String of Hearts: Complete Care Guide
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Whether you’re new to the realm of houseplants or you’ve got years of experience under your belt, the string of hearts makes a marvelous addition to any home.
String of hearts is a dainty, low-maintenance vining plant that even inexperienced growers can maintain quite well. The stems can reach up to 5 feet in length, perfect for a hanging basket or spilling over the edge of a tall shelf. In some varieties, the stems have a soft pink-purple color, adding to the visual interest. The leaves grow in pairs, with each having a delicate green-and-silver marbled pattern on the leaf top and soft purple on the bottom.
In this article, you’ll learn about the background and care needs of the lovely string of hearts, so you can keep yours healthy and thriving for many years to come.
Let’s get started!
When soil is almost completely dry
Bright, indirect light
Well-draining potting soil
60-80 degrees F
Tolerates average humidity
Overwatering, leaf discoloration, pests
Only when needed, typically every 2+ years
RELATED: Love string of hearts but wish you could have more color? Stop by our post on the lovely variegated string of hearts plant– it’s harder to find but definitely a beauty!
String of Hearts Background
String of hearts, or Ceropegia woodii, is an ornamental houseplant that originates from southern Africa. Other common names for this plant include:
- Chain of hearts
- Lantern flower
- Necklace vine
- Rosary vine
It’s also sometimes abbreviated as SOH for short.
In its native habitat, string of hearts is a vining plant that winds its way across the ground, over other plants and down rocky outcroppings. It is an evergreen plant, meaning that it does not drop its leaves seasonally.
Young leaves start out small, getting larger and chunkier as the plant matures. The SOH is a semi-succulent, meaning that it can store some extra water in its leaves to use later. That’s a perfect adaptation for the harsh, arid southern African climate where string of hearts grows in the wild.
And under the right conditions, the SOH produces delicate blossoms and seed pouches. According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it primarily blooms in summer and fall, and the blooms are white to pale magenta with a bulbous base. If grown outside, it can even attract hummingbirds!
String of Hearts Care
Despite its attention-getting looks, string of hearts care is actually pretty hands-off. Once you get the right pot, soil and watering routine down, you don’t have to do much else but sit back and enjoy your plant.
Here’s what to do to take good care of your SOH plant:
Like all true succulents and semi-succulents, string of hearts does better in soil that is on the dry side. Overwatering is the much greater danger to your plant than under-watering, so err on the side of waiting too long rather than watering too often.
Check the soil before watering and make sure the top 3-4 inches are dry before adding any water. When it’s time to water, give enough that you see it freely run out of the pot’s drainage holes. Or you can fill a dish or saucer with water, set your pot in and allow it to soak up water through the drainage holes for about 15 minutes.
It can be helpful to keep a record of when you last watered your string of hearts or checked the soil moisture. Setting a reminder on your phone can work well, or you can download our beginner-friendly, printable Succulent Watering Record here:
And remember- drainage is key. Make sure there are no obstructions in your pot’s drainage holes, and don’t leave your plant sitting in a dish of water for longer than 15-30 minutes.
For the best coloring and lush leaf development, string of hearts succulent likes bright, indirect sunlight for at least 3-4 hours daily. In the Northern Hemisphere, windows facing west or south are good locations. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, east or north windows are your best bet.
RELATED: If you want some inspiration for some more gorgeous north facing window plants, we’ve compiled an amazing list for you!
Susan Brandt, co-owner of Blooming Secrets, shares her input on why getting the lighting right is important for your plant’s health and beauty. “In this location, you will find the deep green leaves have speckles with silvery-white and gray. The leaves will also be fairly close together on the stem.”
“Different light conditions can change the overall leaf color,” Susan adds. “Plants that are grown in low light will have pale green leaves with subtle speckles that are close to the leaf color, so the contrast will go away. You might also find the leaves to be more spaced out.”
I have mine a few feet back from my sunny south window, and it’s doing well.
But while SOH likes quite a bit of light exposure to look its best, keep your plant out of harsh, direct sunlight. Overly strong light can quickly yield burned leaves with crispy edges, which isn’t the look you’re probably going for!
RELATED: Another aptly-named “string of” plant is the whimsical string of dolphins– they really look like jumping dolphins!
Appropriate Pot Size and Type
String of hearts plant does very well in any type of pot material:
- Terra cotta
Whatever material you choose, make sure that the pot has good drainage. If you’ll be planting directly in the pot, it needs to have at least one large drainage hole. If the pot you want to use doesn’t have built-in drainage, use a plastic nursery pot or add drainage holes yourself with a power drill and a bit that’s appropriate for the material.
When it comes to pot size, the diameter should not be more than 1-2 inches wider than the root ball. String of hearts grows best in slightly cramped conditions, and a pot that’s larger than necessary can also hold excessive moisture that can cause root harm.
