Once you learn how to propagate string of dolphins, you’ll probably end up with them all over your house! Also known as Senecio peregrinus, string of dolphins is a super-cute trailing succulent that makes a low-maintenance addition to every potted plant collection.
To propagate a string of dolphins, take healthy stem cuttings 3-5 inches long and allow the ends to callous over for a couple of days to prevent rotting.
- For water propagation, place the cutting in a clean clear container filled with filtered water. New roots should emerge in 1-2 weeks.
- For soil propagation, fill a small pot with moistened potting soil and dip the end of the cutting in powdered rooting hormone. Use a pencil to make a hole in the soil, and insert the cutting. New growth should appear in 2-3 weeks.
In this article, I’ll show you how I go about each step of the propagation process, with lots of photos to help you understand every stage.
But even though the steps are simple and string of dolphins is often said to be easy to propagate, I’ve found that it’s not always foolproof. I’ve tested a few different methods to propagate this plant and ended up with a few failed attempts. It can be discouraging if all you hear is that this plant is so easy to propagate!
So I encourage you to take a couple of extra cuttings to give yourself the best chances for success, try both water and soil methods, and don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first time.
Now let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
How to Tell If Your String of Dolphins is Ready for Propagation
Your string of dolphins is ready for propagation if the stems are at least 6 inches long and have lots of healthy growth.
There should be at least 2 or 3 nodes on the stem for propagation, which is where the roots will develop. The nodes are where the leaves grow from the stem, and they look like little bumps. I’ve marked a couple of nodes for you here in this photo:
The mother plant should have at least a few stems to be ready for propagation, but it doesn’t have to be a full, mature plant.
When Is the Best Time to Propagate String of Dolphins?
The ideal time to propagate string of dolphins is in its active growing season from early summer until late fall. Your plant is already in grow mode during these months, so it will be easier for it to overcome any shock and produce new roots.
The other ideal time for propagating would be if your string of dolphins is struggling- like the plant in this photo:
In this case, the plant is rotting at the root level, and it’s highly unlikely to bounce back. Clip off whatever healthy growth you can and propagate it right away.
Materials Needed for String of Dolphins Propagation
So you’ve decided it’s time to propagate your string of dolphins. When you’re preparing for propagating string of dolphins in water or in soil, you’ll want to have all of your supplies prepared and ready to use:
- Clean gardening shears
- Jar or vase with filtered or distilled water (for water propagation)
- Plastic, clay or terra cotta pot with bottom drainage hole (for soil propagation)
- Succulent soil
- Root hormone- this is optional, and if you don’t have this you could always use honey
Once you have all your supplies, you’re ready to move on. I’ll cover all the steps in detail, but if you’d like to see a visual demonstration, this video from Only Plants does a great job, starting at the 8:34 minute marker:
How to Take a String of Dolphins Cutting
It’s important to begin with a branch that looks pretty healthy. The stem should be green, and the leaves should be green and intact (looking like jumping dolphins) with no discoloration, spots or dryness.
This photo shows a stem that’s NOT a good candidate for a cutting:
The main issue here is the lack of leaves on the stem and minimal new growth at the tip. While you could try to propagate this stem in a pinch, it’s not one I would choose if there are other options.
Here are a couple of examples of good stems for cuttings:
Both of these stems are long enough for propagation and have healthy leaves and new growth.
Once you’ve selected your stem, use your clean scissors to cut the stem below a node, making sure the cutting is at least 3 inches long:
Here are two cuttings I’m working with today:
Next, remove the leaves from the cut end up to about 1 inch to prevent any rot from developing:
It should look like this:
Let the cut sit out in the room air to form a callus, which takes about 2 days. A callus helps prevent fungal infections from entering the cutting when placed in water or soil. Here’s what calloused stem ends look like:
Propagating String of Dolphins in Water
The water propagation method lets you monitor the new root growth and see when it’s a good time to transfer the cuttings to soil. Let’s break down the steps for propagating string of dolphins in water:
1. Fill a Container With Water
I like to use small glass jars for my propagations. I find that 11-ounce jelly jars are the perfect size (and we love jelly in our house, so I’ve got plenty of extra jars!).
I recommend using filtered or distilled water for propagation. Tap water often has quite a few additives that could negatively impact your plants, with chlorine being the most problematic. If you can’t use filtered/distilled water, leave your container of tap water sit out overnight to allow the chlorine to evaporate.
2. Put Your Cutting in the Jar
Place the cutting in the jar or vase of water, making sure that all exposed nodes (where you removed the lower leaves) are fully submerged:
Place the jar or vase in the window with bright, indirect sunlight.
