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How to Care for Philodendron Cordatum (AKA Heartleaf Philo, Cord)

Updated on May 17, 2018
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I have more than eight years of hands-on experience in the horticultural maintenance industry. I enjoy sharing many tricks of the trade.

Heart-shaped leaves are a characteristic of this plant.
Heart-shaped leaves are a characteristic of this plant.

What to Know About Philodendrons

The name Philodendron is most commonly associated with trailing vining plants, and rightfully so when it comes to the Cordatum. However, there is a wide variety of houseplants that are part of the Philodendron species. Characteristics of the Philodendron vary widely from one variety to another:

  • leaf shapes,
  • sizes,
  • and even colors.

Other common houseplant members of the Philodendron family include Hope, Congo, Xanadu, Swiss Cheese, and many more. As common as they are, all Philodendron are considered poisonous and can be harmful if ingested.

Cordatum Versus Pothos
Cordatum Versus Pothos

The Popular Houseplant Mix Up!

Philodendron cordatum is a houseplant frequently confused for another equally popular indoor houseplant: Pothos. Both plants have heart-shaped leaves, are trailing/vine plants, and are used similarly as tabletop or in-box planters. Although they are similar in many ways, they require different care and come from different plant species. With so many similarities, how can someone tell the difference between these two plants?

Here are a few ways to distinguish Pothos from Cordatum:

  • Leaf Position: Cordatum leaves most commonly lay down, which creates a cascading look. Pothos leaves reach up.
  • Leaf Texture: Cordatum leaves have a somewhat dull texture on older leaves unless they have been shined. Pothos have shiny leaves.
  • Trailing Stem: Cordatum has thin stems with leftover leaf husks from leaves that have emerged. Pothos has thick stems that only have prominent root nodes—no leaf husks.
  • Leaf Rigidity: A Cordatum leaf is more flexible than a Pothos leaf, which is somewhat flexible but will break if bent because it's thicker.

In general, Cordatum is a bit less forgiving than a Pothos when subjected to inconsistent care. It's also a bit less tolerant of environmental extremes than a Pothos. Even with slightly more rigid care instructions than a Pothos plant, a Cordatum is a fairly easy houseplant to care for—provided you know what it likes!

Pothos Versus Philodendron

How to Select a Space for Your Cordatum

When finding a place for your cordatum, remember it does not care for lighting extremes. Moderate lighting conditions are best, and you can get good results by placing it under fluorescents or other interior artificial light sources that are beneficial to plants.

  • High light conditions can cause chlorosis, which is a condition where a plant's leaves produce insufficient chlorophyll.
  • Leaves can be burned easily if they touch a hot window.
  • When placed near a window, a northern exposure or one that receives diffused light is best. Direct sun is not ideal.
  • Low light conditions will often cause significant foliage loss and a stringy appearance. Plants are more prone to root rot as their productivity diminishes considerably with access to little light.

Watering Your Philodendron Cordatum

In most interior environments, the best results can be obtained by watering a cordatum when it is dry to the touch.

  • Water it enough to moisten the soil through the pot. I don't recommend leaving the plant in standing water unless it is in a space of very high light heat or airflow.
  • Wait until the soil is dry to the touch before watering it again.

Consistency is an important component to proper watering. One of the most common issues is overwatering. For good health, a brief drying period must be provided.

If you have had issues with your Cordatum such as mosaic yellow leaves, brown leaf tips, or annoying little gnats, it is possible that your plant may have been subjected to too much water.

Have Fun Caring for Your Plant!

Cordatum can be a very easy houseplant to care for as long as you understand its needs and make sure to avoid any hazards that it may present. Knowing the difference between Cordatum and similar varieties also makes a big difference in the overall vitality of your plant.

Enjoy your houseplant and all of its unique characteristics!

Native Habitat: Puerto Rico, Central America, & Tropical Americas

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