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Thanks to its unique coloring, the Philodendron Dark Lord is an ethereal and eye-catching addition to any houseplant collection. As its majestic moniker suggests, this beautiful Araceae specimen is characterized by deep, glossy dark green-purple leaves mounted of scarlet stems that grow upward to become a sizeable plant as it matures. 

It is commonly regarded as a hybrid of the Philodendron Imperial Red, although its exact origin is unknown.

Despite its mysterious genealogy, the Dark Lord, like its many cousins, is easy to grow and care for and highly adaptable to a range of indoor conditions. Together with this, it is pest and disease-resistant and fairly drought-tolerant, meaning you won’t need to fret about keeping it thriving.

If you’re planning to invest in a Philodendron Dark Lord, you’ve come to the right place. This article will cover all you need to know about finding and purchasing a Dark Lord, how big it gets, and how to distinguish it from other hybrids in the same class. Ready? Let’s dive right in. 

a healthy philodendron dark lord

How to identify a Philodendron Dark Lord

The Philodendron Dark Lord has large, heart-shaped leaves with a distinctive, bronze-green to red-purple coloring and a waxy texture. Its thick, strong stems, which are a deep red, are covered in a velvety fuzz. Its growth habit is predominantly upright, although it has aerial roots that can attach to support structures if trained to climb.  

One thing you can be sure of with the Philodendron Dark Lord is that it’s a conversation starter. Indeed, this plant’s gorgeous and unusual hues look almost out of place in a home setting, as if it is better suited to the depths of the jungle rather than adorning a coffee table.

But, of course, that is half the reason the Dark Lord is so coveted. As a relatively new cultivar, this beauty is neither freely available nor commonly seen around. And when you do come across one, it can easily be confused with similar varieties, like the Imperial Red.

While we will look more closely at how to spot a Dark Lord in a crowd of philodendrons later in this article, for now, the easiest way to identify one is to look out for its distinguishing features, namely its leaves and stems. The Dark Lord boasts a unique combination of orange-to-bronze-to-purple leaves with undertones of deep green. This is partnered with scarlet stems, giving the Dark Lord a color spectrum like few other plants.

a philodendron dark lord leaf
Source: Blumer Caio (CC BY-SA 4.0)

In shape and size, it has a medium-to-large stature at maturity with a clustered growth habit of slender, heart-shaped foliage. Their texture is waxy rather than papery, juxtaposed by a light layer of ‘fur’ on their stems. Its underleaves generally tend to be darker, almost black, compared to their surfaces.

Is Philodendron Dark Lord rare?

Though it is enjoying an upswing in popularity, the Philodendron Dark Lord is still considered rare. Indeed, it remained relatively unknown until finding prominence on social media thanks to its unusual aesthetic. On the plant market, producers of the Dark Lord struggle to keep up with the demand by collectors.

Like many must-have plants, part of the Dark Lord’s appeal is that it’s pretty tricky to come by, making it even more sought-after by die-hard enthusiasts. You’re unlikely to find this beauty in a nursery or garden center and instead will need to rely on specialist suppliers or online marketplaces to find one for purchase.

Though the reason for this is not entirely clear, given its ease of propagation, it’s possible that producers of the Dark Lord are unable to keep up with the current demand. As it becomes better known across the globe, specimens are swept up as soon as they hit the market, usually by the highest bidder.

In a few years’ time, when supply and demand balance out, it’s very possible that the Dark Lord will become a household name. But until then, you may need to do some research and internet scouring to get your hands on your own.

philodendron dark lord in a brown pot
Source: maz k (CC BY-SA 4.0)

What’s the standard cost of a Philodendron Dark Lord?

The Philodendron Dark Lord is on the pricier end of the houseplant spectrum, with stem cuttings costing anywhere from $40 upwards and mature plants going for over $500. That said, pricing may vary depending on the size and coloring of the plant and where you are situated globally.

This goes without saying, but when purchasing a Dark Lord online, make sure to conduct proper research into how it will be stored and transported to guarantee the most of your investment.

