From afar this dense, compact plant adds a pleasing burst of greenery to the room.
Look closer and you’ll be charmed further by teensy, spherical patterned leaves that give this quirky vine its name and the feature that makes it such a joy to care for.
How do you care for a string of turtles plant? String of turtles prefer a light peat-based soil and temperatures of 65-75°F. Water when the top layers of soil are dry, and keep humidity levels above 40%. Provide bright, filtered light to maintain leaf patterns, and fertilize with a succulent food every 3 weeks during spring and summer.
This dainty vine can be the perfect addition to your windowsill or liven up bare wall space in a gorgeous hanging basket.
However you choose to display your string of turtles, help it prosper with our guide to the care essentials, troubleshooting common issues, and more.
Care Instructions for String of Turtles
The string of turtles plant (Peperomia prostrata) is also named turtle strings and magic marmer and is a semi-succulent vine due to its thickened, fleshy foliage.
It grows in a trailing habit and is densely layered with scores of rounded 1-inch leaves of dark green with white veining – making a pattern that resemble turtle shells growing from slender red stems or “strings.”
At a Glance
Potting String of Turtles
As it has a shallow root system, choose a pot 1 inch wider than its nursery pot size containing at least two drainage holes.
For the perfect soil mix in which to grow your string of turtles, plant parent and founder of Two Peas in a Condo Devri Chism recommends “equal parts peat moss, sand, and perlite.”
“This fertile potting mix encourages root growth and increases vine strength,” Chism explains, “whilst the perlite (lightweight granular rock) aerates the soil to help it drain well and prevent fungal root issues”
Lighting, Temperature & Humidity Requirements
The bright, filtered sunlight near an east- or west-facing window will be ideal, so long as you have a protective sheer curtain or shade in place.
As it’s a rain-forest-dwelling plant, you’ll want to keep things at a tropical 65-75°F (18-24ºC ). Just keep clear of drafts and air vents as temperature dips below 55°F (13ºC) can cause leaf drop.
Typical indoor humidity levels of 40% will be fine but this plant will relish closer to 60%, so weekly misting during winter is encouraged.
Erring on the higher end of humidity will help keep pest infestations down too, so a humidifier may be a worthwhile investment.
I use and recommend this model because runs so quietly and it has a rotating nozzle so that you can aim the mist directly where you want it.
Watering and Fertilizing String of Turtles
The string of turtles plant’s succulent-like leaves means they won’t need watering very often as they can store a lot more moisture in their cells than most vine plants.
Space out your waterings once every 2-3 weeks to keep the soil slightly damp.
A sure-fire way to prevent overwatering is to “feel that the top 3 inches of soil are dry before watering again,” advises houseplant and DIY expert Brittany Goldwyn, “as this prevents the delicate stems from developing rot.”
As for fertilizer, sprinkle worm castings (worm waste) on the soil surface once in spring and again in summer to deliver a slow release of nutrients.
Liquid succulent fertilizer (find it here) can also be appropriate when applied every 3 weeks from spring-fall and will help the leaves retain their unique pattern.
Repotting and Pruning
This plant can afford to go 2-3 years before repotting is necessary as it tolerates being rootbound (when the roots are visibly wrapped around the soil base).
Once your plant appears overly crowded and the roots are poking through the drainage holes, repot it in a container one size up.
Raffaele Di Lallo, founder of the plant blog Ohio Tropics warns that string of turtles “never need to be in a pot size larger than 6 inches in diameter since the soil will take a lot longer to dry out in bigger pots, spelling severe root issues.”
When it comes to pruning, control the size and shape by pinching off any leggy, over-hanging stems with your thumb and forefinger.
You can also prune back stems at the soil base to prevent crowding using sterilized pruning shears.
String of Turtles Propagation
If you’d like to create offspring string of turtles plants in your home, you can hold onto healthy pruned stems and re-plant or propagate them using the following method:
1. Cut a 5-inch Vine Section & Remove the Bottom 2 Leaves
Use sterile pruning shears to remove a healthy vine measuring 5 inches. Pinch off the lower 2 leaves to reduce moisture loss and make it easier to re-plant the stem.
2. Prepare a Small Pot with Moistened Soil Mix & Plant the Vine Cutting
Fill a small plant pot with well-draining soil mix and water thoroughly, making sure it drains well.
Coil your vine cutting into a circular shape and plant into the moist soil, ensuring the nodes where you removed the bottom 2 leaves are inside the soil surface.
Use a paper clip to secure the coiled vine in place.
3. Place a Humidity Dome Over the Pot & Remove Once You Notice Leaf Development
Place a clear plastic bag loosely over the plant pot to create a humid microclimate and place the pot in bright, indirect light.
Allow a couple of weeks for the roots to develop, by which time you should start to notice healthy new leaf growth.
Remove the bag once this happens and begin caring for your mini string of turtles vine as you would with the adult plant.
Is String of Turtles a Succulent?
String of turtles is considered a “semi-succulent” plant due to the thick, fleshy nature of its foliage.
Despite being native to humid rain forests, its leaves share the moisture-retaining qualities of its desert-native succulent cousins.
Is String of Turtles Plant Rare?
This plant used to be deemed rare but a recent surge in popularity has made it more widely available in plant nurseries, online shops, and places like Etsy and Amazon.
As string of turtles is a slow-grower, fully matured versions can be considered rare and often sell at higher prices.
How Big Does String of Turtles Get?
This plant can reach a mature height of 1 foot (12 inches) tall when grown in ideal conditions.
If your mature leaves appear small, this can be an early indication of slow growth due to low light, so ensure your plant is no further than a few feet from a bright, indirect light source.
Grow lights, like these full-spectrum lights with dimming features, timers, and three modes, can be beneficial if bright light is scarce.
Are String of Turtles Fast Growing?
The string of turtles plant is a slow-growing plant, taking between 3-5 years to fully mature. Houseplant hobbyist Grace of My Fellow Foliage advocates a bathroom setting to see faster growth:
“The filtered light through the glazed glass of my west-facing window has seen significantly faster growth. I’d also attribute it to the small amount of air circulation it gets from cracking the window open slightly.”
Can String of Turtles Climb?
While this trailing vine is popularly grown in hanging baskets, your string of turtles can also be trained to climb with the aid of a traditional trellis or a homemade version using small wooden dowels, chopsticks, or dried branches cut to size.
Does the String of Turtles Plant Flower?
Mature string of turtle plants will produce narrow coppery-brown flower spikes on the vine in early summer and bloom throughout the growing season.
If you wish, you can prune back these non-aromatic blooms to encourage foliage growth.
Is String of Turtles Variegated?
String of turtles is classed as a variegated plant according to the North Carolina State University Gardener Extension.
The contrast of its deep green leaves with white veination can appear more defined in balanced light conditions, and the variegation can be lost altogether in low/direct sunlight.
String of Turtles vs. String of Hearts
The string of hearts (Ceropegia woodii ) is a vine belonging to the Apocynaceae plant family while string of turtles belongs to the Piperaceae family of flowering plants.
Both plants have green and white variegation in their foliage, but the string of hearts plant’s leaves are distinctly heart shaped instead of round and are much smaller, measuring 0.4 inches across.
This vine also reaches a mature height of 2.9 feet (35 inches).
String of Turtles Common Problems & Solutions
In summary, this is a low-maintenance houseplant that appreciates humid conditions and plenty of bright, indirect sunlight to maintain its cute and characterful turtle shell leaves.
Watch out for overwatering as its semi-succulent leaves can retain a lot of moisture. Help your string of turtles flourish by checking that the top soil layer remains lightly damp.