Peperomia prostrata, or String of Turtles, is Native to the rainforests of Brazil, according to The Spruce. The small succulent grows well in warm conditions but also thrives in typical household conditions, making it a popular houseplant in the United States. Thanks to its slow growth rate and small size, this plant will continue to grow beautifully in your home for three to five years. It does not take up a lot of space, and its stunning leaf shape makes it an excellent addition to your terrarium or container garden. Whichever way you choose to grow it, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about caring for a String of Turtles plant.
String of Turtles gets its name from the shape of its leaves. This succulent, which differs slightly from other succulents, has leaves shaped like miniature turtle shells strung together. When the plant is young, the tiny leaves have multi-colored patterns on their surfaces but then turn bicolor (dark green and light green) in maturity. Other facts you should know about String of Turtles include:
- Plant Type: Semi-succulent
- Botanical Name: Peperomia prostrata
- Common Name: String of Turtles
- Hardiness Zones: 10 to 12, USA
- Family: Piperaceae
- Mature Size: 12 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide
- Soil pH: Neutral to acidic
If you have grown succulents before, you probably used pre-made soil mixes designed specifically for cacti and succulents. Do not be tempted to use these premixes for your String of Turtles. Instead, use a soil mix primarily consisting of organic matter. It should also be rich in peat, which is acidic and perfect for this semi-succulent as long as you do not let the pH get too low. It is easy to find such a formulation in your local gardening store, usually sold as a commercial seed starting mix. According to Plant Care Today, your String of Turtles loves moisture, so add sphagnum moss to your soil mix to promote consistent moisture. You can then ensure proper drainage by adding gritty materials like orchid bark, pumice, sand, and perlite. Also, remember to regularly test the soil mix and maintain a neutral to acidic pH.
Temperature and Humidity
Most succulents grow well in warm temperatures, but String of Turtles plants can thrive in slightly cooler conditions as long as the humidity is high. The ideal temperature range is between 68°f and 75°F. When situating your plant, avoid placing it near drafty windows, air vents, and exterior doors because it is not frost-resistant. You should also bring it indoors in winter if you are growing it outdoors – preferably before it gets cold. Keep the humidity in your home high and mist the plant during dry seasons. Alternatively, you can use a humidifier or pebble tray around the String of Turtles to maintain high humidity. Be careful, however, not to leave the leaves wet.
Your String of Turtles will thrive under bright indirect sunlight. Placing it under direct sunlight will cause damage to the leaves, and insufficient light will result in stunted growth. Because it vines, you should ensure that indirect light reaches the very top and bottom of your String of Turtles so that it continues producing new leaves and stems. If you grow your semi-succulent outdoors, place it in a shaded area, such as under a tree or large plant, to avoid direct sunlight.
A String of Turtles plant will survive dry conditions better than it will overwatering. Because it is native to the rainforests of Brazil, this plant thrives in slightly moist conditions. Water the soil thoroughly once every week or two weeks until the soil is completely moist and water runs out of the bottom of the pot. Then, restrain from watering until the top two inches of the soil dry.
String of Turtles needs regular feeding to maintain vigorous growth and vibrant foliage colors and patterns. Therefore, you should fertilize your plant with a diluted houseplant fertilizer once every two weeks during the growing season – spring and summer. Plantophiles advises that you avoid fertilizing in fall and winter when it is dormant as it will likely not absorb the fertilizer.
Pruning String of Turtles
String of Turtles plants tend to develop a leggy, ragged, and unkempt appearance if they are not pruned occasionally. Pruning helps you maintain a healthy growth habit on your plant and keep it looking vibrant by taming growth patterns. Additionally, it helps you get rid of damaged, infected, or dead leaves and stems before they affect the rest of the plant and promotes more vigorous growth. When pruning your String of Hearts, stay away from young leaves, buds, and stems. Prune old and dead stems using a sanitized pair of sharp snips or scissors. Be careful not to get rid of more than two-thirds of the growth as this could stress the plant.
How to Repot String of Turtles
String of Turtles plants grow better when they are slightly rootbound, so you should not report them regularly – once every one or two years should do. As a rule of thumb, you should repot your plant if the growth rate slows and you begin to see roots protruding from the drainage holes. The best time to repot your String of Turtles is during its active growth season, so you do not stress it, and it has time to recover. Repotting in winter could kill your plant. With that said, here are the repotting steps you should follow:
Step 1: Purchase a pot one size larger than the current one and line the base with potting mix.
Step 2: Gently remove the plant from its pot and shake off the excess soil around the roots.
Step 3: Check the roots and get rid of any that appear brown, rotten, or mushy. Use a sterilized pair of scissors or garden shears.
Step 4: Place the plant in the new pot and fill the pot with soil mix.
Step 5: Water the soil mix until it is moist.
