If you’re a succulent lover or you’re just starting your collection, you might have come across a delightful succulent commonly called “String of Turtles” (Peperomia prostrata). But, have you wondered how to grow String of Turtles yourself?
Like a lot of other succulents, this little beauty is relatively easy to grow and will reward you with those charming turtle-shaped leaves that cascade down on long stems.
A Little History And Background
Peromia prostrata is a tropical plant. It can be found naturally in the rainforests of Brazil. This means that, unlike many other succulents, it does prefer a more humid climate. It also appreciates the warmth.
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String of turtles is a trailing vine plant so it grows well in hanging pots where the trailing stems can easily cascade down. If you look closely at the leaves, you’ll see that they somewhat resemble turtle shells, thanks to their unique markings.
That is why it’s been given the common name of “string of turtles”. Other similar vining peperomia plants include string of pearls, string of dolphins and string of bananas.
These plants are slow growers and are considered semi-succulents. This means they still need well-draining soil but will grow happily in a fairly humid environment.
Choosing The Right Pot
Before you head off to purchase one of these delightful plants or consider propagating some from a friend’s plant, you want to make sure that you have just the perfect pot and potting soil to keep your plant happy.
As I’ve already mentioned, this plant is ideal for growing in a hanging pot. But, you can also grow it in a normal pot as long as you place this on a pot stand or a shelf. This means that the vining stems can cascade over the edges of the pot to show off the plant’s form best.
Most importantly, you want to ensure that whatever pot you choose has ample drainage holes. Like other succulent plants, string of turtles does not like overly wet soil and its roots should never be allowed to sit in water.
Selecting The Perfect Growing Medium
Unlike many other succulents, you can grow Peperomia prostrata in a normal potting mix. Just make sure that you select a premium mix that offers good drainage. You want a mix that contains a decent amount of organic matter to keep this plant happy.
You could even make your own mix by combining some aged compost with perlite to assist drainage. Two parts of compost mixed with one part of perlite should be fine.
When making your own growing mixes to use in pots, always measure them by volume rather than weight. For example, you can use a plant pot as a measuring tool. To make the mix I’ve suggested, you want to mix two pots of compost with one pot of perlite.
This plant prefers plenty of light and doesn’t do well in dark corners. You want to place it in a bright room near a window that lets lots of light in. But, make sure that the plant is not exposed to direct sunlight.
Direct sunlight can easily burn the leaves, so this should be avoided.
If you do want to position your plant near a window that does let full sun in, try and move it a little distance away from the window. Or, you can filter the sunlight by placing a net curtain over the window.
Plenty of light will ensure that the plant’s crown can put on lots of growth to keep the plant nice and lush. Enough light also ensures that the colours in the leaves remain vibrant so that you can appreciate the distinctive markings.
If you don’t have a room that is light-filled, you might want to invest in a grow light to place above your plant. This will ensure that its light requirements are met perfectly.
Because this plant is semi-succulent, it does appreciate the soil drying out in between watering. So, you basically want to water it the same as all your other succulents.
I find the best way to water succulents is to take them to sink and water the soil until the water runs freely through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Then, I leave the pot on the side of the sink so that all the excess water can drain away.
Once there is no water coming from the drainage holes, the plant can go back to its original position. With all succulents, you want to make sure that you never place a saucer under your pots if at all possible.
However, if your chosen pot has a built-in saucer, just make sure that this is empty after you’ve watered your plant. This means that there’s no danger of the roots being constantly exposed to soggy soil. Permanently wet roots will soon succumb to root rot and this may spell the demise of your plant.
You also want to ensure that you water just the soil and try and avoid getting the leaves wet. The leaves on this plant do have water-holding capacity and misting them may damage their delicate structure.
In general, you should only have to water your string of turtles once every couple of weeks. Of course, this will depend on how warm it is and how quickly the soil dries out. During the winter months when the plant is dormant, you might only need to water once a month.
