Looking for string of turtles care tips? I’ve got you covered with everything you need to know to help this unique trailing plant thrive. Also learn how to propagate string of turtles cuttings to grow more!
How to care for the unique string of turtles plant
Have you guys had a chance to see a string of turtles plant in person? I often see them in teeny tiny (sometimes overpriced) pots. This plant has been very trendy lately, and for good reason! It’s a peperomia—peperomia prostrata—which means it’s pretty easy to care for.
It also looks gorgeous hanging in planters once it really starts trailing. I got my beautiful string of turtles plant at a local nursery for a really fair price. I was so excited to find one that wasn’t teeny tiny.
What is a string of turtles plant?
The string of turtles plant is a semi-succulent. Like some other peperomia plants, the peperomia prostrata has thicker leaves than some other houseplants. That’s the “semi-succulent” nature of the plant. The unique markings on its round leaves look like turtle shells, which is what gives it its name.
It’s also apparently called a “jade necklace” plant, but I don’t know that anyone ever really calls it that. I honestly didn’t even know it was a peperomia plant until I’d had it for a while. Its markings are just so distinctive—what else could you call it?
While the main leaf color is green, the “shell-like” patterns are white, deep purple, brown, and even a bit of metallic sheen. String of turtles plants are native to Brazil, but they’re adaptable plants that do well in a variety of conditions.
How much light does a string of turtles need?
Like many of its peperomia brethren, the string of turtles loves bright indirect light. I have had my plant hanging in front of a window that gets morning to early afternoon sun. It’s the same spot I had my curly lipstick plant in before rehoming that one.
You don’t want to give your string of turtles too much light, though. If you notice that your turtle’s leaves are turning a reddish/orangish color, you could be giving it too much direct light. This could be from too much direct sunlight or too much direct light from a grow lamp.
Speaking of grow lights, you can definitely grow string of turtles under grow lights, but you’ll need to play around with the proximity and intensity of the lights to make sure it doesn’t harm the plants.
Because the plant doesn’t do well with too much light, you might be wondering if this plant is tolerant of low light. Yes, it will survive, but it won’t thrive. It might get leggy and a bit pale, losing the high contrast in variegation.
String of turtles care: Watering needs
Peperomia prostrata might not need a ton of light, but how about water? Well, like most houseplants, you’re better off underwatering than overwatering. Not only can overwatering lead to root rot, it can damage the plant’s thin stems and leaves.
Semi-succulent plants store water in their leaves, so between that and the tendency of turtles to fall victim to root rot, overwatering will kill a string of turtles. Before watering your plant, check to make sure the top 2–3 inches of soil are dry.
If the soil begins caking and shrinking away from the edge of the plant pot, grab a fork or something similar to aerate the top inch or so of soil before watering. Try not to let the soil dry out that much between watering. That means you’ve waited too long. Signs of underwatering could be a lack of new growth or crispy, dry leaves.
The time between watering will change throughout the year. In the spring and summer, you’ll need to water more often since the plant is actively growing and the temperatures are higher. Once it gets cooler and the days are shorter, you won’t need to water as much.
What are the signs of overwatering a string of turtles?
If you suspect you’re overwatering your string of turtles, here are a few signs. Faded, yellowing leaves are a sure sign of overwatering. You can still save the plant at this point by letting the soil dry out, trimming the affected leaves, and resuming a more appropriate watering routine.
The plant might be beyond saving if it starts dropping leaves. If the leaves become soft and mushy, that also likely means that root rot is setting in.
What is bottom watering and how can it help?
I have done a combination of regular top watering and bottom watering with my string of turtles. Much like string of hearts plants, the thin stems and delicate leaves do not like to sit in damp soil for long. And they definitely hate having pools of water sitting on their leaves.
Bottom watering is a great way to avoid this. To bottom water a plant, you need to have a planter or pot with drainage holes in the bottom. Simply set the pot in a reservoir of water (I usually just use my kitchen sink) and sit the pot in the water.
After about 20 minutes or so, the soil will have taken up all of the water it needs. Remove the pot from the water and let the excess drain away. To be honest, I only do bottom watering every few watering cycles since I like to be lazy and top water them.
Soil and fertilizer needs
These plants don’t like too much water, but since they are from the rainforest, they enjoy a somewhat damp soil. You can achieve the balance between over- and under-watering by choosing the right soil. I like to use an indoor potting mix with added coco coir or fine moss mixed in.
This helps to improve air flow in soil and retain some moisture without making it too wet. The soil can stay a bit damp without the roots sitting in water. I don’t overthink soil—I just pay attention to drainage and don’t give too much mind to the brand.
