Heartleaf Philodendron Care – Growing The Sweetheart Plant

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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.​

Heartleaf Philodendron Overview

Heartleaf philodendron / Philodendron scandens

Heartleaf philodendron / Philodendron scandens. Source

Common Name(s) Heartleaf philodendron
Scientific Name Philodendron bipinnatifidum
Family Araceae
Origin South america
Height Up to 20 feet
Light Bright shade
Water Medium
Temperature 70-75°F
Humidity High
Soil Moist soils with high organic matter
Fertilizer Monthly in spring & summer, less in the winter.
Propagation Stem cuttings with at least two joints.
Pests Aphids, mealybugs, scales and spider mites.

There are approximately 489 species of philodendron accepted by the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. Native to the Caribbean (how romantic is that!) and Central America, this plant is so addicted to warmth that most of those 489 species must be grown as houseplants.

While the heartleaf may long for your close proximity to keep it growing well, make sure you keep it out of reach of your small children and pets. While it 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 it.​

Heartleaf Philodendron Care

Would that all romantic relationships were as easy to care for as this 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

While the heartleaf 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.

Water

Hailing from the Caribbean as this plant does, it 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 leaves with water and wipe them down with a cloth to remove dust.

This 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!”

Soil

Any quality potting soil will do 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.

Fertilizer

No fancy restaurants needed to court this beauty 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.

Repotting and Pruning

If your darling 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.​

Propagation

You can propagate the heartleaf two ways. Cutting a vine below a leaf nodule and placing the stem in water is one method. When roots appear, you can then move it to soil.

Another method is by dividing the root clump. Check that each section has good, healthy roots before planting to increase chance of survival.

Problems

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. The well-draining soil will prevent root rot and mold, and adequate home conditions will keep aphids, mealy bugs, scale, and spider mites at bay.

FAQs​

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.

Such an easy-going plant as the heartleaf philodendron will have your heart thumping with love and joy. And the short care list will leave you plenty of time to read that romance novel you’ve been saving, or indulging in your secret bachelor TV show obsession. Just don’t spoil the latest episode for me, okay?

Please stop by the comments section and leave a little love note about your own heartleaf or any questions you may have. Spread the love and share this article with your fellow lovers of all things green and leafy. And as always, thanks for reading!


The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:


Kevin Espiritu
Founder

The heartleaf philodendron is one of the most popular philodendrons. It's easy to care for and brightens up your home, so learn how to grow it in this guide.
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56 thoughts on “Heartleaf Philodendron Care – Growing The Sweetheart Plant”

  1. My heart leaf philodendron seems to be growing on one side only. I rotate it towards the light and am watering when soil becomes dry. It has a drainage hole as well. It’s growing terrifically but only one side is really growing fast/starting to trail. The other side has large mature leaves that don’t seem to be growing. Help!

  2. Hello,
    My darling is growing so well is outgrown the moss stick. I want to encourage it to climb more. Would it climb up garden string? What would you recommend to help it flourish in my indoor forest 🙂
    Thanks so much

    • While you might be able to train it to climb up a well-supported rope, I’d probably opt to move to a narrow garden trellis instead. That will provide more support structure for the natural weight of the vine and its leaves. You can also opt for just a longer stick or rustic piece of fence board if you’d like, because they do attach themselves rather well to wood!

  3. My stepson passed away and my work sent a beautiful arrangement. After a while i transfered each plant into its own pot. One was a heartleaf philodendron. It has slowly went downhill and one by one lost its leaves. I just now seen the last leaf has now fallen. There are still green stems sticking up out if the soil but sime are yellow just under the soil and green above it. Can i save this plant? Its VERY important to me. I know one problem is it was in to large of a pot but im afraid to do anything to it untill i find out for sure what to do. Is there anything i can do maybe with he roots to start a new one?
    PLEASE HELP. ITS ONE OF THE REMINDERS OF MY SON ID LIKE TO KEEP ALIVE.

