Perfect your Sweetheart Plant care and Philodendron hederaceum will reward you with large, heart-shaped, glossy leaves.
Caring for a Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum) is easy once you've got the hang of this plant's likes and dislikes. Native to tropical rainforests of South America and the Caribbean, this aroid (member of the Araceae family) will sulk if left outside so should only be kept as an indoor plant in the UK.
Philodendrons really took off in our homes because of their tolerance of poor light conditions and ease of propagation. Plus, those amorous leaves are simply irresistible (this evergreen stunner makes a great valentines day gift). Mature plants may produce green and white flower spathes, but this rarely happens when it is kept as a houseplant. Besides, who needs flowers when you've got heart-shaped foliage?
Find a Sweetheart Plant for your sweetheart (or yourself) here.
A brief history of the Philodendron
The Philodendron's journey to our hearts stretches back to at least the 18th century. Philodendrons were a hit with the Victorians who had a thing for hanging baskets. However, the Philodendron's journey to Europe isn't so romantic, colliding, as many of our non-native plants did, with the colonialist mission and the slave trade.
It is thought the Philodendron is one of many 100s of plants sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens in England, by Captain William Bligh from the West Indies in 1793. Bligh, who was infamously mutinied, wasn't just collecting botanical specimens for Kew Gardens, he was also shipping breadfruit, which was destined to be eaten by slaves.
In an article on this floating plant nursery, published in the 1970s, it is quite jarring to read about how well looked after the botanical specimens were when we know how appallingly enslaved people were treated at the time.
Mass marketing of Philodendrons didn't happen until after the depression when nurseries discovered how easy they were to propagate. According to the Laidback Gardener, their popularity rocketed when Woolworth’s stores began stocking them back in 1936 at 5¢ apiece.
The name derives from the Greek words philo for 'love, affection' and dendron for 'tree', so it's not surprising the Philodendron is an excellent climber. In the wild, the slender stems clamber up trees, so make sure you've got a long bookshelf or other supportive structure to hand. They can reach up to 4 feet indoors and won't hesitate to clamber up your walls.
How to care for Heart-leaf Philodendron
Light: It can be tempting to stick all of your plants on your sunniest windowsill, but not all of our houseplants are sun worshippers. The Heart-leaf Philodendron originally grew under the canopy of tropical rainforests and is happiest in semi-shaded conditions. Think dappled not direct light and save your south-facing windows for your succulents.
Water: The Heart-leaf Philodendron likes its soil to be moist (channel your best tropical rainforest vibes!), but not water logged. Reduce watering in winter but don't let your Philodendron dry out.
Humidity: Mist leaves, pop your plant on a pebble tray or group with other plants to create a nice humid environment for your Philodendron. Additionally, keep the leaves looking fresh by wiping away dust from the plant with a damp cloth.
Soil: Use a general potting soil (peat free if possible) mixed with perlite or coarse sand to create a free-draining mix.
How to pinch Heart leaf Philodendron
To keep your plant looking full and lush pinch out its leaves. Make sure you pinch out any growth after a leaf node. This will encourage a new stem to grow out of that node and stop your plant growing leggy. You can use your fingers but a sharp, sanitised tool will ensure you don't leave any jagged bits behind, reducing the chances of bacteria and disease.
When to repot Heart leaf Philodendron?
Philodendrons prefer to be on the snug side and only need repotting once every two or three years. Repot when you notice the roots poking out of the bottom of the pot. The best season for repotting is spring.
How to propagate Heart leaf Philodendron
One exciting feature of climbing Philodendrons is their aerial roots. These act as a support for the plant, delivering water and nutrients to the upper leaves. Push these into the soil or provide a support in the form of a moss pole. These also come in handy when it comes to propagating your plant. Find out more about air layering here:
You can also take stem cuttings, but they'll need summer temperatures to root properly. Philodendron cuttings can grow in water or moist soil.
Common Heart leaf Philodendron problems
Drooping leaves: Floppy leaves are your plant's way of telling you it needs water. Philodendrons are not fans of dry soil. If, on the other, you're an over-enthusiastic waterer, wilting leaves can be a sign of root rot.
Yellow leaves: If you notice your plants leaves fade from brilliant green to sickly yellow, soggy soil is usually the culprit. Make sure your pot has adequate drainage.
Brown marks: A sign your plant is receiving too much direct sunlight.
Brown spots: Try not to splash the leaves when watering as this can lead to fungus. Cut away the affected leaves.
Brown tips: A sign of dry air. Up the humidity, as described above.
Pests: Fungus gnats are attracted to moist soil. In most cases, they are harmless (though irritating!). Find out how to keep them at bay here.
Are Heart leaf Philodendrons poisonous?
While those pretty leaves are lovely to look at, they can produce a less than pretty reaction thanks to the presence of calcium oxalate, which can lead to inflammation and itching. For this reason, Philodendrons are considered toxic to pets, so keep those beautiful trailing stems away from prying paws or consider a different non-toxic trailing plant such as a Trailing Jade or Spider Plant.
Philodendron hederaceum varieties
Where to buy Heartleaf Philodendron
Enthralled by this beautiful vine? You can find Heartleaf Philodendron for sale on Candide.