The Variegated String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii variegata) is a compact vining houseplant with little heart-shaped leaves. The variegated version has purple leaf margins and undersides. 🙂
The variegated SoH is very easy to grow and tolerates most light and humidity levels. It requires less water than many others thanks to its succulent-like qualities, but when the topsoil is dry, water it deeply. It needs to be kept in year-round temperatures of 65 – 85 degrees (18 – 29 degrees C).
Let’s get into the details.
Variegated String of Hearts vs. String of Hearts
The variegated String of Hearts differs from the ordinary green-leafed SoH by its distinct purple variegation. Unlike the unvariegated version, it has:
- Purple leaf edges;
- Purple leaf undersides.
Variegated String of Hearts is found in Southern Africa, trailing down rocky inclines, mountains or stony hillsides. They like to anchor themselves in narrow slivers of hummus-rich soil between rock faces.
There, they send roots into the soil while allowing their long vines to hang over the edges so that their leaves can bask in the sun. 🙂
How to care for your Variegated String of Hearts
Variegated String of Hearts is adaptable to most light conditions. Your plant will grow fine if you avoid the extremes: either intense and direct light for more than a few hours, or dark rooms.
However, for most vigorous and healthy growth, look for a bright spot that receives at least 6 hours of indirect light. An East-facing or South-facing window is best. Variegated plants require more bright light than unvariegated counterparts, as the former have less chlorophyll in their leaves.
Signs of too much or too little light
Brown and crispy leaf edges are a sign of sun scorch (sunburn) from too intense light.
On the other hand, if you notice large spaces between leaves, and that leaves are smaller, paler, and with less purple-pink variegation, this is a sign that your plant needs more light. Move the plant closer to the windowsill or change to a sunnier spot.
While your plant is not a true succulent, it is “succulent-like” due to its ability to hold water not in its leaves but in its tubers. Under the soil’s surface, the Variegated String of Hearts has water-filled tubers, which allow the plant to withstand long periods without rainfall.
Overall, this means that they require less frequent watering than other houseplants.
- Check the topsoil of your plant every week. If the top 2 inches (5cm) are dry, soak the plant with room-temperature water. Water until the plant is saturated, with excess water running off the pot’s drainage holes.
- Allow the plant to dry out again, and check back in a week to see if the topsoil is dry. If it isn’t, check again in a day or two.
- Using this method, you’d find that the plant needs more water in the spring and summer months when it is growing most vigorously. In the fall and winter, its water requirements reduce. You can expect the watering frequency to decrease by about 50%.
- Always use a planter with drainage holes. This is important to prevent “wet feet”, when your plant’s roots sit in a stagnant pool of water. Being a dry-weather plant, they detest waterlogged soils. Overwatering is one of the most common plant problems for Variegated String of Hearts.
Luckily, typical room humidity is sufficient for your plant. Humidity levels of 40-50% are adequate for your succulent-like vine. If you want to give the humidity level a small boost, try grouping your plants together.
Your plant likes a narrower range of temperatures than most: 65 – 85 degrees (18 – 29 degrees C), with the higher end of this range being optimal. For this reason, keeping your plant indoors is a must unless you live in a climate that experiences very minimal temperature fluctuations.
For outdoor gardening, this Variegated String of Hearts is suitable for USDA hardiness zone 10a and 11.
The Variegated String of Hearts is not cold-hardy. It will suffer at dips below 60 degrees F (16 degrees C). Like most plants, it also dislikes being placed near cold drafts or windows.
Growth and Flowers
In addition to purple-variegated leaves, the Variegated String of Hearts’ stems is also a deep purple-pink color. You can also expect purple blooms to emerge in summer when your plant is mature. These flowers appear in clusters.
Being a fast grower, you don’t have to wait too long for its heart-shaped (or apple-shaped) leaves to reach a maximum size of 1 inch (2.5 cm). They grow in an alternating style along the length of its long vine; the vine reaches a length of up to 13 feet (4 meters) if left untrimmed.
If you wish, you can allow this vining plant to grow upwards rather than trail down. To do so, use a trellis or wooden stick to support its climbing habit.
Being a semi-succulent vine, the Variegated String of Hearts is used to very dry soils. It’s essential that you get the potting mix right, as too-dense soil leads to overwatering and root rot.
If you prefer to use standard houseplant mixes, use 1 part standard houseplant mix to 1 part fine-grain sand and 1 part perlite. These soil amendments are to add drainage properties to your potting mix.