    • Hi Rikki, so sorry to hear of your stepson’s passing. From what you’re saying, it sounds like you may have repotted it too deep and buried some of the leaves? I’d recommend repotting in fresh soil and making sure you give it the absolute best growing conditions possible. I realize I’m replying to this late, but I really hope the plant has survived!

  4. I bought an unmarked plant from the store, believing it was a philodendron. I love it and it’s growing like gangbusters. But it just occurred to me that it might be pothos instead, which I’ve read is more toxic for my cats than the philo would be. How can I tell the difference? Are philodendron ever variegated? This has heart-shaped leaves, not especially glossy, with splashes and speckles of yellow.

    • This is a really common issue and one I’ve run into myself! The most common philo is the heartleaf, which has those heart-shaped, dark green leaves and grows quite fast.

      Pothos typically has a crisper, shinier leaf and it usually has some kind of marking on it.

  5. Hi my name is Sue, I’m an advide church goer. Sometimes after a funeral . Plants are left at the church ,and sometimes forgotten. When I see this happening I ask pastor if I can take the negelteted plant home . The case of the very small philo.plant that I’ve taken home. It was very small just like a newborn infant. I’ve had it for at least 8 months. Roots are good. No leaf discoloring. It has sprouted two very small leaves. But still it hasn’t grown , what can I do to help it?

  6. Hi. I am Sandra from South Africa. My boyfriend gave me a philo. It was standing in my office and gardener took it outside. The leaves turned blackish brown. So I cut the tallest leaf off and since then all is going down the drain. I think I cut the main stem with new growth. Since then the
    Last two leaves are an ugly yellowy brown. I cut them off now. Will my plant make it? I will be heartbroken if it dies. Too scared to check the roots

  7. I have had one leaf in soil since the beginning of December 2017. It looks very healthy and green. How do I know if it has roots? Will it develop roots if just the leaf was planted in soil?

    • You can give it a light tug to see if it has roots. If it does, it will resist and stay in the soil. If not, you’ll feel it start to come out of the soil!

  8. @Kiri A good way to judge whether or not to water is to stick your finger in the soil, one to two inches deep. (Up to your first knuckle) If it feels wet don’t water, if it’s barely damp then water. It’s ok for the top inch or so of potting mix to feel dry.

  9. I have a heart leaf philo ‘brasil’. Purchased from commercial greenhouse with a deep discount because the leaves are pale, or faded. It’s a fairly large plant with many stems that look basically healthy, but its so very light green. I wondered if it might have been too hot, or too bright? And if so, will the leaf color come back with proper care or will it have to be cut back?

    • Leaf color won’t come back unfortunately, and light levels are what affect the leaf color. I’d just make sure you get the color you want but putting it in conditions that develop those colors 🙂

  10. Help! I’m not very good at keeping plants alive (usually to do with over watering) I am really trying to be good with this one but I’ve noticed that there is a layer of mould on the top of the soil. When I purchased it, there was a dry layer of green mould but now there is a moist white layer on top. Is this normal?

    • That’s usually a sign of overly moist soil and some fungus growing. Sometimes this isn’t a bad thing! But can be an overwatering issue, so I’d hold off on watering for a bit!

  11. I just became a Texas Master Gardener in 2017 and I get asked a lot of questions now so I am doing research on Google now. I’ve been stumped trying to tell the difference between a pothos and a philodendron. When I saw your site I thought I finally figured it out when I looked at the beginning of each page. I thought, oh the philodendron has a heart shaped leaf and the pothos doesn’t. Now that I read the entire page for pothos I saw that they can have heart shaped leaves also and they can both be variegated so now I am confused again. Can you give me a specific thing or two to determine if a plant is a pothos or philodendron? Also, after you answer that can you explain what makes a plant an ivy? When I looked at your English Ivy I saw it was in a different family, does that mean pothos and philodendrons are not ivys? Thanks for your help.

  12. Hey there, I have a 6 foot vine with no leaves except two at the very bottom. Will the leaves grow back on the vine where they have fallen off before, or only new growth at the bottom? Thanks for your time.

