How To Care For A String of Turtles Plant

string of turtles plants

The String of Turtles plant (Peperomia Prostrata), also commonly known as “Magic Marmer” is worthy of its position as a favorite among both beginner and experienced indoor gardeners.

It has earned its high regard by being easy to grow and easy to care for, by having leaves that look interesting, being able to thrive in a range of conditions, and because of its variability.

String of Turtles Appearance

String of Turtles plant is an ideal choice to add interest and variety to your terrarium, dish garden, or any container garden. It also makes a dramatic statement when you place it in a hanging basket and then allow its trailing stems and colorful flowers to cascade over the sides of the pot.

The leaves of the Peperomia Prostrata are small and delicate, usually no more than 1/2 inch (12.7 mm) in width. They will range in color from green to purple and, regardless of their color, always feature a beautiful pattern of white veining.

It is the interesting shape of its leaves that gives the Peperomia Prostrata plant its popular name, String of Turtles. Their unique form resembles tiny turtle shells that have been strung together on a trailing vine.

Adding interest and beauty to the alluring characteristics of the Peperomia Prostrata is the fact that it flowers throughout the year.

This lovely low-maintenance plant will brighten your indoor garden and your day with blooms that appear as conical spikes that will vary in color along the yellow to reddish-brown spectrum.

Another reason why Peperomia Prostrata is popular among indoor gardeners is that it is not only beautiful but compact. It will reach a height of no more than about twelve inches.

Its width, on the other hand, will be influenced by the size of the pot in which you place it because it is a spreading plant. No wonder it is a favorite for tastefully decorating a home or office.

String of Turtles: Origin

Peperomia Prostrata is a tropical ornamental perennial that is native to Brazil and is also found in parts of Central America. It is a part of the family Piperaceae, one of more than 1,500 recorded species that can be found in tropical and subtropical regions. There are even a few members of the family found in Africa.

As you might expect because of its beauty and compactness, the popular String of Turtles plant is readily available to anyone wishing to enhance their indoor garden.

You can purchase these plants online, at nurseries, and at most big box stores that have a garden center. 

The Perfect Pot

Peperomia Prostrata is a terrific houseplant because it is so adaptable. You can place your plant in any type of decorative pot, in your terrarium, or in virtually any other kind of container that strikes your fancy.

Hanging baskets and desktop or countertop containers are among the most popular presentation methods. 

There are only three rules of thumb when you go about choosing a container for your plant:

  • The container has drain holes. A String of Turtles plant can not tolerate waterlogged soil very well.
  • The container isn’t too large. It may seem counterintuitive, but your Peperomia Prostrata thrives when it is slightly potbound. Consequently, you should always place them in a container that is just a little bit larger than their root balls, but not too large.
  • Shallow containers are better because these plants have a small root system and too large a pot can lead to accidental over-watering.

Ideal Soil For String Of Turtles

Peperomia Prostrata is native to rain forest regions, so it stands to reason that they prefer slightly moist and fertile soil. Fertile soil plays an important role because it will help promote improved vine strength and also encourage your plant to grow stronger roots.

You should always select a potting soil that aerates well and drains well because your goal is to guarantee your plant’s roots a sufficient supply of oxygen and soil that drains well and doesn’t tend to compact.

Soil preparation is important. It is recommended that you prepare your potting soil by mixing it with two parts of peat and one part of either perlite or sand.

I personally recommend this one that’s available from Amazon, it’s done wonder for my houseplants.

Perlite is lighter than sand and is often considered a better choice because of its lighter weight, its ability to help air circulate around the plant’s roots (aerate), and the fact that it facilitates drainage.

Perlite is inexpensive and you can purchase it online or at any nursery and most garden centers. 

Fertilizing Peperomia Prostrata

You should feed Peperomia Prostrata regularly to help it develop a healthy root system, maintain strong trailing vines, and delight you with the loveliest blooms possible. You can fertilize your plant year-round, but you should make a special note to fertilize during the growing season.

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The ideal fertilizer for this plant is an even 20-20-20 formula of nitrogen, potassium, and iron. The growing season starts in the spring, so you’ll want to apply a diluted mixture of half strength of your fertilizer about every two weeks throughout the spring.

During the summer, you can choose to cut back to monthly applications. You don’t need to fertilize your plant during the fall and winter months.

An alternative to applying fertilizer mixtures is to use convenient controlled-release fertilizer pellets at the beginning of each growing season. Lately I’ve been using these that are available on Amazon

Some gardeners prefer a combination – using controlled-release pellets at the beginning of the growing season and then augmenting during the fall and winter months with monthly applications of liquid fertilizer.

