Today's Gardener (todaysgardener.com) participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.
Philodendrons are old favorites in the plant world. They are common place in indoor gardens, and for justifiable reason. Long lived, easy to grow and accustomed to regular household conditions suitable to people, philodendrons show steady growth and as such maintain their popularity across regions. Philodendron hederaceum can be found as a determined climbing plant with its broad, heart-shaped leaves, but it can also stand on its own like a self-heading plant.
Philodendron hederaceum or Heartleaf Philodendron is one of those plants that don’t mind shifting light. It prefers bright to medium indirect light, watering once the top 2 inches of soil dry out. Use rich, well-draining soil. It is a fast grower that matures to be quite lush and full. Don’t expect this Philodendron to produce flowers when grown indoors, this only happens when grown outdoors in tropical climates. Sometimes it takes a decade for this plant to flower.
Continue reading to find out how to make Philodendron hederaceum thrive in household conditions.
About Philodendron hederaceum
Philodendrons are evergreen herbs, small to gigantic with very variously shaped leaf blades native to South America and Mexico. They are usually found in tropical humid forests, in open woodland, swamps or streamsides, so they are mostly shade-loving.
Philodendron hederaceum belongs to Araceae, a genus of climbing, epiphytic or terrestrial herbs of around 4,000 species. It is native to Central America and the Caribbean.
This species has bright green heart-shaped or cordate leaves growing on long and thin stems. The plant is a fast grower, so it will need plenty of space.
Heartleaf Philodendron can be kept to any size and it will grow to 1.2 m or more if allowed to wander, though smaller species are around 10 cm tall and 100 cm wide. It grows in zones 11-12.
Longevity is another reason for their popularity. They can live 10 years or more; especially when propagated from rooted stem cuttings.
This Philodendron species is often sold as a hanging plant, but if you give it something to climb, the leaves will grow to take on a new shape.
You can grow the small plant in a dish garden or a pot, shifting it after a year or two to a hanging basket or begin training it up a moss-covered post.
Given bright light, the plant will grow to be quite full, so it makes an excellent privacy plant for hanging in windows.
Common Philodendron species
There are dozens of philodendron species kept as cultivated plants and many variegated forms. Some of them have cream stripes on the leaves and the tips are elongated like Cream Splash and Silver Stripe, while others are completely cream or yellow.
Philodendron bipinnatifidum or Cut-Leaf Philodendron is an impressive herbaceous tropical plant with long and somewhat thick stems, very large, lobed and glossy, deep to brownish-green leaves with lime–green venation, ideal for bright indirect light indoors, partial to full shade if kept outdoors, perfect for filling a corner of a larger patio or porch. A true living sculpture and deserves to be a focal point in the indoor garden.
Philodendron erubescens or Blushing Philodendron which is a vining plant with leaves that are green on upper sides, reddish below.
Philodendron hybrids or Bird’s Nest Philodendron is a glossy spade-shaped species with leaves in various colors radiating from a bushy base. It is a non-climbing plant.
Some other varieties you can try cultivating are:
As understory plants in nature, philodendrons are well suited to the light of a northern or eastern window. If you have only bright sun, grow this one behind a sheer curtain or at the center of the room.
Spaces with shifting light are also very common. Maybe your living room gets great light in the morning, but that light drops off throughout the day. Don’t worry, Philodendron hederaceum thrives beautifully in such conditions if you know how to make use of them.
Determine what light levels the plant will get in each area and manage it. If there is a lot of direct sun in the afternoon, hang a semi-sheer curtain to turn it into bright indirect. Move the plant closer to the windows in the darker months and farther away in brighter months.
Bright to medium indirect light is ideal for this plant, so make adjustments appropriately. Be careful with water or fertilizing with shifting light.
Bright indirect light means that a plant needs a bright spot, usually within a few feet of a window, where there are 6+ hours of light each day. Medium means that it can tolerate a spot farther away from a window with no direct sun.
Philodendrons are drought-tolerant and thrive on benign neglect.
Philodendron hederaceum is easy to grow in a warm, brightly lit room. Keep temperature average to warm, between 16 and 27 degrees C, warmer in the summer and during the day; colder in the winter and at night.
Cold temperature may cause the leaves to turn yellow, so always make sure that room temperature is above 15 degrees C for optimal growth. Don’t place containers on cold floors in winter, since this will cause the roots to chill.
Keep the plant indoors year-round or bring them outside in a shady spot once or twice during the summer and nice refreshment with fresh water.
