The Philodendron melanochrysum, commonly called Black Gold Philodendron, is a climbing vine plant and is an Aroid. Aroid is the common name for plants from the family Araceae. Other common names for this family include Philodendron or Arum. Many common houseplants you already know fall into this family, including plants from the Monstera, Calla, Caladium, Anthurium, and Philodendron genera.
A member of the Philodendron genus, P. melanochrysum is native to the foothills of the Andes mountains in Columbia, the longest continental mountain range in the world.
P. melanochrysum has a climbing nature and is loved for its foliage, which can be gigantic. Long, heart-shaped leaves of dark greenish-black that appear to be speckled with gold, and light green to white veining make the Black Gold Philodendron a highly desired plant for avid houseplant growers. A relatively fast grower in the right conditions, Philodendron melanochrysum makes a magnificent focal point in your home, climbing a moss pole and becoming the main attraction with its striking foliage.
This member of the Philodendron genus can be difficult to find locally. If you find one at a garden center or big box store, grab it. Keep your eyes out for their dark green velvet foliage.
Smaller plants that you purchase may not have huge leaves yet, but the color, shape, and texture will be the same. Once you bring it home and give it a happy place with the light and space it needs, it will grow larger leaves, sometimes stretching to as long as three feet.
Many P. melanochrysum bought online from internet sellers are shipped from overseas, particularly Indonesia. They are inspected by customs officials at many steps of the way, and the journey can take quite a while and be rough on the plant. Make sure to read reviews from other purchasers on how the plant was packaged, how long delivery took, and the condition of the plant upon arrival. Plants that undergo a difficult journey may take several months to recover and adapt to their new home.
Larger cities may have a tropical houseplant store and staff can help you find a P. melanochrysum if they don’t have one. Many online merchants specialize in Aroids and other tropical and subtropical houseplants. Of course, there are always specimens on Etsy of various sizes and shapes, but shipping can sometimes be very expensive.
If buying online, make sure to go with a reputable grower, and look for the actual size of the plant that you will be receiving, as the picture may represent the grower’s mature plant and not the new young propagation you may be buying.
Keep in mind that Philodendrons are tropical plants and will not tolerate freezing temperatures; plan your purchase and shipping accordingly for your climate. While shipping in an insulated box helps greatly, it is not a guarantee for survival if your location is in the middle of a cold winter.
Origins and History
Commonly called Black Gold Philodendron, P. melanochrysum is a sub-tropical plant with large, dark-green elongated leaves and silver cream to white-colored veining. New or immature leaves often have an orange or red tint to them, changing to dark green as they mature.
The genus Philodendron stems from the Greek, “philo” which translates to “love” or “affection”, and “dendron” which translates to “tree”. There are over 450 recognized species of plants in Philodendron, which originate in the tropical regions of the Americas.
The word, melanochrysum, comes from the Greek word, “melano”, which means black, and the Greek, “chrysum”, which means gold.
P. melanochrysum was discovered over 130 years ago by noted European horticulturist and landscape designer, Eduoard Andre.
An easy to care for plant that will flourish with the proper conditions, follow these suggestions for Philodendron melanochrysum care.
Philodendron melanochrysum is a climbing perennial. It is evergreen and will keep its foliage all year in your home. As your plant grows, the vine will search for something to climb. A moss pole works very well, providing vertical support and a medium for the aerial roots to attach themselves to. If you don’t happen to have a moss pole just laying around, or cannot find one at your local store, check out this guide on how to make your own for about $20.
P. melanochrysum can grow very large, but can also be kept well in a tighter space by training and pruning. Given an adequately sized pot and the correct environment, your Philodendron melanochrysum can become a centerpiece of your tropical plant display.
Leaves, when kept indoors as a houseplant, are usually medium-sized, but can grow to be over three feet long with the right care and conditions. The foliage ranges from dark black-green to a bit bronzed, and is velvety to the touch. Some people think the leaves have a suede feel. The light reflecting off the leaves often seems to show gold flecks or sparkles because of this unique texture. Beautiful cream, light green, or white veining accents the darker colors and makes a striking display.