Watering A String Of Turtles

The String of Turtles plant is a succulent. This means that it naturally absorbs water and then stores it in its stems and leaves. While this is an effective survival tool during periods when water is scarce, it is also a double-edged sword for gardeners caring for this plant.

The Peperomia Prostata is skilled at balancing its water intake carefully when growing out in nature. It is more difficult when the plant is living in your container and you are controlling the amount of water it has access to.

The most common causes of death for these plants are over-watering and under-watering.

Fear not because it isn’t a challenge to avoid harming your plant with too much love. All you have to do is pay attention and follow some simple guidelines.

As a rule of thumb, remember that it is always better to under-water than to over-water. You do not need to water this plant very often, but its needs will change depending on the time of year and a handful of other easily-observed factors, such as:

Time of year

It is recommended that you make sure to keep the soil a little moist during the growing season during the spring when your plant needs nourishment, but then pull back a bit and let the soil dry out more over the course of the rest of the year.

Bear in mind that your plant will naturally store water on its own, so you can understand why it doesn’t need as much water when it is not growing or when it is exposed to lesser amounts of heat or light.

Moisture content

It is ideal to water your Peperomia Prostrata when its soil is 50% to 75% dry. For many indoor gardeners, this equates to watering only about once every two or three weeks, but your plant’s needs may be different based on the amount of humidity in your home and other factors.

If your home environment is cooler and more humid than normal, your plant will most likely require less frequent watering. Read on to learn about ideal temperature and humidity.

How do you know when it is time to water your plant? Your soil will tell you. You can check the dryness of the soil by simply inserting your finger in the soil. You should be able to go down several inches before your finger feels moist soil. If you prefer to be more exact and sophisticated, you can use a tensiometer. 

Tensiometers are inexpensive devices that measure the amount of moisture there is in soil. You simply push a probe into the soil to root level. These are also called moisture meters and soil testers.

They are available at most nurseries and garden centers, or you can get them from Amazon. Take heart because a simple finger test will suffice for the proper care of your String of Turtles plant.

Amount of water

Remember that your Peperomia Prostrata does not need a lot of water and that you only need to water your plant when its soil is dry. Your plant is a succulent and therefore it prefers relatively dry soil conditions and can be seriously injured or die if over-watered.

Generally speaking, you will only need to add an amount of water equivalent to about one-fifth of the volume of its container. Too complicated? It’s easier than it sounds. There are two methods for watering your plant:

  • The top watering method. Just as it sounds, this method involves pouring water onto the soil.  There are many attractive watering cans available in retail stores, or you can just use a glass or other container from around the house. It is easy to eyeball or measure an amount of water that is approximately equivalent to one-fifth the volume of the plant’s container (pot).
  • The bottom watering method. This is actually better for your plant. It’s the most effective way to avoid root rot. Using this method, you place your plant’s pot in a container and then fill that container with water until about 1/3 of the plant’s pot is submerged. Let the pot sit in the water for about ten minutes. Lift the pot out and let it drain. Your plant’s roots will thank you.
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You should never over-water your plant. The String of Turtles plants have delicate root structures and, like most succulents, can easily succumb to root rot. This is a serious condition that can be fatal for your plant. Never allow so much water that any sits on the surface of the soil, and always try to adhere to the other guidelines in this article.

Type of water and temperature

Your plant can thrive on everyday tap water that is fed to it at room temperature. But check out this article I wrote, if you want to see what’s the best water for your plants.

Some gardeners ensure that the temperature is right by refilling their water can or the container in which they submerge their plant immediately after each watering, and then letting that container sit until the next watering.

This has two benefits: it makes sure that the water is at the right temperature, and it allows time for any chemicals like chlorine or fluoride to dissipate.

If you don’t want to have the water sitting so long, another way to accomplish the correct temperature and to allow the chemicals to dissipate is to set up your water about twenty-four hours in advance of your next watering.

Signals of watering problems

How do you know if you have over-watered or under-watered your String of Turtles plant? Here are the telltale signs:

Over-watering means that your plant’s roots are waterlogged. This is a common problem for gardeners with Peperomia Prostrata.

  • Mold growing on the top of the soil
  • Leaves have brown spots on them
  • Leaves are starting to curl or look withered
  • Leaves appear droopy
  • Leaves are turning yellow

Under-watering means that your plant is dehydrated. This is an uncommon problem, but you should know the signs.

  • The soil is very dry to the touch or cracked
  • The plant is dropping a lot of its leaves
  • The plant is growing very slowly or not at all
  • The leaves are flat

Remedies for watering problems

Even if you’ve over-watered your String of Turtles plant, you may be able to save it with a few simple steps. You can get a good idea about the extent of the damage by looking at the leaves and the stem of your plant. Your plant is better off if only the leaves are exhibiting signs of over-watering.

