How to Care For String of Turtles: Comprehensive Guide

When you look at the String of Turtles plant (Peperomia prostrata), its compact and delicate appearance may come as a surprise. After all, how can such a petite plant be so hardy? But as it turns out, it’s one of the most resilient succulents out there. It’s not just an adorable house plant; in fact, it’s been around for a very long time—and with good reason.

Image Source: PlantNet (Diego Alex (cc-by-sa) - Jul 18, 2020)

When you look at the String of Turtles plant (Peperomia prostrata), its compact and delicate appearance may come as a surprise. After all, how can such a petite plant be so hardy? But as it turns out, it’s one of the most resilient succulents out there. It’s not just an adorable house plant; in fact, it’s been around for a very long time—and with good reason. The String of Turtle Plant is an easy-to-care-for indoor plant that’s perfect for newbie gardeners or experienced horticulturists who are looking to add something new to their collection. If you have fallen in love with this unusual but beautiful succulent and would like to know more about its care requirements and tips on how to grow a String of Turtles plant, keep reading.

What is a String of Turtles?

Native to the rainforests of Brazil, a String of Turtles plant has a reputation for being one of the easiest indoor plants to care for. It’s a slow-growing perennial semi-succulent plant that produces delicate, tiny cream flowers. The most fascinating aspect of this vining plant is its ability to seemingly produce new leaves from the end of its long, trailing vines similar to String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus), String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii), Hoya Curtisii, etc. As the name suggests, it looks like a string of small green leaves are being trailed down from a single vine. The leaves are long, fleshy, and often described as resembling turtle shells. The compact nature of this plant makes it a great addition to terrariums, windowsills, and other small spaces. 

Why is it called String of Turtles?

If you’re unfamiliar with this plant, you may be wondering—why is this plant called a String of Turtles?  Well, the String of Turtles plant’s name actually comes from the way it grows. As the plant ages, its long vines will trail down and form little “turtles” that look like small, scale-like leaves.

String of Turtles vs. String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii)

Although both plants appear similar, they differ in physical appearance! Although both are semi-succulents, String of Hearts is not a Peperomia and belongs to the Apocynaceeae plant family. Both have green and white variegation in their leaves, but the String of Hearts has uniquely heart-shaped leaves while the String of Turtles has round-shaped leaves that are much smaller.

Quick String of Turtles Care Guide

Botanical name

Peperomia prostrata

Common Name

String of Turtles, Magic Marmer Plant, Peperomia, Turtle Plant

Family

Araceae

Difficulty

Beginner

Plant Type

Perennial vine, semi-succulent

Growth Rate

Slow

Sun Exposure

Bright Indirect Light

Water

Low - 1x a week or bi-weekly

Soil Type

Well-draining, loamy but moist potting mix

Propagate

Stem Cuttings, Leaves, From Seed

Growing Season

Spring and Summer

Great For These Spaces

Hanging Baskets, Trellises, Offices, Shelves, Windowsill

Window Locations (Ideal)

East or West Facing Windows

USDA Hardiness Zone

10, 11, 12

Companion Plants

Christmas Cactus, Dracaena, Peace Lily

Toxicity

Non-toxic to dogs and cats

Pests

Spider mites, whiteflies, mealybugs, aphids

Diseases

Root rot, Leaf rot

String of Turtles Plant Care

If you would like to grow a String of Turtle plant, it’s best to start with a healthy plant. Avoid purchasing string of turtle houseplants that are all tied up in a string—if possible, choose one that is being grown in a pot separate from others. Avoid any plants that are wilted or have shriveled-looking vines. When you bring your Peperomia prostrata home, place the String of Turtles plant in a warm, sunny location but avoid direct sunlight. String of Turtles plants do best indoors, where they get around 6-8 hours of sunlight each day. If you don’t have a sunny indoor space, you can put the plant near a north or south-facing window or use a grow light. Being native to the Amazon, this succulent loves humidity although it’s succulent, so make sure you keep up your humidity to prevent wilting.

Growing Outdoors

Although primarily grown indoors, String of Turtles can grow outside in USDA hardiness zones 10-12. It’s not a frost-tolerant plant, so you will want to bring indoors during the winter if you are outside of the recommended zones. Make sure to plant String of Turtles in an area that does not get direct sunlight, but receives bright diffused light. This plant loves humidity, so make sure you’re keeping the soil consistently moist especially if the String of Turtles is located in a sunny area outside.

Water

Rule of thumb: 1x a week. Let top soil dry between watering.
Although this plant is a semi-succulent, it prefers slightly moist conditions. Be careful though, because overwatering is one of the more common issues with this plant. Pot the String of Turtles with well-draining soil into containers and pots with drainage holes. Water the plant once a week to bi-weekly and let the top 2-3 inches of soil dry between waterings. Avoid overwatering or waterlogging the soil and allow water to drain thoroughly from the pot.

Sunlight

String of turtles plants will thrive in bright indirect sunlight. Avoid direct light as keeping these plants in full sunlight for an extended period of time will damage the plant leaves, cause discoloration and wilting. Although string of turtles can tolerate low light, too little light will stunt new growth. 
Due to the vining nature of this plant, make sure the base of your plant receives light. Ideally your entire plant including the vines. If the base of the plant doesn’t receive light, it’ll also stop producing growth. 

Temperature and Humidity

Peperomia prostrata loves humid environments, but prefers cooler over warmer temperatures. The most ideal temperature range for the String of turtles is 68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s not frost tolerant, so avoid placing your plant near air conditions, windows, or exterior doors that could allow for cold drafts. If you’re growing outdoors, bring your string of turtles inside for the winter months if the temperature drops. If you live in a dry area or regularly use a heater, make  sure to use a mister or a small humidifier to upkeep moisture levels around the plant. If you don’t have a humidifier, you can place the plant atop a plate filled with pebbles and water to encourage moisture around the plant.