Philodendron melanochrysum does not require direct light but will tolerate a small dose of 1-2 hours of morning sunlight. It prefers bright but indirect light, sometimes described as bright shade. Imagine the dappled, indirect but bright light that a plant growing in the mid-canopy of trees in the tropics might receive. Small leaves or a very slow growth rate may indicate a lack of light. Watch your plant for signs. P. melanochrysum will not thrive if kept in a dimly lit room, and growth will be slow.
If your location does not have suitable natural lighting, artificial grow lights can provide the bright conditions your Philodendron needs. Purpose-made plant lights with multiple wands can be used, as well as clip-on lights. A fixture you already own or a pole lamp that you find at a thrift store can be modified with screw-in type LED plant light bulbs at an economical cost both to buy and to run.
If you are a true house plant aficionado, and want to make sure you are doing right by each plant’s needs, buy a light meter to help you determine what light intensity your plants are receiving at different locations throughout your home.
Most Philodendron are vining and can become partially epiphytic as they reach up into the tree canopy in their home lush forests. They will grow aerial roots that may opportunistically latch on to any available structure–hopefully your moss pole. They must be planted in a pot with excellent drainage.
Check the moisture in your P. melanochrysum by inserting your finger 1-2 inches deep and feeling the soil. If dry, water your plant until excess water drains out the drainage holes. Empty the water that collects in the saucer.
A word of caution; if you have been busy and allowed your plant’s soil to dry excessively, it may become temporarily unable to absorb moisture. If water instantly runs down the sides of the pot and out the drainage holes, this may be the problem. Repeated small waterings until the soil swells back to fill the pot may be necessary. Then, proceed with normal watering.
It may seem that a tropical plant could not be overwatered, but that is not the case. Watering P. melanochrysum too much can cause problems with fungus, root rot, and other pests.
Temperature and humidity
Philodendron spp. are tropical plants adapted to warmer temperatures and higher humidity. Any room above 60℉ should be fine, but cold windows or locations near outside doors which let in a lot of cold air when opened and closed are suitable.
Your P. melanochrysum enjoys and needs a humid environment. It will thrive in relative humidity of 80%. Many homes are too dry for tropical and subtropical plants, especially in winter when interior humidity levels normally fall as low as 20% due to the use of your home heating system.
If your home is drier, try several things to improve the humidity and keep your Black Gold Philodendron happy.
- Mist your Philodendron frequently to provide the necessary humidity. Don’t mist so often that the leaves remain wet, however, as fungus and leaf problems may result.
- Group your plants together. Plants give off moisture through a process called evapotranspiration. Grouping them will help create a local environment of slightly higher humidity.
- Use a small humidifier to raise the humidity level of the room.
Soil and Pots
Most Aroids like excellent drainage, and P. melanochrysum is no exception. Pre-mixed Philodendron potting mixes can be purchased online, or you can make your own. If making your own, there are many recipes available on gardening sites from successful growers. Give your Philodendron something light and airy, which drains quickly but can still hold some moisture and is kind of chunky or barky. Add some perlite to your mix to increase the aeration of the potting mix even more.
P. melanochrysum does not like being root bound in its pot. Keep an eye on it and try to repot in spring or summer if necessary. Make sure the pot has adequate drainage holes to prevent the roots from sitting in water. Your Philodendron may only need to be repotted every year or two.
General fertilizer designed for houseplants will work fine. Choosing a fertilizer that is either balanced, i.e. 10-10-10 NPK, or one that is a little nitrogen heavy–nitrogen is responsible for foliage growth–works well. Fertilize a little at each major watering instead of a lot once in a while.
