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2022 is the #YearofthePeperomia, the genus to which the P. prostrata species (String of Turtles) belongs. The whole genus is exquisite, but the String of Turtles is the subtle cousin presenting diminutive abundance and beauty.
String Of Turtles part of the Peperomia genus is often referred to as the radiator plants. There are thousands of species, but only a handful are commonly grown as houseplants, adding character to xeriscape, tropical, or mini garden settings.
String of Turtles Characteristics
The peperomia family includes ornamental houseplants that are indigenous to tropical South America.
The common name “Radiator Plant” was created by horticulturist Liberty Hyde Bailey because the plants value the warm air and brilliant light that one could find on a windowsill above a radiator.
As a succulent-like plant, peperomia do best in clay pots because they like a dry climate. Between waterings, the soil should be allowed to dry out. Avoid overfertilizing to prevent excessive growth. Two low-dose feedings per year will be sufficient.
As a succulent type, String of Turtles can be included in a Xeriscape – a landscaping method developed especially for arid and semiarid climates that utilize water-conserving techniques.
The plant has round leaves resembling turtle shells and works well where vining or cascading plants are needed.
Although plants may withstand lower light levels, they prefer bright light to grow. In bad lighting, String of Turtles will lose some distinction in its variegation.
String of Turtles prefers warmer temperatures because they are indigenous to the tropics. In the winter, shield them from chilly window drafts.
Are Turtle Strings Challenging to Grow?
Like all things challenging, growing the String of Turtles becomes easier as you practice. Personally, I would classify P. prostrata as one of the easiest plants to grow and propagate.
Home gardeners have been growing plants from this genus indoors since the 1930s (when radiators at windows were still a thing).
Like all non-local plants, you want to mimic their natural habitat. Soil, light, temperature, humidity, feeding, and watering needs are the essentials for successfully growing almost any plant.
If you know what the native habitat environment is, you can replicate it. Some plants are more intricately linked to their environment, but these are generally not houseplants.
The 1967 Beatles song “With a Little Help from My Friends” applies: “Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends.”
I’m here to learn and teach – as we all are. So, let’s see what successfully growing the beautiful String of Turtles plant entails.
Is String of Turtles Plants Rare?
As I mentioned earlier, the peperomia genus (not to be confused with pepperoni) has been a houseplant in the US for almost a hundred years.
Even still, ten years ago, you would have to search to find this beauty. Its popularity is soaring, making it more available, especially as it is the year of the Peperomia – 2022.
The plant does not grow very fast, so larger string of turtles plants will be challenging to find (and more pricey).
Where to Position Your String of Turtles
Your string of turtles should be placed in an area with indirect, bright light. Although it may be cultivated in medium light, strong light is ideal for preserving the variegation, as with all plants.
Make sure the plant is not directly exposed to the sun’s beams.
It’s also crucial to keep in mind that, in addition to the strings that hang down, the top of the plant should receive light if you want a healthy, complete plant. Inadequate light causes long-leggedness as the plant uses its limited resources to reach better light, rather than grow foliage.
The String of Turtles plant does well in artificial light as well. Nowadays, I maintain the majority of my plants in grow lights.
Grow lights are also very useful for ensuring light reaches the whole P. prostrata plant, including the top and strings.
The P. prostrata, as the name indicates, is the dominant Peperomia prostrate species, and is ideal for growing in hanging baskets – usually between 6 and 10 inches in diameter.
String of Turtles plants loves to be in soil mixtures that retain some water yet drain well. Because this plant is native to the Brazilian rainforest, it prefers slightly moist soil conditions. However, this plant’s susceptibility to overwatering is beyond average, handling dry soil better than overly wet soil.
During the spring and summer growing seasons, I advise keeping the soil continuously moist, and in the winter, watering with the “soak and dry” technique.
Watering until water flows out of the bottom of the container and the soil is moist is the best way to determine if your plant is receiving enough moisture.
Your plants will remain properly wet if you do this throughout the winter while they are dormant.
Should You Mist String of Turtles?
I am aware that there is a general opinion that misting helps improve the plant’s relative humidity environment.
Relative humidity refers to the amount of water vapor in the air – not water droplets. No matter how fine the mist, spraying leaves is an effective means of encouraging pathogens to spread – nothing else.
A much better option is investing in a humidifier. If that seems like overkill, grouping plants and using a tray filled with water and LECA pebbles can also boost relative humidity around plants without the risk of spreading diseases.
I personally prefer the humidifier route, but then I am slightly obsessive about my plants.
Your String of Turtles plant won’t handle temperatures below 50° F but will do well in temperatures that match Hardiness Zones 9 to 11. The ideal temperature range is between 65 and 85° F, similar to a general indoor temperature.
String of Turtles Potting Mix
The typical potting soil for cacti and succulents is unsuitable for the String of Turtles plants. Despite being succulents, they prefer to reside in peat-rich soil.
