The String of Turtles (botanical name: Peperomia Prostrata) is a rare but easy-to-grow vine from the Peperomia genus. It is known for its small, round button-like foliage with green variegation that resembles turtle shells!
To help your plant thrive,
- Place in bright filtered light. East or West-facing windowsills are a great option;
- Plant in a 50%-50% mix of sphagnum peat moss and perlite for an airy and well-draining mix;
Remember the let the topsoil dry out before watering. This is crucial as your succulent-like plant is susceptible to being overwatered!
- Fertilize once every 2 weeks in spring and monthly in summer using a liquid houseplant fertilizer at half strength;
- Average indoor humidity and room temperature are fine;
- Repot when you see signs that the plant has become root-bound, usually once every 2-3 years.
Let’s dive into the details!
Table of Contents
What is the String of Turtles?
The String of Turtles, or Peperomia Prostrata, is a semi-succulent from the rainforests of Ecuador.
Outside its native habitat, you’d usually find the String of Turtles perched indoors on a hanging basket with long, cascading vines showing off its unique foliage.
Caring for your String of Turtles
Being quite a hardy plant, your String of Turtles can endure a range of light conditions: partial shade to medium to bright light is okay, as long as the light is indirect.
Nevertheless, bright indirect light is still the best prescription for this Peperomia Prostrata. This encourages healthy foliage growth to bring out the best lush leaves and variegation. East or West-facing windowsills are ideal.
South-facing windows are okay, too – just move your plant about 3 feet (90cm) away from the windowpane to lessen the light intensity.
For vining plants like these, adequate light needs to reach the entire length of the plant, especially at the top of the plant near the soil. So ensure that your plant gets sufficient light throughout.
Avoid direct light as this is too harsh for your Peperomia Prostrata. In nature, it grows under a canopy of trees in Ecuador rainforests, so filtered light is what allows it to thrive!
Plants have many adaptations for survival. One such adaptation common to Hoyas and Peperomias is having thicker leaves to store water. This provides your plant “insurance” if there is a dry spell.
You can tell that your plant needs watering in two ways.
- The first is by checking the soil’s moisture. Allow the plant’s top 2 inches of soil to dry before re-watering. This is rule number one! Never water your plant if you feel that the topsoil is still slightly moist – this plant really does like to dry out between waterings.
- The second way is to observe your plant’s foliage. If there is a slight wrinkling of the leaves, this indicates that its water stores are running low, and it is time to water!
Use the first method to determine when to water your plant, and then observe your plant’s foliage as a “feedback” mechanism.
It’s important to note that this plant requires less water than a typical houseplant, precisely because of its ability to store water. So the temptation is very much on the side of overwatering rather than underwatering.
If in doubt, err on the side of underwatering – your plant is more resistant to dry spells than sitting in a pool of stagnant water. But if you think that you’ve overwatered your plant already, check out our guide on how to save it.
Luckily, your String of Turtles can tolerate average levels of humidity. In an ideal situation, you can aim for 50% or more humidity levels, but in all honesty, they endure average room humidity just fine.
If you’d like that boost in humidity levels, invest in a humidifier. Choose one that allows you to set the specific room %humidity you require. (You’ll be surprised, few humidifiers have this feature!). It’s well worth it, especially if you have several houseplants that can benefit from that water vapor boost.
You’ll find that most houseplants do better in higher humidity levels.
Being native to South American rainforests, you might think your plant prefers the heat. However, the Peperomia Prostrata is happier with cooler temperatures than you might expect.
Keep temperatures between 65-75 degrees F (18 – 24 degrees C) for optimal growth.
Nevertheless, do note that your tropical Peperomia is not cold-hardy, so dips below 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) can be damaging over extended periods. It will certainly slow down the growth rate (which is already slow!).
It also does not appreciate fluctuations in temperature. Keep this one indoors and away from air vents or drafts.
This houseplant is prized for its attractive foliage, so many are surprised to hear that this plant does flower! It has small white flowers that resemble long and narrow spikes. They do not have a fragrance.
These flowers are considered insignificant compared with their unique foliage, so you can choose to snip off flowers if you wish. Doing so allows your plant to focus its energy on new growth.