Shifting light and position causes this plant no noticeable distress.
Humidity is not such an important factor for cultivating a healthy Philodendron hederaceum. Any humidity level will do, but somewhat increased humidity will promote faster and healthier leaf growth.
With that in mind, maintain medium humidity of around 40% or more, grouping plants together after watering. However, they tolerate even lower humidity levels, but the plant itself will let you know and it is incumbent upon you to recognize what it needs.
Just like different plants have different light and water needs, they also have different preferences for what medium they are planted in.
Use rich, well-draining soil such as all-purpose potting mix with perlite, orchid bark or coco coir chips mixed in.
All-purpose mix is typically made of peat moss, bark, compost, perlite, pumice and fertilizer, so it works for many indoor plants.
As you become more experienced in gardening, you can develop your own customized potting medium by amending a soil mix and adding other materials to it to create a more customized mix.
Some of those components are orchid bark, pumice, perlite, peat moss, horticultural charcoal, sand, but you should always know which ones to add and why- perlite for drainage and lighter soil, peat moss or coco coir for moisture retention, good drainage and oxygen, horticultural charcoal for absorbing toxins and preventing root rot and bacteria.
Customized potting mix for philodendrons: ¼ pro-mix potting mix, ¼ small charcoal chunks, ¼ orchiata orchid bark and about 1/8 perlite and 1/8 tree fern substrate. This mix is crunchy and drains well.
If your pot doesn’t have a drainage hole, you can always keep the plant in its original pot with drainage holes and place it inside a decorative pot that’s slightly larger, removing the plastic pot when watering it and allowing it to drain out, before returning it to the decorative pot. Another option is to drill a hole in the pot.
Repot every 3 years in spring, before the plant becomes too root bound. Use fresh potting mix, making sure it is sterile and pest-free.
Sterilize the pot, fill it with soil (5cm), remove the plant from its pot, make a hole in the soil and insert the plant into it, adding and firming the soil around the plant. Water thoroughly and place in a reliably bright location.
Without a drainage hole, there is no way for excess water to escape, so that means the plant’s roots will be sitting in standing water, which suffocates the roots, causes rot and attracts pests. This is the first condition to meet.
Allow the top 2 inches of soil to dry out between watering, which is approximately once every 7-10 days depending on the amount of sunlight and temperature. Keep moist, but by no means soggy. You will know when the plant needs water if leaves begin to look soft and droopy. Check the moisture with your finger. Avoid splashing the foliage. Water in the morning.
Water more frequently if the plant is absorbing more light in the warmer months, reduce the frequency in the colder months. It also copes well with infrequent watering and some neglect, so lean on the drier side.
Too dry and the plant may be stressed. Too wet and the roots may be rotting. Potting soil should ideally be damp to partially dry when buying it.
Always use distilled, filtered water or rainwater because tap water contains harmful chemicals. You can still leave tap water overnight in a jar so these elements would evaporate.
Plant care involves lots of trial and error. If something doesn’t turn out right, take note of what happened, do some research to find out why and try again.
Finally, always make sure your plant has been taken care of when you are on vacation.
Always ensure the basic requirements: adequate light and watering regime. No way can you make up for bad soil or inadequate light by fertilizing since these are necessary for photosynthesis. Only then can you start considering using fertilizers. Beyond the light needed to photosynthesize, plants need essential nutrients to thrive and in cultivation, that’s performed through fertilizer.
Use a balanced water-soluble fertilizer once every four weeks during the active growing season. You can also use half-strength fertilizers since too much fertilizing can damage the plant.
Always read the instructions carefully. Discontinue fertilizing after the active growing season, in the colder months.
Keeping it clean and into shape
One of the few care requirements for this philodendron is periodic leaf cleaning. To do that, use a soft, damp cloth or sponge. Never water the leaves. Some botanical books also recommend wiping hard water from the leaves with diluted white vinegar to break it down.
You can also use neem oil to add a subtle shine. Some forms need to be mixed with water. Follow the directions on the label.
Leaves grow differently depending on how you display your plant: in a hanging basket or training them up to a moss-covered post. You know it is time to prune if the plant has become unruly in size/shape, stretched out for light, has pests and if you’d like to see a fuller plant.
Prune or pinch back some wandering stems to control the size of the plant and ensure bushy growth. In the case of the latter, leaf size may enlarge from 5 cm to more than 10 from base to tip. In that case, you can prune the long stems to keep the plant in shape. Always prune when new leaves and shoots are growing, in spring and summer. Use clean, sharp tools.