3. Refresh Water as Needed
Replace the water every week or earlier if it starts to look cloudy. You should see new roots sprouting from the nodes in 7-14 days.
4. Plant Rooted Cutting in Soil
Once the roots are at least 2 inches long, transfer the cutting to soil. Don’t let the roots get too long before your transplant your cutting- that can make it harder for your plant to make the switch to a soil-based environment from a water-based one.
After planting your cutting, keep the soil pretty moist for a few days to help cushion the transition. Then treat your cutting like a regular string of dolphins plant!
Propagating String of Dolphins in Soil
Propagating string of dolphins in soil is another method. This way there’s no transferring from water to soil and having to be careful with potentially fragile roots during transfer, and it’s better for keeping roots growing strong and stable.
Here’s what to do:
1. Prepare Your Pot
Make sure you’re using well-draining succulent soil and a pot with drainage to prevent water from collecting around the root system. I’m using a mini terra cotta pot, but any small container with built-in drainage holes will work.
For all succulents, use a specially-blended succulent soil instead of regular potting soil. Succulent blends are much lighter and drain well, whereas standard potting soil is too heavy and retains too much moisture. You can also consider using 2 parts regular potting soil mixed with 1 part perlite and 1 part sand.
It’s a good idea to moisten your soil before planting your cutting. Some succulent soils repel water when they’re dry, so rehydrating the soil prior to planting is the easiest strategy.
2. Dip Cutting End in Powdered Rooting Hormone (Optional)
According to the University of California Master Gardeners, succulents (like string of dolphins) typically need very little assistance in rooting and growing new plants. However, you can dip the stem in rooting hormone to help the process along even more.
3. Plant Cutting in Soil
Place the cutting by inserting the cut end 1 inch into the soil. Lightly pinch the soil around the cutting:
Another method is to lay the cutting on top of the soil in the pot. The roots will sprout out of the stem and downward into the soil. Keep in mind that you’ll need a pot with a larger diameter if you want to try this method.
Water lightly and place in a window with bright, indirect sunlight. Keep soil moist until roots develop or you begin to see new growth, usually in 2-3 weeks.
Can You Propagate String of Dolphins From a Leaf?
This is up for debate.
In many instances, you can propagate succulents from leaves, and there are people out there who claim that you can grow a new string of dolphins plant from a single leaf.
However, it seems that most people who try it don’t get good results- I never have. I’ve also heard some growers say that they’ll get a bit of root development from leaf propagation, but that’s all.
Because of this, I recommend sticking with the tried and true stem-cutting method. But if you have some fallen leaves from your string of dolphins plant, it wouldn’t hurt anything to set them on damp soil and see what happens. Hopefully you’ll have good luck!
How to Care for String of Dolphins After Propagating
After propagating your string of dolphins, it’s important to provide the proper care:
- Keep it in a bright room, but avoid direct sunlight. A few feet back from a south-facing window is ideal. You can also use a grow light if you don’t have a spot that will provide 6 or more hours per day of sunlight.
- Water when the soil is thoroughly dry. If the dolphins appear deflated or dull, it’s time to water. If the dolphins are yellow or soft, don’t give any water and allow the soil to fully dry out.
- Maintain temperatures between 65 degrees and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Monitor for pests including mealybugs, scale, aphids, and spider mites and treat early.
Potential Problems with String of Dolphins Propagation
The main problem I’ve run into while propagating string of dolphins is the cutting rotting in water. Make sure to change the water out weekly or earlier if it starts to look icky.
Another less prevalent problem is fungal infections and disease entering a cutting by placing it in soil before the callus has formed. You can reduce this risk by waiting at least 2 days for a callous to form, using high-quality, fresh succulent soil and a clean pot.
One of the best suggestions I have for avoiding problems is to take as many cuttings as you safely can from your mother plant and try both water and soil propagation. This way, you’re giving yourself more chances for success and diversifying your assets.
Frequently Asked Questions about How to Propagate String of Dolphins
I hope my experience here has helped you gain confidence and pick up some good tips for how to propagate string of dolphins for yourself. It’s a fun plant to have around, and if you go crazy with your propagations, I’m sure friends and family would be happy to get a new plant from you!
I want to hear from you! Do you have any more questions about propagating string of dolphins or how to care for it? Or maybe you have some helpful strategies you’ve discovered on your own. I believe the best way to learn is from one another’s experiences, so please feel free to share in the comments!