By Vicki Spencer, Master Gardener
Baking and gardening have been passions of mine for as long as I can remember. I especially enjoyed making valentine cookies for my children to take to school and share with their friends. After my children grew up, I found myself baking less and gardening more. Imagine my delight when asked to write about giving plants with heart-shaped leaves as valentine gifts.
The most obvious choice for Valentine’s Day is the Sweetheart Hoya. This attractive Southeast Asian succulent can be found in local stores around Valentine’s Day and is usually sold as a single, thick, heart-shaped leaf planted in a small pot. While it is a relatively slow-growing plant, with proper care it will become a vine that grows up to 13 feet long with dangling green hearts.
After Valentine’s Day, plant the leaf in a hanging pot with drainage holes to prevent root rot. It performs best in bright or indirect sunlight and temperatures ranging from 60 to 80 degrees. Its succulent leaves are drought-tolerant and only need deep watering once or twice a month when the soil is dry to touch. With adequate sunlight, the vine produces clusters of white, burgundy-centered blooms in the summer. Apply a light solution of houseplant fertilizer once a month during growing season and discontinue in the winter.
Another trailing vine is the succulent-like String of Hearts which is native to South Africa. It has delicate heart-shaped, silvery green foliage speckled with darker green spots. The leaves dangle along slender vines extending up to 12 feet long. Once per year, it produces small, deep magenta-colored flowers. It prefers plenty of sunshine and periods of drought between waterings. In the winter, it’s best to allow the soil to dry completely as the plant goes into dormancy.
The tropical beauty Anthurium has heart-shaped leaves that mimic its waxy, bright red or pink flowers. The long-lasting blooms symbolize hospitality and inspire happiness in any room. It prefers indirect sunlight and humidity which can be achieved by placing it in a pebble tray. Keep this toxic plant out of reach of children and pets.
Heartleaf philodendron is a common house plant with heart-shaped leaves. It prefers partial shade or soft, indirect sunlight. My daughter loves my philodendrons because they are so easy to maintain. I water lightly once a week and fertilize occasionally. The dense foliage looks luscious wrapped around the pot. It can also be made into a climber by wrapping it around a stick placed in the pot. I know people who trained their philodendrons to grow all around their rooms by providing strings or wires attached to walls and ceilings for support.
I can’t think of a better way to say “I love you” than with any of these plants with heart-shaped leaves. Highlight the greenery by wrapping the pot in red foil. Plants are wonderful gifts that live in our hearts and minds all year round.
Gardener Vicki Spencer has an eclectic background in conservation, water, natural resources and more.