I still remember the first time I laid eyes on the Philodendron cordatum. It was in a hanging pot with its leaves draping down from the sides. At that very moment I knew I had to get one.
But, that was somewhat easier said than done.
The Philodendron cordatum is a fairly uncommon plant. So, it takes a little bit of searching to find it. I found mine on the web which I recommend looking if your local nursery doesn’t carry it (or any species for that matter).
Another thing I quickly realized was that the Philodendron cordatum is often mislabeled as the Philodendron hederaceum. As such, you may end up buying that one if you don’t do your research beforehand.
The two look very similar. But, they are two distinct and different plants. And, their care is likewise different. I’ve found that the Philodendron cordatum adapts better the different conditions. Its leaves also look different especially the veins.
In any case, the Philodendron cordatum is a vining houseplant that’s often allowed to trail because it looks so beautiful that way.
It features medium, bright green heart shaped leaves which is why it is commonly called the heart leaf philodendron (or heartleaf philodendron).
The plant itself is an epiphyte which means it climbs and clings onto trees and larger plants. it is native to certain areas of Brazil, although it is likewise said to be found in other parts of South America and the Caribbean.
Here’s how to grow and care for Philodendron cordatum.
Philodendron Cordatum Plant Care
Since the philodendron cordatum’s native habitat is clinging onto trees and living under the forest canopy, it is used to getting bright, dapples light.
This means providing it with similar conditions allows for optimum growth. To do so, choose a spot where the plant gets good light exposure but away from direct sunlight. You can also opt for filtered light instead of indirect sunlight. Both work really well.
Mine sits near an east facing window. It gets some direct morning sun which it does not seem to have a problem with. That’s because the morning sun is gentle so it won’t cause sunburn (unlike the afternoon sun in the west and south).
I’ve found that the plant also does well in medium light. So, if you live in an apartment or condo unit where windows aren’t always ideally located, it won’t be a problem.
Low light will cause the plant to grow slower. But, it does not affect the plant’s healthy. However, be aware that too little light will reduce leave production. And, you’ll also notice smaller leaves as well.
I like to rotate my plants every few weeks. You can do so when you water it as well which reduces the need to make a schedule. A quarter turn each time is sufficient.
This will allow all sides of the plant receive similar amounts of sunlight which helps with even, balanced growth.
When it comes to temperature, the heart leaf philodendron enjoys warm weather. It is native the South America and the Caribbean where the climate is warm all year round.
As such, many owners keep the plant indoors, especially if where you live snows during winter. The plant is hardy to USDA zones 9b to 11. This means you can keep it outside in these areas all year long.
If you live somewhere colder, you can still keep the plant outdoors during the summer. But, make sure to bring it back indoors once the temperature starts closing in on 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The plant won’t be able to tolerate climate under 50 degrees for long without sustaining damage.
Indoors, its ideal temperature is 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It can likewise tolerate down to 55 degrees at night. But, you don’t want to go much farther down that that.
One of the things to look out for with your philodendron cordatum is humidity. It enjoys humid conditions, preferably around 70% to 80%. Again, this is a result of where it comes from.
I’ve noticed that humidity is a factor with the plant’s growth. Although as long as you kee humidity at 50% or higher, you won’t really see a difference in growth or its leaves.
Try to avoid staying consistently in the 40s or below, this is when the plant gets a big dry. I keep a digital humidifier to easily tell when humidity drops, which is can where I live.
If you find that your home’s humidity is too dry, you can mist the plant daily or move it to the bathroom or kitchen. Both locations are more humid because we tend to use lots of water there throughout the day. Another option is to go with a humidifier.
How Often to Water Philodendron Cordatum
Watering is the most challenging aspect of caring for your philodendron cordatum. It likes somewhat moist soil especially in the summer but is prone to overwatering. So, you need to maintain a balance.
Enough moisture keeps it happy and growing beautifully. But too much can destroy the plant over the long term.
The best way I’ve found to water this plant is to slowly pour on the soil until it is soaked. I don’t like just pushing lots of water quickly because this tends to let the water slip through the air pockets between the soil the border of the pot. As a result, the soil does not absorb much of the moisture.
Once I see the water start dripping from the bottom of the pot’s drainage holes, I stop and let the excess moisture drain. This part takes a while so I leave it for about 20 or so minutes before moving it back to its place.
Make sure not to skip that last step. Draining is very important to avoid letting the plant’s roots sit in moisture.
When I’m in a hurry or don’t have a lot of time (sometimes just lazy), I take all my philodendrons to the bathroom and give them a shower. Then, let then drain for about 20 to 30 minutes somewhere with good air circulation. This will let the leaves dry.
Avoid letting the leaves or soil stay drenched for an hour or more, this is when I’ve noticed problems can happen.
Philodendron Cordatum Potting Soil
Similarly, make sure to use a well-draining potting mix for your philodendron cordatum. This will allow excess moisture to escape easily. Ideally, something chunky helps as well as it will allow air to easily circulate to the plant’s roots.
A simple potting mix recipe you can use would be:
- 1 part potting mix
- 1 part peat moss
- 1 part perlite
- ½ part bark
If your local garden center carries an aroid mix, you can likewise go with that, although not all nurseries have them. Other options include soilless mixes that are made from peat and perlite or peat and vermiculite will likewise work.
Avoid regular potting mix from the store since most of them will retain too much moisture.
