How to Plant, Grow and Care for String of Hearts Plants
Looking for a new houseplant to add to your indoor plant collection? The string of hearts plant can make a wonderful addition to any indoor garden. In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton shares everything you need to know about String of Hearts plants and their care.
There is a new succulent emerging as a favored plant with houseplant enthusiasts. It is quite different from more common houseplants we’ve come to know, with succulent leaves and an interesting growth habit. It looks great in container gardens or as a trailing succulent in hanging pots.
It’s also one of the easiest plants you can grow indoors and out (with the right knowledge). We’re talking about String of Hearts. As with all houseplants, this succulent plant has specific needs to be met when it comes to its maintenance and care.
Whether you are an experienced indoor gardener or a first-time plant owner, this beautiful plant will make an attractive addition to your living space. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the String of Hearts plant and their care.
String of Hearts Plant Overview
Plant Type Succulent
Species C. linearis subsp. woodii
Native Area Southern Africa
Exposure Bright indirect light
Watering Requirements Low
Pests & Diseases Mealybug, aphids
Soil Type Succulent mix
First, an Overview
There are tons of trailing succulent plants across several genera, many with names starting with ‘string of’ in their common names. With interesting looks and fascinating names like String of Bananas and String of Dolphins, it’s no wonder why they have become so popular around the world.
One of the most lovable of all the string plants is String of Hearts. You’ll usually find it labeled Ceropegia woodii in stores or online. However, in scientific classification, it is often placed under another related species to form the slightly more complicated name C. linearis subsp. woodii.
If you thought two scientific names was a lot, you’ll be surprised by the long list of common names, each playing on an attribute of these adorable plants. These include rosary vine, sweetheart vine, chain of hearts and my personal favorite – hearts on a string.
These popular succulent plants grow natively across Southern Africa. Though they have likely been around for a while, interest surged after a plant was found growing in the mountains of South Africa.
Collected by botanist John Medley Wood – curator at the Durban Botanic Gardens – it was sent to Kew for study, later published in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine in 1900. Like many other plants popular today, it spread from Britain to the rest of the world slowly over the following decades, becoming the succulent staple we recognize today.
This origin story explains where the species name originates. The specific epithet woodii is after botanist John Medley Wood. As a side note and fun fact, if you ever spot a species name ending in ‘ii’, you’ll know it was named after a male person, and ‘iae’ after a female person.
The rest of the name comes from Greek keros, meaning waxy, and pege, describing the fountain-like blooms.
Native to Southern Africa, Ceropegia woodii typically prefers dry climates and partial shade. Although different from other popular houseplants in native climate, it has become an indoor garden staple thanks to its limited needs, lack of tolerance for cold weather outdoors, and gorgeous trailing leaves.
If you have never seen a String of Hearts plant before, you would likely be able to pick one out by the common name alone. This descriptive term perfectly explains the long vines of this plant, covered in cute heart-shaped leaves.
But the shape of the leaves is not the only attraction of this plant. The coloring of the leaves is also interesting, with a mottled green and silver pattern that you can’t find on many other houseplants. This is heightened even further in the variegated species that sport dashes of pink – the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day.
These adorable leaves are semi-succulent, storing water and giving them a plump but flattened shape. They grow on long strings that can quickly reach several feet long if not controlled. This growth pattern is what makes them so great for hanging baskets. But, they can also be trained around a structure if you don’t like the wilder hanging look.
Growing quickly in the right conditions, these plants are known for getting out of hand. Luckily, any vines you prune to manage shape and growth are remarkably easy to propagate, allowing you to grow tons of these plants at no cost.
For those that live in USDA Zones 10 and above, you can plant them outdoors. It is not cold tolerant; but does well in warmer climates year-round. The quick-growing vines are ideal for filling in gaps in succulent gardens or for use as a groundcover.
You can also grow these plants in containers outdoors. They make ideal candidates for the ‘spiller’ category in the phrase ‘thriller, filler, spiller’, cascading over the sides of pots for a dramatic look.
When potting up with other plants, just make sure to pair them with other succulent or semi-succulent plants that don’t require much watering. Matching the needs of the plants will ensure they are all happy together, limiting your risks of rotting.
For those in USDA Zones lower than 10, you’ll need to bring them indoors for the winter season. This means you’ll need to keep them in smaller containers where they can be easily transferred.
Alternatively, to save yourself some time and outdoor space, grow them indoors from the start. This plant is often found in indoor plant sections due to their widespread popularity as a houseplant.
Vines grow from tubers that need to be buried when planting. The root systems are quite shallow, so they don’t need a deep hole when planting outdoors. In containers, choose a small pot, as the roots prefer to be slightly confined for the strongest growth.
How to Grow
Like many succulents, String of Hearts is very easy to grow. However, their requirements are different from other houseplants. These differences need to be followed carefully to avoid problems with overwatering or lack of light and the potential death of this succulent plant.
