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Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron Scandens) Growing Guide

Philodendron scandens, commonly known as heartleaf philodendron, or sweetheart plant, is a climbing and trailing vine that makes a great houseplant for anyone wanting to add a touch of green to their home décor.

Heartleaf philodendrons are relatively easy to care for, liking the same conditions as some of the most common tropical leaf houseplants (monstera, pothos, arrowheads etc.), so they will slide into an already existing plant collection effortlessly or they make a great starter plant for the new houseplant enthusiast.


Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron Scandens) Growing Guide

What is Heartleaf Philodendron?

Philodendron scandens is native to Central America, the Caribbean, and as far south as Brazil

Philodendron scandens is native to Central America, the Caribbean, and as far south as Brazil. It is an epiphytic plant, meaning it grows on other plants but not in a parasitic manner (it doesn’t steal nutrients or harm the plant it climbs on), it merely uses other trees and plants for support. 

In the correct growing conditions (more on this later), and with enough time, it can grow up to and over 4’ in length, with their small heart shaped leaves growing about 10” each in length. The leaves start off as a bronze color and then unfurl into a dark glossy green. 

The tropical conditions that heartleaf philodendrons thrive in in nature is the reason they make such an amiable houseplant since their native conditions can be easily mimicked in the home. Here is a grow guide to get started on how to grow a lush and healthy heartleaf philodendron. 

It should be noted that Philodendron Scandens is now classified as Philodendron Hederaceum, this moves it into the same species as Philodendron ‘Brasil’ and Velvet Leaf Philodendron.

Botanical nomenclature is fluid and always changing when botanists discover more similarities or differences between various plants. Not to go into too much detail, philodendron scandens is an aroid philodendron species that has the same characteristics as the other philodendrons in that category.

Yes, they are different, but they have the same overall characteristics. This is like having a red-haired cat and a tabby cat, they may look a little different but they are still the same species, whereas a lion is still a feline, but not a housecat.

For this article, Philodendron Scandens will still be used since an everyday house plant person would still use it, but if ever speaking to a botanist be sure to use Hederaceum as to not start a riot.

How to Grow Heartleaf Philodendrons

How to Propagate Heartleaf Philodendron

This plant is easily purchased at almost any garden centre or nursery (there’s a reason they’re common, because they’re awesome!). They are often sold in hanging baskets, but can also be found in a pot climbing a moss pole or some other support.

Either is good, choose which one based on what area of the house it will be placed (check out sun requirements to determine an ideal location).

Heartleaf Philodendron Propagation

Philodendron scandens are also ridiculously easy to propagate, so if a friend already has one ask for a snippet and then grow a new plant from that.

Make sure the cutting includes a node, which is just the point on the stem of the plant where a leaf or a branching stem would grow out of. Cut the vine about a quarter of an inch above this node, making sure to include a full set of leaves in the cutting.

Now this cutting can either be placed in water until roots form and then planted into evenly moist potting soil, or it can be dipped in a rooting powder (see our review on the best rooting hormones here) and planted directly into evenly moist potting soil.

Placing a baggy over the cutting and the pot for a week or two will help create a greenhouse effect and keep the soil moist while the fledgling cutting tries to establish roots.

Another way to obtain this plant is by separating the actual plant at the roots and repotting. This can be done when it is time to repot, just divide the plant with a knife (hori hori knives are great for this) and repot the divided pieces.

It’s usually pretty clear where the division in the plant can be made, make sure the new piece has lots of roots and some foliage in order for the transplant to be successful.

After the transplant, keep the plant well watered (never soggy), and it’s also best to keep it out of bright light for a few days in order for it to recover.

Heartleaf Philodendron Propagation

Sun Requirements

Philodendron scandens is a tropical plant that grows underneath the main canopy of trees. This means that it likes bright, but indirect or filtered sunlight. The best places in the home would be about 4’ away from a full southern exposure.

Against a southern exposed window would be ok if there are trees or something to filter the light. Against an east or north window is also an ok place for a heartleaf philodendron.

