The string of turtles is an unassuming, tiny peperomia variety with trailing vines and appealing leaves. If you own a String of Turtles or you’re taking care of a string of turtles plant for a friend, you’re in the right place. Below is everything you need to know to best care for this lovable little semi-succulent plant.
How to care for a string of turtles
|When to Water:
|Allow top two inches of soil dry out between watering
|Best Type of Light:
|Provide bright, indirect
|Use well-draining aerated soil
|Best Type of Pot:
|Grow in ceramic, terracotta, or clay pot
|65°-75°F (18 – 24 degrees C)
|Every other week during growing season
Ahead, I’ll provide actionable information on each of the above care facets so your string of turtles gets growing! I’ll even delve into common pests and diseases as well as answer your most burning questions about raising a string of turtles.
Let’s get started.
String of Turtles Care Guide
First, here is some fascinating background information on the string of turtles plant in your possession.
The string of turtles or Peperomia prostrata is a peperomia species. If you read my post on the types of peperomia, you may recall seeing it on that list. It also goes by names like the round leaf peperomia, creeping button, or jade necklace.
Like some peperomia types, the string of turtles is a succulent. It grows natively in the rainforests of Brazil, where conditions are warm and damp.
If you’re short on space for your indoor garden, the string of turtles could be just the plant you’ve been looking for. In maturity, it reaches sizes of about one foot long. Its width is between three and four inches.
Although it’s obviously up to you where you put it, the string of turtles looks amazing when grown in a hanging basket. The long vines can dramatically trial and dangle. It’s also a great plant for an indoor terrarium.
Why the nickname string of turtles, you ask? The round, green leaves with the lighter green stripes of variegation look like turtle shells!
Those leaves, especially on a long vine, will weave within one another and sometimes entwine.
Caring for String of Turtles
Do you plan on adding a string of turtles to your indoor garden soon? Here’s how to take care of this fascinating succulent plant.
Watering a String of Turtles
The great thing about succulents is they don’t need much water, the string of turtles included. When the top two inches of the plant’s soil is dry, water the string of turtles.
I know, two inches of soil isn’t very deep, but you have to remember the plant we’re talking about here. The string of turtles is small, so two inches is like midway down the pot or very close to it.
As always, use the fingertip test as your guide to determine soil moisture.
Don’t be surprised if you go several weeks between watering the string of turtles. Succulents store water in their leaves and stems. They’ll drink that water incrementally to stay hydrated.
How will you know whether your string of turtles is being watered just enough or too little? Plants can usually indicate to you when they’re eager for water.
The leaf tips will dry out and sometimes even die (if you haven’t watered your plant for a long while). The plant will wilt as well.
Plus, you’ll be able to feel it in the soil, which will be bone-dry.
Succulents are sensitive to standing water, which can cause root rot. You must avoid overwatering the string of turtles.
If this is your first succulent, you can almost feel neglectful of the plant at times because it’s been that long since you’ve watered it. What you’re doing is the opposite of neglect though!
String of Turtles Light Requirements
As a rainforest plant, the string of turtles doesn’t get many opportunities for direct sun exposure. To replicate its ideal environment at home or the office, provide bright, indirect light.
Bright, indirect light requires a medium between the window and your plant, and it’s usually a curtain. A set of blinds could work as well, but you want to keep the blinds open during the day.
Medium light–which is dimmer than bright, indirect light–is okay as well.
This makes sense since the string of turtles would be exposed to mostly dappled light in the rainforest as provided by the overhead canopy of trees.
The more sunlight the string of turtles has, the more its vines grow.
That said, don’t be tempted to expose the string of turtles to full sun for very long. The leaves and vines of this indoor plant are small and sensitive. Prolonged time in direct sun will cause scorching.
Positioning your string of turtles so it can drink in the light can be tricky, especially if you have yours suspended in a hanging basket.
You must ensure that the entire plant receives sunlight, even the top of the string of turtles that might be closer to the ceiling. The areas that don’t get light won’t grow, so mess around with different plant positions until you find what works.
Don’t be afraid to use an artificial grow light affixed to the ceiling (or close to it) if you just can’t find a window in your home or office that works for the string of turtles!
Best Soil for a String of Turtles
Well-draining potting soil is a best friend of the string of turtles. When you consider its dislike of standing water, this is no surprise.
And yes, I said potting soil rather than succulent mix. Cacti mix and other mixes for succulents might not be well-suited enough for a vining plant such as the string of turtles.
What I recommend instead is creating your own organic mix. Combine potting soil (or potting mix) with perlite (one part), sand (one part), and peat moss (one part).
Let’s talk about why these soil amendments are best for the string of turtles.
In soil, perlite keeps water draining while simultaneously aerating the mix. It’s especially recommended for succulents since this amendment can prevent standing water.
Sand is a great aerator as well, as its grit creates air throughout the potting mix.
A little goes a long way. Excess sand creates dry conditions. You can then fall into the trap of overwatering your string of turtles.
Peat moss or sphagnum is a great nutrient retainer so your succulent has nutrients to feed on for a good long while.
The string of turtles does best in neutral to acidic soil. Perlite is neutral on the pH scale, as is sand. Peat moss is usually more acidic though, but it depends on the type.
Best Type of Pot for a String of Turtles
Knowing the strict no-standing-water policy of the string of turtles, a porous pot is best for this plant. I’d recommend terracotta, clay, or ceramic. Take your pick!
Any of these pot materials will absorb water that goes into the plant’s pot, preventing standing water from accumulating.
When combined with the soil amendments you added, standing water shouldn’t stand a chance (pun intended).
