How to Care for String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii variegata)


String of hearts leaves curling

Water string of hearts once every 2 weeks. Allow the soil to dry out before watering again. String of hearts can grow in partial sun or bright, indirect light indoors and thrive at room temperature. Plant string of hearts in succulent and cacti soil to prevent root rot and keep the plant healthy.

String of hearts is a very easy, low-maintenance plant to care for and grows very well indoors as a house plant.

Keep reading for all the best practices for growing a string of hearts to keep your plant healthy…

String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii variegata) Plant Profile:

Care/Requirements:String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii variegata):
Sun:Grows well in the morning with afternoon shade or in bright, indirect light indoors.
Water:Water with a generous soak when the potting soil has dried out. Typically water once every 2 weeks in Spring, Summer, and Fall and once every 3 or 4 weeks in Winter.
Symptoms of Over Watering:Leaves turn yellow or brown with a mushy feel to the leaves and stem.
Symptoms of Under Watering:Leaves turn brown and shriveled.
Soil:Requires gritty, well-draining soil to avoid root rot.
Hardiness:Hardy to USDA zone 10. Does not tolerate frost so grow indoors in cold climates.
Pots and Containers:Grows well in pots, containers, and hanging baskets. Ensure pots have drainage holes in the base.
Active Growing Season:Grows in the Spring, Summer, and Fall.
Dormancy:Turns dormant during Winter due to less sunlight.
Preferred Temperature Range:Grows well at room temperature. Ideally, keep the temperature above 59°F (15°C) for optimal growth.
Feeding:Not a heavy feeder but fertilizer can promote more growth. Use a half-strength succulent and cacti fertilizer once per month in the Spring and Summer.

How Much Sun Does String of Hearts Need?

Whist string of hearts is native to hot and dry climates, it is not necessarily suitable for full sun all day if growing outdoors due to its sensitive leaves.

String of hearts plants grow best in bright indirect light or some morning sun followed by afternoon shade.

In more light the leaves turn a deeper purple tone whereas in less light the leaves can grow light green.

A string of hearts can be sensitive to too much sun which causes the leaves to scorch, so avoid the intense full sun to keep the plant a healthy color.

Watering String of Hearts

String of hearts are native to Southern African countries such as Zimbabwe and South Africa.

In their native habitat, they grow in rocky or sandy soils and live in climates with infrequent rainfall and low humidity.

Therefore string of hearts are very drought tolerant and grow well in a dry indoor environment.

To grow string of hearts it is important to replicate the watering and soil moisture conditions of their native environment.

How Often to Water String of Hearts Plants

Water string of hearts with a good soak so that water trickles from the drainage holes in the base of the pot. Allow the soil to dry out completely before watering your string of hearts plant again to meet the water requirements and avoid root rot.

Typically this means watering your string of hearts plant once every 14 days or so although this can vary due to the climate and the conditions of your home or garden.

How quickly your potting soil dries out, determines how often you should water your string of hearts in your home.

To establish exactly how often to water string of hearts in your climate, water the soil with a generous soak and monitor the soil moisture by feeling the soil at the bottom of the pot through the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot.

If the soil feels damp, then delay watering again for a few days and wait till the soil feels dry.

When the soil feels dry this is the perfect time to water your string of hearts with a good soak.

How to Water String of Hearts in Winter

String of hearts is often dormant in Winter in response to fewer hours of light and lower light intensity compared to Spring and Summer.

In Winter the string of hearts is not actively growing which means you should scale back how often you water because it can be even more susceptible to root rot during its Winter dormancy.

Water string of hearts once every 3 or 4 weeks during Winter to meet the plant’s reduced demand for water whilst avoiding root rot.

How Much to Water your String of Hearts

Always water your string of hearts plant with a really generous soak as this ensures that the water has infiltrated the soil properly so that the roots can uptake the moisture they require.

If you water too lightly then only the top inch or so of the soil becomes moist and the roots cannot access the water they require which results in drought stress.

Symptoms of Under Watering:

String of hearts has adapted to survive drought, living in dry climates so they are at more risk from problems associated with over watering rather than underwatering when grown indoors.

The symptoms of an overwatered string of hearts plant are that the leaves turn yellow, brown, or black and the leaves and stems can feel soft and mushy.

If this happens to your string of hearts plant then it is important to scale back how often you water and let the soil dry out completely.

Replace the soil with succulent and cacti soil which has good drainage and a porous structure to help avoid overwatering and root rot.

It is important to note that the symptoms of overwatering can also be caused by soil that retains too much moisture and because of pots without drainage holes in the base or saucers and trays underneath pots which cause water to pool around the roots

Replace the soil with succulent and cacti soil to ensure good drainage to avoid root rot.

