Philodendron scandens, also known as heartleaf philodendron and sweetheart philodendron, is an easy-to-grow plant. You will also see this plant sold as Parlor Ivy due to its commonality as a houseplant in the US.
It provides dramatic trailing vines and delightful climbing behavior and looks as good tumbling from a hanging basket or draping from a bookcase as it will climbing a pole or trellis.
Knowing the proper way to grow the heart-shaped philodendron ensures you will have a beautiful and healthy plant you’ll love with all your heart.
What Is a Philodendron Scandens?
This common houseplant originates from South America, where it is found rambling up trees, rocks, walls, and anything else it can find. The most notable feature is the oversize bright green leaves that have a charming heart shape. You will often find these plants for sale as juveniles or cuttings from mature plants.
When you know the right way to encourage them to grow, you can have a large plant in no time. This guide gives you all the most important information you need to successfully turn your parlor into a tropical jungle.
The Philodendron scandens is an Aroid, and like other plants in this family, it will develop both subterranean and aerial roots. In the wild, this plant uses the aerial roots to find moisture and nutrients, allowing the vines to continue growing. As the plant matures, the leaves turn from a rusty bronze to the vibrant bright green you want.
You can train this plant to hang or to climb by properly pruning the vines. Left to grow, you may have vines as long as four feet with large leaves that can measure three inches across.
This article gives you guidance on selecting the correct potting mix, how to water, and when to propagate these popular plants.
Philodendron Scandens Care Guide
Many people will tell you this is an easy plant to care for, which can be true. Most of the difficulty with successfully growing the heart leaf plant is due to improper conditions, frequently the result of bad information.
Following the tips in this guide will ensure that you don’t have the most typical issues home gardeners encounter with philodendron scandens plants.
It is very common to see these plants potted in regular garden soil or potting mix that is more appropriate for vegetables or flowers. You may have a plant that grows well in these conditions, but you are also flirting with disaster. Many problems with these plants originate with the wrong type of soil.
In nature, these plants often start life out of the soil, beginning to grow in crooks of trees or clefts of the rock. They will send out adventitious roots- the type that seeks soil- before growing vines. In the natural environment, these plants thrive in decomposing leaf and bark material with little soil. You will have the most success at home by replicating the proper soil type.
The best way to mix potting material for these plants is to do it yourself. In a pinch, you can use African Violet mix, but your heart leafed philodendron will be much happier in a custom soilless mixture.
The most popular mix is made from equal parts sphagnum and peat moss, pumice or perlite, nutrient-rich organic material, and coarse sand. This mixture provides optimal drainage without retaining too much water and lets light and air reach the roots. This type of mix encourages new growth, giving your plant a head start on growing the tremendous vines you want.
How To Fertilize
You can fertilize your plants every three to four weeks in the growing season. Fertilizer isn’t really necessary in the dormant season but shouldn’t exceed more than once every two months. Watch the leaves of your plant carefully when fertilizing to catch signs of burning.
Ignore anyone who tells you this plant will do well in low-light conditions. These are light-loving plants- you can tell because of the shape, size, and growth of leaves. Young, immature leaves are small, focusing energy on photosynthesis. Mature leaves grow on the ends of the vines and are larger and lighter, making it easier to grow even larger leaves.
You will have the most success by growing the philodendrons scandens in a bright, indirectly lighted place. Your plant likes east and west windows and will do well a few feet from a south window also. If you are growing your heart leaf philodendron in a dimly lit room, you should consider adding artificial lighting using a light bulb for growing plants to help encourage growth.
Low light conditions are one of the primary causes of issues. The plant grows slowly and doesn’t produce large, healthy leaves when it isn’t getting enough sun. Your plant may send out long vines with hardly any leaves. Eventually, the plant may just die because it can’t get enough light to provide energy for the size of the plant.
It is also a mistake to leave this plant in full, direct sun for any length of time. In nature, you would find this plant under the canopy of large trees, where the light is bright but dappled. Direct sunlight will cause the leaves to burn and may even kill vines that are overexposed.
As a tropical species, the heartleaf philodendron won’t grow well in cool areas.
Temperatures below 60 degrees inhibit growth, and anything below 50 degrees is likely to kill the plant. They are more tolerant of high temperatures, but you need to make sure the leaves are not burning, and you are watering properly.