Chain of hearts prefers loose, well-draining soil that mimics its natural dry, sandy habitat.
Succulent or cactus soil is a good option if you’d like to purchase a pre-made soil blend. I’ve had good results with Espoma’s organic formula.
If you’d prefer to make your own soil blend, mix 50% potting soil (NOT topsoil or garden soil) with 50% drainage enhancing ingredients, like these:
- Horticultural charcoal
- Orchid bark
As a tropical plant, string of hearts prefers temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This is right about where most people set the thermostat, so if you’re comfortable with the room temperature, your SOH likely is too.
But do make sure to keep your plant well away from any drafty windows in the late fall and winter or strong air conditioning vents in the summer. Both of these can make the immediate environment too cold for your plant to tolerate.
If you live in USDA zone 10 or higher, you can have your plant outdoors year-round.
Like room temperature, SOH does fine in average room humidity, usually somewhere between 40% and 50%.
String of hearts is not an especially heavy feeder.
Good-quality potting soil goes a long way towards meeting your plant’s needs, and a monthly supplement with a dose of succulent/cactus fertilizer during the active growing season (April through October) can help boost growth.
Routine pruning isn’t necessary to help your plant grow, but it can help keep things neat and tidy.
Use clean scissors or pruning shears to trim the vines to a shorter length that suits your taste. But don’t throw those trimmings away- use them to propagate more string of hearts plants (more on that a little later on).
This video from Everything Plants does a good job of demonstrating the pruning process and using the trimmings for propagation:
Chain of hearts doesn’t require support for the trailing vines. I have mine in a hanging pot, which is a perfect way to showcase its dramatic, trailing vines. Spilling over a high shelf would be another great option.
But I’ve also seen photos of string of hearts trained in a circular trellis, and it looked absolutely stunning.
String of hearts goes dormant during the winter months, typically November through March. During this time, your plant is resting and not producing new growth, so reduce watering by about 50% and don’t give any fertilizer.
RELATED: Why stop with just one vining plant in your collection? Check out the lovely string of turtles to see another adorable plant!
Repotting String of Hearts
String of hearts succulent grows best in tight quarters that keep the roots compact, so you won’t need to repot your plant very often.
If your SOH plant is in a smaller pot, you’ll probably need to repot after 1-2 years. If it’s in a larger pot, the repotting timeframe will closer to every 2-3 years. Here are some signs that it’s time to move to a larger pot:
- Slow or no new growth
- Root tips poking out the drainage holes or up through soil surface
- Soil drying out more quickly than before
When it’s time to repot, do it during the active growing season to minimize risking plant health.
Step 1. Choose a pot that is no more than 1-2 inches larger than the root ball and has adequate drainage. Water 1-2 days before you repot.
Step 2. Fill the new pot with succulent soil mix or houseplant soil with drainage-enhancing materials (perlite, sand, horticultural charcoal, etc). Add enough new soil to bring your plant’s root ball just beneath the lip of the new pot.
Step 3. Remove the string of hearts from the original pot by cradling the plant in your hand and turning it upside down. You may need to tap the pot a couple of times to loosen the root ball from the inside of the pot.
Step 4. Once your plant is free, brush away loose old soil and inspect the roots, looking for any discoloration or soft spots. If you see anything concerning, trim the sections away with clean scissors or pruners. Place the string of hearts into the new pot, being careful not to disturb the roots too much.
Step 5. Fill in around the root ball with soil mix, tapping gently to dislodge any air pockets in the soil. Set your newly-repotted SOH back in its normal spot.
Step 6. Monitor your plant after repotting. You may see some drooping and curling of leaves, but this is transplant shock and your SOH should overcome it after a couple of days.
Give a normal watering again once the top 3-4 inches of soil are dry.
RELATED: We cover the repotting process in more detail and with lots of helpful photos in our post on how to repot succulents. Stop by to learn more!
Propagating String of Hearts
Propagating string of hearts is easy, and there are several ways to go about it:
- Butterfly method
- Stem cuttings rooted in water or soil
- Using tubers
- Single leaf
- From seed
Some methods are easier and more reliable than others, but all take a little bit of patience. We’ve covered the process in detail in our post on string of hearts propagation, so stop by for more details and helpful step-by-step photos.
Potential Problems with String of Hearts
String of hearts isn’t usually prone to problems, but there are a few that can occur. Let’s take a look at a few of these as well as how to treat and prevent them.
Even though the dramatic cascade of stems is one of the defining characteristics of SOH, they can present a problem of their own.
I had to deal with this first-hand when I bought my plant. I ordered it online, and it arrived so tangled up that it took me days to unravel the stems. And apparently, I’m not the only one to run into this issue.
