Try as you might, you won’t be able to stop yourself falling head over heels for this beloved houseplant.
Philodendron hederaceum is an extremely popular tropical vine, adorned with the most perfect love-heart shaped emerald leaves.
It also goes by its common name – Heartleaf Philodendron, its nickname – the Sweetheart Plant, its previous scientific name – Philodendron oxycardium (“cardium” stemming from the Greek and Latin terms for heart), and its frustratingly incorrect name – Philodendron scandens (which just translates to “climbing” a trait not exclusive to this plant).
But despite being tricky to define, this plant is a true darling to care for when you know how.
Let’s fall in love!
What is Philodendron hederaceum?
The hederaceum is a total tree hugger. Or more accurately, tree climber.
Originating from South and Central America, it climbs up the native host trees by attaching epiphytically to the trees with its strong aerial roots.
What can I say, the Heartleaf Philodendron has a lot of love to give! (The name even comes from the latin words “philo” meaning “love” and “dendron” meaning trees).
Thankfully, this vining growth pattern gives us all of the care advice we need.
By mirroring its natural conditions in the home (as best as we can, I doubt you have a tree in your house…) we can give this plant the haven it deserves.
Where to Buy the Heartleaf Philodendron
See the links below to purchase from reputable terrarium plant shops and marketplaces (may include affiliate links).
Philodendron hederaceum Care & Growth
At a Glance
|Plant Type||Vine, large|
|Lighting||Medium-bright indirect light|
|Watering||Evenly moist soil|
|Humidity||Medium humidity 60-80%|
|Growth||Up to 5ft vine|
Growing below the rainforest canopy, this plant loves indirect bright light like many of our cherished indoor plants.
But what does that mean practically you ask?
Well, here’s my favourite trick: imagine that your plant and the sun both have eyes.
- If they can make eye contact – you have direct sunlight.
- If they can’t make eye contact – you have indirect sunlight
Too much direct light and the leaves and stems could scorch and turn a rusty colour, too little light and you’d see stunted growth.
Because of the hederaceum‘s tree-hugging nature, it typically goes through a soak/dry watering schedule in the wild.
A rainstorm soaks the trees (along with the epiphytic vines), and then once the water has drained away the tree dries off and the cycle continues.
The best thing you can do for your plant is follow mother nature’s advice for watering and aim to replicate this in the home.
First things first, you need an excellent drainage system, so make sure you have a pot with a drainage hole – also known by its common name, the holy grail.
This will help you avoid waterlogged soil which is the leading cause of indoor plant destruction- root rot.
Give your plant a good drink of water, until you see water coming into the tray and tip away the excess. When the soil is feeling a little dry to the touch (not just at the surface – dip your finger in to test below) it’s time to water again.
There you have it. Rinse and repeat forever.
Arguably using lukewarm water instead of cold water is more palatable for your tropical houseplant, but who honestly has the time? I certainly won’t judge you.
If you’re putting your plant in a terrarium however you can throwout most of what I’ve just said, make sure you have a drainage layer and don’t add too much water and drench the system – add a little at a time.
As a natural epiphyte, Philodendron hederaceum is going to do best in a nice airy mix. Something that really promotes airflow in the root zone and allows for plenty of drainage.
On the other hand, it’s still very much a tropical plant and it’ll appreciate access to consistent moisture.
Thankfully, most typical tropical mixes (especially those labelled as aroid mixes) will work just fine for Philodendron hederaceum.
They tend to be a variation of the classic ABG mix, using coco coir as a water retentive base and adding a variety of supplements to maximize drainage and airflow, e.g. orchid bark, charcoal, pumice or perlite.
I like to add earthworm castings too as a slow-release organic fertilizer.
Temperature & Humidity
This beautiful Latina plant likes it hot – after all, she’s from Central and South America.
Though, while having a preference for heat, this tropical plant is known for being unfussy and will happily grow in lower temperatures over the winter months.
Anywhere in the 55-95°F (13-35°C) region is good. So you can’t really go wrong if you have your home in livable conditions.
Temperature? Check. What about the humidity level?
Average room humidity should be okay, but this plant does like it on the higher side in an ideal world.
I’d aim for 60-80% air humidity for maximum plant happiness.
If this is something you struggle to achieve in the home, either get yourself a humidifier or leave full watering cans around the room to evaporate. Works a treat.
When left to its own devices in the wild, the hederaceum will grow like it has something to prove and can even reach an imposing 20ft+.
Mature plants can flower too!
But fear not, while an impressive grower, it can’t certainly can’t pull off that feat in your home. I’ve seen some houseplants around 5ft long but not much more.
You can decide whether you’d like it to trail, or give it something to climb like a moss pole. I have mine trailing from a shelf, but both can look extremely Instagramable when done right.
In a terrarium however, it’ll need regular pruning to keep it under control with it being a relatively speedy grower. So have your scissors at the ready…
Trimming will also stimulate bushy growth.
And by that I mean you could see new leaves and stems sprout from multiple nodes, so it’s a fantastic tool if you prefer a fuller looking plant. I mean, who doesn’t?
Luckily for all of your friends and family, Heartleaf Philodendron are readily propagated by stem cuttings. And it’s super easy to do!
Here’s how you do it:
- Grab your scissors and snip the stem either side of the leaf node (leaving about a quarter of an inch either side).
- Let the newly cut stem dry out for 20 minutes or so.
- Pop the cutting in water.
- Change the water every week and watch your roots develop.
- When your roots are nicely established plant up in fresh potting soil.
- Gift it to someone you love!
Varieties & Similar Plants
There currently are over 480 recognised types of Philodendron, and we can assume there’s even more than that with hot new cultivars being dropped all the time.
So, to keep this section from resembling an encyclopedia, I’m going to stick to members of the very exclusive and extremely cool Heartleaf hederaceum club. Accumulate them all and like a teenage girl, you too can have a bedroom decorated with hearts!
Let’s meet your new crush:
- Variegated Heartleaf Philodendron – a mesmerising variety (if you have a few hundred dollars to splurge on a single leaf that is).
- Philodendron Lemon Lime – zingy chartreuse colour similar to the Neon Pothos.
- Philodendron Brasil – which looks just like the Heartleaf but with a big stripe of light green down the centre.
- Philodendron Rio – similar to the Brasil but add in silver and cream for even more beautifully variegated leaves.
- Philodendron Gabby – a beauty with cream leaves and green variegation.
- Philodendron Micans – that’s right, this little stunner with velvet leaves is genetically a hederaceum making it an extremely welcome addition to the group.
Frequently Asked Questions
While the origin of the confusion is unknown, Philodendron hedaraceum has been misnamed as Philodendron cordatum for years. Philodendron cordatum is actually a completely different species, it’s very large and uncommon (though googling “cordatum” will unhelpfully give you lots of images for the hederaceum).
All aroids (including the hederaceum) are toxic when ingested so make sure you keep it out of reach of any children or pets. A fantastic tool for this is putting it in a terrarium where it can’t be nibbled on.
While hederaceum likes humidity, misting doesn’t increase humidity for longer than a few minutes. So, I’d recommend a humidity tray (or keeping watering cans around the room to evaporate does the trick too) instead of misting.