Hemionitis arifolia Care Guide (Heart leaf fern/ Tongue fern)

Last Updated on April 26, 2021 by Sophie

A delicate little plant that does best inside a terrarium-like environment, here’s your ultimate Hemionitis arifolia care guide, including watering tips, how to propagate this mini fern, and the best soil substrate to plant the green plant in. Part of the Pteridaceae family, other nicknames for this gorgeous little fern include Tongue fern and Heart fern.

Hemionitis arifolia

The term ‘Heartleaf fern’ derives from the fact that the plant produces glossy dark green fronds which are heart-shaped. Originating in South East Asia, and predominantly from Laos, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam, the plant was first scientifically recorded in 1859.

Heart ferns are entirely different from almost any other type of fern, and so you’ll easily spy the plant thanks to its miniature nature, dark green leaves, and even darker green stem (which is almost black in colour). The leaves have a leather like feel to the touch. 

Hemionitis arifolia is an epiphyte which means that in nature, it grows on top of other plants and trees. It should be noted that though it will grow easily without substrate such as a soil mix, this fern is not a parasite.

This dwarf fern only ever reaches a height of 6 to 10 inches tall and is simply adorable. Given the right care, the tongue fern can and will thrive within your home. However, it should be noted that this fern, like many other fern varieties can be a little tricky to please and so is not really a plant for beginners. 

Hemionitis arifolia Care Guide


Hemionitis arifolia Plant Care & Watering Guide

Watering your Heart fern

Like most ferns, the Heartleaf fern particularly loves high humidity, which can make it a challenge for this plant to grow and thrive in your home. This can particularly be a problem during the winter months when central heating in the home can dry out the air.

As such, and due to the tiny nature of this plant, one of the best ways to grow arifolia ferns in your home is within a terrarium environment, which only requires watering once a month or so (or when it looks almost dried out). If left outside of a terrarium, the heart fern should be watered when the top half inch of the soil is dry.

Best soil conditions for the Hemionitis arifolia 

Unlike other houseplants, ferns don’t like to dry out and so care should be taken to ensure that the soil remains moist at all times. With this being said, Hemionitis arifolia remains susceptible to root rot, from which there is little chance of recovery.

Because of this, it’s best to water the majority of ferns little but often. The substrate used should be a well draining loose soil mix. Alternatively, because the fern is an epiphyte, it doesn’t actually need to be on soil at all, but can instead be grown on a rock or tree bark or on moss (moss being the easiest non soil substrate in which to maintain the moisture of the plant).

Best light conditions for the Tongue fern

As mentioned prior, the tongue fern particularly enjoys shaded, lower light conditions, particularly considering that sitting in too bright an area of sunlight could dry out the fern plant too much. With this being said, this doesn’t mean that the plant shouldn’t receive any light at all. Bright indirect sunlight is best and so be sure to keep the plant away from any bright south facing windows. 

Hemionitis arifolia  Plant Propagation

Like most ferns, the easiest way to propagate the heartleaf fern is via division of the rootball. This should be done during the growing season (i.e. spring and summer) so as to give the newly divided plants the best chance at thriving.

When dividing the plant at the rootball, be sure that each newly divided plant has at least one healthy stem with frond (leaf) and a good section of root. After replanting the newly divided ferns, be sure not to overwater them as the roots will need time to accommodate to the new pot and will be more susceptible to root rot during this time.

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Hemionitis arifolia Care Guide (Heart leaf fern/ Tongue fern)/ watering tips, propagation advice

About Author

Sophie Nadeau is a travel, pizza, and history lover who is currently based in Paris, France. A keen indoor gardener, she spends her time at home reading books, looking at too many dog photos, and growing an indoor jungle in her tiny flat!