The plant will appear weak and leggy if it is not getting enough sun, like it will be reaching without growing a nice lush number of leaves. If the heartleaf philodendron is getting bleached out leaves, or crispy edges, too much sun could be the problem.

Soil requirements 

In nature, heartleaf philodendrons grow on the rich, hummus, forest floor. A good all purpose potting soil is perfect as it best mimics its natural growing medium. 

It needs to be light and porous, allowing water to flow through it and providing good airflow to the roots. Heavy clay garden soils are not recommended for heartleaf philodendrons.

Humidity Requirements 

Heartleaf philodendrons are tropical plants and do prefer more humid conditions than most homes can provide. There are ways to boost the humidity around the plant to help optimize its health and growth potential.

If this all seems too daunting just know, a heartleaf philodendron will grow just fine without added humidity, it may not get as large and lush, but it will not perish without extra humidity.

Just make sure it is not near a heat vent, hot blowing air on any tropical plant is not good. There are some easy and almost effortless ways to add a bit of extra humidity to the area surrounding a heartleaf philodendron. 

First is misting, it’s not the best, but it does add a bit of extra humidity to the plant. A tray of pebbles and water can be placed underneath the plant (never let it be sitting in the water, always on top of the pebbles) the evaporation of the water will create a small bubble of humidity. 

Using a terracotta pot will also help with humidity as it absorbs some of the moisture and will evaporate slowly and add extra humidity.

Or a humidifier (we've made it easy for you to choose the best ones here in our humidifier reviews for 2022.) can be placed near the plant, this would be a good investment for a home with more than one tropical humidity loving plant. 

Heartleaf Philodendron Care Guide

Heartleaf Philodendron Care Guide

Watering Heartleaf Philodendron

Heartleaf philodendrons fall into the same category as a lot of tropical houseplants (it’s why it slides so easily into an already existing plant collection) for water requirements.

They do not like to be over-watered, but they also do not like to dry out completely. Stick a finger into the pot and check to see if the top 1-2 inches are dry, if they are dry, it’s time for water, if it’s still wet, let it be.

Over watering is what will kills most houseplants, so make sure to check plants before watering, a moisture meter in the soil is a handy tool to have.

When watering, if possible, it is best to take the plant to the sink or tub and soak it and then allow all the water to drain out the bottom (always choose a pot with drainage holes in the bottom), and then bring the plant back to its place.

Signs of overwatering in a heartleaf philodendron include, yellowing leaves, rotting stems, and eventually death. Signs of underwatering will be droopy leaves and crisp edges. 

Fertilizing Sweetheart Plant

A good all purpose houseplant fertilizer, or an all-natural fish fertilizer applied once a month throughout the growing season will suffice. Quit fertilizing in the winter months when the plant is resting. 

Don’t worry about being super exact, or forgetting to fertilize, heartleaf philodendrons are very forgiving. But be sure not to over fertilize, too much of a good thing is not a good thing and will burn the plant.

Sweetheart Plant Toxicity

Heartleaf philodendrons are toxic which is something to consider with small children and pets.

Design Options for a Heartleaf Philodendron

How to Grow Heartleaf Philodendrons

There are two main design options for a heartleaf philodendron, trailing and climbing.

Climbing Heartleaf Philodendron

Climbing is the heartleaf philodendrons' natural state, they will grow bigger leaves if they are climbing. But keep in mind they do not have sticky stems or anything to allow them to climb, they need a bit of an assist.

The best thing to use to help a heartleaf philodendron climb is a moss pole. They are easy to purchase or they can be made, and they provide the perfect rough surface for a heartleaf philodendron to grasp.

It will need a bit of help to get going, use soft nylon if it needs to be tied on and eventually the heartleaf philodendron will begin to twine and climb.

Trailing Philodendron Scandens

Trailing heartleaf philodendrons will have smaller leaves, but they look great spilling out of a basket. Consider a macrame plant hanger for some added décor.

When choosing a pot for a heartleaf philodendron only go slightly larger than the plant itself, and make sure it has drainage holes. If it’s a hanging plant, consider getting a pot where the tray is attached. Water sitting on the plant’s roots is detrimental to the plant’s health.