String of Hearts are sunlight lovers thanks to their open and bright native habitats. However, unlike other desert succulents, they don’t need a full day of direct sunlight to grow best. In fact, too much direct sunlight can be dangerous, especially during the hottest part of the day.
When growing outdoors, aim for an area with partial or morning sun. This will give the plant enough energy to grow successfully without risking scorching the leaves.
Afternoon sun can be too intense for the sensitive leaves, especially in very hot climates. Make sure they get some protection from midday to mid-afternoon when the sun is most intense.
Indoors, the lighting requirements are relatively simple – place them in the brightest spot possible. Avoid direct sun in the afternoons as you would outdoors, but direct sun during the rest of the day will be beneficial for growth.
This succulent can tolerate low-light conditions, but it prefers bright, indirect light. Poor light conditions will cause the vines stretch and the spaces between the leaves grow and create a much higher risk of rotting.
This is something to consider when growing Ceropegia woodii as a hanging plant. If they are hung too high up, they will not get enough light for strong growth. Keep them hanging around eye level in front of a bright east or south-facing window for the best results.
Ceropegia woodii is a succulent plant. It stores water in the leaves for periods of drought. The leaves can only absorb so much water before the reserves are full, no longer drawing up moisture. The vines grow from tubers that also store water and nutrients and are prone to rotting.
These factors combined mean you should not water too often. The soil should be left to dry out completely before watering again. They may need slightly more moisture during active growth, but you’ll only need to water around once per month or less in the colder months of fall and winter.
If the leaves become wrinkled and start to shrivel, they indicate a need for water. Moisten the soil as soon as possible to avoid any potential leaf drop. Mushy leaves and stems, as well as stunted growth, are signs you’ve watered too much.
When watering, follow the standard practice of watering your succulent at the base of the plant. Doing so will help to prevent root rot and other fungal diseases.
When growing Ceropegia woodii indoors, you need to be incredibly careful about the soil you choose. They will be happy in their existing pots for a while, but once it comes time to repotting, soil choice could make or break your plant.
These plants need a light and gritty succulent mix to grow their best. You can also use a standard houseplant potting mix amended with more perlite and sand to create the right rocky and well-draining conditions.
Avoid using standard potting soil or garden soil. These typically don’t drain well enough, especially when grown indoors where sunlight and moisture evaporation is much lower. Look for specialized succulent potting mixes online or at your local nursery to avoid problems with root rot.
Outdoors, conditions should be the same. The soil should be sandy and gritty – exactly how succulents like it. Make sure to test the drainage before you plant so you can confirm the tubers will not rot. If you need to improve drainage, mix in a generous amount of river sand and bark pieces.
Temperature and Humidity
As mentioned, this plant loves the high temperatures of their native habitats. Aim to keep temperatures around 80F, whether planted indoors or out. If temperatures in your region frequently drop below 60F in fall and winter, it’s best to grow these plants indoors where they can be protected.
In terms of humidity, requirements are almost the opposite of other common tropical houseplants. String of Hearts prefers dry air to very high humidity. Although it won’t suffer much in higher humidity areas (except for higher risk for some diseases), it will grow far better in dry spots.
Aim for around 40% humidity. Your plant also shouldn’t be placed in front of any drafts from windows or home appliances. The leaves are quite delicate and can fall off with drafts and strong airflow around the pot.
Fertilization is usually not a requirement unless the plant has been in the same pot for several years without a top-up. They don’t mind slightly nutrient-poor soil, storing required nutrients in their tubers.
If your plant is not performing well or you want to give it an extra boost in spring to promote flowering, use a succulent-specific fertilizer diluted to half-strength. Too much fertilizer will cause the leaves to drop off the vines.
Once you realize how easy it is to grow String of Hearts, you’ll certainly want more of them. Luckily, there are many ways to propagate these gorgeous plants.
Propagating From Cuttings
The simplest propagation method is propagating from cuttings. This can be done on its own or in conjunction with a pruning session to make sure any trimmed sections don’t go to waste.
Start by choosing a strong, healthy stem. When grown in hanging planters, their vines get tangled quickly. So, it may take a while to find the perfect candidate. For the strongest growth, choose a vine with smaller spaces between the leaves and no signs of damage.
Trim the vine just below one set of leaves with shears or even sharp and clean scissors. Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting, exposing at least two nodes.
Now, you have two options. You can root the cuttings in water or jump straight to the soil. Rooting in water does allow you to monitor progress, but as they root so well, you can also go straight to soil with confidence that roots will emerge below the soil line.
To root in water, simply pop the cuttings in a glass of filtered water. Hang the top half off the edge, so the remaining leaves don’t fall into the water. Transplant when the roots are an inch or two long.
To root in soil, take a few cuttings and group them together. Plant in a small container filled with succulent soil mix, allowing the excess to hang off the sides of the pot. Water immediately to encourage new root growth.