Soil or Growing Medium
After much experimentation, we’ve found the best potting mix for the String of Turtles is a simple mix of:
It doesn’t get much simpler than that!
Peat moss is dead organic material that forms when mosses decompose in bogs. This fibrous material provides a slightly acidic pH which your String of Turtles loves. It also retains just the right amount of water without being heavy.
At the same time, perlite lightens the soil and enhances its drainage qualities so that your soil doesn’t get too dense or waterlogged.
We’ve also seen some plant guides recommending using succulents and cacti potting mix. That’s a great base too, but do mix in 1 part of perlite for every 1 part potting mix to lighten the potting mix. On its own, it may be a little too dense for your plant’s Peperomia Prostrata’s liking.
Fertilizing gives your plant a little nutritional boost. We enjoy using Dyna-Gro for almost all our houseplants. Use this at half-strength twice a month in spring and once a month during summer.
Do not apply fertilizer in the fall and winter months, as your plant doesn’t need it. Growth is slow during this time, so fertilizer does more harm than good!
Another tip: Water the soil before applying fertilizer to avoid burning its sensitive roots.
You may have noticed that your String of Turtles is quite a compact plant. It typically has a small root system, so repotting is not a common occurrence. On average, we repot our String of Turtles about once every 2-3 years.
When repotting, remember to use a fresh potting mix as nutrients deplete over time. It’s also essential to use a pot with drainage holes so that excess water can escape! If your plant doesn’t show signs of being pot-bound, you can let your slow-growing vine stay put in its original pot a while longer.
Good news for pet lovers. According to ASPCA, your String of Turtles is not toxic to humans or pets.
Propagating your String of Turtles through Stem Cuttings
Stem cuttings is an easy way to propagate your String of Turtles, and has a high success rate. You may decide to propagate your plant when you are pruning off unwieldy vines!
- First, gather all the items needed:
- Identify a healthy length of stem that is around 4 inches long. Make sure that this stem has a couple of leaves and at least two nodes!
- Using sterilized garden shears, cut off the identified stem. Cut just below the node.
- Remove leaves, if any, from the bottom half of the stem cutting.
- Dip the cut end of the stem into a rooting hormone. This encourages roots to grow.
- Plant the stem cutting in a small pot filled with potting soil.
- Place in a warm spot with plenty of indirect light. If you can, place a humidifier next to the new plant.
- Keep the potting soil lightly moist, but never waterlogged or soggy.
- In about 3-4 weeks, roots should emerge. You will know that roots have developed when you feel slight resistance when giving your plant a very gentle tug.
- Treat as you would any other String of Turtles!
Propagating your String of Turtles through Leaf Cuttings
Another way to propagate your String of Turtles is through leaf cuttings. The difference is that you don’t need the entire stem; instead, you place a few leaves with their petioles attached (the small stem connected to the leaf that also connects to the main stem) directly into potting soil.
This method has a lower success rate than stem cuttings. It also takes a while longer to root. But the method itself is quick and straightforward. Also, it’s kind of fun!
- Using clean garden shears, snip off 5-6 leaves with their petioles attached.
- Gently place these leaf cuttings into a lightly moist potting mix (50% perlite and 50% sphagnum peat moss). The end of the petiole should be buried under the soil, but the leaf is not buried.
- Place the cuttings in a warm spot with lots of bright but filtered light. If you can, place a humidifier next to the leaf cuttings.
- Keep the potting soil lightly moist but never waterlogged. Use room temperature water.
- In about 8-10 weeks, roots should develop.
- Treat as you would any other String of Turtles!
While your slow-growing plant doesn’t need regular pruning, the occasional trim is a great way to keep your Peperomia Prostrata compact and bushy. You can trim off:
- any dead or damaged leaves or stems;
- any leggy stems;
- any vines you feel are messy or unwieldy!
Pruning your plant is a healthy practice as it allows your String of Turtles to focus on new growth.
However, avoid pruning off more than a third of the length of the plant, as this causes too much stress. Being a slow-growing plant, it’s unlikely you’d need to trim off so much at once anyway!
At the same time, use sharp shears to minimize trauma when cutting.
Common Pests and Diseases
Your Peperomia Prostrata is not overly susceptible to pests or diseases. Nevertheless, it can suffer from the occasional attack from the usual suspects. Trust us, it’s a rite of passage!