How to care for a Philodendron Dark Lord

The best way to care for a Philodendron Dark Lord is to try and emulate its natural, tropical environment. This involves providing it with bright, indirect light, plenty of warmth and humidity, well-draining soil, good hydration, and seasonal feeding. Occasional pruning and cleaning also help your Philodendron Dark Lord’ overall well-being.

Philodendron Dark Lord make great houseplants, and if you have any hesitation about their care, worry no further. These gracious green beauties are low-maintenance and straightforward in terms of their needs, making them perfect for even beginner plant parents.

Bearing in mind that Philodendron Dark Lord are tropical plants, the best environment you can offer them is one where they’ll have a sunny spot with lots of light, relative humidity, and plenty of moisture.

In good news, most homes are already set up for this with East and South-facing windows and a generalized humidity level of around 50%. To supplement the rest of their care needs, you just need to ensure your Philodendron Dark Lord stays hydrated, is fed with both good soil and that you occasionally fertilize your philodendron.

philodendron dark lord in a white pot
Source: jauhari ahmad (CC BY-SA 4.0)

In the following sections, we’ll look at Philodendron Dark Lord care in greater detail to equip you with everything you need to help your houseplants thrive.

How much light does a Philodendron Dark Lord need?

Philodendron Dark Lord prefer at least six to eight hours of bright, indirect sunlight each day. As their leaves can be vulnerable if they receive too much light, keep an eye out for any signs of sunburn on your Philodendron Dark Lord’s leaves, such as yellowing leaves or brown spots appearing.

Most (if not all) plants depend on sunlight energy to grow, and Philodendron Dark Lord are no different. Native to tropical America, they’re accustomed to dappled light from the jungle canopies above them, which you can try to mimic in the home with clever positioning.

In the winter, when it starts to cool down, and there is less indoor sun available, a Philodendron Dark Lord’s light needs can be augmented with a bit of time spent outdoors on a sheltered patio or balcony. The fresh air will do them good, too.

Find out more: Philodendron Light Needs: The Ultimate Guide

What is the right temperature for Philodendron Dark Lord?

Your Philodendron Dark Lord will thrive in temperatures between 75°F and 85°F (23°C to 29°C). While they can survive at lower temperatures than this, don’t let them stay for too long anywhere less than 65°F (18°C) as your plant may not survive.

Clearly some plants, like Philodendron Dark Lord, like it hot. However, the real kicker is ensuring your Philodendron Dark Lord are placed in an area with mid-to-high humidity.

When should I fertilize my Philodendron Dark Lord?

Philodendron Dark Lord likes some fertilizer every now and again. In fact, they do their best when they are fed twice a month during their active growing season, which is the spring and summer. However, you shouldn’t fertilize your Philodendron Dark Lord during its dormant period in the cooler months.

This is because feeding the plant during this time can interfere with its natural growing cycle.

Overall, though, occasional feeding with a balanced fertilizer is greatly beneficial for Philodendron Dark Lord, especially at the start of their growing seasons in the spring and summer months.

If you think about it, these jungle-dwellers are used to all the rich, dense nutrients they have access to from the forest floor, which can’t be substituted by typical potting soil. An all-purpose liquid fertilizer at half strength is a good way to replace their natural feeding schedule, providing them with an extra dose of energy for new growth.

a philodendron dark lord leaf on the floor
Source: Alex Irawan (CC BY-SA 4.0)

What are the best humidity levels for a Philodendron Dark Lord?

Philodendron Dark Lord prefer humidity levels of around 65% to 80%. Given that they are native to tropical Central and South America, they thrive in humidity conditions similar to their natural habitat. However, most homes won’t reach these levels, so you may need to boost this for your Philodendron Dark Lord to thrive.

Houseplants that receive adequate amounts of sunlight daily generally don’t require supplementary humidity, particularly if you consider most homes fall in the 40% to 50% range. However, with their tropical inclinations, Philodendron Dark Lord can benefit from a little extra care in this regard.

The easiest, in my opinion, is to invest in a small plug-in humidifier. Alternatively, you can rest your Philodendron Dark Lord on a damp pebble tray, making sure not to let their roots touch the water. 

