Everything You Need to Know About Growing and Nurturing Heartleaf Philodendron Plants at Home

Dreaming of lush, warm climes? Bring that tropical feel into your home with the heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum/Philodendron scandens subsp. oxycardium). Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about Heartleaf philodendron care at home including potting and planting tips; the best soil mix and recipes; how to water, fertilize, prune, and propagate; and the ideal light and temperature considerations for your plant to truly thrive.

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For more, see our guide to the best specialist plant shops and garden centers delivering Philodendron plants nationwide throughout the United States.


Heartleaf Philodendron Care – The Essentials

Heartleaf philodendrons thrive indoors in temperatures above 50 degrees F and humidity of 40 percent. They prefer well-draining, moist soil, and indirect light. Water only when the top inch of soil feels dry, and fertilize every 10 to 12 weeks during spring and summer.


About Heartleaf Philodendron Plants

All About Heartleaf Philodendrons

Also called the sweetheart plant, this evergreen vine gets its common name from (you guessed it) its heart-shaped foliage. Indoor gardeners have long had a love affair with this plant. Along with its attractive, glossy leaves, it’s beloved for its low-maintenance nature. 

Perfect for interior gardeners of all abilities, the sweetheart plant is, well, a real sweetheart when it comes to care. It’s simple to grow, reaching lengths up to 13 feet, and thrives indoors in a range of conditions. 

Origins and History

For generations, indoor gardeners have prized the heartleaf philodendron. With a tolerance for indirect light and a range of soils, this evergreen perennial has earned a reputation as a “hard to kill” houseplant. In fact, the sweetheart plant almost seems to thrive on a little neglect.  

The World Checklist of Selected Plant Families recognizes more than 485 species of philodendron. Most can be grown as houseplants. Some, like the sweetheart plant, are so easy to grow indoors that they’ve been popular houseplants for generations. 

Species and Characteristics

Plants in the genus Philodendron belong to the Araceae family. These tropical plants are characterized by their spathe and spadix blooms.

The spathe looks like a flower petal, but it’s actually a bract. The spathe protects the spadix, a spike with small flowers that bloom on one end.

The heartleaf philodendron doesn’t usually bloom when grown indoors. On the rare occasion they do bloom, however, a yellow-green spathe surrounds a spadix topped with tiny white flowers. 

Heartleaf philodendrons are easy to identify, thanks to their characteristic cordate (heart-shaped) foliage. Leaves are glossy, about three inches long, and arranged alternately on green stems.

The heartleaf philodendron is native to parts of the Caribbean and the tropical rain forests of Central and South America. In nature, philodendrons often grow in the dappled, indirect light found under the tree canopy.

Vines use trees for support, often growing up the trunks. The plants obtain moisture and nutrients directly from tree bark.

Popular Heartleaf Philodendron Cultivars and Varieties

As houseplants, philodendrons come in a range of varieties and cultivars. The sweetheart plant (P. hederaceum/P. scandens subsp. oxycardium) is the most common variety. The popular cultivar ‘Brazil’ boasts a yellow stripe on each leaf. 

Other popular varieties include the tree philodendron (P. bipinnatifidum var. ‘Xanadu’), a bushy plant that grows three feet tall. The red-leaf philodendron (Philodendron erubescens var ‘Burgundy’) has deep russet leaves.

Are Heartleaf Philodendron Toxic to Humans and/or Pets?

Philodendron leaves and sap are toxic to humans and pets, including dogs, cats, and horses. If ingested, the plant may cause mouth pain, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, difficulty swallowing, and swelling of the lips, tongue, and upper airway.

Heartleaf philodendrons contain calcium oxalate. If sap comes in contact with skin or eyes, this substance can cause inflammation and itching. 

Uses & Benefits of Heartleaf Philodendrons

The sweetheart plant is known for its ability to clean the air. In fact, a NASA study found that philodendrons are among the most effective air-purifying houseplants.

The study found that heartleaf philodendrons and certain other houseplants filter common indoor pollutants such as those found in cleaning products, carpeting, building materials, and furniture.


Heartleaf Philodendron Plants Meaning & Symbolism

Heartleaf-Philodendron-Plants-for-Sale-at-Bloomscape
Credit: Bloomscape

The sweetheart plant’s scientific name originally comes from the Greek for love (philo) and tree (dendron). When interpreted literally, the “lover of trees” was likely named after its tendency to use trees for support in its natural habitat. 

Today, indoor gardeners love the sweetheart plant for its adaptable, forgiving nature.


How to Grow Heartleaf Philodendron at Home

How to Grow Heartleaf Philodendrons at Home

Heartleaf philodendrons are notoriously easy to care for. All they need is a bit of light, a bit of water, and the occasional bit of attention.