Once roots have developed, you can resume a normal maintenance routine. Try using several vines in one container to make a fuller and more established plant from the get-go.
Propagating From Tubers
Thanks to their interesting growth habit, you can also propagate via aerial tubers. These are the little bumps you’ll find growing along the vine that look like tiny potatoes. If conditions are right, these will slowly grow bigger, indicating it’s time to snip them off to grow new plants.
When tubers are small, it’s best to leave them on the plant to root before cutting. Grab a pot and fill it with a succulent mix or a lightweight propagating mix. Take the vine with the tuber and lay it along the soil, pinning it down to ensure contact.
Keep this pot close to the parent plant and moisten the soil. This encourages root growth without the plant relying on its own moisture reserves and nutrients for growth. Once the tuber and vine are rooted in the new pot, you can trim them off to grow on their own.
String of Hearts love to be confined to their containers. Lack of space encourages the vines to grow and spread and can even trigger flowering. However, too much confinement is also a bad thing. Eventually, you may want to consider repotting.
There are some indicators to look out for that your plant needs more space, such as stunted growth and roots growing through the drainage holes. You will also need to repot every three years or so anyway to replace the soil and provide the ideal conditions for growth.
To Repot, Follow These Easy Steps:
- Squeeze the sides of the pot to release the plant from its container.
- Gently pull it out, turning the pot sideways to avoid pulling from the delicate stems.
- Tease the roots and remove some of the old soil around the tuber.
- Fill a slightly larger container with succulent soil mix.
- Plant at the same level it was previously.
- Gently lay the stems around the edges of the container to prevent tangling.
Like all plants, Ceropegia woodii is not without a few common problems that can arise during their growth cycle. Some common issues they are prone to are common with most succulents, but others are more common just with this plant. Let’s take a deeper look.
Ceropegia woodii is not majorly fussy about care. It can tolerate and adapt to a range of environments quite well. However, if this plant becomes stressed, it will indicate there is a problem by dropping its leaves.
The most common cause of this issue is temperature fluctuations. String of Hearts really cannot stand cold weather and will react to this stress by ditching some of its leaves. Keep temperatures warm and consistent to prevent any leaf drop.
Another common cause of leaf drop is overwatering. Incredibly sensitive to root rot, they cannot be watered when the soil is still moist. They also cannot live in pots or soil with bad drainage. In both of these cases, vines and leaves will become mushy, eventually dropping off as a result of the rot.
Allow the soil to dry out almost completely before you water again. If you’re not sure, it’s far better to wait a couple of days than to water too soon. Rot is incredibly difficult to fix in these tuberous plants.
The quick-growing and unruly vines of String of Hearts can often get out of hand. The vines may become tangled in a large mass, difficult to trim or train as needed. They also begin to look messy and lopsided if the issue is not resolved.
Make detangling the stems a regular part of your care routine. Trim excessively long vines often to maintain the shape of the plant. This is one issue that is far better prevented with regular maintenance than painstakingly resolved later on.
If your String of Hearts begins to look leggy, with spindly vines and large gaps between the leaves, it’s not getting enough sunlight. These plants are not used to permanently shady areas and need a full day of bright light indoors to grow well.
To manage the problem, start by trimming the leggy growth. It will not improve over time and will only make your plant look sparse. Then, move the pot to a brighter area to encourage new dense growth.
If you’re changing the lighting levels drastically, it’s best to do so slowly. Introduce the plant to the new light conditions for an hour more each day to allow it to adapt. This prevents shock and potential burning that can occur in high light levels.
Small Bumps on Vines
If you see small, potato-like bumps on the vine, this is not some horrible disease or even a problem at all. These are tubers that indicate your plant is healthy and happy. The vines develop these tubers to spread naturally and anchor themselves in the soil. They can simply be left on the plant as is, or you can use them to propagate even more String of Hearts.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do they need to be pruned?
If your String of Hearts is in the right environment, you’ll find it growing incredibly quickly. The vines can often stretch, becoming tangled and looking untidy. The best way to manage this growth is to prune regularly, especially during the growing season.
To prune, grab a sharp pair of pruning shears and trim any vines that are unbalanced. Make sure you save those cuttings to root and grow more plants through propagation. Never remove more than one-third of the entire plant at one time to prevent shock.
How can I make my String of Hearts look fuller?
To improve the density of the growth in a String of Hearts container, simply loop the vines back into the pot and pin them down. Once in contact with the soil, roots will develop at the nodes in the right conditions. Once rooted, trim the ends to allow both sides to hang down as usual.
Once you try growing String of Hearts, there is no going back. They look great as part of an indoor garden, as standalone plants, or in hanging baskets letting their vines elegantly drape over the sides. These adorable succulents are incredibly versatile and add a touch of elegance to your space, whether indoors or out.