Alternatively, if you have a whole collection of houseplants, cluster them together so they can benefit from each other’s transpiration processes. It has the added benefit of looking great too!

What soil is best for Philodendron Dark Lord?

A Philodendron Dark Lord’s soil mix should be loosely clustered, nutrient-rich, and well-draining. The high nutrient level emulates its natural habitat, where plant material in the rainforest falls onto Philodendron Dark Lord and nourishes them. Having light and airy potting mix helps to avoid the soil staying too soggy, which can lead to root rot.

While many Philodendron Dark Lord varieties have aerial roots as well as ground-dwelling (terrestrial) roots, they receive the bulk of their vitamins and minerals from their soil, making it an essential part of their fundamental care.

Top pick: My preferred soil for Philodendron Dark Lord is the Miracle-Gro Tropical Potting Mix (check the latest price here)

It’s very well draining and will feed nutrients to your Philodendron Dark Lord for up to six months. For a tropical plant like the Philodendron Dark Lord, it’s got everything you need.

Buying pre-blended Philodendron Dark Lord soil from most garden centers is a simple option. Alternatively, you can easily mix your own by combining potting soil with chunky bits of bark (grab some here) and moisture-retentive perlite (get it here). 

If you’re buying your Philodendron Dark Lord pre-potted, they’ll likely arrive in appropriate soil from the get-go. Even so, you’ll need to replace their soil every 18 to 24 months to prevent a build-up of salts or eliminate any beasties and creatures like pests, fungi, or bacteria, so make sure you’re replanting them in the best soil for philodendrons so they continue to thrive. 

Indeed, this is a good maintenance practice for all houseplants, not just Philodendron Dark Lord!

How often should you water Philodendron Dark Lord?

You should water your Philodendron Dark Lord when the top two inches of its soil has dried out, which you can test by sticking your finger into your plant’s potting mix. In summer, this will be around once per week, but may be less frequent in the cooler months.

It’s always good to have a watering schedule for your plants, but with so many factors (like season and sunlight) at play, I prefer to meet my Philodendron Dark Lord’s watering needs as required – by waiting for their top inch of soil to dry out before hydrating.

The reason for this is that the leading cause of fatality in Philodendron Dark Lord is root rot, which they tend to contract from overly soggy soil or from standing in pooled water. As they’re pretty drought-tolerant, it’s best to err on the side of caution and only water philodendrons as they need it rather than strictly once-per-week.

That said, when you do water them, a hearty dose of moisture is great, provided it doesn’t make their soil soggy and heavy, which weighs down on their root systems.

someone holding the leaf of philodendron dark lord
Source: G.Nalyd (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Should I prune my Philodendron Dark Lord?

You should prune your Philodendron Dark Lord from time to time as part of their regular maintenance, with spring being the best time of the year to do this. Removing dead foliage or browning stems will allow robust leaves and vines to draw in more sunlight and stop your plant from wasting energy. 

Just like humans shower, cut their hair, and clip their nails, Philodendron Dark Lord can do with occasional grooming, especially when it comes to eradicating old or dying growth. Fortunately, trimming your philodendron really isn’t hard to do.

When it comes to cleaning, remember that each large leaf of your Philodendron Dark Lord is full of sunlight receptors that are easily blocked by dust or grime. Wiping down your leaves with a damp cloth keeps them clean and free to function at their best.

When should I repot my Philodendron Dark Lord

The Philodendron Dark Lord is not a plant that needs to be repotted regularly, with it often only needing to be transplanted every two to three years. With that said, however, you should repot your Philodendron Dark Lord if you see roots growing out of the drainage holes.

In fact, this plant does well when it is rootbound. That said, when you do transplant a Philodendron Dark Lord, do so in spring before the plant starts to produce new growth, and select a pot that is about 3 sizes larger than the current pot. 

Alternatively, you can wait until fall to perform the transplant.

Find out more: 7 Simple Steps to Repot Philodendrons (+ When To Do It)

How to propagate a Philodendron Dark Lord

The easiest way to propagate your Philodendron Dark Lord is to root it in water. Simply place your cutting into a jar with water in it and place it in a warm sunny spot, and wait. Refresh the water once a week to keep it oxygenated and, in six to eight weeks, new roots will appear. 