Here are the usual issues:
- Root rot from overwatering. It’s so important to get your watering practices right. But if its too late and your plant is suffering from root rot, don’t worry. Here’s our guide on how to save your overwatered plant.
- Aphids, mealybugs, or spider mites. These houseplant pests are relatively common and can go from plant to plant. It’s important to regularly inspect your plants (and especially before introducing a new plant to the home). Catching these pests early make all the difference. Use neem oil or an Insectidial Soap spray to rid your plant of these pests!
Why are my String of Turtles’ leaves dropping?
If you notice leaves dropping when you touch your plant or gently move it, this is usually a sign of overwatering. Make sure that your plant is only watered when the topsoil is dry!
Also, remember that your String of Turtles has succulent-like leaves that store water, so it has lower water requirements than other plants.
Another reason for dropping leaves is too-cold temperatures. Keep your plant indoors!
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is a good place to buy a String of Turtles?
You can buy a String of Turtles from reputable sellers on Etsy. Expect to pay about US$20-40, depending on the size of the plant and shipping costs.
You can also try to source this Peperomia Prostrata from local nurseries or garden centers. Our experience has been that these are still hard to find where we live, but perhaps you will be lucky!
Is the String of Turtles a succulent?
The String of Turtles is semi-succulent.
Like many Peperomias and Hoyas, the String of Turtles has many succulent-like characteristics. They have fleshy stems and leaves that are adapted to store water. They also can endure lower humidity levels than many other tropical plants.
Despite this, most do not consider the String of Turtles a succulent. They still have higher water requirements than a typical succulent and aren’t as well adapted to tolerating very dry and arid conditions. That being said, we have to admit that the term “succulent” is not well defined with clear and specific criteria.
Instead of being a defined group (either you’re in or out), we tend to look at the term “succulent” as a sliding scale. Many plants may exhibit some characteristics but others tolerate more extreme conditions and have many more adaptations.
Is the String of Turtles rare?
They used to be very rare and hard to find. However, we have noticed that in the past year, they are a little easier to come by, especially if you are looking online. Overall though, we do still consider this houseplant rare.
Do String of Turtles grow quickly?
No. String of Turtles is generally a slow-grower compared with other houseplants. But their stunning foliage is worth the wait!
Are String of Turtles easy to care for?
Yes. They are low-maintenance plants that are easy-going and adaptable to a number of growing conditions. Plus, they are not overly susceptible to pests and diseases.
The trickiest part of care is watering (overwatering, in particular, can be an issue!). Once you get your watering practices down pat, chances are that your String of Turtles will be trouble-free!
Similar Plants and Varieties
Variegated String of Turtles
The variegated String of Turtles boasts splashes of cream or pink on its foliage. They are sometimes called “Albo turtles”. Unsurprisingly, this variegated version is even rarer than the String of Turtles!
However, it has similar care conditions, so you can use this guide regardless of which version you have. But do expect to have a harder time trying to find one!
Other String-of Plants
String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii). Another lovely vining plant with little heart-shaped leaves; the variegated version has a purple-pink outline on mottled green-silver leaves. You can usually find them indoors in hanging baskets. Best of all, they are beginner-friendly!
String of Pearls (Curio rowleyanus or Senecio rowleyanus). These unique vines have thick spherical, pea-shaped (or shall we say, pearl-shaped!) leaves that cascade down bookshelves and baskets. They form white flowers that give off a lovely cinnamon scent.
All Peperomias come from the Piperaceae (pepper) family. Being fans of this genus, we especially love:
- Peperomia Ginny – an upright plant with semi-succulent leaves and stunning tricolor variegation. They have cream and green leaves with striking pink-red borders.
- Peperomia Hope – a compact semi-succulent with lush green foliage. It’s a true beauty with long trailing vines.
- Peperomia Frost – this plant has heart-shaped leaves with succulent-like leaves and a metallic-silvery sheen.
- Peperomia Obtusifolia – the Baby Rubber Plant is an upright growing plant with cupped-shaped, bright green leaves.
- Raindrop Peperomia – a small compact plant with beautiful raindrop-shaped leaves.
Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.