How To Spot Overwatering Problems
Overwatering symptoms include wilting leaves that will eventually fall off the stem. The leaves may also appear a little mushy because they’ve tried to absorb too much water and this has caused the plant cells to break down.
If your plant shows these signs check the moisture content of the soil. You can do this by poking your finger into the top two inches of soil to see if it is damp. Poking a chopstick into the soil is another way to check whether the soil is wet or dry.
If the stick comes out and there is soil stuck to it, then the soil is damp. When the stick comes out dry, then the soil is also dry.
If all of this still doesn’t help you to stop overwatering your plant, consider investing in a moisture meter which will make this much easier.
How To Spot Underwatering Problems
It can be quite difficult to tell the difference between an overwatered and underwatered plant unless you become familiar with the signs.
In general, an underwatered plant will have leaves that appear quite flat and almost lifeless. In other words, they’ll lose their slightly plump appearance.
However, the best way to tell if your plant is overwatered or underwatered is to just check the moisture content of the soil.
If the soil has dried out completely, you might want to consider bottom watering. For this, all you have to do is submerge the bottom half of the pot into a container or sink filled with water.
You can leave the pot to soak in the water for a few minutes until you start to see air bubbles in the water. Then, take it out and let any excess water drain away.
Temperature And Humidity Levels
You’ve already learned that this plant grows natively in the Brazilian rainforests. This should tell you that it likes warm conditions and doesn’t mind high humidity. This also means that Peperomia prostrata doesn’t like the cold.
If you keep your home fairly warm in winter, then your plant should be fine. Just make sure that you keep it away from draughts and cold windows.
However, running the heating in winter and even the air conditioning in summer can soon dry out the air inside your home. This might mean that there’s not enough humidity to keep the plant happy under these dry conditions. You can remedy this in a couple of different ways.
You could consider investing in a humidifier that you place near your plant. If you have other tropical plants in your home, consider placing them all close together as this will help to promote a healthy environment for them.
Another way to create some humidity around your plant is to fill a shallow dish or tray with some pebbles or decorative stones. Then, add water until the level comes halfway up the stones.
Place your plant on top of the pebbles. As the water evaporates, it will humidify the air surrounding the plant. Because the pot is sitting on the dry pebbles, there’s also no danger of the roots sitting in water.
String of turtles will benefit from a little fertilising during its growing season which is spring and summer. You can either choose to use a liquid fertiliser or use slow-release fertiliser pellets.
For houseplants, I prefer to use the pellets because you only have to add them once a year in spring. For succulents, it’s best to only apply around half the dose recommended for other indoor plants. This will ensure that your plants put on new growth each year.
Make sure that you only apply fertiliser to moist soil so that you don’t burn the roots of your plant.
Problems, Pests And Diseases
Luckily, this plant is not really prone to too many problems. The only disease problem that you need to watch out for is root rot. However, this fungal disease can easily be avoided by ensuring that you never overwater your plant.
As an indoor plant, string of turtles might attract some common pests which are also fairly easy to deal with. These include mealybugs and spider mites.
Both of these pests can easily be controlled by dipping a cotton bud in some isopropyl alcohol and rubbing this onto the pests. For a more severe infestation, you may want to spray your plant with either a homemade white oil mixture or a mixture of neem oil and water. You could even use an insecticidal soap and spray your plant with this.
Frequently Asked Questions
While pruning is not absolutely essential for turtle strings, giving your plant a regular tidy-up is recommended to keep it looking great. Just remove any dead leaves and shorten the stems that have become too long. You can even use these stem cuttings to propagate new plants.
Yes, in its native habitat, string of turtles will produce flowers. The flowers appear as white, red or coppery spikes in between the leaves. The flowers are usually quite inconspicuous and plants grown indoors will rarely flower.
Due to their slow growth rate, string of turtles plants can take up to five years to reach maturity before they start to decline and eventually die.
String of turtles is a delightful semi-succulent plant that is relatively easy to grow and take care of. If you follow the recommendations that I’ve outlined here and give your plant the proper care, you should have a lovely healthy plant to enhance the decor of your home.