At that point, your Philodendron Dark Lord cutting will be ready for transplantation!

Philodendron Dark Lord can be propagated from stem cuttings, provided they have a visible node and a leaf or two to draw in moisture from the air. You can either root your cuttings in water first or plant them directly into soil. 

Alternatively, if you only have a small piece of stem, you can try to root them in a nutrient-rich growing medium with concentrated humidity.

That is, a second option is to place your cutting directly into a planter with soil. This is slightly riskier as they require a lot of humidity to make up for the moisture they’d usually draw via roots, but it can be equally effective with proper care. 

If your cutting has no leaves, try laying it on a bed of peat moss and covering the tray or container with plastic to retain humidity. While this method isn’t always effective, it’s worth a try to avoid throwing away any pieces of your precious plants.

Find out more: 10 Easy Steps to Propagate Philodendron Cuttings

How big does Philodendron Dark Lord get?

The Philodendron Dark Lord becomes sizeable at full maturity, reaching heights of up to 6 feet (2 meters) with a spread of up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) all around. However, its eventual stature depends on its environmental conditions, general well-being, and planter size, to which it adapts accordingly.

As no shrinking violet, the Philodendron Dark Lord can become quite a large plant if properly cared for. Together with its height and width, it also has large leaves that are around 20 inches (50 centimeters) at full size. This gives it quite a dominating presence in the home.

Naturally, and as is the case with all plants, how large the Dark Lord grows depends on whether its needs are met in terms of water, light, soil, and temperature. Though not fussy, this philodendron does require regular hydration, nutrient-rich soil, loads of bright, indirect light, and plenty of humidity to emulate its tropical origins.

Equally important is its planter. To keep your Dark Lord growing and to prevent it from becoming rootbound, it will need to be transplanted once it outgrows its pot. The timeframe on this is usually between 18 to 24 months, slowing slightly after the first 5 years.

Finally, I also recommend seasonal pruning to further encourage rapid growth. This prevents philodendrons from wasting energy on old or tired foliage and allows for new leaf and root development.

a big philodendron dark lord leaf
Source: KDW (CC BY-SA 4.0)

How do you make a Philodendron Dark Lord bushy?

The best way to make a Philodendron Dark Lord bushy is to prune it in its growing season, which is spring and summer. Make sure you remove any dead or dying leaves, as this ensures your plant doesn’t spend energy on this foliage and will instead focus on new growth.

Funnily enough, regularly trimming your plant is actually key to maximizing your philodendron’s growth rate.

Regularly turning your plant so that all its angles receive sunlight is another good way to ensure consistent, rounded, and aesthetic growth with a clustered appearance to make your philodendron fuller

You can also use a moss pole so that your Philodendron Dark Lord has space to climb upwards, which is what it would do in its natural environment – aiming upwards towards a source of light.

Is Philodendron Dark Lord climbing?

Like most plants in the philodendron family, the Dark Lord loves to climb and will welcome the addition of a moss pole or trellis to lend additional support to its stems. At a young age, it should have no problem keeping an upright growth habit, but as it gets larger, it does best with some sort of climbing structure to keep it thriving and looking aesthetic.  

The Philodendron Dark Lord is classified as a hemi-epiphyte, meaning it has both terrestrial and aerial roots. The former are ground-dwelling and responsible for nutrient and oxygen transportation, whereas the latter are exposed to air, drawing in moisture through environmental humidity. In its natural setting, the Dark Lord would attach itself to larger trees and plants to help it reach upward toward the sun.

To emulate this in the home, most philodendron lovers provide their climbing species with moss poles or trellises. Initially, you would need to train your Dark Lord to climb by attaching it to your support structure with twine or clips. But once it is settled, it will naturally continue to climb upward as it grows.

someone holding a philodendron dark lord leaf
Source: Viviane Melo (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Aside from a climbing pole’s obvious aesthetic benefit in keeping your plant orderly and structured, it has additional perks too. Moss or coco coir poles can serve as a bonus source of nutrients and moisture, especially if they’re regularly preserved through misting.    

