Heart Leaf Fern Plant Care – How to Grow Hemionitis Arifolia

Last Updated on April 14, 2022 by Admin

The Hemionitis Arifolia is better known as the Heart Leaf Fern. Although, you may see or hear it referred to as the Heart Fern and Tongue Fern.

The plant is a dwarf fern which makes it perfect if you’re looking for a small plant to put on a table, countertop or shelf.

The Hemionitis Arifolia is an epiphyte so it is often found in the forest growing on trees instead of the ground. As such, it has a delicate root system which means you need to consider this when caring for the plant.

The plant is often called the heart leaf fern because of the shape of its leaves. These grow to between 2 to 4 inches long while the plant itself can reach up to 6 or 8 inches tall.

It is native to Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Laos.

How do you care for the Hemionitis Arifolia? The heart leaf fern thrives in a well-lit space with indirect light. It enjoys warm conditions and high humidity. Because of its small size and delicate root system, it is important to avoid overwatering the plant as it is prone to root rot.

Heart Leaf Fern Plant Care

Hemionitis Arifolia Light Requirements

The Heart Leaf Fern does best in medium to bright, indirect light. The plant likes living in plenty of light. This will help it grow and maintain its beautiful green leaves.

That said, because the plant grows under the shade of the large trees in the tropical jungles of Southeast Asia, it is not used to direct sunlight.

Therefore, avoid very strong light and direct exposure from the sun’s rays.

These will cause the leaves to turn yellow and then brown later on. Additionally, if there’s excess exposure, the leaves will shrivel or even get scorched.

This is why indirect, filtered or dappled light is ideal.

As such, the best location is near as east facing window with morning sun.

It can tolerate direct sun during the mornings before 10:30 a.m. as the rays are not as intense as those in the afternoon.

In this environment, the Heart Leaf Fern will grow at its best.

However, avoid the harsher noon to mid afternoon sun which can damage its leaves.

Thus, if you want to keep the plant towards the west or the south, try to position it so that it stays away from the direct rays of the sun.

These directions are where the afternoon sun comes into your home. And the plant cannot tolerate more than 2 hours or so of this kind of light without its leaves sustaining some kind of damage.


Hemionitis Arifolia Temperature

The ideal temperature for the Heart Leaf Fern is between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Again, this is due to its natural habitat which is Southeast Asia whose countries are located right on or around the equator.

Therefore, the climate in that region is warm to hot all year round.

There is no snow, frost or winter weather. Instead, you’ll see people wearing a t-shirt, shorts and even flip flops between November to March.

For this reason, the Heart Leaf Fern enjoys consistently sunny and warm weather.

This makes it a perfect fit for indoor growing since our homes and offices tend to maintain this kind of temperatures.

That said, be careful of air conditioners and cold drafts that come in through open windows and doors. The plant does not like them.

In fact, it does not like any temperature below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

This means it is important to keep the plant indoors once the cold weather comes in during the latter part of the year. It won’t be able to survive the winter weather.




Heart Fern Humidity

The Hemionitis Arifolia enjoys humidity of 60% to 80%. This is where it will grow at its best.

Again, this has to do with the plant’s native habitat.

Southeast Asia is not only hot but also very humid.

At the lowest, you’ll see humidity go down to 55%. But for the most part humidity in the region stays between 60% and 75%.

When it is a rainy day, the humidity can jump to 85% or even 90%.

As such, the Hemionitis Arifolia prefers these conditions.

And it is why you’ll see people keep the plant in a terrarium, greenhouse or grow cabinet.

However, you don’t need to go that far if you don’t want to make the extra accommodations. Nevertheless, you do need to increase the humidity around the plant to keep it healthy and happy.

If not, you’ll see its leaves turn brown on the tips and edges that are crispy and brittle.

The leaves will also curl or shrink in an effort to try to conserve as much moisture as they can.

In fact, I’ve heard someone mention that she left her healthy Hemionitis Arifolia one night only to see it curl up and almost dead when she got up in the morning, all because humidity was too low.

In case you notice any of these symptoms, the quickest way to increase humidity is to cover the plant with plastic, mist the plant or move it to bathroom.

This will buy you some time to figure out what you want to do.

To maintain higher humidity in the long term, you can put it in a terrarium. But a humidifier is probably an easier fix. Although, there are some costs and maintenance that come along with it.

I like to use a humidity tray or pebble tray.

Both are free and you can make them yourself. You can also buy a humidity tray from stores if you prefer.

With both, you can just fill the trays with water and leave it be. The only maintenance is to refill the tray when the water gets depleted.


How Often to Water Heart Leaf Fern

The Hemionitis Arifolia likes consistently moist soil. But it cannot tolerate wet, soggy soil as it is prone to root rot.

The plant’s small root system makes it easy to get overwhelmed by lots of excess water.

Thus, watering the plant too often is a no-no.

Similarly, the Hemionitis Arifolia is not that touch or resilient.

As such, avoid letting the soil go completely dry. It tiny size and small root system don’t like this. And you’ll see its leaves curl up fairly quickly.

If this happens, make sure to immediately check the soil to confirm that the plant is underwatered. Then add water if this is the case.

It does not take long before the plant will deteriorate and die once the leaves have curled.

However, if the soil is wet or has puddles, don’t add water.

You can let the soil dry completely before watering again. Or to be safer, repot the plant in dry soil.

Because it has problems with both too much and too little water, the best way to know when to water is to allow the soil to partially dry between watering.

This prevents root rot from overwatering. But at the same time, does not allow the soil to completely dry out.