Propagating String of Turtles
Propagating your String of Turtles is an excellent way to ensure a steady supply of succulents in your home and grow your plant collection. It also allows you to gift this beautiful houseplant to friends and family. Like pruning, you should only do it in summer and spring. Here is how:
- Use a sterilized pair of sharp scissors to cut off several cuttings from a mature mother plant. Take 3-inch cuttings snipped off just below the node.
- Remove all the leaves from the lower section of the cutting.
- Fill a container with soil mix and water until moist but not soggy.
- Insert the stripped side of the cutting into the container, making sure to bury at least one node.
- Place the container in a location that receives bright but indirect light.
- Keep the soil soggy and monitor the cutting for a few weeks. Gently tug on it after several weeks. If you feel some resistance, the cutting has formed roots.
- Care for it as you would a regular String of Turtles.
You can also propagate a String of Turtles plant from leaves or seeds. Here are the steps:
- Get some String of Turtles seeds at your local gardening store or online retailer and sow them in sterile potting mix.
- Fill a container with soil mix, leaving an inch of space at the top. Plant several seeds in the pot approximately one inch apart and cover them loosely with soil.
- Water the soil mix until moist but not soggy, and place the pot in a location with bright indirect light.
- Give your seeds about a month for germination and check for shoots. If you do not see any growth after two months, the seeds are likely not viable.
- If your seeds germinate, care for them as you would a regular String of Turtles.
Common String of Turtles Diseases
Overwatering, low humidity, and failing to prune your String of Turtles can leave it vulnerable to diseases like leggy growth and root rot. Here are some tips for dealing with these problems:
Root rot is caused by leaving your plant’s roots in waterlogged or moist soil for prolonged periods of time. The tell-tale signs include stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and rotten roots and stems that smell funky. If you notice these signs, take the following course of action:
- Gently remove the String of Turtles from the pot and inspect the roots.
- If they appear mushy, brown, and smell rotten, clean them under distilled water.
- Use a sterilized pair of scissors to cut off all rotten roots.
- Disinfect the rest with diluted hydrogen peroxide.
- Clear the old soil mix from the pot and disinfect the pot.
- Create fresh soil mix and repot your plant.
Leggy growth can be caused by failing to prune your String of Turtles or lack of sufficient light. If you notice leggy vines on your plant, it is likely trying to reach the nearest light source. Move it to a location with bright indirect sunlight and prune old or damaged leaves. Your String of Turtles should bounce back in a few weeks.
Common Pests That Attack String of Turtles
Essentially, String of Turtles plants are relatively resistant to most common pests. However, like other houseplants, they can be attacked by spider mites, mealybugs, and thrips. Here is how you can spot and identify an infection on your string of Turtles:
- Spider Mites: Look out for white or grainy debris on the leaves undersides. This white material is the shredded skin of spider mites.
- Thrips: Thrips are small insects with straw-colored bodies. An infestation will cause blotchy brown discoloration on the leaves and stems.
- Mealybugs: White or snowy spots should alert you to the presence of mealy bugs on your String of Turtles. Quarantine the plant promptly to avoid spreading the infection.
Once you identify a pest infestation on your String of Turtles, you should immediately quarantine from other houseplants to curb the spread. Spray or wash the plant with a mixture of warm water, insecticide, and neem oil, brushing over the underside of the leaves and stems, too. Continue doing this until the signs of infection disappear, and your plant looks healthy and vibrant again.
Growing String of Turtles Outdoors
String of Turtles is primarily grown indoors as a houseplant, but you can grow it outdoors too. This is only possible if you live in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12. Nonetheless, this plant is not frost-tolerant, so you will need to bring it inside in winter. Outside, grow it in a location that receives bright, diffused light and is shaded from direct sunlight. You should also water the soul regularly, ensuring it remains moist at all times. This will help maintain optimal humidity levels.
Why Is it called String of Turtles?
String of Turtles is named for the shape of its leaves and its growth habit. As the plant matures, its long trailing vines hang down and form small leaves that resemble miniature turtle shells.
Is a String of Turtles plant easy to care for?
Yes. Although String of Turtles plants require a slightly different care regimen than traditional succulents, they are easy to grow and care for at home.
What Is the Lifespan of a String of Turtles Plant?
According to Two Peas in a Condo, String of Turtles plants take between 3 and 5 years to mature. When they reach maturity, their growth rate significantly slows, and they eventually die. You can lengthen this period through occasional propagation of healthy seeds or cuttings.
What Is the Difference Between String of Turtles and String of Hearts?
String of Turtles and String of Hearts are often likened to each other. But while they are both semi-succulents, the latter belongs to the Apocynaceeae family, not Piperaceae. String of Turtles leaves are also round and smaller than String of Hearts leaves, which have a distinct heart shape.
A String of Turtles plant will add pomp and color to your tropical plant collection as long as you care for it. However, you should note that this plant is native to tropical climates, and you need to mimic these conditions to keep your plants thriving. String of Turtles also differ slightly from other succulents, so avoid transferring your succulent care routine to it: make adaptations as necessary. Otherwise, this non-fussy semi-succulent should brighten your home for three to five years.