We gardeners are a very romantic group. You’ll find this quite evident when you examine certain plant names, like the philodendron for example.
Its name literally means “love tree” in Greek. And that goes double for the most common variety of that group, the heartleaf philodendron or sweetheart plant. I sometimes imagine my own heart to be shaped like a large, glossy-green leaf like those of the heartleaf. I’ll be getting that checked by a doctor soon.
If you give this plant proper care and attention, you can train this vigorous vine to climb or hang picturesquely in your home, like Rapunzel letting down her hair for her prince. Read on and be prepared to fall in love with it forever.
Quick Care Guide
Heartleaf philodendron / Philodendron scandens. Source
|Common Name(s)||Heartleaf philodendron|
|Scientific Name||Philodendron bipinnatifidum or Philodendron hederaceum|
|Height and Spread||Up to 20 feet tall and 4 feet wide|
|Soil||Moist soils with high organic matter|
|Fertilizer||Monthly in spring & summer, less in the winter.|
|Pests and Diseases||Aphids, mealybugs, scales, spider mites, root rot, leaf spot, blight|
All About Heartleaf Philodendron Plants
There are approximately 489 species of philodendron plants accepted by the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Native to the Caribbean (how romantic is that!) and Central America, this Philodendron hederaceum plant is so addicted to warmth that most of those 489 species of these tropical plants must be grown as houseplants, just like another favorite: pothos plants.
While heartleafs in the Philodendron genus may long for your close proximity as indoor plants to keep them growing well, make sure you keep them out of reach of your small children and pets. While they can hardly be used as a Romeo and Juliet-style exit, the leaves do contain calcium oxalate which can cause issues like inflammation and itching.
If ingested, it has been known to cause slurring, nausea, and vomiting (just how I felt the first time I fell in love, now that I think about it.) To be on the safe side, seek immediate medical attention if anyone tries to eat one of these house plants.
Heartleaf Philodendron Care
Would that all romantic relationships were as easy to care for as the heart leaf philodendron. All it needs is a little light, a little water, and a little love and it will grow and thrive as it basks in your affection. Here are the specifics for this particular vine.
Light and Temperature
While the heart leaf prefers indirect sunlight, it will do just dandy in almost any lighting condition. Even areas of low light can be fine, though the leaves will spread more and the colors won’t be as vibrant or glossy.
The temperatures that exist inside your home are ideal for this plant. If you grow the plant outdoors, keep it in daytime temperatures of 75° to 85° F (24° to 30°C), and nighttime temperatures of 65° to 75°F (18° to 24°C). Below 60°F (16°C) your plant will suffer damage. High heat can singe its leaves.
Water and Humidity
Hailing from the Caribbean as it does, this tropical plant likes moist environments best. In the summertime, keep the soil moist but not soggy. In the wintertime, allow the top half-inch of soil to dry between waterings. You can spritz the heart leaf vine with water and wipe them down with a cloth to remove dust.
The heartleaf philodendron plant won’t make you guess if you’re watering correctly, nor will it act melodramatically if you aren’t. Yellow leaves mean you’re showering too much liquid attention, brown leaves say, “Give me more!” This plant doesn’t need misting unless the area has less than 40% humidity.
Any quality potting soil will do for your heartleaf philodendron plant as long as it is well-draining. You can also mix perlite, sterilized garden loam, or coarse sand with half the amount of peat moss for your own soil. You want a soil that retains some moisture, but drains very well.
You can also grow your heart leaf plant on a moss pole. Affix it to the pole soft plant ties or gardeners tape, training it and attaching aerial roots as needed. Be gentle in this process. If you’re growing your philodendron as hanging plants, ensure there is room above the planter for the pole.
No fancy restaurants needed to court the beauty that is Philodendron hederaceum as it has very simple, easy-to-please tastes. A standard houseplant fertilizer of good quality will work. Just follow the directions of the type you choose and leave off the feedings during fall and winter. You can dilute your fertilizer of choice to half-strength so you don’t’ overwhelm the plant.
Repotting and Pruning Heartleaf Philodendron
If your darling heart leaf is outgrowing its pot, it may be time to move to a slightly larger one (no more than two inches larger than the original.) You might need an extra pair of hands if your heartleaf has been growing long, trailing vines or crawling up the wall!
Make sure to water it thoroughly the day before you mean to repot it. This reduces stress and makes the transition easier. Though this philodendron usually doesn’t require much pruning, now is a good time to prune any stunted growths, trim to desired lengths, and check the root ball for rot. Gently work the roots apart to stimulate new growth.
After transferring to the new residence, saturate the soil until the water freely exits the bottom of the pot. I hope you remember to use well-draining soil so it doesn’t compact too much with each watering.
Heartleaf Philodendron Propagation
You can propagate the heartleaf two ways. Cutting a vine below a leaf nodule and placing the stem in water is one method. This is called rooting stem cuttings. When roots appear, you can then move it to soil. The process may take anywhere from a week to a few weeks.
Another method is by dividing the root clump. Check that each section has good, healthy roots before planting to increase chance of survival. Then either pull apart the sections or cut them with a sanitized garden knife. Place them in pots about the same size as the original and water them in lightly.
One of the nicest things about this plant is that there are very few problems associated with it.
The color of the leaves will tell you what to change about your watering habits. Floppy brown leaves indicate too much water has been given. Crispy leaves indicate it needs more. The temperature in the room can affect the plant as well. Droopy plants may need more light or heat. Crispy ones need less light or heat.
Adequate home conditions will keep aphids, mealy bugs, scale, and spider mites at bay. However, if you find them on your plant, a mist of neem oil diluted in water will treat them. Follow up by wiping the plant down with a damp rag about a week after a neem treatment and apply more if any of these pests are still there. They will continue to feed if you don’t remove them.
The well-draining soil will prevent root rot and mold, and a host of leaf spot diseases. However, if you see any signs of leaf spot, remove the damaged foliage and monitor the condition of your plant. There isn’t a cure for most leaf spot diseases, and pruning for airflow will help prevent more intense infections.
Root rot should be dealt with quickly to prevent the spread. If you notice brown and mushy leaf bases, take the plant out of its pot, remove the brown parts of the root system, and repot it in fresh media. Don’t water at first, and wait about a week to apply irrigation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I’ve never seen my heartleaf bloom at all. Do they ever?
A: This particular philodendron does not generally boast blooms. A bit of a pity for the romantics whose hearts swell at the sight of flowers, but a little extra humidity can make up for it in larger, glossier leaves.
Q: The leaves of my plant are looking curled. Should I be worried?
A: This could be another indication of watering issues, possibly under-watering. Check the soil with your finger and see how dry it is and adjust accordingly. Also check the roots for rot.
Q: Are there any special benefits to having this type of philodendron in the house?
A: Nothing better than a plant with benefits, eh? As a matter of fact, this plant is listed as a clean air plant, for it removes formaldehyde from the air in your home. So you can do plenty of sighing with happiness around you heartleaf.
Q: How toxic is heartleaf philodendron?
A: It is somewhat toxic to pets and people. The plant contains oxalic crystals which can cause gastrointestinal distress.
Q: Does heart leaf philodendron need sunlight?
A: Give yours bright, indirect light.
Q: How often do you water a heartleaf philodendron?
A: They don’t need much water at all! Irrigate yours every 1 to 2 weeks.
Q: Do philodendrons clean the air?
A: Yes! They are excellent at removing formaldehyde from the air.
Q: Is philodendron safe to touch?
A: The sap of the plant can cause skin irritation. Therefore, it’s only safe to touch when it’s not wounded or oozing.