Your Variegated String of Hearts is not used to high-nutrient soils. They live in rocky plains that tend to be sandy and dry without much organic content.
You can use fertilizer but use it sparingly. A half-strength liquid fertilizer once a month during spring and summer is enough. Or, you can opt not to fertilize at all.
Don’t fertilize in fall and winter. Your plant doesn’t need it, and in fact, overfertilizing will do more harm than good!
There’s minimal maintenance your hardy plant needs. Like most compact vining plants, they enjoy being slightly root-bound.
- As a rule of thumb, you’d need to repot every 1-2 years. Do so in early spring.
- Signs that it’s time to repot: water immediately drains through the pot without being absorbed, and roots start to emerge from the bottom of the drainage hole. You may also notice a slowing growth and yellowing leaves.
- When repotting, you may choose to take the opportunity to propagate your plant by dividing the plant into two. Separate the individual plants and repot in fresh soil.
- Ensure the new pots have drainage holes and are about 2 inches (5cm) bigger than the original. In nature, your plant squeezes itself in between rock faces! It doesn’t need a large pot.
- After repotting, allow the soil to dry out before watering.
Good news. The Variegated String of Hearts is not toxic to people or animals.
Most plants go through seasonal growth. For the Variegated String of Hearts, a period of dormancy ensues from around late October to February.
During dormancy, your plant senses that growing conditions aren’t optimal. A drop in temperature and sunlight triggers it to prioritize conserving its energy. It stops producing new growth and only carries out basic metabolic processes associated with survival.
Interestingly, during this time, your plant’s leaves may look more vibrant and variegated, as it stops putting out new growth and concentrates on the leaves it already has.
Like caring for your plant, propagating a Variegated String of Hearts is easy. One method is through division, which we covered in the Repotting Section. Another straightforward way to propagate your plant is through stem cuttings.
Do this in spring or summer, when your plant grows most vigorously.
Here’s how to propagate through stem cuttings:
- Identify a 7-inch length of healthy stem, where there are at least 3-4 leaves.
- Using clean gardening shears, cut off this stem.
- Remove any leaves from the bottom half of the stem cutting (the part closest to the cut end).
- Place the stem cutting in a jar half-filled with room temperature water. Check that no leaves are submerged but that there are at least two nodes underwater. The nodes are where new roots will develop.
- Place the jar in a warm spot with lots of bright but indirect light.
- Change out the water every two days to keep it clean and fungi-free.
- In about three weeks, you should see roots emerge from the nodes.
- When the roots are about 1-2 inches long, plant your stem cutting into a prepared pot with damp succulent mix. (See the Soil section for appropriate potting mixes to use).
- Treat as you would any Variegated String of Hearts.
Tuber propagation is another way to propagate your Variegated String of Hearts if your plant is mature and has developed aerial tubers along the length of its vines. You will see this as brown masses that look like mini potatoes (maybe that’s just me, though!) along the vine.
This method of propagation is also relatively straightforward.
- Look for the biggest tuber along its vine. The bigger, the better!
- While leaving the tuber on the vine, loosely drape the tuber into another pot filled with moist, succulent mix (see Soil section for the right potting mix).
- Partially bury the tuber by gently pressing it into the soil.
- Keep the soil evenly moist and ensure the pot is placed in a warm spot with lots of indirect light.
- After about three weeks, roots will develop from the tuber.
- Now you can cut off the tuber from the main plant.
- Treat as you would any other Variegated String of Hearts.
Being a fast-growing vining plant, you’d probably want to regularly prune your plant to keep a particular length or shape. Cutting back growth also encourages the vines to grow more vigorously and become less leggy. Judicious pruning also supports healthy growth.
However, don’t overdo it. Cutting off more than a quarter of its length at a time can be damaging to your Variegated String of Hearts. Your plant will become stressed as it now has fewer leaves to photosynthesize and provide nutrients. It’s better to prune off a little regularly than pruning off a large section of stems all at once.
When pruning your vining plant, you can also take the opportunity to use cut off stems for propagation. (Look at the Propagation section for details.)
Besides trimming your plant to keep it neat and compact, also trim off any damaged or dead leaves. Leggy vines can also be cut off. This allows your plant to focus its energy on new healthy growth.
Common Pests and Diseases
While your plant is generally hardy, the two main issues you may encounter are root rot and mealybugs. Root rot is caused by overwatering your plant or having too-dense soil that retains moisture and doesn’t allow roots to breathe freely. For this reason, check the Water and Soil sections, which are arguably the most important parts of caring for your plant.