Here’s what to expect when growing a sweetheart plant at home.

Growth Expectations

A heartleaf philodendron’s potential size depends on a range of factors, such as growing conditions and the type of support provided. Under optimal conditions, vines can grow quickly and reach up to 13 feet in length. 

As for spread, expect your plant to reach a width of 1.5 to 3 feet. It takes from five to 10 years to reach full size. 

What to do Before Planting

Before potting a heartleaf philodendron, consider the final potential size. Aim for a pot or planter that will accommodate it.

However, this adaptable plant can tolerate a smaller pot for a few years. A smaller pot may even help prevent overwatering. If you’re repotting, choose a container that’s not more than two inches larger than the current pot.

Philodendrons can thrive in a range of container types. However, a porous option is best. Terracotta is a good choice.

Just be sure to choose a container with adequate drainage. You don’t ever want your plant to sit in standing water. This can lead to root rot, fungus, and pest infestations.

Choose the Best Soil Mix of Heartleaf Philodendron Plants

The Best Soil mix for Heartleaf Philodendrons

Fortunately, heartleaf philodendrons tolerate a range of soil types and pH levels. Adequate drainage is key.

If you want your plant to thrive, choose a lightweight, loose, and well-draining potting media high in organic matter. Good options include a mix with a balance of chalk and sand or a peat moss-based mix.

If you prefer a soilless base, plants can grow in sphagnum peat moss, peat-vermiculite mixtures, or peat-perlite mixtures. Sweetheart plants can even grow in water. Just be sure to keep water levels at an adequate level. 

If you’re considering going from soil to water or vice versa, think twice. This type of plant doesn’t always adjust well to such a huge change.

How to Plant a Heartleaf Philodendron

Water your heartleaf philodendron thoroughly a day before you plant it. This will help reduce stress on the plant. 

Partially fill the new container with your chosen medium. Remember: The new pot shouldn’t be more than two inches larger than the current container.

Carefully remove the philodendron from its current pot. Gently work the roots to separate and stimulate new growth. 

Place the plant in its new container and fill in the sides with media. Adding perlite, peat moss, sand, or vermiculite can help promote aeration and improve drainage. Just don’t fill the pot above the plant’s original soil level. 

Lightly tamp the media. Finally, saturate the soil until water runs freely from the drainage holes. 

Light Preferences

Heartleaf philodendrons can handle a range of light exposures. While they prefer indirect sunlight, they can also handle moderate to bright light. Just keep them out of direct sun, as this may scorch leaves.

In most cases, south-, east-, or west-facing exposure is preferable. You can grow the sweetheart plant in low light. However, leaves may spread and lose some of their color and gloss. 

Temperature and Humidity Preferences

The heartleaf philodendron can tolerate dry air, but it prefers more humidity. This tropical plant thrives at about 40 percent humidity. 

Sweetheart plants are happy in typical indoor home temperatures. Anything below 50 degrees F is too cold for this plant, though. 


Heartleaf Philodendron Plant Care

Heartleaf Philodendron Plant Care

How To Water Heartleaf Philodendron Plants

Heartleaf vines prefer moist — never soggy — conditions. They can tolerate some dry soil.

In the summer, keep your plant evenly moist. In the cooler months, water your heartleaf philodendron when the top half-inch to an inch of soil feels dry to the touch.  

While these plants don’t care about pH too much, they will let you know if you’re over-or under-watering. As a general rule, yellow leaves mean you’re watering too much. Brown or curling leaves mean you’re not watering enough.  

How, When and Why to Fertilize Heartleaf Philodendrons

A standard houseplant fertilizer will provide your plant with the nutrients it needs. Choose a fertilizer that’s water-soluble and balanced.

During the spring and summer, fertilize once per month. Philodendrons need more nutrients during warmer months when they’re actively growing.

In fall and winter, the plant isn’t actively growing. During these cooler times of the year, cut fertilization back to every three months. 

Pruning Heartleaf Philodendrons

Heartleaf philodendrons don’t require pruning to be healthy. However, a light pruning every few months may encourage lush growth.

Start by watering thoroughly the day before you prune. Then remove any stunted growth. Make your cuts right after nodes, and keep your cuts as smooth as possible.

This is also a good time to cut back any vines that have grown longer than you want. Keep these trimmed vines to use for propagation. 

How to Propagate Heartleaf Philodendrons

It’s easy to propagate new sweetheart plants. Simply cut a vine below a node and place the cut end in water.

Once roots appear, plant the cutting in soil or your preferred planting medium. Use this propagation method in spring or early summer.

When and How to Repot

Every two to three or so years, you may want to repot your heartleaf philodendron into a larger pot. This provides the plant with fresh, new planting media. It also helps prevent the plant from becoming root-bound.

