String of Turtles Care
String of turtles, or Peperomia prostrata, is an easy to care for houseplant! Though it is often found in the succulent section due to its ability to store water in its leaves, this is not an arid species and does not do well when treated as other succulents. String of turtles is native to Brazil, where it is an epiphyte, or a plant that grows on other plants. You will find this trailing vine adorning branches in the rainforest, where it gets regular water from the consistent rains. Because of its native habitats, it is a wonderful addition to many terrariums and vivariums. Other plants that share the "string of" names, such as string of pearls or string of hearts, are either true succulents or plants that indeed need the soil to dry in a manner similar to that of succulents, making the string of turtles an outlier in this group. "String of things" are mostly related only by common name, some string of things are related to one another, such as string of dolphins and string of bananas, but others aren't related at all, such as string of hearts and string of turtles. Peperomia prostrata gets its common name from their circular leaves with dark green patterning resembling the shells of turtles. It is a wonderful, pet safe plant that is suitable for beginners!
Because string of turtles grow in very similar locations to air plants, their light requirements are incredibly similar. Bright, indirect light is best for these plants, but Peperomia prostrata can tolerate low light fairly well. If you notice the space between the leaves begins to get longer, this is a sign that your plant is not getting enough light. If you would like to move your plant outside during the warm season, be sure to keep it in a location with shade. Because this plant grows on other plants in the wild, it is often hidden from the sun and in the shade of the canopy. Keeping your plant in too much light can lead to sunburn, which will look like sections of browning on your leaves that follows the areas which are exposed to the brightest sunlight. The brown is necrotic and will not heal. It will remain for the life of the leaf. If you notice your plant is beginning to show symptoms of too little light indoors, grow lights are a wonderful supplement. Be sure to follow the recommendation on the packaging, as every grow light is different. Most suggest mounting the light approximately 18 inches above the highest point of the plant, but some suggest more and others fewer for best results. If you mount the grow light too close to the plant, it carries the same risks as too much sunlight- grow lights can cause sunburn.
It is important to remember that, even though this plant can store water in its leaves, it needs much more water than a succulent. They do best with consistent moisture. Allow the soil to dry slightly before watering again. When you water, whether from the top or the bottom, the soil should be completely saturated. From the top, this looks like adding water until there is excess water draining from the holes in the bottom of the pot. If watering from the bottom, this means ensuring the plant has enough water to soak up from the tray until the top of the soil appears moist, as well. This could take minutes to hours, depending on the size of the pot. Be sure to add water halfway through soaking, if needed. This may sound like over watering, but over watering is the frequency in which water is added, rather than the quantity. If you only add a small amount of water more often, that does not allow the soil to dry properly, which leaves water where there would normally be small pockets of air within the soil. If this happens, the roots cannot properly perform gas exchange and the roots will suffocate, leading to root rot. This plant does have the potential to suffer from root rot, so be sure to allow your soil to dry 24-50% before watering again.
Soil and Fertilization
The most ideal soil conditions for these plants to thrive are those that replicate the soil conditions that would be found in the wild. They thrive in loamy soils with a high nutrient density, but one that also drains well. Luckily, all of these attributes are found with your average potting soils that you find in many local garden centers! Peat based potting soils are best. It is possible to get them to thrive in succulent soils, but more often than not, succulent soil will dry too quickly and will not allow your plant to absorb the moisture necessary for survival. Fertile soils will encourage the growth of roots and strong vines.
Fertilizing these plants is easy and can be done with a variety of fertilizers and fertilizing methods. They respond well to foliar fertilizers with a low concentration, such as those intended for orchids. Typical fertilizers can be applied to the soil by following the instructions on the packaging, as there are several different types of fertilizers. Following the instructions on the package will prevent the risk of over fertilizing which can lead to nutrient excess within the plants, or the burning of roots and foliage.
Like most other popular houseplants, string of turtles is one that can is resistant to disease and pests, though that does not mean it is impossible for this plant to suffer from ailments. The following are some of the most common problems to keep an eye out for, as well as prevention and treatment methods for each.
Mealybugs are a white, sap-sucking insect that produces honeydew that can lead to sooty mildew. They often hide on the underside of leaves and in tight crevices of new growth. They are easily treated with pesticides, an alcohol mixture, or beneficial insects. For more information on how to identify and treat mealybugs, check out the blog post titled Mealybugs and How to Deal with Them.
The pattern on the leaves, as well as which leaves on the plant are yellowing communicates what is happening with these plants. Most often for string of turtles, yellowing leaves indicates nutrient deficiencies, which can be resolved with fertilization. It will take time for the leaves to return to the lovely mottled, dark green they should be. If you have been fertilizing regularly, yellowing leaves are likely a sign of overwatering and the beginnings of root rot. Cut back on the watering and it should resolve within a couple weeks. If symptoms persist, repot your plant into fresh soil, inspecting the roots as you do. Remove any sickly roots as you find them.
Spider mites are a common pest in plants that like it a little more on the dry side when it comes to humidity. They are a sap-sucking insect that will leave little pinpoint yellow spots on the leaves and extremely fine webs between the leaves. They can be challenging to remove if not caught early. To learn more about early identification, signs, symptoms, and treatments, check out the blog post titled Spider Mites and How to Deal With Them.
Overall, this pet safe, beginner friendly plant is one of the most unique plants out there! The lovely, trailing vines with turtle like leaves will elevate any room you choose. This is an incredibly rewarding plant, as you watch the vines grow longer and longer. As always, if you are worried about your plant in any way, please do not be afraid to reach out! Send a few photos, as well as a short description of your care to firstname.lastname@example.org.