You only need to feed your philodendron cordatum during the spring and summer. Once fall arrives, start cutting down and wean the feeding. It does not need plant food during the winter when it rests to gear up for new growth come next spring.
I like to use a liquid fertilizer once every two weeks diluted to half the recommended strength. You can likewise use fish emulsion which I’ve heard works really well too.
Make sure to apply the plant food when you’re watering. Avoid doing so when the soil is dry as this increases the risk of fertilizer burn.
I use a synthetic fertilizer on my houseplants. Although many growers will recommend organic fertilizer instead. You can use either, but I’ve found that you get more bang for your buck with synthetics as long as you dilute the dose and apply it when you water the plant.
Your philodendron cordatum is a natural born climber. And, given a moss pole, wall or something to cling on it will keep going. In fact, in its natural habitat it can go up to 30 or even 50 feet up trees.
But, don’t worry about having a beanstalk in your home. That will never happen since the growing conditions are very different indoors. As such, you’ll see a much, much smaller plant.
This leads me to pruning.
If you have the space or want your plant to climb upwards, it is a good ideal to set up some kind of structure. You can even make in indoor trellis if you want it to go up a wall.
Allowing the plant to grow upwards also gives you larger, prettier leaves. You can expect these to get to between 2 or 3 inches wide. The plant does get much bigger outdoors if planted on the ground.
On the other hand, if you prefer well groomed, slightly more compact plant, you can trim the plant every so often. It is fairly hardy in this regard but try to not prune too much at a time.
You can use the stem cutting to propagate the plant as well instead of throwing them away.
How to Propagate Philodendron Cordatum
As mentioned, stem cuttings is the way to go with your philodendron cordatum. You can divide it or start from seeds. I haven’t found the need to try either though, since stem cuttings are very easy to do with good success rates.
Here’s how to propagate philodendron cordatum through stem cuttings.
- Begin by picking a healthy stem with at least a few leaf nodes. The nodes are where the roots will grow from so you want to at least have 2 leaf nodes in the cutting you select.
- Remove the lower leaves, you can leave the top 2 or so leaves.
- Plant the cutting in a potting mix. You can use 100% sphagnum peat moss as well.
- Place the cutting in a bright, humid spot that does not get direct sunlight.
- You can cover the cutting with a plastic bag if you need to increase the humidity.
- In about 3 or so weeks the cuttings will have developed small roots. I like to use small plastic containers to house the cuttings so I can pull them out easily and check the root ball.
- Once you see an inch or more of roots, you can transfer the cutting to a regular pot with well-draining potting soil.
- From there, care for it like you normally would the parent plant.
Another option to propagating your philodendron cordatum in soil is to grow it in water. This will let it root faster although you’ll need to move it to soil after which takes an extra step in the process.
How to Repot or Transplant Philodendron Cordatum
You’ll only need to repot your philodendron cordatum once the roots start growing out of the holes at the bottom of the container. This is a sign that the plant is looking for more room to grow (beyond its current home).
I like to check the plant once a year for this.
If you need to repot, pick a container that’s one size bigger (2 inches wider) than the current one. Avoid going up too many sizes as this increases the risk of overwatering which can happen if there’s too much soil relative the size of the roots.
Is It Toxic/Poisonous to Humans, Cats & Dogs
The presence of calcium oxalates makes this plant toxic to people and pets. So, keep it away from young children, cats and dogs.
In some cases, it can cause skin irritation on contact. More importantly, ingesting parts of the plant can lead to digestive issues including discomfort, vomiting, swelling and others. The symptoms will depend on how much of the plant was consumed.
Problems & Troubleshooting
Here are some common problems that you may encounter and how to fix them.
Yellow leaves are often caused by watering issues. Too much or too little water both can lead to yellow leaves. So, if you have many leaves turning this color at the same time, reassess your watering schedule.
Note that older leaves will turn yellow. This is natural. The difference here is that you’ll only see this happening one or two at a time. With water issues, many leaves will start turning yellow around the same time.
When this happens, the first thing I check is the soil. if the soil is wet or moist, it is very likely overwatering. If the soil feels very dry, has cracks or is harder than usual, it is likely underwatering.
I then check the leaves themselves.
Soft, yellow leaves tend point to overwatering as the culprit. On the other hand, dry, crispy leaves or tips is a sign that of lack of water.
A combination of checking the soil and leaves will help you diagnose overwatering from underwatering.
Of the two underwatering is easier to treat. Just water the plant as you would above (see the watering section). In a couple of days, the plant will start perking up again.
If it is overwatering, I like to dig up the plant. This is a hassle but it is important as it allows me to check the roots for damage or rotting. Hopefully, there is none.
Then I like to repot it in new potting mix and adjust the watering schedule.
Pests and Diseases
Something worth noting is that the philodendron cordatum is susceptible to mealybugs, spider mites and aphids. So, you always want to inspect your plant on a regular basis.
I like to clean the leaves of my plants once a week. This allows me to check for any pests hiding. Usually, you’ll see them or their eggs on the undersides of the leaves. Leaf damage is likewise a sign that these pests are around.
Meanwhile, overwatering is the main cause of many diseases. Too much water, waterlogging or letting the leaves or soil stay wet for long periods on a regular basis increases the risk of these issues.
The worst is root rot. But, you’ll also see leaf spot, mold and other bacterial infections happen due to too much water. Also, overwatering tends to attract some pests including fungus gnats, scale and thrips.