The string of turtles, or Peperomia prostrata, is a succulent that belongs to the Piperaceae family. This plant is native to Brazil where it grows in rainforests, but it also has no problem thriving as a houseplant.
The string of turtles is known for its unique leaf shape that makes it a perfect addition to a terrarium or a small garden. The leaves look like tiny turtle shells growing from a long vine.
In this article, we will discuss more about the string of turtles succulent and its proper cultural care. So, if you are thinking about adding one of these to your collection, keep reading to learn more.
What is a string of turtles?
The string of turtles is a small, slow-growing, trailing plant that reaches full maturity at three to five years.
It is a great plant for people who live in apartments or condominiums, because it takes up very little space while adding a pop of color and life to your living area.
Its leaves feature attractive, multi-colored patterns that can cover their entire surface, but their colors will become more muted as the plant gets older. By the time it reaches full maturity, the leaf colors are usually a combination of dark and lighter green.
The plant can grow to about a foot long and four inches wide.
Is the string of turtles a succulent?
Yes, the string of turtles is a succulent, because its leaves are thick and fleshy and can store water for the plant to use in the event of a drought.
The plant can also tolerate hot, dry weather better than most houseplants. This is another characteristic of succulents, and makes them a great choice for people who want a low-maintenance plant that does not need to be watered too often.
String of turtles – Care
The string of turtles likes to get lots of light, but only the indirect kind. It does not do well under direct light because the intensity can damage its foliage and cause the leaves to turn brown and crispy.
If you think your plant is getting too much light, transfer it to a shadier area immediately. Also check the soil and, if it has completely dried out, water it.
If you are growing the plant indoors, place it near a north- or east-facing window because these windows let in the right kind of light for this plant. If the only window available in your home lets in harsh light, you can still place the plant next to it, but consider placing a sheer curtain over the window first, to diffuse the light’s intensity.
If you live in a place where natural light can be scarce for a few months of the year, you can also support the plant with a grow light. While natural light is always best, artificial light is a serviceable alternative.
As with most succulents, the string of turtles requires less watering than most other houseplants because it can store water reserves in its leaves and stems.
Furthermore, it is important that its roots are allowed to dry out between waterings to enable them to absorb oxygen which is necessary for the plant’s survival.
You are overwatering your plant if you give it too much water each time you water it, if you water it more frequently than necessary, if the soil or container are poorly-draining, or if you do not adjust your watering habits to changes in the weather, season, or climate.
An overwatered string of turtles will have yellowing leaves that are soft and mushy to the touch. This is because the plant will continue to absorb excess water from the soil until its cells become overloaded and burst.
Root rot is a more serious consequence of overwatering. When the roots are not allowed to dry out between waterings, they eventually drown and die. The dead roots will start to rot and will be vulnerable to soil-borne pathogens such as fungi and bacteria, which will exacerbate the rot and accelerate its spread throughout the plant. If the leaves have turned brown and mushy, this usually indicates that the entire plant has succumbed to the rot and cannot be saved.
If you believe your plant has been overwatered, immediately stop watering it and allow the soil to dry completely before watering it again. You can also move the plant to a sunnier spot to allow the soil to dry out faster.
If you suspect root rot, you will need to remove the plant from its pot to confirm this. Remove as much soil as possible from the roots, and be gentle because the roots will be vulnerable in this state. Inspect the roots thoroughly for brown or blackened sections, which are rotten and must be removed.
Cut away the rotten roots with a sterile knife or scissors until only the healthy, white roots remain, and place the plant on a dry surface for a few hours to allow the roots to air-dry.
Fill a new pot halfway with succulent soil mix, place the plant in the center of the pot, and cover the roots with more soil.
Water the soil until it is thoroughly saturated and excess water can be seen dripping from the bottom of the pot. Move the plant to a spot that receives bright, indirect light.
If you underwater the plant, on the other hand, it will become dehydrated and will be unable to absorb nutrients and minerals from the soil. Simply because it is a succulent does not mean you can ignore its water requirements indefinitely.
If you believe the plant has become underwatered, water it immediately. Soak the soil completely until excess water drains out through the drainage holes. This is to ensure that all of the roots have had access to water.
The string of turtles likes well-draining, airy soil. A peat-based succulent soil mix is ideal.
In its natural habitat, the rainforests of Brazil, the plant grows in loamy soil that is moist most of the time. It is best to try to simulate these conditions in your home, but also make sure that the soil is never soggy or waterlogged.