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this, but ceramic, clay, and terracotta are among the most fragile plant pot materials.
Fortunately, you don’t need a huge pot for the string of turtles, so you shouldn’t have to worry about breakage too much. Even if you do break the pot, it shouldn’t be too costly to have to replace it.
String of Turtles Plant’s Ideal Temperature and Humidity
Despite its balmy rainforest origins, the string of turtles doesn’t require overly high temperatures. A room-temperature environment of 68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect for this plant.
It’s always nice when you don’t have to adjust your thermostat for your indoor plant. It makes caring for it so easy, especially in an office where you don’t always have control over the temperature.
How cold is too cold for a string of turtles? Once the temps reach 50 degrees, you’re at that threshold.
The Peperomia prostrata is not cold-tolerant, nor is it frost-hardy. You’ll notice immediate wilting when the temps drop into the high 40s.
Continued exposure from there can induce cold shock, with symptoms such as dropping leaves.
In colder temperatures still, the plant’s cells can die, leaving permanent black marks where the incident occurred.
Let’s talk humidity too. The string of turtles does not need as much humidity as you might have assumed. If you can get your home or office at 50 percent relative humidity, then you’re in the money.
You might not even have to do anything special, either. Most homes and offices have a relative humidity range of 30 to 50 percent. A hygrometer will tell you how humid it is.
If you can raise the humidity past 50 percent, then do it. The string of turtles will be happy. You can use a humidifier for this.
Best Fertilizer for a String of Turtles
The best fertilizer for a string of turtles is a succulent fertilizer, of course.
You have your pick between slow-release or liquid fertilizer.
If you want to continue the more hands-off approach to the string of turtles’ plant care, then use a slow-release fertilizer. You won’t have to fertilize again for quite a while.
If you fertilize with a liquid product, then apply it every two weeks once the spring starts and until the active growing season ends. Some indoor gardeners fertilize every three weeks but use your best judgment.
No matter which succulent fertilizer you select, you must dilute it with water.
Fertilizing your string of turtles will maintain the coloration and variegation of your plant while keeping the leaves shiny, fresh, and healthy.
Common Issues with String of Turtles
It’s a real pain when you work hard to grow an indoor plant but your progress gets derailed by problems such as pests or diseases.
This section will identify the issues you may have when growing the string of turtles as well as how to overcome these problems.
One of the best parts about growing the string of turtles (besides that a lot of its care is hands-off) is that the plant isn’t a huge pest magnet.
That said, spider mites, mealybugs, and whiteflies could propagate here if you’re not careful. Here’s what you need to know.
With upwards of 1,200 unique spider mite species, it seems only like a matter of time before one finds its way to your string of turtles.
Although they’re small, spider mites can puncture plant leaves down to the cell. Then they suck up everything within.
Rubbing alcohol and water will get rid of ‘em. You need 30 ounces of water and a cup of alcohol in a spray bottle. Make sure you get both the tops and bottoms of the leaves!
A type of scale insect, the mealybug loves sipping on greenhouse plant juices as well as the sap of subtropical plants. They can spread diseases if not taken care of swiftly!
If you still have that spray bottle of water and alcohol handy, you can use it for your mealybugs issue.
You can also add dish soap to the mix. The strength of the rubbing alcohol and the dish soap should end your mealybug problem for good!
Whiteflies aren’t flies; if anything, they’re a relative of the mealybug.
Like mealybugs, whiteflies are very invasive and a huge pest in your thriving indoor garden. You’ll spot them on the underside of your plant’s leaves.
Take a gallon of water, squirt in a tablespoon of your favorite liquid dish soap, stir, and pour the mixture in a spray bottle. Generously apply on the undersides of the leaves to send whiteflies packing.
Another advantage of growing the string of turtles is that diseases are rather uncommon. The only one you have to look out for is a real killer though. It’s root rot.
Overwatering your indoor plants is the chief cause of root rot. Any indoor plant species can be affected by root rot, and some plants are more susceptible to it than others.
Root rot occurs when your plant has more water than oxygen. The plant can drown in the standing water.
The roots begin to die one by one, but since they’re buried deep in the soil, you don’t see it happen.
Maybe you smell the unpleasant odor of dying roots, but even still, attributing the source of the smell can be difficult.
By the time your string of turtles begins wilting or turning sad colors like yellow or brown, the root rot is usually quite serious.
You can potentially save your plant from root rot by removing it from its pot and cutting away the dead roots. Use clean pruning shears and disinfect them after cutting to stop the spread of disease.
Put your string of turtles in fresh soil and reduce your watering frequency. If the remaining healthy roots are enough to sustain the plant, then your string of turtles may survive.
String of Turtles Common Questions
To wrap up, I want to address some of the more frequent questions that come up when growing a string of turtles.
Is String of Turtles Rare?
No, not anymore. There are 1,500 different peperomia species, so some are certainly rarer than others. That no longer includes the string of turtles.
Once, upon a time, the string of turtles or Peperomia prostrata was indeed one of the rarer peperomias.
What happened over time was that its popularity boomed. Nurseries and gardening supply stores responded to the demand by increasing their stock of string of turtles.
Now you can find string of turtles nearly anywhere you look so everyone can experience the joy of growing this indoor plant.
Are String of Turtles Toxic to Pets?
No, fortunately, the string of turtles is pet-safe. If your inquisitive pet were to take a nibble, they wouldn’t be poisoned.
Do you have pets in the house such as cats or dogs? If so, then you know you must select your indoor plants especially carefully. You don’t want anything toxic around your fluffy friends!