This is another area where novice gardeners frequently encounter problems and misinformation. While it may be tempting to provide moist soil and lots of regular watering since this is a jungle plant, you won’t have as much success as if you provide proper watering.
The key with these plants is that they need to dry out slightly between watering. A major source of death is too much water, which can lead to rot. You can use your finger to feel the soil. When the top one inch or so is completely dry, it is time to water your plant.
The right way to water philodendron plants is to slowly trickle water around the roots until it runs clean from the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Watering this way encourages strong root growth. If you have the right type of potting mix for your plant, the roots will have plenty of time to get a drink without being left sitting in water.
There are a few tips for watering that many people overlook, resulting in various problems. Never water your philodendron scandens with cold tap water. The low temperature will shock the plant and may even kill it. Instead, let the water sit at room temperature until it is 65 to 75 degrees.
You should also avoid watering with tap water. Tap water includes chemicals that prevent plants from growing roots in pipes. Watering your plants with tap water makes it much more difficult for the plant to grow roots. If you have no choice but to use tap water, let it sit on the counter for 24 hours in a widemouthed, open container.
The philodendron family of plants is all humidity-loving, but before you turn your living room into a swamp, you should have an idea of the requirements. In the wild, these plants live in areas with an average of 70 to 80 percent humidity, but your home doesn’t need to be that moist.
The average humidity of most US households is around 30 to 40 percent; you can provide proper humidity for your plant using a fine mist sprayer. A gentle mist every few days will provide plenty of humidity for your plant.
During summer and winter, you will want to make sure your philodendron scandens plant is not too dry. AC and heaters dry the air, sometimes dropping household humidity to less than ten percent. This will cause your plant to suffer.
The best way to propagate these plants is through the creation of stem-tip cuttings. You can take the opportunity to prune your plant and encourage a fuller, more bushy growth habit while creating new plants through propagation.
To make a stem-tip cutting, select a vine that is healthy and free of problems. Make sure the vine has several sets of leaves. The trick is to cut the stem just below a leaf node. Make the cut at an angle opposite of the direction of the node at about 45 degrees. Strip all but about one-third of the leaves from the vine and immediately place it in a glass of water.
Alternatively, you can use powder root hormone and put your cutting straight into a soilless potting mix appropriate for these plants. Keep the cuttings under a cover made from a glass mason jar or a plastic bottle with the bottom cut off. This provides extra humidity and encourages root growth.
Roots will form in three to five weeks. When roots are about one inch long, you can transplant them into a soilless potting mix. If you start your cuttings in soil, gently tug on the stem after four weeks to feel for resistance. If roots are not forming, check the cutting for rot and discard any that are showing signs of disease.
Common Problems With Philodendron Scandens
These charming houseplants are largely free of common issues. The vast majority of problems you’ll encounter are the result of poor care.
If you grow your plants in the proper potting mix, provide adequate light, and avoid overwatering, you are not likely to have any issues.
- Droopy, Yellow Leaves: You’ll see this happen at the base of the plant near the soil. It indicates that the plant is overwatered. If the potting mix is wet, you may consider repotting the plant. Reduce the frequency of watering to allow the surface to dry.
- Brown Leaf Tips: This usually indicates the plant is too close to a bright light source or isn’t getting enough water. If the soil is adequately damp, move the plant to a less bright location.
- Leggy Growth: You will experience long vines with few leaves when the plant isn’t in bright enough light. Simply move it to a brighter spot.
- Mushy Leaves and Stems: If this happens, you need to act quickly. This indicates your plant is rotting. Immediately remove the plant from the pot and discard all old soil. Use a sharp knife to cut rotten roots away, saving only what is healthy. You may need to make stem-tip cuttings if your roots are completely rotten.
- Philodendron Scandens is a common houseplant typically sold as heart leaf philodendron.
- This is a tropical plant from South America that likes bright, indirect light, regular watering with a drying period, and a soilless potting mix.
- Propagation is easy and is done with stem-tip cuttings.
- Most of the problems are the result of overwatering or underwatering.
The philodendron scandens make for a wonderful gift. The vibrant green heart-shaped leaves grow quickly on long, trailing, and climbing vines.
This is an ideal first philodendron plant because it is easy to care for and grows well in most homes. You’ll love the interesting shape of the leaves, and it will bring joy to a bright room.
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