As far as fertilizer goes, I just use a balanced houseplant fertilizer diluted in water. I only fertilize during the spring and summer when I remember to. I am so lazy with fertilizer. Next year I am going to try a different approach. Worm castings sprinkled on top of the soil at the start of the growing season. Maybe that will be an easy-enough routine for me to follow 🙂
These plants don’t need repotted too often. Although they are somewhat fast growers, peperomias generally stay pretty compact. The root systems are also really shallow, like haworthias, so they don’t need to be in large pots. In fact, planting a string of turtles in too large of a pot will lead to the soil retaining too much water.
Temperature and humidity
Peperomia prostrata does well in a variety of normal household temperatures. It will be the happiest in the mid-70s to mid-80s, though. It can be grown only indoors in the majority of the United States because it isn’t frost hardy. That means USDA zones 10, 11, and 12.
This plant also does well in higher humidity. It doesn’t need higher humidity to thrive unlike some other plants (like calatheas!), but it does enjoy it. I have mine hanging in an area with a few other plants, which helps keep humidity levels a hair higher.
I also occasionally mist the plant with plain water. That helps a bit more with keeping the foliage a bit more moist. I only do this once a week or so, though, because I don’t want water pooling around and puddling on the leaves. A humidifier nearby is the best option, but I am so lazy about cleaning and refilling humidifiers.
Growth and pruning
Although these plants don’t get very large, you may need to do some pruning to keep it looking its best. You can also encourage fullness by trimming the stems, which will then encourage new branching growth.
How to propagate string of turtles
Speaking of pruning, if you are pruning off otherwise healthy growth to maintain a specific shape or size, you can propagate the cuttings. String of turtles is pretty easy to propagate, much like the other string of type plants.
Here’s how to propagate a string of turtles from a stem cutting in soil or a sphagnum moss/perlite combo:
- Snip a stem that is 5 to 6 inches long in the spring or summer—that’s the best time to propagate.
- Lay it in a shallow pot with damp soil or a sphagnum moss/perlite combo. Make sure the backs of the leaves are down on the soil. Don’t bury the cutting. (You can also add a bit of rooting hormone powder to the nodes if you’d like.)
- Cover the top of the planter with saran wrap and poke some holes in it for air circulation.
- Every week or so, remove the saran wrap to let the plant air out. Mist with fresh water if the soil is dry.
- Check the propagation periodically to see how it’s doing. Adjust water and air circulation as needed. It will begin to root after a few weeks.
If you’d like to root the stem cutting in water instead, here’s how:
- Snip the same kind of stem as you’d snip for a soil propagation.
- Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the stem; be very careful. Must like with string of pearls propagations, you can easily break the stem if you aren’t careful.
- Put the stripped end of the stem cutting into water and monitor for root growth. Refresh water as needed.
- Once you have some good roots going, you can plant the new plant in fresh soil. Keep the plant moist for a few weeks while the water roots are converting into soil roots.
String of turtles care: Pests and other issues
Although string of turtles plants are easy to care for, they have some issues to be aware of like any other houseplant. Let’s chat about them.
Root rot and how to fix it in a string of turtles
We already went over how too much water can lead to root rot, which will quickly kill a plant. So I don’t want to beat a dead horse there. If you do end up with a plant with root rot, remove the plant from the soil and gently look over the roots.
Trim any dark, black, brown, or gray mushy roots away from the plant. Let the roots air out a bit and repot in brand new fresh potting soil. Water after about a week and monitor for how the plant is rebounding. You want to give it a chance to settle in. Once you see new growth, you’re golden.
You could also put the plant into a mixture of sphagnum moss and perlite to help with air circulation. Put a baggie over the mixture and plant to help it retain humidity and mist the moss as necessary. I’ve done this with a scindapsus pictus I rescued from a grocery store, and it is giving me new growth now!
String of turtles plants are vulnerable to spider mites. Spider mites are teeny tiny mites that you can barely see. You’ll likely notice their very fine webbing on your plant before you notice the mites themselves.
Spider mites thrive in warm, dry conditions. My elephant ear plants ALWAYS get spider mites when they are indoors for the winter. So the best way to prevent them is to keep the humidity levels up around the plant. Mist the foliage with plain cool water to keep them at bay. If you already have an infestation, check out my post about how to get rid of spider mites.
Toxicity to cats and dogs
String of turtles isn’t a pet-friendly plant. It can cause nausea and diarrhea if they ingest it. Luckily this plant looks fab hanging from the ceiling in a planter, so that should keep it out of reach of most plants.
I live in Duluth, MN. Do you know how I can get a turtle plant? I would love to try one indoors. You can reach me thru the email below.
It looks like Gordy’s Gift & Garden or Spring At Last are lovely nurseries in Duluth 🙂 You should give them a call and see if they have any–if they don’t, they might be able to order one, or you can order one on Etsy!