String of Turtles (Peperomia prostrata) is a tiny succulent native to Brazilian rainforests that thrives in warm climates but adapts well to average household conditions. Because of this, it's a popular plant for houseplant collections and apartment jungles worldwide.
It's small in size and has a slow growth rate, reaching full maturity in three to five years. This makes string of turtles a good choice if you have limited space. The plant's attractive leaf shape also makes it a favorite to use in fairy gardens, container gardens, and glass terrariums.
That same leaf shape is what gives the plant its common name. Each one looks like the shell of a miniature turtle strung together. Every tiny leaf on its trailing vine has intricate multi-colored patterns covering its surface—the colors become muted with age and eventually become bicolored by maturity, typically a darker green contrasted by light green. No matter how it is used, the uniqueness of Peperomia prostrata will make it a valuable addition to any indoor plant collection and an excellent conversation piece.
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|Common Name||String of Turtles|
|Botanical Name||Peperomia prostrata|
|Mature Size||12 in. long, 3-4 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Bright, indirect light|
|Soil Type||Loamy, moist|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Hardiness Zones||10 to 12, USA|
String of Turtles Care
When properly cared for, a string of turtles plant can be the pride of a tropical plant collection, but it will take a little effort and some adapting from the typical methods used to maintain most succulents. Different, though, does not mean complicated. An adequately cared for Peperomia prostrata will reward owners with a unique, well-kept, vining succulent.
String of turtles plants love bright indirect sunlight and will thrive in these conditions. Keeping these plants in full sun for too long will damage the leaves, but too little light and they will fail to produce new growth. Because of the vining nature of the plant, make sure light reaches the top of the plant so that it continues to produce new growth. Often, vining plants are placed on high shelves or areas without light, which causes the plant to stop producing new growth. Make sure light reaches all areas of the plant.
Those familiar with raising succulents may be used to using premixed soil that has been formulated especially for succulents and cacti. These premixes should not be used for string of turtles plants.
Instead, a mix consisting mainly of organic matter should be used. One that is rich in peat is ideal. This formula is easily found in a commercial seed starting mix. Peat is acidic, which is perfect for this plant, but take care that the pH does not get too low. Testing the soil is every so often is a good idea. Make sure the soil drains well.
String of turtles plants tend to suffer from overwatering more than they do dry conditions. The plant is native to the Brazilian rainforest, so it prefers slightly moist conditions. Make sure the pot has drainage holes, water well, then let the soil dry out between waterings.
Avoid overwatering by drenching the soil till water runs out the bottom of the pot, and the soil is thoroughly moist. Do not water the plant again until the top two inches of soil have dried out.
Temperature and Humidity
This plant prefers cooler, more humid temperatures over the warmer temperatures most succulent fans have come to expect. Keep your string of turtles plant in a consistent temperature environment that ranges from 68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It does not like cold temperatures, so avoid placing it near exterior doors or drafty windows, and if you've placed it outside during the summer, make sure to bring it inside before temperatures turn chilly. During drier summer months or when a heater is running during the winter, you may want to use a mister or humidifier to increase humidity around the plant, as long as care is taken to ensure that the leaves are not left wet.
Feeding string of turtles will help the plant maintain a bright shiny vigor and ensure that the leaves' color and patterns are held throughout the growing season. Feed it with a diluted houseplant fertilizer biweekly during the growing season—fertilizing is not recommended during the fall or winter months.
Pruning String of Turtles
If string of turtles plants are not pruned regularly, they can develop an unkempt, ragged, and leggy appearance. Occasional pruning will allow you to remove dead and damaged stems and leaves and tame unwanted growth. It also encourages new, more vigorous growth to flourish. Do all pruning with sanitized scissors or very sharp snips.
Propagating String of Turtles
Propagating string of turtles plants via cuttings is an easy and straightforward way to increase your plant collection or develop plants to gift to friends. You can propagate the plant any time of year using just a few quick steps. Here's how:
- Using a mature mother plant and clean, sharp scissors, snip off a few cuttings just below a node. The cutting should be at least 3 inches long.
- Remove any leaves on the lower portion of the cutting, near where you removed the stem from the plant.
- Fill a small pot with regular potting mix that is moist but not soggy.
- Plant the cut end of the stem into the potting mixture, ensuring at least one node falls below the surface of the soil. Dipping the stem in rooting hormone can help speed the process, but it's usually not necessary.
- Place the plant somewhere that gets bright, indirect light.
- Keep the soil moist but not soggy. After a few weeks, gently tug the cutting—if you feel resistance that means roots have formed and you can now care for your plant as normal.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
Generally, string of turtles plants are not overly susceptible to major pests or diseases. Like most houseplants, they can be vulnerable to pests like whiteflies, mealybugs, and spider mites. If you spot signs of an infection, treat the plant using insecticidal soap or neem oil. Additionally, string of turtles plants are sensitive to overwatering and develop root rot if they are not in well-draining soil or a container with ample drainage holes.
Are string of turtles plants easy to care for?
Yes. While their care differs slightly from that of a traditional succulent, string of turtles plants are easy to grow successfully.
Can string of turtles plants be grown indoors?
Yes—in fact, string of turtles plants are primarily grown indoors, since their natural tropical environment is not easily found in the United States.
How long can string of turtles plants live?
String of turtles plants can take anywhere from three and five years to reach maturity, at which point they will significantly slow their growth and eventually die. Occasional propagation is key to maintaining a healthy plant population.