If you have an overwatered plant on your hands, consult our guide on how to save it.
Mealybugs may also be a threat to your plant. These bugs appear as cotton masses on stems or leaves. Mealybugs will also cause leaves to appear misshapen and lacklustre. You may additionally notice yellowing or dying foliage.
According to Iowa State University, these pests work by sucking plant sap through its long slender beak. This not only deprives your plant of nutrients contained in the sap but also damages plant tissues at the same time. To top it all off, mealybugs also excrete a sweet honeydew, which attracts sooty mold fungi.
The good news is that if caught early, your plant is likely to survive a mealybug infestation. All you need to do is to kill off these pests quickly. Here we document how to identify and get rid of mealybugs.
A good practice is to regularly check plants for any signs of infestation. Sometimes mealybugs like to hide on the underside of sheltered corners of plants, so it’s not immediately obvious that you have a pest attack. Doing a quick check can save you (and your plant!) a lot of trouble.
Besides the most common problems of root rot and mealybugs, other issues you may come across are spider mites and aphids. Both can be dealt with using neem oil. We’ll show you how to use neem oil as an insecticide.
How do I keep my Variegated String of Hearts pink and vibrant?
Giving it at least 6 hours of bright but filtered light is key to bringing out the purple color in your Variegated String of Hearts. A small dose of direct morning sun also gives it an added boost, so East or South-facing windows are a good option.
If your plant is losing color and is developing small leaves that appear sparse on its long vines, the cause is almost certainly insufficient light.
Another option is to use grow lights to supplement low levels of natural light in your home.
How do I keep my Variegated String of Hearts looking bushy?
Pruning is an excellent idea to keep your plant bushy. That, alongside sufficient light (at least 6 hours of bright but indirect light), gives your plants the best chance of a full, bushy look.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Variegated String of Hearts rare?
Variegated String of Hearts isn’t easy to come by. While you may not be able to find one at your local garden center, they are not extremely rare. Your best bet is scouting around online. We like sourcing ours from Etsy; we’ve found some sellers with reasonable prices there.
Why is it so expensive?
Thanks to its unique purple variegation, the Variegated String of Hearts has become quite sought-after. This increase in demand has driven up the price of the plant.
How do I know if my String of Hearts is variegated?
Both the variegated and non-variegated versions have small, heart-shaped (or apple-shaped) leaves and a similar vining habit.
However, you can tell that you have the Variegated String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii Variegata) and not the normal version (Ceropegia woodii) by the purple outline on its leaf edges, lightly purple-pink stems and purple leaf undersides.
Can the Variegated String of Hearts grow upwards?
Yes, you can choose for your Variegated String of Hearts to grow upwards when supported by a trellis or wooden stick. This vine is can both trail downwards and climb upwards.
Is the Variegated String of Hearts a Peperomia or a Hoya?
The String of Hearts is neither a Peperomia nor a Hoya. Instead, the String of Hearts comes from the genus Ceropegia. This name is derived from the words “keros” meaning wax, and page” meaning fountain, a nod to the semi-succulent, trailing vines typical of this genus.
If you’d like to explore trailing plants in the Peperomia genus, the Peperomia Hope is a very attractive-looking plant to start with.
Similar Plants and Varieties
Other succulent or succulent-like plants:
Growing a Variegated String of Hearts is a pretty easy endeavour. We love their purple edges long vines overflowing from hanging baskets. As long as you follow this care advice and avoid overwatering your plant, your Variegated String of Hearts will turn out great:
- Ensure you give your plant at least 6 hours of bright but indirect light.
- Use a succulent mix with perlite for an optimal growing medium.
- Your plant stores water in its tubers and can survive periods of drought. So don’t overwater. Water only when the topsoil is dry, then thoroughly soak. Always use pots with drainage holes.
- Fertilize sparingly. Once a month at half-strength during the growing season is enough. Your plant will be dormant during winter.
- Repot once every 1-2 years. Your plant enjoys being slightly root-bound. Ensure the pot size is not too big (not larger than 2 inches) for the size of the rootball.
- Propagation is easily achieved through division when repotting, through stem cuttings or through tubers.
- Root rot and mealybugs are the most common problems. As long as you don’t overwater, you can avoid root rot. Kill off mealybugs using neem oil, an insecticide, or an alcohol solution. (Step-by-step guide here.)
Love the String of Hearts? Try the String of Turtles next!
Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.