(Read my article on how to revive a string of hearts plant if your plant looks unhealthy).

Symptoms of Under Watering:

If the string of hearts plant is not watered often enough or watered too lightly then the leaves begin to curl up.

Drought stress can be exacerbated by air flow from draughts, air conditioning or forced air in the home which saps more moisture from the leaves and the soil dries more quickly.

The leaves of your plant also look thinner as the moisture that they are storing becomes depleted.

If this happens to your string of hearts plant then, increase how often you are watering the plant (always ensure that the soil dries out between bouts of watering to avoid root rot) and monitor how quickly the soil dries, adjusting your watering schedule accordingly.

Water with a generous soak and locate the string of hearts in a more sheltered area, out of strong wind or excessive air currents and the plant can recover in 2 or 3 cycles of watering.

(For all the best practices for watering read my article on how to water a string of hearts).

Best soil For String of Hearts

String of hearts plants grow in gritty or sandy, well-draining soil on rocky hillsides in their native Southern African range.

Therefore string of hearts does not like to be planted in potting soil that stays moist for a long time which is contrary to most house plants.

Plant string of hearts in a specially formulated succulent and cacti soil which effectively emulates the soil profile of the string of hearts native environment with a porous well draining structure.

Conventional potting soil retains too much moisture around the roots for too long, for this drought resistant plant and causes the same symptoms as over watering and can cause root rot.

Pots and Containers For String of Hearts

Plant string of hearts in pots that are proportionate to the size of the root ball with drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape.

If the string of hearts is planted in a larger pot that has a greater soil capacity then the potting soil can dry out much slower which increases the risk of root rot.

String of hearts can grow in any type of pot or even hanging baskets but clay or terracotta pots are considered best as they are somewhat porous which allows the soil to dry more efficiently then plastic pots.

String of hearts are hardy plants that can tolerate their roots being somewhat pot-bound, but you should re-pot your string of hearts to a larger pot ideally to prevent the roots from blocking drainage holes which can cause the water to drain too slowly.

Re-potting is best done in Spring avoid re-potting during the Winter when the plant is dormant to reduce the risk of root rot.

Active Growth and Seasonal Dormancy of String of Hearts

String of hearts a capable of tolerating high temperatures in Summer but enters a state of dormancy in Winter due to reduced levels of light.

During Winter dormancy growth slows down significantly which reduces the plant’s demand for moisture.

It is important to emphasize dormancy can make the string of hearts more susceptible to over watering so only water once every 3 or 4 weeks in Winter.

String of hearts grows at a much faster rate during Spring, Summer, and Fall with warm temperatures and more light.

If you want to promote growth then locate your string of hearts plant in the morning sun followed by afternoon shade or in a South-facing window so it has more access to sunlight.

Temperature Range

String of hearts is native to hot and dry climates in Southern Africa which allows them to grow very well in the low humidity indoors at room temperature.

It should be noted that string of pearls are not cold hardy and can die in frost, so if you live in a colder climate then always grow string of hearts indoors (hardy to USDA zone 10).

If growth becomes limp, distorted, or blackened then this could be damage suffered because of the frost.

String of hearts grows best in rooms that are 59°F (15°C) or warmer and can suffer due to cooler temperatures.

Always locate your string of hearts in warm bright rooms and avoid the leaves in contact with windows as a cold, frosty window on a Winters day can cause frost damage.

Fertilizer for String of Hearts Plants

String of hearts are adapted to gritty, sandy soils which are often low in nutrients, so they are not heavy feeders and do not necessarily require additional fertilizer, compared to some house plants

However, fertilizer can be used to increase growth although you should only feed succulents in the growing months of Spring and Summer, once per month/

I personally prefer to use a specialist succulents and cacti fertilizer (available from garden centers and Amazon) as it contains all the nutrients that String of Hearts requires at the right concentrations to avoid problems with over-feeding your succulents.

Avoid using fertilizer in the Winter when the plant is dormant and not actively growing.

Key Takeaways:

  • String of hearts grow well in partial sun or bright indirect light. Water with a good soak then allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. String of hearts grows well at room temperature and grows more in the Spring and Summer.
  • Plant string of hearts in succulent and cacti soil which replicates their natural soil conditions to avoid root rot.
  • Too much sun can scorch the leaves. String of hearts leaves turn purple in more light and green with less light.
  • String of hearts is dormant in the Winter so scale back the watering to once every 3 or 4 weeks. String of hearts actively grows in the Spring and Summer. Only water when the soil is dry to prevent root rot,

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