Cutting back is also good for Philodendron species, cutting above new leaf or node at a 45-degree angle.
Philodendorn hederaceum can be propagated by taking stem cuttings and rooting them in a liquid or solid medium.
- Prepare a clean, sharp knife or shears.
- Select a stem that’s not too woody nor too tender since this will give you the best chance of seeing roots form. Find the nodes and cleanly cut just below them. This is the spot where new roots will form. Ensure at least two nodes on the cut stem.
- Use a clean vessel such as amber glass, since it will help the water stay algae-free longer. If you are using clear glass, change the water more frequently.
- Remove any leaves that will be below the water level.
- Fill the vessel with enough clean water to reach the lowest nodes.
- Place in a spot that gets indirect light.
- Change the water once a week.
- Be patient. It sometimes takes a month for roots to form.
- Check occasionally to ensure the stem isn’t rotting. If it does, trim that portion, change the water and try again.
- Transplant to potting soil once roots have formed.
You can also keep your cutting in water long-term, let the roots grow as long as the vessel can store them. You’ll need to add liquid plant food to the water occasionally. This method is known as hydroculture.
Some people are allergic to philodendron sap which can cause an itchy rash or irritation in some individuals, along with burning around the mouth. Always be careful when dealing with plants and consider wearing gloves and long-sleeved clothes.
Philodendron leaves are toxic to both animals and people, though it takes large amounts of ingested plant parts to cause any serious reaction.
Philodendron can be paired with other decorative specimens such as Ficus pumila, Hedera helix or Yucca.
Leaves are starting to turn yellow and drop
Cause: The plant is most likely overwatered. Old leaves can turn yellow owing to cold temperatures, excessive light or insufficient nutrition.
Solution: Find a shadier location, fertilize during the growing season with the one that contains magnesium and calcium.
Remedy: Alter your watering habits, always making sure to check the soil before watering. Don’t neglect the plant fully.
Cause: Root rot or some disease
Remedy: Always use sterilized pots and pest-free soil, inspecting it when buying. Maintain clean hygienic conditions and water reasonably, when the top 2 inches of the soil are dry. Pests are also more common if the plant is overwatered.
Rumpled young growth with yellow specks
Remedy: Rinse off the infected plant and use insecticidal soap on new growing tips.
White cottony substance forming on the foliage
Remedy: Remove with tweezers or a cotton swab dipped in alcohol, repeating the process after 6 days.
Why are the leaves on my philodendron turning yellow?
There are several reasons for this common occurrence.
The first one is cold temperatures. It is normal for this plant to shed some older leaves, it is time to worry when your plant’s leaves turn yellow at once. It is due to stress from cold temperatures or cold floors.
Another reason is too much light if healthy leaves turn yellow.
Pale new growth can also grow pale due to insufficient fertilizer or the fertilizer you are using lacks magnesium or calcium.
Also, yellowing of leaves may occur the first few weeks when you bring a plant home from a shop, especially smaller leaves that get shaded out by larger leaves. Always choose a healthy plant. And if that happens, don’t fret, since the plant needs some time to settle in.
Are philodendrons poisonous to dogs?
Yes, philodendrons are poisonous to pets and people if ingested. However, a reaction will be made manifest only if large amounts are ingested. Still, make sure your pets are safe and be on the lookout for any potential reaction. Take your pets to the doctor as soon as possible.
Can philodendron grow in water?
Philodendron plants can form roots in water as one method of propagation. First, you take the cutting, removing a few bottom leaves and dipping it into water. Roots will emerge within three weeks and sometimes a month.
You can also grow your cutting in water completely, this is known as hydroculture. Remember you’ll have to add liquid plant food to the water occasionally to provide nutrients the plant would otherwise take from the soil.
Do philodendrons clean the air?
NASA’s research has found that Philodendrons have the ability to clean the air indoors, especially Heartleaf, Elephant ear and Selloum.
Philodendrons are considered staple plants, so easy and obliging that they deserve a mention and a place in everyone’s home. These plants come from shady places in the tropics and are best adapted to indoor gardening, plus they are widely available everywhere.
Beyond routine watering and feeding, the only maintenance it requires is periodic leaf cleaning, easily done with a soft, damp sponge or cloth. Tolerant of low light and less than ideal soil, even inconsistent watering regime-perfect for beginners.
All in all, this foliage plant creates great green drama and a very nice tropical accent along with other plants such as lady palms and dumb canes.