P. melanochrysum can be a heavy feeder. If all else is well, but your melanochrysum still has small leaves, it may need to be fertilized. Avoid the temptation to give a heavy fertilizer application which can burn the roots of the plant. Always follow the directions on the package. Most fertilizers are meant to be diluted with water according to the ratio on the label. Fertilizing can and should be postponed in the winter months when the plant is growing slower.
Philodendron melanochrysum will eventually need repotting. Signs of a root-bound plant include circling roots, roots coming out the drainage holes, or a lackluster spindly plant. If the need to repot arises, try to do it at the beginning of the growing season, in spring or early summer.
Use a pot that is one size up from your plant’s current container. Using a pot that is too large may seem like a work-saver, preventing you from having to repot again as soon, but it can mean the soil doesn’t dry out quickly enough and cause fungus, mold, and root rot issues.
The foliage of P. melanochrysum is toxic to pets and humans. Sap from the stem may also cause skin irritation.
Philodendron Melanochrysum Propagation
Philodendron melanochrysum can be propagated by taking cuttings or by air layering. Taking cuttings to propagate new plants can be a great way to keep your Black Gold Philodendron size in check if you have a plant that is outgrowing its space. Gifting a new P. melanochrysum that you propagated to another plantophile is a great way to spread the love.
Cuttings from Philodendron can be rooted in the soil just like other plants.
Take a cutting from a healthy stem, and select a section with at least one node and preferably an aerial root as well. If your cutting has leaves, trim off all but one or two. Cuttings may be rooted in water, moss, or moist potting mix amended with perlite.
If rooting in water, choose a vessel with clear sides so you can watch the roots develop. Rooting in potting mix may be done by filling the container with the potting mix, making sure that the container has excellent drainage and is well aerated. Gently insert the cutting into the medium, making sure that at least one pair of air roots and the node is covered with soil. While holding the cutting in place, water the container thoroughly. Push your thumbs or fingers firmly but lightly into the top of the soil mix to squeeze out any excess water and settle the cutting against the soil.
If rooting in moss, ensure the air roots are covered by the moss and wet the moss thoroughly.
Keep your cutting out of direct sunlight, in a warm place. If your space is not humid, misting your cuttings will help to prevent them from drying out.
Pests and Common Problems
Here are some common pests and issues that you may need to look out for when keeping Philodendron melanochrysum.
Yellowing leaves which drop off are a common issue for owners of Philodendron melanochrysum and are likely caused by overwatering. Overwatering may also present as wilting–causing you to think the plant is dry and water more. Check your plant’s moisture on a schedule so you don’t forget, but don’t water on a schedule, instead, water only when the top 1-2 inches of the pot are dry to the touch.
Browning leaves can be caused by a buildup of excess salts in the soil from overfertilizing. Flush the soil by putting the pot in the sink or bathtub and letting the water run through the pot for 10-15 minutes at a gentle rate.
Root rot is another problem for Philodendron melanochrysum and is also caused by poor drainage and overwatering. Make sure to check the soil to a depth of 1-2 inches before watering, instead of relying on just looking at or feeling the surface.
Red Spider Mites
Red spider mites drink the sap from your plant, and can eventually kill it. If you see little fine webs on your Philodendron, or the bottom of the leaves seem to be covered with dust that “moves”, wash them off with cold water in the sink, and treat them with a neem oil spray just like for aphids or other insect pests.
Mealybugs are tiny and may look like a fuzzy white spot at the base of the leaf where it attaches to the stem. If infested, your plant may start to lose leaves, or the leaves may turn yellow and look wilted. Cut off the stem where they are found and dispose of it, then treat it with insecticidal soap or neem oil spray.
Philodendron melanochrysum is one of the more rare houseplants and can be hard to find. The reward is great, however, and you will have a focal point for your entire plant corner or wall–a large, climbing plant with striking foliage and a tropical feel.
Make sure your Philodendron melanochrysum has excellent drainage, the proper chunky soil, a nice warm, bright spot out of direct sunlight, and a high humidity level, and enjoy.