Additionally, the roots are also sensitive to too many chemicals. So, it prefers soft water. And if you have hard water or your tap is highly mineralized, you may see the plant experience some unpleasant leaf discoloration.

If this happens, and you cannot figure out why despite checking for watering issues, lighting problems, pests and other common causes, consider the water quality.

In this case, you can collect rainwater or filter your tap.

Another option is to let tap water sit overnight so the chemicals and evaporate by morning. This makes the water safe to use on the Hemionitis Arifolia.


Heart Leaf Fern Potting Soil

The Heart Leaf Fern needs moist, well-draining soil that is fertile.

It is an epiphyte with a small, fragile root system that easily succumbs to overwatering and root rot. Therefore, good drainage is very important to avoid waterlogging and excess moisture retention.

Of course, like other epiphytes, you don’t necessarily need to grow it in soil.

Instead, it will happily grow on a bark or on moss. Allowing it to cling onto something and climb will make it feel at home as this is how it grows in the wild.

If you prefer to grow it in a pot, you can combine:

  • 1 part potting soil
  • 1 part perlite or sand

This will give you a good combination of moisture retention and drainage.

You can likewise add an equal part or a few handfuls of compost to make the soil rich in organic matter.

Good drainage is crucial here which is why perlite is included in the mix. The reason is that the tiny size of the plant and is small root system has a very slim chance of surviving root rot.

Since root rot is hidden under the soil, by the time you see the symptoms in the leaves, a good portion of the small root system has already been damaged.

This gives you very little to work with to save the plant.

Therefore, prevention is the best approach here.


Hemionitis Arifolia Fertilizer

The Heart Leaf Fern does not need a lot of fertilizer. This is true for ferns in general.

Additionally, its delicate root system won’t be able to tolerate too much excess salts from fertilizers.

As such, this makes it very important not to over feed the plant.

Excess salts due to over fertilizing not only causes leaf discoloration but will damage the roots.

So, only apply fertilizer when the plant is actively growing. This occurs during the warm months of spring and summer.

You can use a general houseplant fertilizer. An all-purpose or balanced fertilizer will work just as well.

Don’t forget to dilute the application to half strength each time you feed it. And only feed it once a month in spring and summer. Don’t feed it during fall and winter.


Hemionitis Arifolia Pruning

One of the reasons ferns are popular houseplants is because they are low maintenance. And the Hemionitis Arifolia is no exception.

It does not need pruning although you can trim it every now and then.

But in general, you can let it be and not have to prune it at all.

The only exception are yellow, brown and damaged leaves. Also, remove any diseased foliage. You don’t want any of these sticking around as they can spread.


How to Propagate Heart Leaf Fern

The most effective way to propagate the Heart Leaf Fern at home is by division.

This is the simplest way to grow new plants. But you need to make sure you wait until the plant has matured and is big enough in size.

Otherwise, you’ll end up with very small new plants that will have a harder time to survive.

The best time to propagate your Heart Leaf Fern is spring. Ideally early spring.

This is the time when the plant is actively growing.

So, the new plants get an entire growing season to quickly develop before the cold weather comes around.

To divide the Heart Leaf Fern by division.

  • Carefully take the plant out of its pot. Be careful not to damage the roots since they are fragile.
  • Once you have the root ball out, figure out where you want to divide the plant. Make sure each division has enough roots and at least a few stems and leaves.
  • Then separate the root ball using your hands. You can also use a knife if you want to be more precise. But make sure to sterilize it with rubbing alcohol first.
  • Plant each of the divisions into their own pots with well-draining soil. Then water to soil to keep it moist.
  • Leave the new plants in a warm location with bright, indirect light.

Since the new plants have roots, stems and leaves, you don’t need to wait for them to germinate or root. Instead, they will soon push out shoots and new leaves.


How to Repot or Transplant Heart Leaf Fern

Like pruning, repotting is likewise low maintenance for the Heart Leaf Fern.

As with other ferns, it enjoys being rootbound. Therefore, there’s no hurry to repot.

In general, you will only need to repot the plant every 2 years or so. And only do so once it outgrows its pot.

Make sure to use well-draining, moist soil and replace the spent soil when you repot.

Choose a container that is one size larger. And make sure there is a drainage hole at the bottom to let any excess liquid drip out.


Is It Toxic/Poisonous to Humans, Cats & Dogs

Another reason why the Heart Leaf Fern is easy to care for its that it is safe for humans and pets. The plant is non-toxic.

This means it is safe to keep around the house with no risk or poison for young children, dogs or cats.


Heart Leaf Fern Problems & Troubleshooting


The Heart Leaf Fern is susceptible to many of the common houseplant pests including aphids, mealybugs and scale.

As such, you want to inspect the plant every now and then to avoid any infestation from developing.

Note that since the Heart Leaf Fern is sensitive to chemicals you want to be careful with using pesticides. If you do, make sure to avoid strong, harsh chemicals. Instead, use a light, organic option.

This is why many home gardeners prefer to pick the pests by hand. Although this is quite tedious to do.

I prefer to give the plant a shower on the sink or using a shower head.

This will let you easily control the stream of water. And you can thoroughly dislodge the bugs by checking in the right places.

You can likewise use neem oil but make sure to dilute it enough if you’re using the concentrated version.



Root rot is very dangerous for the Heart Leaf Fern. Unfortunately, that’s not the only disease that it can get.

Other problems that can happen including southern blight, powdery mildew and botrytis.

Fungal problems are an issue for the plant therefore, making sure you do not overwater or over mist your Heart Leaf Fern is essential.

Also, when watering, don’t water over the plant and wet the leaves. Instead, water directly onto the soil.

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