“Because the “strings” are so thin and can grow to be quite long, this plant can easily get tangled,” Jeremy Yamaguchi of Lawn Love says. “When it is too tangled, its growth can be stunted or parts can even die. Detangling by hand is possible, but it can be incredibly time-consuming and you do need to be careful not to damage the plant.”
I eventually got my SOH stems sorted out, but I did lose quite a few leaves in the process even though I was as gentle as I could be. The good news is that my plant seems to have come through the ordeal just fine, and there’s new growth ready to make up for what was lost.
My advice to avoid/deal with tangled stems:
- Move your SOH as little as possible.
- When you do need to move it, let the stems dangle from a table edge or something high rather than letting them pool up on the floor.
- As much as you can avoid it, don’t let your kids or pets handle or play near your SOH.
- Deal with small tangles right away.
If you start noticing some fallen leaves underneath your SOH, it’s probably due to one of two problems:
- Not enough light
- Too much water
Not enough light. String of hearts thrives in at least 3 hours of bright sunlight daily, and if it’s not getting enough, the plant can’t photosynthesize enough food to support itself. At that point, it may start to drop leaves in an effort to conserve energy.
Try moving your SOH to a brighter location. If you don’t have a sunnier window, use a grow light for at least 4-6 hours daily.
Too much water. If you notice leaves changing colors to yellow or brown and falling off, there’s a good chance it’s been overwatered. Immediately stop giving water and allow your plant to dry out for several days.
When the soil feels dry 3-4 inches deep, give a normal watering. In the future, always check the soil moisture before watering, and only give water when the top several inches of soil feels dry.
If string of hearts has been overwatered for an extended time and there’s an unpleasant smell coming from the soil, it’s probably root rot. This is a fungal infection that thrives in wet soil, and if not treated promptly, root rot will disintegrate your plant’s root system and cause death.
Since string of hearts has a shallow, fine root system, it’s highly vulnerable to fungus.
If you suspect root rot, remove your plant from the pot and rinse off the soil as much as possible. Inspect the roots, and use sanitized shears or scissors to trim out any black or mushy areas, all the way back to healthy root tissue.
Repot in a new pot and fresh soil, making sure the soil drains well and pot drainage is adequate.
NOTE: If your previous pot is a porous material like terra cotta or unglazed ceramic, the fungus could still be in the pot itself. So throw it away- you don’t want to risk another plant getting infected. If your old pot is plastic or another non-porous material, soak it for at least 4 hours in a 1:9 bleach/water solution.
If your string of hearts is still looking sad or droopy several days after repotting, it’s probably too far gone to save. Take as many healthy cuttings as you can for propagation, and throw the mother plant away.
String of hearts can grow pretty quickly, and its growth pattern is naturally long and leggy. But if there’s too much space between leaf sets for your liking, trim the vines to the desired length.
Then put the trimmings back in the soil or use the propagation methods above to propagate new plants.
Mealybugs, aphids and scale insects are the usual offenders for string of hearts.
Mealybugs are white, cottony-looking insects that love to hide on the undersides of plant leaves and in node junctures. Fortunately, since they’re bright white in color, mealybugs are pretty easy to spot.
Dip a cotton swab in isopropyl alcohol and wipe the bugs away. Keep checking your string of hearts daily for the next week, and remove any other mealybugs you find in the same way.
Aphids like to congregate in the same places as mealybugs, but aphids can be a bit harder to see since they are usually green or brown in color.
Gently spray your plant down in the shower or outside with the hose to wash aphids away. Then use neem oil or insecticidal soap to kill any remaining bugs.
Scale insects look like brown bumps on your string of heats stems. Use an alcohol-soaked cotton swab or tweezers to pry the scale insects loose, and spray your plant down with neem oil or insecticidal soap.
Prevent pests with a regular watering schedule, weekly inspections and preventative neem oil/insecticidal soap treatments a few times a year.
Where to Buy String of Hearts
If you’re wondering where you can find and buy a string of hearts succulent, you’ve got plenty of options. I’ve seen them for sale at a few of my local greenhouses, but that might be pretty hit-or-miss in different regions.
But you won’t have any trouble finding a string of hearts online! Here are just a handful of options:
- Etsy has a wealth of options from many reputable sellers.
- Amazon is another good option, but pay close attention to reviews since seller quality can be a little more variable.
Frequently Asked Questions about String of Hearts
String of hearts is a fun little vining plant to keep in your home. With its low maintenance, fast growth and colorful heart-shaped leaves, it’s perfect for any bedroom, living room or office window!
Do you have any other questions about string of hearts care? Or have you had this plant in your collection and have any tips to offer? We learn best from each other, so please share your thoughts in the comments!