The string of turtles plant, botanically named Peperomia prostrata, is a semi-succulent native to Brazil. It gets its moniker from its small, ornamental leaves that resemble turtle shells. It is easy to find and relatively low-maintenance, making it a great indoor plant.
In this article, we will go more in-depth into the proper cultural care of the string of turtles, as well as how to propagate it correctly.
If you are considering adding this plant to your collection and want to learn more about it, then keep reading.
String of turtles care
This plant likes bright, indirect light. Preferably place it in a spot that gets morning to early afternoon sun. Try not to put it anywhere that gets direct light for long periods of time, as this may cause the plant’s leaves to discolor and become a reddish-orange hue. If you are keeping the plant near a south-facing window, try diffusing the light with a sheer curtain.
If you live in a place where sunlight may be scarce for a few months in the year, you can use a grow light to help your plant. Just remember that grow lights affect the plant the same way as sunlight, so be careful not to provide too much light.
Although this plant is able to survive in low light conditions, try to avoid them because it can cause the plant to become leggy. The vines will grow long and thin and with smaller-than-usual leaves out of desperation to reach the nearest source of light, which is not ideal for the overall aesthetic of the plant.
Because this plant is semi-succulent, its leaves can hold a good amount of moisture which can be used in times of drought or if you accidentally forget to water it for several days.
As with most houseplants, it is better to underwater the plant than to overwater it, because overwatering can cause the roots to drown and die. The dead roots will begin to rot and become susceptible to opportunistic pathogens that will cause the rot to spread even faster to the rest of the plant, possibly killing it.
The best way to know when to water your plant is by feeling the top two inches of soil in the pot. If the soil is dry, water the plant, but if it is still a bit damp, wait one or two days and check it again.
If the soil appears to have shrunk and is looking cakey, it may have been left to dry out longer than necessary. Try aerating the top of the soil by poking small holes in it before watering.
There is no specific number of days to wait between waterings. The frequency of watering your string of turtles will also depend on the season and the weather. For instance, if you are watering the plant once every 10 days during the summer, you may only need to water it every 14 days in the cooler months.
These plants are native to the rainforests of Brazil, so even though they are semi-succulents that do not need much water, they still appreciate damp soil. This delicate balance is achievable by using the correct soil type. A commercially available indoor potting mix with added peat moss should do the trick.
Peat moss will make the soil more porous and airy, allowing both water and air to flow easily through the soil. It also retains a certain amount of moisture, allowing the roots to get water while not necessarily sitting in it. As long as the soil drains well, there really is not much else the plant needs.
You can fertilize the plant with a fertilizer specially made for houseplants. Dilute the fertilizer in water and apply on the soil, only during the plant’s growing period, which is in spring and summer.
Temperature and humidity
You do not need to do much to cater to a string of turtles’ temperature needs, because it does well at room temperature. As long as the temperature is somewhere between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, your plant should be fine. If you are growing the plant outdoors, make sure you take it inside when the weather starts to get cold.
Because these plants are native to the rainforest, they appreciate relatively high humidity. You can help your plant by placing it close to other plants that also like high humidity, so that together they can create a microclimate. You can also mist the plant with water once a day to moisten the foliage, or buy a humidifier to help increase the humidity in the room where the plant is kept.
String of turtles propagation
Propagation in soil
Growing cuttings in the soil is the easiest way to propagate a string of turtles, and we will discuss three different approaches here.
With this method, we will use leaves to propagate the plant. Remove a couple of leaves from the parent plant, making sure that there are petioles attached to each leaf cutting. The petiole is the stem that anchors the leaf to the main stem.
Place the leaf into a pot with damp potting mix, making sure the petiole is in the soil.
Transfer the pot to a spot where it gets bright, indirect light. Make sure you do not overwater the plant, while also not letting the soil dry out completely.
This method takes a little longer than the other methods, simply because you are using a leaf and you will need to wait for it to establish roots.
Use a sterile pair of scissors to take a cutting, making sure that it includes at least one node. Remove some leaves from the base of the cutting and plant it in a small pot with potting mix, making sure the nodes are under the soil, because this is where the roots will sprout from. As above, place the pot in a spot with bright, indirect light.
After a couple of weeks, check the root growth by giving the cutting a gentle pull. If there is resistance, that means the roots have grown in nicely and you can now grow the plant like you would a normal string of turtles.
This next method also uses cuttings with multiple nodes, but this time, instead of planting the cutting upright in the soil, you will lay it down across the soil, making sure all the nodes are touching the soil. You can even create a coil from the cutting to fit the entire length into the area of the pot. Make sure the soil is moist and transfer the pot to a spot with bright, indirect light. You can mist the potting mix with a spray bottle every once in a while.
After a few weeks, each node will have grown roots into the potting mix and you can then separate the nodes with their plantlets into individual pots.
Propagation in water
Another method of propagation uses water. This usually takes longer than rooting a plant in potting mix, but it is fascinating to watch the roots grow in the water. Choose cuttings from the parent plant and make sure each one has at least one node. Remove any leaves close to the base of the cutting, because you do not want them submerged in the water.
Prepare a clear glass or plastic container by filling it halfway with water. Place the base of the cutting into the container of water, making sure you submerge the node but not the leaves.
Place the container in an area where it can get bright, indirect light, and change the water if it turns slimy or murky, or if the level drops below the node.
The roots will start to appear after two weeks, but you need to wait until they grow a few inches long before transferring the plant to a small pot with potting mix.
The string of turtles plant, or the Peperomia prostrata, is a low-maintenance semi-succulent native to the rainforests of Brazil.
This plant is easy to care for, and only needs to be watered when the soil is dry to the touch. It prefers bright, indirect light and will suffer sun damage if exposed to direct sunlight for long periods. Use well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes at the bottom to avoid overwatering the plant.
Keep the plant indoors at room temperature and try to maintain a higher humidity around the plant by misting it with water or using a humidifier.
You can propagate the plant by planting leaf or stem cuttings directly in potting mix, or by letting them root in a container of water for a few weeks. When the plant has rooted in the soil, or if the roots have grown several inches in the water, you can proceed to care for the plant as you would a normal string of turtles.
Image: istockphoto.com / Matthew Lloyd