If you’re after an eye-catching succulent that’s easy to care for, look no further than the string of turtles, or Peperomia prostrata.
It makes a fantastic houseplant or a unique hanging pot in warmer climates, easily recognizable by its leaves that look like turtle shells on a string.
Not sure if the string of turtles plant is for you? Here’s everything you need to know.
At A Glance: What You Should Know About The String Of Turtles Plant
The string of turtles plant comes from the Piperaceae plant family or the pepper plant family.
The string of turtles plant is only found naturally in Ecuador, though it is grown worldwide as a houseplant (for another unusual and striking houseplant, you might try Growing Dioscorea Elephantipes). It doesn’t get large, and grows slowly, which makes it a good option if space is at a premium, inside or outside.
At most, a string of turtles will reach 30cm long by 10cm wide. Outdoors, you can grow a string of turtles in USDA zones 10 to 12.
Eventually, the colors of the leaves on a string of turtles mature to a bicolored form, usually light green with deeper green markings.
These plants are perennials, and if the conditions are right, they will put on a great display year after year.
How To Grow A String Of Turtles Plant
Sunlight And Position
The string of turtles plants like a lot of light, but avoid placing them in direct sunlight, as this will damage the leaves.
While they can survive in some lower-light areas, the growth rate will be affected, and the plants may stop producing new growth altogether.
One mistake that people make is putting vining plants on the top of shelves, where no light reaches the top of the plants. This inhibits new growth, as the new growth emerges from the soil.
When To Water A String Of Turtles
The string of turtles plant likes constantly damp soil but hates having constantly wet feet. The most common killer of this plant is overwatering, and this can be a tricky balance to strike.
Always check the soil before you water it. Stick your finger into the soil up to the second knuckle, and if it comes out completely dry, it’s time to water your plant.
The string of turtles plant acts like a succulent to a certain extent, so it does require good drainage.
You could use a mixture of good quality compost and a small amount of grit to improve drainage, and this will help stop root rot.
Even a commercial cactus and succulent compost mix will do, but make sure you add one part horticultural grit or pumice to help keep airflow to the roots.
Pests And Diseases To Watch Out For
Mealybugs can be a big problem when it comes to growing a string of turtles. You can recognize the signs of mealybugs by the white fuzz they leave behind, and the leaves turning discolored.
The best way to deal with these pests is to use insecticidal soap, following the instructions. You could also use neem oil, but this tends to kill beneficial organisms in the soil as well as the pests.
Should You Prune A String Of Turtles?
It’s a good idea to prune a string of turtles if the growth is getting a little out of hand. This encourages dense growth, making the plant appear healthier.
But it isn’t absolutely necessary like it can be with other plants. You can also use the parts you cut to make new plants by propagating the cuttings.
If you have some (damp) sphagnum moss, you can lay the cuttings straight on top, and put under a clear cover of plastic to give the cuttings some humidity.
When you see new growth, transfer the new plants into soil.
Things To Consider When Trying To Get The Best Out Of A String Of Turtles Plant
The Best Way To Propagate A String Of Turtles
While you could try to grow a string of turtles from seed, it is a complicated process that doesn’t have a great rate of success. Instead, the best way of propagating a string of turtles is to take cuttings off the plant (see also Growing Dischidia Plants).
First off, prepare a pot with damp, well-draining soil, and set aside.
Aim to have at least 3 cuttings, 7cm in length each, or about there. The more cuttings you take, the greater your chances of success.
Put your cuttings into the soil, making sure the nodes are buried into the soil, and there aren’t any leaves buried, either.
Keep the container somewhere warm and bright, preferably somewhere humid.
How To Tell When You Should Repot A String Of Turtles
A string of turtles plant will not need repotting often, thanks to its slow growth rate. It’s unlikely that it will ever need a pot that’s larger than 6 inches wide, either.
The best way to tell if your string of turtles needs a new home is to check the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
If the roots are starting to creep out of the bottom, this means the plant is looking for more space, and it’s time to give it some.
This particular plant is very sensitive to root rot and soil that stays too wet, so make sure that you only go up one pot size when you do repot it.
Otherwise, you risk drowning the plant when you water it, as the water will sit in the soil for too long.
If you are known to overwater your plants, you might want to use a terracotta pot instead of a plastic one, as water in terracotta pots evaporates faster.
Peperomia prostrata or the string of turtles is considered non-toxic, so it’s safe for households with pets and children.
String Of Turtles Troubleshooting
If you notice that the very ends of your string of turtles are starting to shrivel or dry up, this is your plant crying out for help.
Most of the time, this means that the compost has completely dried out, and you need to give it a good water.
If your string of turtles starts to drop its leaves, there are two possible reasons. One is that the surrounding temperature is too cold for the plant, especially if you have it somewhere drafty.
The other reason is that there is something wrong with the compost’s moisture level. It is either too dry or too wet, and this is causing the plant stress, making it drop its leaves.
If your string of turtles plant has very small leaves, even on mature vines, this suggests that you’re not giving the plant enough light.
On the other hand, if your string of turtles has developed a red tinge on the leaves, this means you’re giving it too much direct sunlight.
The string of turtles is an easy-going houseplant that is easy to look after. It helps that it is classed as non-toxic, which makes it a good choice for homes with pets or children.
It’s also a good houseplant for beginners, as it will actively show clear signs when the growing conditions aren’t right, giving you time to correct them before it is too late.