As most houseplants rarely flower when kept indoors, one of the main things that’s attractive in a houseplant is its foliage, whether that’s for huge, dark leaves found in a colocasia, the ‘living stone’ look of a lithops succulent, or the messages of affection often seen in the string of hearts.
If you’re a fan of trailing houseplants with unusual foliage, the string of hearts is a perfect choice. Here’s everything you need to know.
At a Glance: What You Should Know About the String of Hearts Plant
The string of hearts plant has many names.
You may see it under hearts-on-a-string, the sweetheart vine, the collar of hearts, the chain of hearts, or the rosary vine, all named for its heart-shaped, evergreen foliage. Its scientific name is Ceropegia woodii.
One thing that makes this plant so popular for growing indoors is that it is very easy to care for.
It’s worth noting that you will need a hanging pot, or somewhere where the leaves can trail easily, as this plant can easily reach 13 feet in its natural habitat, though it’s more likely to be a couple of feet indoors.
This trailing succulent makes a feature of itself in any home, with its waterfall of foliage, and occasionally, petite purple flowers, usually in summer or autumn.
When the plant is young, the foliage will grow close together, but as the stems grow longer, the leaves will space themselves out, hence the name hearts-on-a-string.
The plant may also grow nodes along the stem, which can produce new roots and stems by itself. You can take cuttings of these to make new string of hearts plants.
How to Grow a String of Hearts Houseplant
If you give a string of hearts the right care, it may live for 25 years or more. As it grows older, like some trailing plants, the growth will become less vigorous, so it’s recommended that you regularly propagate the plant, and put the cuttings into the same pot to help regenerate it.
Should You Grow a String of Hearts Indoors or Outdoors?
If you live somewhere which is warm and sunny all year-round, temperatures never dropping below 60°F (or 15°C), you can grow a string of hearts as a ground cover in very well-draining soil, in a hanging pot, or as part of a rockery.
If not, the string of hearts makes the perfect houseplant, even if you only choose to grow it indoors during the winter.
Some people prefer to grow it indoors all year round, providing a great amount of greenery and interest into any room.
Sunlight and Position
Pick a bright and indirect place for your string of hearts. Some succulent plants love as much direct sunlight as you can give them indoors, but the string of hearts is not one of them.
Too much sunlight will scorch the leaves, so keep it somewhere where the light is filtered, or has some afternoon shade.
If you decide to grow it outdoors, put it somewhere bright, which has the benefit of some shade during the afternoon.
Make sure to select a spot which has a good amount of air circulation, to help prevent disease.
Ensure that the plant sits in well-draining soil, otherwise it can easily die from overwatering, poor drainage, or a combination of the two.
If you’re growing it indoors, make sure to keep it away from drafts or radiators, as it needs a consistent temperature in order to thrive.
When to Water a String of Hearts
As the leaves act as a water storage reservoir, you don’t need to water a string of hearts very often.
This will suit anyone who is forgetful when it comes to watering, someone who travels a lot, or who doesn’t have a lot of time to devote to houseplant care.
Check to see if the top two inches or so of the soil is dry. If it is, it’s time to water your string of hearts. If you’re unsure, leave the plant a few more days before you water.
It’s important to note that the plant can go dormant in winter, so if you see no new growth forming, cut back the watering to very occasionally.
Should You Feed a String of Hearts?
As a succulent, the string of hearts isn’t a very nutrient-hungry plant, but that doesn’t mean you can’t feed it.
If you do want to fertilize it, make sure to do it only once a month in summer, at half the recommended dose of a balanced houseplant feed. Don’t feed the plant outside of summer, as you may do it more harm than good.
Pests and Disease to Look Out For
While the string of hearts plant can be left alone for a while, you do need to keep a watchful eye out for pests and disease. Catching any problems early will go a long way when it comes to looking after the health of your plant.
Mealybugs, aphids, and scale insects are the biggest pests, but they all display signs early on, making them easy to deal with as long as you don’t put it off. Most you can remove by hand.
If the infestation has gotten worse, you may need to get some insecticide, or neem oil to get rid of them. Make sure to wear appropriate protective gear when handling chemicals, as the risk just isn’t worth it.
If overwatering becomes an issue, it’s a good idea to take some cuttings from the original plant if it’s healthy enough, and then repot the plant into a container full of fresh soil, which may help it to recover.
How to Propagate a String of Hearts
If you want to take some cuttings of your string of hearts plant, it’s a good idea to wait until summer, when the plant is at its most active.
Never take cuttings from a dormant plant, as this will only harm it.
The easiest way to take cuttings from a string of hearts is to cut the aerial tubers which form as part of the stem. You can also divide the plant if you prefer, but that’s best done when its current container has gotten too crowded.
To have a chance at making a new plant, you need an aerial tuber that’s got a diameter of 2cm. If the stem it’s attached to is fairly long, you don’t need to separate the tuber from the plant at this stage.
Grab a tray, and fill it with perlite, or a mixture of horticultural grit and sand. Put the tuber on top, covering it completely, but thinly.
Put the container in partial shade if possible, and mist it at least once a day, and you should see new growth within ten weeks.
When the root growth has gotten big enough to support the cutting by itself, use a clean knife or a pair of scissors to cut the rooted tuber from the mother plant.
For stem cuttings to work, your string of hearts needs to have at least some length, about a few inches for one cutting. You’ll need a knife, and a vase or tall glass of water for this.
Get these ready beforehand, as the quicker you place cuttings into water, the better the chances of success.
Take a sharp knife, and cut the stem from the plant. Cut several to help bolster your chances of them rooting, and put them in the water.
Take them out, and take off any leaves that were underwater. Avoiding leaves being submerged helps stop any disease when they will inevitably rot in the water.
Place the cuttings back into the vase, changing the water when it gets murky, or once a week, whichever comes first.
Place the glass or vase in a bright, warm place, making sure that no direct sunlight can burn the leaves. You should see new leaves within a couple of weeks, at which point you can plant up your new string of hearts.
It’s a good idea to take cuttings regularly during the summer to reinvigorate the growth of the plant as it gets older, as it will slow with time.
It will also make the pot fuller, which means there’s less chance of overwatering the plant to begin with.