If the stem is mushy, your plant is probably suffering root rot and may not be able to be saved. If your plant suffers root rot, your only possible remedy is to re-pot it with fresh potting soil and then let it dry out for several days without watering it.

If you have over-watered your plant, you can treat it by following these steps:

  • Remove the damaged leaves by either pinching them off with your finger or using scissors. Try severing the leaves as close to the stem as possible. You are doing this because you want to help your plant send nutrients only to the healthy leaves to promote the growth of new, healthy leaves.
  • Inspect the soil. If there is any mold on the surface, remove it immediately by scraping it off.
  • Examine the roots of your plant to see if they are rotten. You can often do this by looking at the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. If you can’t determine their condition by looking at the exposed roots, remove the plant from the pot to examine the roots.
  • If the roots look healthy, you should place extra drainage materials in the bottom of the pot. You can use rocks, pieces of broken terra cotta, or other materials to help with water flow and to mitigate against the probability of over-watering incidences in the future.
  • If there are some damaged roots, you should remove them. Damaged roots will be brown. You should use your hand to gently knock away the soil and pull out the bad roots. Clean the healthy roots and add fresh potting soil before repotting.
  • It is often a good idea to let the plant sit out in the light for a day or two to ensure that the soil is sufficiently dry before putting the plant back in its pot.
  • Some indoor gardeners instead prefer to place their repotted plant in a dry, shaded place for several days to allow it to completely dry out and recover without being exposed to the harshness of direct sunlight. 
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Repotting A String Of Turtles

You generally never have to repot a healthy String of Turtles plant because they are small and grow slowly unless you see its roots starting to grow out of the bottom of its pot.

Although it isn’t usually required, it is nevertheless a good idea to repot them every two or three years just to refresh their potting soil.

There is no special method for repotting these plants. The best practice is:

  • Fill the bottom of your pot with two or three inches of the soil that you prepared. Add some stones to improve drainage.
  • Gently knock a little bit of the old soil around the roots just to open up the roots
  • Place the plant in the pot and then fill around the sides with your prepared mix
  • Add a modest amount of fertilizer or a thin layer of compost

Perfect Location For Your Peperomia Prostata

Peperomia Prostata is a small tropical plant that is accustomed to growing in low light environments.

If it receives too little light, it will grow fewer leaves, occasionally drop its leaves, and exhibit a drab color.

The best light for your plant is morning light or filtered light, and it also enjoys twelve or more hours of artificial light every day. These plants can also grow under a grow light.

If you wish to place your plant near a window, it is best to put it near a north- or east-facing window because it prefers to avoid bright sunshine.

Pruning

Strings of Turtles are low-maintenance plants that require very little pruning. You should only cut off the leaves of a healthy plant when they appear withered, yellow, or dry. You may, of course, shape these plants to harmonize with whatever setting you’ve chosen.

It isn’t necessary to remove the flowers after they’ve finished blooming, but you can if you prefer. If you do, cut them as short as possible. You should avoid cutting the plant too much because you don’t want to shock it or inhibit its growth.

Propagation

Strings of Turtles are easy to grow from stem cuttings. You can grow new plants in either soil or water.

  • In water: Place large leaf and stem cuttings with some roots attached in a glass that’s large enough for the cutting to stand in. Be careful not to crowd the stems. In 3-6 weeks, you should see roots growing out of the leaf nodes. Transfer the plant to a pot.
  • In soil: Bury your cuttings in a seedling starting potting soil mix. Place in a warm, bright place until growth appears. Transfer the plant to a pot.

Ideal Temperature

One of the reasons Peperomia Prostata is easy to care for is because it likes to be surrounded by our typical room temperature, which means between about 64 degrees and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees to 24 degrees Celsius).

It is a tropical plant, so it cannot survive extremely cold temperatures. In fact, it can be damaged at anything below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), at which point its vines will wilt.

Humidity is a consideration, too. These plants prefer a little more humidity than most other succulents, but don’t worry, you don’t have to make any special arrangements in your home.

During the hotter summer months, just spritz the plant’s leaves once a week enough to moisten them, but don’t drench them and don’t leave them soaking wet. This simple exercise will ensure that your plant enjoys sufficient humidity.

FAQ

Are Strings of Turtles Toxic?

No, these plants are perfectly safe for humans and pets.

Is it true that they help clean the air?

Surprisingly, yes. Studies show that they can reduce the level of formaldehyde indoors by more than 40%.

Do they have a lot of pests?

Like most houseplants, they can be afflicted with common pests like mealybugs, whiteflies, and spider mites. Inexpensive remedies are available at nurseries and garden centers.