Philodendron Dark Lord varieties

The Philodendron Dark Lord is a hybrid cultivar of the Philodendron Imperial Red, and currently, it has no known varieties. However, there are several philodendrons with similarly dark coloring that are often mistakenly identified as Dark Lords, including the Black Cardinal, the Red Emerald, the Bloody Mary, and the Black Knight.

The world of rare and specialized philodendrons can be a real rabbit hole if you’re unsure how to identify different cultivars, especially as the entire family shares common characteristics. With the darker types specifically, dissimilarities can be as minor as tone, hue, and leaf shape.

In what follows, we’ll dive into the differences between the Dark Lord and other black-leaf hybrids to assist you in telling them apart so that you can make sure of what plant you’re purchasing.

Philodendron Dark Lord vs Black Cardinal

The primary difference between the Dark Lord and the Black Cardinal is evident in their size and the shape of their leaves. Overall, the Dark Lord is a faster-growing, much larger plant with distinct, heart-shaped foliage. The leaves of the Black Cardinal are narrower and more lance-like. They grow closely together in a tightly clustered fashion.

Additionally, the Dark Lord tends to be a deeper, more purple-bronze color to the Cardinal’s deep red hues.

Philodendron Dark Lord vs Red Emerald

To tell the Dark Lord apart from the Red Emerald Philodendron, you needn’t look further than color and texture. The Red Emerald, as its name suggests, has bright red stems complemented by rich green leaves, whereas the Dark Lord is much more burgundy and purple overall. The leaves of the Red Emerald are also quite papery compared to the thick, waxy foliage of the Dark Lord.

Furthermore, the Red Emerald is smaller. In general, these two plants are usually only confused at a young age.

philodendron dark lord on the floor

Philodendron Dark Lord vs Bloody Mary

The Bloody Mary is a beautiful and unusual plant, well-deserving of its eerie name. Like the Dark Lord, it is predominantly toned with deep, dark reds, but most prominently in its leaf veins, which are given to look like they’re flowing with blood.

Indeed, this characteristic is where it differs from the Dark Lord, which has broader leaves covered in black-green veins. Where the Bloody Mary’s leaves turn greener as they mature, the Dark Lord’s foliage stays deeply toned.

Philodendron Dark Lord vs Black Knight

The Dark Lord and the Black Knight are the easiest dark-leaf philodendrons to misidentify. They are very similar in size and shape, barring the latter having narrower leaves.

For this reason, you’ll need to closely inspect their undertones to tell them apart. The Dark Lord is characterized by red or bronze shades and a maroon underleaf, whereas the Black Knight is darker overall, boasting almost-black green shades with black leaf veins.

The stems of the Black Knight are also blacker than they are the bold red of the Dark Lord.  

Are Philodendron Dark Lord toxic?

Philodendron Dark Lord are toxic to humans and animals, as they contain sharp calcium oxalate crystals that cause skin irritation through direct contact, or gastrointestinal distress and other potentially dangerous symptoms when ingested. All parts of the plant contain these crystals, which are most prevalent in its sap.

While Philodendron Dark Lord are indisputably beautiful in the home, it is best to keep them away from curious kids and pets, as skin contact and ingestion can be highly irritating at best and have real health consequences at worst.

These plants’ sticky white sap is full of needle-like calcium crystals. When they make contact with bare skin, they can cause welts or irritating rashes, which, fortunately, can usually be treated with a topical skin ointment.

Be aware: Ingestion of any part of a Philodendron Dark Lord can cause swelling of the throat tissue, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, and other symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. In a worst-case scenario, ingestion can cause difficulty breathing, in which case, medical treatment should be sought as a matter of urgency.

While this all sounds very daunting, the good news is that these plants don’t taste good, so there is no real reason (other than curiosity or carelessness) why rogue children or pets would eat them. Even so, prevention is better than cure, so place your plants out of reach if you’re concerned they may get chomped.

Why are my Philodendron Dark Lord’s leaves turning yellow?

