Focus on Flora: Heartleaf Philodendron

Focus on Flora: Heartleaf Philodendron

By Shannon Schmidt

14 January 2021

One of the aspects of horticulture that is so enticing is that it is always growing, there is always more to learn and new technologies allow botanists to dig so much deeper into the DNA of plant material than ever before. This is evident in the recent genus name change of heartleaf philodendron to Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum, formerly known as Philodendron bipinnatifidum or Philodendron selloum, which were discovered to be one in the same.

While 2020 was extremely trying for many of us, with each day seemingly filled with new uncertainties, many people rekindled their relationship with the outdoors and discovered the healing calm and tranquility that comes with gardening.

Plants have long had a reputation for being symbolic of certain emotions, and most people went through a wide range of emotions this year. Although we often associate the flowers of the plant as being the storyteller, many plants are not known for their flowers, but for their foliage or form. Heartleaf philodendron, named so because its leaves are in the shape of a heart, is said in folklore to represent love of nature and growth. Another meaning that is said of this plant is that of good health and abundance.

Forming a dense mound, or even climbing with its aerial or adventitious roots, Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum is a handsome plant with deep-green shiny leaves. These leaves can reach up to 16 inches long in some cases, and the plant itself can take the form of a freestanding tree up to 15 feet in height. The deep lobes on the long leaves make it easy to identify, as well as the leaf scars that form on the trunk. These recognisable features, which resemble eyes, form after each leaf ages and falls from the main trunk.
Native to Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina, heartleaf philodendron is a widely cultivated plant for ornamental tropical gardens, as well as for a houseplant for temperate climates. It prefers bright indirect sunlight, tolerating a bit of shade, but will not tolerate salty soils. It performs well in a moisture-retentive soil and needs plenty of room to grow as it goes from a shrub form to having epiphytic, tree-like qualities.

This article originally appeared in the January 2021 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

Woman wearing a navy blue shirt and curly blonde shoulder length hair smiles at the camera

About the author

Shannon Schmidt is the Horticulture Manager at Dart’s Arboretum Services Ltd. Joining Dart in 2012, Shannon previously worked in parks, public gardens and tourism properties, among others. Originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York State, Shannon loves island life, spending time paddleboarding around the canals and mangroves, in the sea, and spending time outdoors with her two energetic Boston Terriers Nollie and Ebbie and her equally energetic partner Chase! Shannon holds a Bachelor of Science in Recreation, Park and Tourism Management from The Pennsylvania State University and a Diploma in Horticulture from the Longwood Gardens Professional School of Horticulture, and loves spending time swinging in a hammock, with her favourite smoothie from Jessie’s Juice Bar and reading material from Books & Books.

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