The heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens) is native to South and Central America and the West Indies. It is a very popular houseplant, offering year-round beauty and easy care. It's also known as the "sweetheart plant" for its heart-shaped green leaves. It is often given for anniversary gifts due to its association with romance. The leaves are dark green but when they first emerge they're often bronze-colored, giving this plant plenty of visual interest. On rare occasions, a mature plant might produce small greenish white flowers.
|Botanical Name||Philodendron scandens|
|Common Name||Heartleaf philodendron, sweetheart plant, vilevine|
|Plant Type||Tropical perennial|
|Mature Size||Vines grow 4 ft. or longer|
|Sun Exposure||Indirect light|
|Soil Type||Lightweight, fertile, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Slightly acidic|
|Bloom Time||Infrequent blooms|
|Hardiness Zones||9 to 11 (USDA)|
|Native Areas||Mexico, Brazil, West Indies|
|Toxicity||Toxic to humans and pets|
Heartleaf Philodendron Care
The only consistent care your heartleaf philodendron requires beyond occasional watering and repotting once it outgrows its container is regularly pruning of trailing stems. Pruning promotes growth and keeps the long vining stems looking full and leafy.
This plant's tendency to grow very long stems (four feet or longer) makes it one of the few "climbing" house plants. Its Greek name means "tree-loving climber" and in its native tropical habitats, it is often found climbing tree trunks.
You can train this plant to climb a trellis or column (using soft plant ties or floral tape to secure it), or hang the plant from a ceiling hook and let it trail. If the leaves become dusty, gently wipe them with a damp soft cloth.
This plant does best in bright, indirect light so choose an indoor location that does not receive direct sunlight. This plant requires a good amount of light and you'll know it's receiving enough light if growth remains vigorous and the leaves are between two to four inches long. Too much direct sunlight will scorch its leaves.
Use a good basic soilless potting mix with plenty of peat moss. You can add some perlite for better drainage if you wish. Soilless mixes do not contain any nutrients, so you might want provide some slow-release fertilizer if its not already included in the mix. You can also can make your own potting mix with peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, and some used coffee grounds, too.
Use tepid water, not cold water, to water your houseplants. Cold water can harm a tropical plant by shocking its root system too suddenly. Be careful not to overwater this plant. If the leaves turn yellow, that's usually a sign of overwatering. Let the soil dry out to the touch between waterings, and make sure you choose a container that has good drainage.
Temperature and Humidity
The heartleaf philodendron, despite being of tropical origins, tolerates dry air quite well but prefers to be in environments with 40% humidity. Higher humidity levels might cause problems, sometimes leading to fungus on leaves.
If your heartleaf philodendron has a tendency to develop fungus, be careful to dry off leaves after watering and let the soil dry out between waterings. This plant is also sensitive to extreme heat so be sure to keep it away from heat sources and direct sunlight.
You can apply a diluted fertilizer solution once or twice during the active growth season in spring and summer. Do not feed during the winter.
Potting and Repotting
You should repot your heartleaf philodendron every two to three years. Repotting can help prevent root rot and keep the plant's root system healthy. Gently loosen the potting soil around the root system and add new potting soil to the new container (be sure the container has good drainage holes). Water the plant lightly after settling it into its new pot.
Cutting back long stems keeps this plant looking neat, bushy, and full. Pruning promotes growth. Cut the stem just after a leaf node (the place where a leaf is attached to the stem). A new stem will grow from that node. Also, remove any leaves with spots or signs of bruising or fungus.
Tip: Prune close to a node because any bare stems will die, and the node will not grow a new stem.
Common Pests and Diseases
In addition to occasional problems with fungus on leaves, this plant can be somewhat susceptible to fungus gnats. These tiny insects can be seen (if you look closely!) crawling around on top of the potting medium and they're especially fond of peaty wet potting soil. They'll tend to fly away if you let the soil surface dry out between watering. Tiny aphids might also be a problem; they tend to appear near the fresh growth of new leaf nodes. Spray with a dilute vinegar wash to help control them.