Peat and the right nutrients for your plant are present in every commercial seed-starting mixture. Compost and perlite help improve drainage and avoid compaction.
To ensure that your plant develops happily and healthily, it is a good idea to evaluate the pH of the potting soil you use.
Because peat prefers neutral to slightly acidic soil pH levels, it is ideal for your houseplant. Additionally, ensure your plant’s soil drains adequately to prevent overwatering and the disease root rot.
Fertilizing Your String of Turtles
Giving your string of turtles plant the required nutrients will keep it vibrant and vigorous. Additionally, it will aid in the maintenance of your plant’s leaf color and pattern during the spring and summer growing seasons.
Because your plant will go into dormancy throughout the winter, reduce the amount of fertilizer you apply. Fertilizing them when they are dormant can harm their forthcoming growing season. Additionally, it’s important to avoid overfertilizing your plants because this could burn their roots and result in permanent harm.
Repotting String of Turtles
String of Turtles grow slowly and have shallow roots, and do well being potbound. Despite rarely getting too big for their pots, repotting may be needed when soil becomes compacted, needing a revitalized growing environment.
Only repot the plant in a new pot if it has outgrown the one it is currently in.
Terracotta pots work well since they dry out more quickly, reducing your plant’s chance of root rot. Repotting, if needed, should be done in the growing season as this raises the plant’s likelihood of survival.
Should I Prune my String of Turtles Plant?
Limit pruning to removing unruly, leggy strands or dead or dying strands of leaves. Always use a sterilized pair of pruning shears.
Don’t prune off more than a third of your plant at once, but you shouldn’t have to do this anyway. Save any healthy strands you remove for propagation! I’ll discuss that in the next section.
How to Propagate String of Turtles
Peperomias are propagated commercially by cuttings. Terminal stem cuttings can be used with all types and permit the production of plants in the shortest possible time.
Cuttings with one leaf and a short stem section can be used if stock is limited or small finished plants are needed. Stem cuttings with one or more buds are necessary for propagating variegated cultivars like the P. prostrata.
Two terminal stem cuttings with two to four expanded leaves are commonly stuck per 3-inch pot. Rooting and finishing 3-inch pots requires 3 to 5 weeks, depending upon the size of cuttings and season.
Growth is considerably faster when temperature and light intensity are not limited. Three to four cuttings are normally used per 4-inch pot.
Potting media used for peperomia propagation and production should be very well-drained and as pathogen-free as possible.
Several peat-lite mixes with coarse particles, such as perlite or bark char, are very satisfactory because they provide the necessary aeration.
Propagating String of Turtles Cuttings in Potting Soil
- Cut a few cuttings just below a node with a pair of clean, sharp scissors to propagate your string of turtles (where leaves and roots grow out of the main stem).
- Put the base of the cutting into a pot with moistened potting mix after removing some of the leaves that are close to the base to generate some bare nodes. Because the new roots will emerge from the nodes, there should be at least one of them under the potting soil’s surface.
- Put the cuttings somewhere where there is plenty of indirect light.
- Keep the top of the potting mix moist while not overwatering the cuttings. You can achieve this by watering very little or misting the potting mix as needed.
- You can test your plant in a few weeks by giving it a very light tug. If you encounter resistance, the root system has been established, and you can proceed as you would with any other plant.
Is String of Turtles Fast Growers?
String of turtles gets its name from the variegation of the leaves that look like a tortoise shell, but the name also applies to its speed of growth.
It’s not exactly going to make its presence known aggressively, but with a bit of TLC, it will always look great. It is, after all, known as the perfect personal space plant
A string of turtles dangling from a pot typically measures approximately a foot long (12 inches). The journey there will take a few years, but given enough time and ideal circumstances, it can grow a cascade that is three feet long.
String of Turtles Toxicity
|Hardiness Zone:||9 – 11|
|Mature Height:||4 to 6 inches|
|Mature Width:||4 to 6 inches|
|Light Level:||Fluorescent to bright indirect|
|Watering:||Likes to dry out some between watering. If unsure, do not water|
|Temperature:||Always above 50° F. Ideally, between 65 and 75° F|
|Potting Mix:||Well draining and well-aerated cactus soil|
|Fertilizing:||Low feeding requirements – March and June – do not feed after September|
|Repotting:||When it outgrows its current pot – it is an epiphyte with shallow roots. Prefers to be potbound.|
String of Turtles Peperomia (P. prostrata) is a delicate trailing plant with small, round, and succulent leaves that are dark green to nearly purple.
Leaves are variegated or patterned with a network of white veins. The plant spreads but is not aggressive and is a good candidate for hanging baskets.
String of Turtles prefers evenly moist soil, but like many of its relatives, it can suffer if overwatered.
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