  13. I have a bunch of clippings I have rooted and planted but they rotted again. I have 3 pots. I have clipped the rotted parts and put them in water to root again but how long should the roots get before potting again. I was definitely over watering. The leaves wilted and then I kept watering thinking oh no they are dying.

  14. Hi I’m really glad I found this site because every other one said I could only root a cutting with three leaves on it. My philodendron cutting (salvaged a beautiful full one that suffered a fall, most of the roots crushed) I cut with about 8 nodes and put in a milk bottle with three leaves. This was probably too long because one leaf fell off. The strange thing is the bottom of the stem is green (progressively browning bottom up) the middle is brown and dried and the very top was green.
    One leaf became yellow, I cut it off thinking the other one would go full bloom as it looked healthy. I had no idea how the green at the bottom related to the top.

    I have photos but it’s hard to see.

    Now the last leaf has shriveled yet a tiny leaf has sprouted two inches below. It has one of those brown paper bits that seem to come out of some nodes. I don’t know what those mean..the green tiny bit is drying up as the bottom green is browning. There appears to be fuzzy parts in the water. There is also a green shoot coming out in the water from the bottom green part. What part is alive and giving it nutrition?

    Now I know you can propagate from a stem. My question is what about the almost dead leaves and top part almost dried up? I tried taking out a lot of the top from water to see if mold was preventing nutrient travel. It seems worse.

    I know it’s silly to obsess but it was my mother’s philodendron.

    The advice here says to cut underneath a node. Another says to cut at the node. I find all the sites either don’t state or show precisely where and how to cut. For example they say to cut a Pothos two inches from the soil diagonal. Another says to pinch. How to pinch? Just the leaf? The leaf and stem coming out of the main stem?

    I don’t know where to find definitive info and this is the only site I’ve heard you can propagate just stems. Thank you. It looks like I can save at least the bottom part. I don’t know where to cut it. Righr the leaf node? That would leave barely two healthy nodes as almost all of it is brown..two days ago vibrant green.

    should one change the water often? Or add tea?

    I feel it is a shock to change the water. Should one avoid getting water on the leaves or nodes *not* in water? Where should the water level be?

    Oh dear. Anyone who answers must be a saint. Thank you!

  15. I left my philodendron in the car while I was at work all afternoon and all of the leaves wilted because it was too warm in the car. I brought it home and cut it back to about one inch above the soil. The stems that are sticking out of the soil are still green but I don’t see any new growth forming anywhere and it has been about two weeks. Any advice?

    • Oh no! So sorry to hear that Lori…I’ve done that before in the past. Were they wilted to the point of being fully dead? Depending on where you cut it back, you may have removed the ability for the plant to generate new growth. I’d give it a bit more time though, they’re not rapid growers especially after that much damage.

  16. something is eating mine. I have holes in almost all of the leaves. I have just started growing and use miracle grow potting soil. What can I do to fix this?

  17. We have some of these in our office growing in bottles in just water. They seem to be going really well (new leaves and the vines getting longer). Is there a limit to how long they can be kept in just water in bottles?

    • Yes, eventually they will need nutrition in the way of fertilizer. The water will also need some oxygenation at some point. I would transplant them before they get too too long 🙂

  18. Thank you for the response! I have never given any of my house plants fertilizer but that is my next step with this plant. I feel like i’ve tried everything with this one plant alone lol. I put all my plants outside as soon as summer hits on my covered porch and they just thrive but this poor guy i just don’t know what i can do for it anymore.

  19. I have had one of these plants for about 2 years and i can hardly get it to do anything. A lot of the vines are very thin. and i just cant get it to much of anything. any suggestions as to why it has stunt growth and very thin vines???

    • Whenever I run into problems like that with my houseplants, I always run through a quick checklist of: light, soil, fertilizer, water, and disease. You may be able to get it back to growing by repotting it in a slightly larger pot with fresh potting soil full of fertility. Or it could be that it needs more light. Or it might need a bit of pruning…test a few out and see what happens!