Water the day before you plan on repotting. Choose a pot that’s no more than two inches larger than the current pot. 

Carefully remove the plant from its current pot, and gently massage the roots to separate. Partially fill the new container and center the plant inside. 

Fill the sides with potting media. Don’t go above where the plant meets the current potting media. 

Lightly tamp the media. Finally, give your plant a thorough watering.


Common Heartleaf Philodendron Problems & How to Treat Them

Hearleaf-Philodendron-Plant-Delivery-at-Bloomscape
Credit: Bloomscape

The sweetheart plant is great at letting you know when something is wrong, Yellowing leaves indicate over watering. Curling, brown leaves indicate under watering. 

Wilting Leaves

Wilting leaves usually signal too-dry soil. However, wilt can also be a symptom of root rot, a result of inadequate drainage. 

Brown Scorch Marks

If you notice brown scorch marks, this may indicate overexposure to bright light. Move the plant into indirect light if you see scorching. 

Brown Spots on the Leaves or Stems

Brown spots may come from fungal growth. If leaves remain wet for several hours — for instance, after misting — fungus may grow. Keep leaves dry to prevent spotting.

Pests

As for pests, if planting media gets too wet, it may attract fungus gnats. Allowing soil to dry out between waterings prevents this pest. 

You may find aphids on soft new growth. Spray leaves with a mixture of water and insecticidal soap or Neem oil to remove aphids. 

If your plant is waterlogged, it may attract potential pests such as mealybugs, scales, and spider mites. Treat them with insecticidal soap. Then provide adequate drainage to prevent further infestations. 


Essential Tools to Have Around 

Essential House Plant Tools

The heartleaf philodendron lives up to its reputation as one of the easiest houseplants to care for. That means you don’t really need any special tools. 

As the plant’s sap can cause skin irritation, you may want to use gloves when pruning or repotting. You may also choose to use cutting scissors, rather than your fingernails, to pinch off growth for pruning or propagating. 

As for fertilizer, use any good quality, water soluble houseplant fertilizer.


Wrap Up

The sweetheart plant definitely lives up to its name. There’s a reason why so many indoor gardeners love this plant! Easy to care for and tolerant of a variety of environmental conditions, it’s an ideal plant for all abilities. Enjoy!


Heartleaf Philodendron Care FAQ:

Heartleaf philodendrons thrive indoors in temperatures above 50 degrees F and humidity of 40 percent. They prefer well-draining, moist soil, and indirect light. Water only when the top inch of soil feels dry, and fertilize every 10 to 12 weeks during spring and summer.  

Heartleaf philodendrons can handle a range of light exposures. While they prefer indirect sunlight, they can also handle moderate to bright light. Just keep them out of the direct sun, as this may scorch leaves.

Heartleaf vines prefer moist — never soggy — conditions. They can tolerate some dry soil.

In the summer, keep your plant evenly moist. In the cooler months, water your heartleaf philodendron when the top half-inch to an inch of soil feels dry to the touch.  

A standard houseplant fertilizer will provide your plant with the nutrients it needs. Choose a fertilizer that’s water-soluble and balanced.

During the spring and summer, fertilize once per month. Philodendrons need more nutrients during warmer months when they’re actively growing.

In fall and winter, the plant isn’t actively growing. During these cooler times of the year, cut fertilization back to every three months. 

A very light misting can be beneficial to boost the relative humidity levels around the philodendron plant during periods of particularly dry air (such as the winter months). Be careful not to overly saturate the leaves as stagnant water is a breeding ground for fungal infections, pests, and diseases. A humidity tray or in-room humidifier is often a safer and more robust approach.

There’s always mixed advice regarding coffee grounds and plants. Many will argue the negative effects of coffee grounds disrupting the acidity balance in the soil base due to the high nitrogen content. I’d recommend sticking to a good, organic, all-purpose house-plant feed and leave the coffee grounds out. 

As with all house plant care, the trick to a lush, voluminous plant is to find the right balance of light, temperature, watering, and feeding cycles relative to the needs of your Heartleaf Philodendron. Careful pruning during spring and summer months to cut away slow, dying or dormant growth can also help to accelerate new growth in its place. 

Whilst they are both part of the same family (Araceae), Monstera and Philodendrons are two very different plants.

Author

I’ve long been fascinated with the world of flowers, plants, and floral design. I come from a family of horticulturists and growers and spent much of my childhood in amongst the fields of flowering blooms and greenhouses filled with tropical plants, cacti, and succulents from all over the world. Today, my passion has led me to further explore the world of horticulture, botany, and floristry and I'm always excited to meet and collaborate with fellow enthusiasts and professionals from across the globe.

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