To make a heartleaf philodendron bushier and tidier in appearance prune with a pair of clippers just above the node. This is where the plant will branch out and continue growing creating a tidy looking full plant.

Common Sweetheart Plant Pests and Diseases

When something is going on with a heartleaf philodendron (or any plant for that matter), it is easy to place the blame on some kind of rare plant virus. But it’s time to face the truth, most plant fatalities are caused by the growing conditions.

If there's yellowing leaves, check for over watering. Crispy leaves or droopy leaves is a sign of not enough water. Long stringy growth is a sign of not enough light (leggy is the plant term).

Crisp or bleached out leaves is probably too much sun. Ok, so now that the most probable causes of heartleaf philodendron troubles have been looked into, there are some pests and diseases that can infest or infect it.

It is susceptible to the usual suspects when it comes to pests in houseplants, which are mealy bugs and spider mites. Mealy bugs will leave little cottony white bits around all the nodes and nooks and crannies in the leaves. 

A cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol can take off the fuzzy bits. Or an insecticidal spray can be applied to the entire plant. Here are more details on how to get rid of mealybugs.

Spider mites leave little webs all over the plant and leave the leaves looking mottled. They can be controlled by spraying them off with the showerhead or hose, or by spraying with an insecticidal spray When a plant is infested by a pest, move it away from other houseplants to avoid spreading the problem.

Philodendron scandens, commonly known as heartleaf philodendron, or sweetheart plant, is a climbing and trailing vine that makes a great houseplant

Root Rot

Root rot is one of the most common diseases associated with a heartleaf philodendron. The leaves will be yellowing and falling off like crazy and the stems near the soil line might rot and fall off.

The heartleaf philodendron will need to be repotted at this point. Take it out of its pot and assess and remove all the mushy and rotten roots, then repot back into fresh potting soil.  

Prevention is better than treatment on this one, do not over water or leave in standing water.

Leaf Spot

Leaf spot is another disease that can infect a heartleaf philodendron. If the foliage has brown spots with yellow outer rings surrounding it, this is quite possibly a leaf spot.

The spots will start growing over time, luckily if leaf spot is caught early enough treatment is possible. Trim off all affected leaves that have the spot and dispose of those, then use a copper fungicide on the rest of the plant.

This will stop the spread of the disease. Again, prevention is key for this one, too much humidity or leaving water on the leaves (when misting use a finer mist rather than a hard spray) will leave the plant prone to leaf spot.

Philodendron Scandens FAQ

How much light does a heartleaf philodendron need?

Bright, but indirect or filtered sunlight is best. Not enough sun will produce long and leggy plants, and too much will bleach out and burn the leaves. 

Does philodendron scandens climb?

Yes! That is actually the natural growing state for a philodendron scandens. While they are perfectly fine trailing, they will grow larger leaves if they are climbing. They will need support from a moss pole or something in order to climb.

Is heartleaf philodendron toxic?

Yes, the plant is toxic to people and pets.

Why are the leaves of my philodendron turning yellow?

This is most likely due to over watering. Only water when the top 1-2” of soil are dry. This is usually once or every two weeks.

How do you take care of a heartleaf philodendron?

Bright indirect sunlight, light potting soil, letting it dry out slightly between watering, and monthly fertilizing are what a this plant needs (read the whole article for more details)

Can't get enough of Philodendrons? Also see our Philodendron Brasil, Moonlight Philodendron, and Philodendron Xanadu growing guides. 

Show More Love to Your Garden with the Heartleaf Philodendron

Philodendron scandens, the lovely heartleaf philodendron, is not a rare find, but its popularity is because it’s a tried and true houseplant.

It provides beautiful heart shaped glossy green leaves that grow upwards or trail down gracefully. The versatility and ease of growing makes the heartleaf philodendron a great choice for a houseplant.

About the Author Mabel Vasquez

Mabel has enjoyed a long career as a horticulturist, working in nurseries and greenhouses for many years. Although she loves all plants, Mabel has developed a particular passion over the years for herb gardens and indoor plants. Mabel has since retired from her horticulture career and loves sharing her many years of experience with our audience here at Sumo Gardener.

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