  20. I have a variegated philodendrom. On the end of the long vine the leaves are straight green. I was wondering what I needed to do to keep them variegated. I’m having the same trouble with another plant but it might be different for it.

  21. My trailing philodendron, sitting on an upper shelf of my bedroom, has begun forming a drop of water on the pointy end of a few of the lower leaves. One drop in the morning, & one drop at night. The leaves are a healthy green variegated.

  22. My boyfriend’s mom gave me a few clippings of her heart leaf plant… I’ve had the stems in water for about 2 days now. How long will it take for then to start sprouting roots so that I can plant them?

  23. Kenneth – I have seen these plants in a pot as small as one or two gallons in offices that have vines reaching all the way around a wall and more. I remember one plant that was in the corner in a fairly small pot that had vines going around the top of wall. The vines came from the left and right sides of the plant and were supported by nails at the top of the wall. They had reached the length of both walls beside the plant and had already started growing on the other walls.

    When the length on these vines says “limitless” it’s not an exaggeration! With proper care, temp, water and light, these vines can reach enormous lengths. If you don’t want your plant to get that long you’ve got 2 choices…………

    If the plant is in a hanging basket you can cut the vines and make more plants. I usually take cuttings from 6 to 10 inches long and simply place them in water. You can even cut the vine and put it in soil. I have had better luck rotting them in water, the roots seem to grow much faster that way. I have even placed sections of vine that had no leaves at all on them in water and before you know it, there are roots and new leaves. Just make sure that you cut the vine right at a leaf node, the roots won’t grow on the stem itself they sprout from the little nodule where the leaf grows.

    The other option is to place the plant in a large pot and add a support and let the vine grow around it. Just like the picture above. When you buy one like the plant in the picture, it will have a slice of some sort of tree bark in the middle. But, you could use almost anything.

  24. Dina – I have had these plants for as long as I can remember, because they are usually so easy to grow and are so pretty, they’ve always been one of my favorites. Since I have always kept them in the house in hanging baskets and because they get too long and heavy to take down to water in a sink or tub, I have never used a pot that you can water them from the bottom. I have always watered mine from the top and they’ve done great.

    Yellow leaves can be caused by several different things and you pretty much have to rule out the problem to stop it. Here’s a list of causes I found, hope it helps.

    • Too much water or poor drainage: Feel soil for excessive moisture. Gently remove the plant from its container and examine the roots. Mushy brown roots without white tips and/or soggy soil in the bottom of the pot indicate too much water or poor drainage. Unclog drainage holes. Do not water again until soil is almost dry.

    • Lack of light: Check growth for leaves that are smaller than normal. Stems may elongate and grow spindly and weak. Gradually move plant to brighter light.

    • Root bound: Check to see if roots are growing out through drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Gently remove the plant from the container. If roots are growing in a circle, gently tease the roots outward and repot in the next size larger container (for example, if currently in a 6-inch pot, move to an 8-inch pot). Suddenly repotting the houseplant into too large a pot will cause severe stress, which could lead to the plant’s death.

    • High temperature: If only outer leaves are yellowing, check for drafts from heating and air-conditioning vents. Move plant to a draft-free location.

    • Nitrogen deficiency: Oldest leaves turn yellow and may drop. Yellowing starts at the leaf margins and progresses inward without producing a distinct pattern. Growth is slow, new leaves are small, and the whole plant may appear stunted. Fertilize plant with soluble fertilizer that is rich in the first number on the label (for example, 23-19-19). Continue to fertilize at regular intervals according to the label.

  25. @ Travis They can get as long as you let them but you can keep trimming them back and if you want more then take the clippings that you have trimmed from it and place it in a pot and it will take root giving you another one of several.

  26. I would appreciate an answer to this question. My hysband seems to think that you water a philodendrom plant from the bottom. The leaves have started to turn yellow. Is is not proper to only water from the top when the soil is dry? This is a 10 year old heart shaped plant, with a long vine. Please help with this ongoing dispute. I don’t want the plant to die. Thank you very much.

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