As mentioned above, waterlogged soil can cause overwatering and root rot.
If the soil is well-draining, any excess water can simply flow out and will not stagnate around the plant’s roots.
If you think that your soil is not sufficiently well-draining, you can mix in perlite and coarse sand.
Also try to keep the soil’s pH at around 5 to 7.
The pot that you use should also have drainage holes at the bottom, so that the water that drains through the soil can escape from the pot and not be reabsorbed.
Keep your string of turtles within a temperature range of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important to make sure the temperature never goes below 50 degrees for extended periods of time.
This plant is native to tropical rainforests, so it does not take well to cold temperatures. It is not frost hardy and can only survive in hardiness zones 10 to 12. If you live in a place with cold winters, be vigilant of temperature changes and take the plant indoors when necessary.
If it is left out in cold weather for a long time, its leaves and vines will wilt.
Because the plant is native to rainforests, it appreciates a bit more humidity than the typical succulent. The humidity level around the string of turtles should be at least 50 percent.
If you live in a place that is particularly dry, you might have to take measures to increase the humidity around the plant.
You can do this by misting the plant once in a while. It should be in a sunny spot when you mist it so that the leaves do not stay wet for too long, as that can lead to fungal growth.
You can also move the plant to one of the more humid parts of the house, such as the bathroom or the kitchen.
Alternatively, place the plant’s pot on top of a water pebble tray and, as the water evaporates, it will humidify the air around the plant.
If you have other plants that also enjoy humidity, you can place them near your string of turtles so that together they create a microclimate around themselves.
Finally, if you have the budget to purchase one, you can use a humidifier to automatically regulate the humidity around the plant.
Pruning the string of turtles
Pruning the plant will usually focus on controlling its growth, especially if you prefer it to remain a certain size.
If the plant has become quite bushy, you can remove some of the tops of the stems. Use a sterile pair of pruning shears to do this.
Once in a while, remove any dead or damaged foliage. Try not to over prune the plant, though, because that could affect its lushness and growth.
When fertilizing the string of turtles, use a liquid fertilizer diluted to half-strength. Feed the plant every two weeks during its active growing season.
Occasional fertilization can help the plant retain the colors and patterns on its leaves.
In the summer, reduce the feeding to once a month, and in winter refrain from fertilizing the plant entirely.
Do not fertilize the plant more necessary, because this can lead to soil toxicity and root burn.
Propagating the string of turtles
Propagation of this plant is done best during the spring. You can use either leaf or stem cuttings to do this.
When choosing which stems to use for propagation, pick out those that are healthy and do not look damaged or dry.
Using a sterile pair of scissors, cut about five inches of vine.
Prepare a new pot with well-draining potting mix and lay the coiled vine on the top of the soil.
Make sure no parts of the vine or any of the leaves get covered in soil, because this can affect the plant’s ability to absorb light.
Place the pot in a spot where it can get bright, indirect light and water it to keep the soil moist, but never soggy.
You can also let the vine root in a glass of water first. Make sure to replace the water when it gets murky or when it starts to smell. After a few weeks, roots will appear and you can transfer it to a pot where to grow in the soil.
The string of turtles is a slow-growing plant that remains quite small throughout its life. Its growth comes mostly from the vines lengthening.
The plant can only reach about a foot in height, and it can take up to five years to reach this height.
If you want the plant to grow larger, refrain from pruning it and let it grow out.
The plant’s small leaves have veins that come in different colors, but they will turn silvery-white as the plant gets older.
Yes, the string of turtles is a succulent that belongs to the Piperaceae family. It gets its name from its tiny leaves that resemble miniature turtle shells. It is native to Brazil where it grows in the rainforests.
Like all succulents, it has fleshy leaves that can absorb and retain water for use in times of drought. This means that it can tolerate longer periods without water than the average houseplant.
This plant likes bright, indirect light, and water only when its soil is dry to the touch. It should have a well-draining pot and soil, room temperature, moderate to high humidity, fertilizer twice a week during its growing season, and minimal pruning.
The plant can be propagated using stem cuttings; this is best done in March using the healthiest stems on the parent plant for a higher success rate.
The string of turtles is a slow-growing, diminutive houseplant, perfect for smaller living spaces. It is also low-maintenance and therefore perfect for novice gardeners.
Image: istockphoto.com / lisboktphoto