There are a few reasons why Philodendron Dark Lord leaves turn yellow, but the primary cause is overwatering, with yellowing leaves being an early sign of root rot. Damaged roots cannot transport nutrients, oxygen, and water to a plant’s leaves, which causes cell death, and by default, turns them yellow.

I find watering my plants to be the most cathartic exercise on earth. However, with some trial and error, I’ve learned that my Philodendron Dark Lord, in particular, doesn’t do well with being over-loved. 

While they’re super hardy, too much hydration can quickly cause root rot in philodendrons – a fungal or bacterial infection that destroys your plant’s root system.

Therefore, if you notice yellowing leaves on your philodendron, run a diagnostic immediately. Is your soil damp or soggy? Allow it to dry out, which may reverse some of the damage. Lots of sun helps. Or if the damage is progressed, try repotting your Philodendron Dark Lord, removing damaging roots in the process.

A secondary cause of yellowing leaves is chemical burn, which your Philodendron Dark Lord may contract from over-fertilization. In this case, transplantation is also recommended, followed by a restriction of your feeding practices.

Why is my Philodendron Dark Lord drooping?

Drooping and wilting in Philodendron Dark Lord is more often than not related to watering practices. Too little water can cause fatigue which will make your plant look droopy, while too much water (or root rot) can also cause ill health. Generally, when a plant wilts, it is trying to communicate that it’s unwell.

While a drooping Philodendron Dark Lord is distressing, it’s not usually terribly serious and most likely due to dehydration. This can be solved with a dose of water and sunlight and, of course, more consistent care going forward. In no time, your plant should be back to its old self.

Conversely, if this doesn’t do the trick, your philodendron leaves curling may indicate an underlying issue like root rot, which, ironically, is caused by overwatering. If you suspect this is the case, you may be best off transplanting your Philodendron Dark Lord into fresh soil and readjusting your watering schedule.

A third cause of drooping is related to light. If a Philodendron Dark Lord isn’t receiving enough sun, it will tell you by dropping its leaves and wilting. Remember, six to eight hours a day is critical, and if you can’t provide this, mitigate potential drooping with supplementary grow lights.

Related: 10 Causes Of Your Philodendron Not Growing (+ How to Fix It)

Why are there brown spots on my Philodendron Dark Lord?

Like yellowing and drooping, brown spots on a Philodendron Dark Lord are a sign of a health ailment. Browning, in particular, is mainly caused by pest infestations or bacterial and fungal infections. The best way to get rid of brown spots is to identify the cause and then treat your plant accordingly.

None of us want to see our Philodendron Dark Lord suffer, and brown spots usually aren’t a very good sign. If you notice your philodendron leaves turning brown, the first thing you want to do is identify the cause, whether it be pests or soil-related.

In the case of creepy crawlies, you can treat your Philodendron Dark Lord by washing it down with a horticultural soap, followed by a wipe with neem oil. Remove damaged growth, and give your plant lots of love, water, and light.

On the other hand, bacterial and fungal infections are best treated by getting rid of old soil. I highly recommend transplanting your Philodendron Dark Lord (preferably in spring or summer), and cutting away any visible root and leaf damage, provided it’s not more than 30% of your plant’s total volume.

Brown spots on philodendrons can also be caused by sunburn, but in this case, they’ll look more like a sheen than a spot, per se. Sunburn can be prevented by keeping your Philodendron Dark Lord out of direct light.

Why are my Philodendron Dark Lord’s leaves falling off?

When a Philodendron Dark Lord’s leaves start to drop, it is more often than not a sign of either overwatering or underwatering. Root rot, a consequence of too much water, can cause leaves to wilt, curl, and fall. Underwatering, conversely, sees them dry and turn crisp before dropping.

Dark Lords are great communicators and will tell you when there is something in their environment they don’t enjoy. As hardy plants, they don’t have many health issues, so any sudden onset of leaf drop is a cause for immediate concern.

As mentioned, this is usually related to watering practices, with the first sign of an issue being wilting, curling, or dried leaves. You should adapt your hydration timeframes accordingly.

If watering is not the problem, it may be that your Dark Lord is scorching (you’ll note its leaves start turning pink), in which case you should move it to a shadier spot as soon as possible.