Soil

Although String of turtles is a semi-succulent plant and you may be tempted to use regular succulent potting mix, you should avoid doing this unless it has peat to encourage moisture retention! You will want to use a soil that encourages consistent moisture and one that is rich in sphagnum moss. Seed starting potting mixes tend to contain peat. Since these plants prefer more neutral to acidic soil, peat based mixes are most ideal. Ensure that the soil is well-draining by including perlite, sand, pumice, orchid bark, or other gritty substances. 

Fertilizer

If you’d like to maintain bright leaf colors, patterns and encourage new growth, the prime time to fertilize the String of turtles is during the growing season in spring and summer. You can feed this semi-succulent with houseplant fertilizer biweekly. Avoid fertilizing in the offseasons of fall and winter.

Cutting and Pruning

If you’re seeing ragged or leggy appearance with your string of turtles, it’s likely time for a prune. Occasional pruning will encourage new, bushier growth and upkeep a clean appearance. To prune your string of turtles, use sterilized garden snips and trim dead, wiltet growth. Make sure you don’t trim away more than two thirds of your plant’s growth.

 How to Repot String of Turtles

String of turtles prefer to be slightly rootbound, so repot sparingly about every one to two years. If you start to see roots coming out of the drainage holes of the pot and your growth is slower than expected, you know it’s time. Ideal time to repot is during spring and summer (growth season) so the plant has ample time to recover. If you’re ready to repot, follow these steps:
  • Step 1: Prepare a new pot. Ideally one that has a pot size larger to give space for new roots to grow and flourish. Fill a little bit of your new pot with soil.
  • Step 2: Gently remove your string of turtles from the old pot. Gently shake off clumps of soil off the roots.
  • Step 3: Inspect the roots. Trim any mush, brown roots (root rot) with sterilized garden shears. 
  • Step 4: Allow your roots to dry if they are moistened.
  • Step 5: Place your new plant in the pot and cover up with soil.
  • Step 6: Water your newly planted string of turtles.

How to Propagate String of Turtles

Propagating string of turtles is most commonly done through stem cuttings. However, you can also grow them from seed or from leaves! Let’s cover how you can propagate your string of turtles below.

From Stem Cuttings and Leaf Cuttings

  • Step 1: Using sterilized scissors, cut about 2-3 inches of a stem that has leaves attached to it.
  • Step 2: Remove leaves closest to the cut area but leave 1-2 leaves. Dip into rooting hormone. 
  • Step 3: Plant the cuttings into small pots filled with well-draining potting mix.
  • Step 4: Place cuttings into bright, indirect light and apply appropriate care.

From Seed

  • Step 1: Sow the seeds in a sterile, new well-draining potting mix with perlite, sand, or other gritty substances.
  • Step 2: Fill a pot with soil mix to an inch of the top and plant each seed about one inch apart from the other seeds. Cover loosely with more soil.
  • Step 4: Place pots in a warm area with bright indirect light. Avoid direct sun. 
  • Step 5: Keep the soil moist and avoid overwatering.
  • Step 6: String of turtle seeds can take up to a month to germinate. If you’re not seeing any growth after two months, they have likely died.

Common String of Turtles Pest and Diseases

Like any houseplant, String of Turtles is susceptible to common issues like overwatering, root rot, leggy growth, and pests like spider mites, aphids, mealybugs, etc. Pests can oftentimes be treated with neem oil and insecticidal soap. If you’re encountering stunted or wilted growth or discoloration of the plant leaves then let's dig in.

Leggy growth

If you’re seeing leggy growth, it’s likely that it’s time for a prune. Follow the above pruning instructions to manage overgrowth.

Root Rot

Root rot is a common issue with most houseplants. It’s usually caused by moist or waterlogged soil for prolonged periods of time. Symptoms can include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and a rotten brown base. If you’re seeing these symptoms, here’s how to treat root rot.
  • Remove the plant from the pot and gently remove the soil so you can see the root system.
  • If the roots are brown and mushy, you must take action immediately.
  • Clean off the roots with sterile water.
  • Take sterilized scissors and trim any mushy roots.
  • You can use a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution to disinfect the roots.
  • Once cleaned up, repot your plant in fresh houseplant soil mix.
Read our more comprehensive guide on how to prevent and treat root rot here.

Pests

String of turtles is susceptible to insects that feed on the nutrients in their leaves such as spider mites, thrips, and mealybugs.
Spider Mites: Watch for white, grainy debris on the underside of the prayer plant leaves. This is a sign of mites’ shredded skin. Treat by wiping the leaves with a damp cloth daily and increasing humidity around the plant.
Mealybugs: If you notice your plant looks like it is covered with snow or white spots, these are mealybugs. Quarantine your plant immediately so infestation doesn’t spread. Using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, wipe all visible mealybugs from the plant - including undersides of leaves, leaf joints and folds, and base of the plant. Treat your plant daily until infestation is gone. You can also use neem oil and insecticidal soap. 
Thrips: Thrips are small, straw colored insects. Blotchy brown discoloration can be an indication that thrips infestation is present. Quarantine your plant immediately so infestation doesn’t spread. As a first step, hose down the plant in sink or shower to dislodge the insects. You can also use a spray bottle and a microfiber cloth to wipe each leaf. Then, use neem oil or insecticide soap. Apply every one to two weeks until you no longer see bugs.

Common String of Turtles FAQs

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