do they look like a normal color, or are they yellowing?
If they are yellowing and the soil is wet or you’ve been watering the plant a lot, this could be a sign of overwatering. If they are yellowing and the soil is dry, it could be underwatering.
In my experience with similar philodendrons, the leaves can also droop without much of a color change due to underwatering. And cold temperatures can also lead to drooping. So let’s talk about temperature now.
Temperature needs—can philodendron congo grow outside?
The philodendron rojo congo is a warm-weather plant. It enjoys temperatures in the 70s, 80s, and low 90s Fahrenheit. It is also tolerant of all normal household temperatures.
Just watch for drafty windows or doors in the winter. This generally isn’t a huge issue, but it’s something to keep in mind. Because this plant does not tolerate the cold well.
It is not cold or frost hardy, meaning you can only grow your philodendron red congo outdoors in the spring and summer in many places. Definitely bring your plant indoors once the nighttime temperatures are dropping consistently into the 50s Fahrenheit.
As with nearly all philodendrons that have adapted well to life as houseplants, the red congo is quite tolerant of average household humidity levels. You’ll likely be able to grow it just fine year-round without any extra humidity.
However! If you want to add a humidifier, the plant will thank you. It grows best in humid conditions. But unlike some other houseplants, it’s not going to throw a fit without humidity.
How fast does rojo congo grow?
In my experience, philodendoron rojo congo has a pretty average growth right. In optimal care conditions, rojo congo can grow quite prolifically.
One way to help your rojo congo along is by adding fertilizer to your care routine. I do not use chemical fertilizers just because I stress out trying to remember how much of a dilution rate every plant needs.
Instead, I work in organic worm castings in the beginning of the growing season (if I’m not repotting the plant that year). Or I add concentrated Liqui-Dirt fertilzier into my watering can roughly once a month.
You can’t overfertilize with this stuff, which means you don’t run the risk of burning your plant. But don’t overuse it! A tiny bit goes a long way, so one package can last even longer than a growing season depending on how many plants you have.
How big does a congo rojo get?
Your philodendron rojo congo can grow to eventually be several feet tall. But it can grow wider than it is tall. It has quite the spread! According to what I read while researching for this post, the rojo congo gets slightly larger than its red parent, the philodendron imperial red.
Because this plant has a wide, lush spread as it matures, it can be challenging in smaller spaces. Therefore, it might be a good idea to put this one up on a stand so it doesn’t take up too much floor or room space. Then you can put other plants under it, provided there is enough light.
You probably won’t need to prune this plant much. Only if you want to control its size or remove ugly leaves. I occasionaly trim off older smaller leaves on plants like these to help the plant focus on new growth.
Potting & repotting needs
Depending on your care conditions and growth rate, the philodendron rojo congo will need repotted every 1-3 years. Check to see if the roots are growing out of the pot’s drainage holes or filling up the majority of the pot.
When it’s time to repot the rojo congo, use fresh well-draining potting soil to replenish nutrients. And choose a new pot that is only 1 to 2 inches larger than the plant’s current pot and root ball.
As the cojo congo matures, its leaf spread will make it quite top heavy. So it’s best to choose a heavier pot for this one. Though it isn’t a huge deal indoors since you aren’t dealing with wind gusts and whatnot. Make sure it has a drainage hole.
For plants that enjoy being a bit rootbound, I don’t recommend messing with the rootball too much when repotting. In fact, I don’t usually loosen the roots at all no matter how tight. Nature finds a way!
I simply add a layer of fresh soil in the new pot. Then I put in the root ball and plant, fill in around the root ball so that the plant stands on its own. I finish up by adding a layer of soil on the top and watering the plant deeply until water flows from the drainage holes.
How to keep the leaves clean
As with other bigger plants, the large leaves can gather a lot of dust! You can clean them off when watering the plant. I like to rinse off the tops and bottoms of my plant leaves in the sink or shower when watering the plant.
If the plant is too big to do this or if you simply don’t feel like it, you can just wipe them down with a damp microfiber cloth. I find that using just a tiny bit of diluted neem oil helps to prevent water spots and enhance leaf shine. Plus it’s great for pest prevention!
Pests & other issues
Speaking of pest prevention, let’s talk about the nasties: pests. This plant is pretty hardy and isn’t terribly vulnerable to pests. Just keep an eye out for the regular houseplant pests: fungus gnats, mealybugs, spider mites, and aphids.
The tiny buzzing flies around your plant’s soil are fungus gnats. And while they aren’t technically harmful to the plant, they can be a sign of overwatering. See my post about how to get rid of fungus gnats for more.
Mealybugs are small white bugs that lay their eggs in cotton-looking nests that appear as small masses. Typically on the undersides of leaves or where the leaves meet the stems. An over-the-counter houseplant insecticide should nuke them; read more about mealies here.
Spider mites thrive in warm, dry conditions, so be extra vigilant looking for them over the winter. You’ll usually spot them as very fine webbing on the tips of the leaves or where the leaves meet the stems.
I recommend rinsing the plant with cold water, cutting off any infected foliage, and treating the plant with an over-the-counter houseplant insecticide. See my post for more on spider mites.
Finally, there are aphids. They are sometimes hard to spot. The one time I’ve had aphids, I spotted them when I noticed the sticky residue they leave on and around the plants. Again, a houseplant insecticide should get rid of them.
Two methods to propagate a philodendron red congo
If you want to propagate your philodendron rojo congo, there are a few ways to do it. I’ll cover the basics for propagation by division and propagation using stem cuttings.
Propagation by division
The easiest way to propagate a red congo is through division or separation of baby plants. Once the plant begins to mature, it will sprout baby plants. Or you could be lucky and purchase a pot that has multiple plants in it!
If you see that you have multiple “main” stems (it will be obvious because you’ll have multiple growth points where new leaves emerge), or if you have babies, you can remove the plant from the pot in the spring.
You can simply cut the plants off of one another and pot them separately. For babies, make sure they have a decent-enough root system to survive on their own!
Propagation using stem cuttings
If you don’t have multiple plants or babies, you can propagate the plant using a stem cutting. However, this isn’t the easiest. That’s because this plant is a compact, upright grower. And its growth points aren’t as easily accessible as they are on climbing philodendrons.
You can take a cutting of the plant, ensuring you have a few leaves on top. Then remove the bottom few leaves to expose growth points. An aerial root is a bonus, too.
Pop this in water and refresh the water every few weeks until the roots are several inches long. Move to soil and keep the soil moist for another few weeks while the roots make themselves at home in soil.