Today’s post is one that has been requested by my readers (thank you!) – wanting me to share some string of hearts (ceropegia woodii) care tips. A beautiful hanging succulent plant that is also known as a rosary vine or chain of hearts, the ceropegia woodii is often seen tumbling off the bookshelves of Instagram. The internet has also been captivated by the newer addition of the variegated version this year, with a pinky cream blush around the edge of the leaves. It’s more tricky to manage the light levels of the variegated type however, so if you are new to this plant, I would stick to the non variegated type first. As the trend for hanging plants shows no sign of trailing off any time soon, I thought I would share some tips and tricks to help keep your hearts happy.
Above are some photos of my plant when it was younger… and much shorter! I have kept this plant in my bedroom for the last few months, hanging off the picture rail next to my dressing table in one of my macramé hangers. This has meant that I have been able to monitor it’s growth habits closely, for the purpose of writing this post. In addition to this string of hearts, I’ve been experimenting with a few of my plants I have multiples of ( perhaps the number one sign of being a plant hoarder?!) monitoring growth habits in different environments etc.
Did you know that the more light this ceropegia woodii receives, the closer together the hearts grow? You can see in this photo below, to the left are the strands that have been nearer the floor and received less light – therefore, more spaced out growth. To the right the hearts are closer together from receiving brighter light!
Here you can see the growth changes in one of my smaller string of hearts that I was keeping approximately one metre away from a west facing window – the hearts here were growing with an average gap of 3cm between hearts. After getting a new shelf in my kitchen, I moved it and it currently sits approximately half a metre away from my east facing french doors – the spacing between hearts has stretched out to 6cm. We can make a comparison here to the more commonly seen etiolated growth patterns of succulents that receive inadequate light levels such as echeveria for example – that make the succulents stretch for light. I have an extremely etiolated echeveria perle von nürnberg – see photo below!
etiolate, etiolated; etiolating
: to bleach and alter the natural development of (a green plant) by excluding sunlight
: to make pale
: to deprive of natural vigor : make feeble
When we first started using “etiolate” in the late 1700s (borrowed from the French verb étioler), it was in reference to purposely depriving growing celery of light. The word traces back to an Old French word for “straw” and is related to the Latin word for “straw” or “stalk,” which is “stipula.” Nowadays the term for growing veggies as pale as straw is now more likely to be “blanch,” which can mean “to bleach (the leaves or stalks of plants) by earthing, boarding, or wrapping,” among other things. “Etiolate” is more apt to refer to depriving plants in general of light; when “etiolated,” they are sickly, pale, and spindly. The figurative sense of “etiolate” (“to make pallid or feeble”) first appeared in the 1800s as a natural outgrowth of the original sense.
As a point of comparison, I wanted to show you my variegated hearts I got from my friend Vic a few weeks ago – you can notice the lighter leaves and white edges, that go a blush pink in sufficient light. Mine are still new so not much pink yet, but I will be sharing their growth progress over on my Instagram here.
So we have addressed the pivotal concerns of light for the chain of hearts, now lets consider watering, fertilising, potting and propagation. Here are some tips I have noted along the way, that help keep mine growing well…
WATERING: After the (almost) obligatory rotting of a few succulents when I started keeping plants a few years ago from incorrect watering, I decided to start watering a lot of my succulents from below. As tempting as it is to soak this plant through the top in situ (as it looks a pain-in-the-arse to get down from that hanger…) this plant will thank you for giving it a bit of tender loving care. I take mine down every two – three weeks (less in winter) and place on a tray of tepid water – cold water will shock the roots. Leave to sit for 30mins and top the tray up with water if necessary.
FERTILISING: Feeding your plants properly is something that I learned off my grandpa – after years of helping him in the greenhouse feed his tomatoes (a tradition I keep up in his greenhouse since he passed away some years ago). It seems an intrinsic aspect of plant care to me, but I know that not everyone uses fertiliser, especially if you are new to keeping plants, largely from fear of not knowing what to buy / how much to use. Too much fertiliser can actually burn or even kill your plants so always read the label! I will dedicate a post to fertilising soon as I think it would be helpful for newer plant enthusiasts. In short though, I use a 5-5-5 (NPK: Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) balanced fertiliser for my houseplants and feed my sting of hearts once every fortnight in the same way that I water them. I follow a ‘FRDAY FEED’ routine every 1- 2 weeks during April and October (a routine passed on by my grandpa too).
POTTING: The most common size of these I see around are little 9cm pots, and I would always advise to repot these as soon as they are settled in your home. These pots also usually come in plastic sleeves, which the plant doesn’t like as the humidity on the leaves isn’t great for them (side note – don’t mist them). I have found my hearts prefer a shallow pot than a deep one, and I use a potting mix of John Innes number 2, coco coir, perlite and horticultural grit. I recently repotted my large string of hearts which was a bit of a task – but I’ve noticed they are much happier since doing so, so always check your roots!
PROPAGATION: If you follow these tips and your hearts flourish, you might find that they get a bit long for the space that you have them… mine hit the floor a few weeks ago! So you can either let them keep growing, or make a new plant/ fill out your current plant by chopping and propagating cuttings. I cut and remove the hearts from the bottom ten centimetres of the strands – the nodes where the hearts have been removed will be where the roots grow from. After leaving the end of the stem to callous over for a few days, I place in water and leave for a few weeks in indirect light to root.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you have any requests for something you’d like me to write about, please send me a DM on Instagram.
Thanks for reading!