Philodendron scandens, also called the heartleaf philodendron due to its beautiful leaf shape, can decorate the home as a climbing or hanging plant. Here you will find our top tips on care and propagation of this plant.
The Philodendron scandens is a low-maintenance ornamental foliage plant – given the right location and climate. In this article you will find an overview of its origin and its beautiful varieties as well as the care and propagation of the heartleaf plant.
Philodendron scandens: origin and properties
The heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens, also Philodendron hederaceum) is an evergreen climbing plant native to Central America and the Caribbean. The name for its genus, Philodendron, translates from ancient Greek as “love tree” (phílos = love; dendron = tree). This is possibly because of its heart-shaped leaves or its love for climbing trees. In their natural habitat, these arum plants (Araceae) grow either in the shade of large trees or epiphytically, in other words, perched on trees.
In ideal conditions, the heartleaf philodendron can grow between 3 and 6 metres high, though this tree trunk climbing plant does not spread much. The Philodendron scandens forms heart-shaped, velvet-glossy leaves that grow up to 30cm long. The light to dark green leaves grow on a leaf stalk up to 10cm long. As a houseplant, however, Philodendron scandens does not grow quite as tall. It can be cultivated as a climbing plant on a trellis, as a trailing potted plant or in a hanging basket. Flowering is very rare – even in ideal conditions. In its native habitat, the climbing plant forms flowers typical of the arum genus with a stem, a bract, and a bulb. Particularly striking are the long aerial roots that hang down from the plant and can reach a length of up to 6 metres in older plants in their natural habitat.
Tip: Monsteras are also often called a split-leaf philodendron and sold as such. When buying, it is therefore important to watch out for the botanical name.
The most beautiful Philodendron scandens varieties
Two heartleaf philodendron varieties have become particularly popular:
- Philodendron scandens ‘Brasil’: Also called Philodendron scandens ‘Variegata’, this variety forms a striking leaf pattern in light green or white when placed in a bright location, out of direct sunlight. It is very easy to care for.
- Philodendron scandens ‘Micans’: This variety has dark green, velvety leaves and sometimes has a slightly reddish, eye-catching leaf edge.
Planting Philodendron scandens: location and soil
As the heartleaf philodendron is originally a climbing plant that grows in the shade of trees, place the plant in a semi-shaded to shaded location, and avoid long, direct sunlight. Intense midday sun can cause sunburn, yellowing or browning of the leaves. The ideal growing temperature for the heart-shaped philodendron is 20 to 25°C, but always keep it above 15°C. In a temperate zone such as the UK, it is best to keep the plant under glass or solely as a houseplant. Avoid drafts, as this disturbs the growth of the plant.
A humus-rich but low-lime soil works best for Philodendron scandens as it is very sensitive to lime. A loose soil allows good aeration, reducing the risk of root rot. Philodendron scandens prefers slightly acidic soils to neutral soils. A high-quality soil – such as our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost – provides the ideal base for healthy and vigorous plant growth, as its high nutrient content keeps the plant nourished over a long period of time. Its balanced content of coconut pulp also allows the compost to store enough water for the plants while keeping a high level of soil aeration. You can also add a layer of pine bark or alternatively mix acidic rock flour (from granite or basalt) with the soil to keep the soil pH constantly slightly acidic.
Philodendron scandens care
Philodendron scandens is a very resilient plant that requires little care, given the right basic knowledge.
It is important for the plant to have a permanent supply of water during the growing season – from April to October. However, the Philodendron scandens consumes relatively little water for its size. Therefore, excessive watering without sufficient drainage can lead to waterlogging and root rot. Use the finger test to check the moisture level of the soil before each watering. Because the Philodendron scandens is very sensitive to lime, collected rainwater or mineral water at room temperature is best for watering. Spray the plant occasionally with a little lime-free water to ensure good humidity and clean the leaves of dust at the same time.
During the growing season, fertilise the heartleaf philodendron every fortnight to ensure that the plant has all the necessary nutrients for growth. If there is a lack of nutrients, the leaves of the Philodendron scandens may change colour and fall off, and growth and new leaf formation may also stop. To prevent this, apply a high-quality liquid fertiliser when watering. Our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food supports healthy and vigorous plant growth with a specially adapted nutrient ratio while conserving natural resources due to its lower phosphorus content. Its microorganisms also promote nutrient uptake from the soil and healthy root growth.
You should repot the Philodendron scandens every one to two years, as the plant outgrows its pot and the soil is drained of nutrients and sags. Aerial roots that are pushed out of the top of the pot and stagnated growth are signs that the heartleaf philodendron needs transplanting. Opt for a new pot that is about 20% larger than the old one, especially for young plants. Transplant in early spring, from March onwards, before the growing season starts. Take the plant out of its old pot and remove excess soil. Then place the philodendron into the new pot with new soil, lightly press down on the soil and water well. At the same time, you can insert a new climbing aid if the Philodendron scandens is cultivated as a climbing plant. To do this, carefully remove shoots from the old climbing aid before pulling it out. Then insert the new climbing aid and attach the shoots to it with the help of a planting ring or string. Make sure that there is plenty of space for future growth. Finally, return the Philodendron scandens to its location.
Pruning Philodendron scandens for shape is not necessary, because the runners can easily be guided back onto the climbing aid. If they become too long for the hanging plant, simply cut off with sharp garden shears. Cut off old and dry shoots as well as diseased leaves too.
Overwintering the heartleaf philodendron
During the dormant winter period, move the heartleaf philodendron plant to a cooler, draught-free place where it is 16 to 18°C. A conservatory, a light stairwell or slightly heated living room, for example, are ideal. During the winter months, water the plant sparingly, as water absorption is lower. You can allow the root ball to dry off, but not dry out. Avoid fertilising.
Philodendron scandens propagation
Propagating the Philodendron scandens is particularly easy using cuttings. You can use parts of the plant that have at least one leaf, as well as roots. The cut plant parts can be put into a pot filled with a soil-sand mixture and watered well. The pot can then be covered with a glass pane or cling film to create a micro-greenhouse. In a warm place, ideally 25°C, the plant parts will take root after only two to four weeks. Occasionally, the lid should be opened to prevent fungal infestation.
Is Philodendron scandens poisonous?
Philodendron scandens is mildly poisonous because almost all parts of the plant contain calcium oxalate crystals, which act as a natural protection against being eaten. The leaves of Philodendron scandens are often gnawed on by cats, which can lead to mild symptoms of poisoning and damage the kidneys in the long term. For humans, on the other hand, there have been no known cases of poisoning by the heartleaf plant.
Do you like exotic evergreen plants but are more attracted to flowers? Then read our article on the peace lily.