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


String of hearts leaves curling

String of hearts is one of my favourite succulents due to the heart shaped leaves and the way they cascade from my bookshelf. However, it has been a challenge to grow at times until I learned how to recreate some of the conditions of the string of hearts natural habitat in my home!

In this article, I share with you all the secrets, tips, and techniques that I have learned through years of first hand experience of caring for string of hearts plants, and I’ll address common concerns about sunlight, watering and potting soil so you know exactly how to care for your plant…

In a nutshell…

Water string of hearts once a week. 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.

Once I learned all the hacks, 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 (I wrote a table with all the basics if you only have 2 mins!) …

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?

Whilst 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.

My string of hearts plants grew best in bright indirect light when I lived in Southern California, but when I moved to New York my string of hearts (exact same plants) grew best in some morning sun followed by afternoon shade.

This informal and somewhat unintended experiment taught me that if you live in a location with southern latitude with intense sunlight, then try to avoid direct sunlight as this can scorch the leaves.

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

This is very useful as you can use it as a way of assessing whether your string of hearts is too much or too little light. Ideally, you don’t want your leaves turning too purple, as this is a pigment that is trying to prevent the string of hearts from being burnt. Some purple is okay, but a lot is not!

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

To understand how to water our string of heart plants, I think it is important to appreciate how they grow in their natural habitat.

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 our string of hearts are very drought tolerant and grow well in a dry indoor environment such as our houses.

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.

I have done a lot of testing, and I have found that watering your string of hearts plants once every 14 days or so works best, 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.

My method for establishing exactly how often to water string of hearts in your climate is to 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 I 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

Like most of our houseplants, 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 we should scale back how often we water because it can be even more susceptible to root rot during its Winter dormancy.

I personally find the soil dries out after around 2 weeks during Winter, so every 2 weeks, I give it a really good soak to meet the plant’s reduced demand for water whilst avoiding root rot.

My Tips for Watering Your String of Hearts

So I used to water my string of hearts from the top with a good soak, but I found this method was not full proof as sometimes there were dry areas in the soil when I felt them.

My best Tip: I tested several different methods of watering, and what I found worked best was to water from the top, then let the water drain through the base of the pot and sit in a tray underneath. After half an hour the dry soil often draws up all the water, which ensures the potting medium is evenly moist around the string of heart’s root ball.

Since I have implemented this useful tip, my String of Hearts leaves are plump and healthy.

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:

As we discussed, 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.

What I would recommend is to replace the soil with succulent and cacti soil which has good drainage and a porous structure to help avoid overwatering and root rot.

What we need to consider is 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.

(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.

I have found that 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.

What you need to look out for is if 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.

Pro tip: I sometimes pick up my pot periodically to assess the weight, when it feel light its time to water.

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 in my experience, your 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

As we talked about, our 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.

What you need to do is plant string of hearts in a specially formulated succulent and cacti soil, which effectively emulates the soil profile of the string of hearts in the native environment with a porous well-draining structure.

Succulent soil
This is a photo of the gritty ‘succulent and cacti soil’ that I use (available in garden centers and online).

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

In my opinion, the key is to plant a 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.

What I discovered is that 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.

I experimented extensively with different pots for my string of hearts. What I found was that 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.

However, I found some regional differences in my pot preferences! When I was in Southern California, I found clay and terracotta pots actually dried out so quickly on hot days that the string of hearts roots were not able to draw up the moisture they required, So I repotted it into a plastic pot, which is impermeable and my string of hearts was much happier.

Conversely, I find that now I live in New York (where it is much cooler), my succulents grow better in clay and terracotta pots as this allows the soil to dry more evenly and mitigates the risk of root rot.

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, so 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

Interestingly, from my research, String of hearts are 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 2 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

As our string of hearts is native to hot and dry climates in Southern Africa this 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 leaving the leaves in contact with windows as a cold, frosty window on a winter’s 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 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.

string of hearts plant
This is the fertilizer I use for my succulents, including my string of hearts plant.

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

Do you have any questions or insights from growing your own string of hearts plant? Please leave a comment below, as I’d love to hear from you!

Key Takeaways:

  • String of hearts grow well in partial sun or bright indirect light. Water with a good soak, and 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, replicating their natural soil conditions and avoiding 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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