String Of Turtles, Watermelon Plant
Have you ever looked through a kaleidoscope and watched patterns shift and change while maintaining a similar appearance as you turned it? Mother Nature must’ve had one as a kid, inspiring her to create the Peperomia Prostrata.
The leaves of Peperomia Prostrata display a geometric pattern in their veining, with each and every pattern differing slightly from one leaf to the next.
Position Bright, diffused sunlight
Watering Every 2-3 weeks
Size 1ft x 1.5ft
Climate 65°F to 75°F, 50% humidity
Propagate Stem cuttings
Seasonality Growing: Mar – Sept & Dormancy: Sept – Feb
Also commonly referred to as String of Turtles, Watermelon Plant, Creeping Buttons, and also Crocodile Tears, this beautiful trailing succulent is a relatively small plant that makes a big impact in a small space.
Peperomia Prostrata Care
Whether you position your Peperomia Prostrata on your desk or on a shelf or as a talking piece in a seasonal hanging basket, you will be guaranteed a showcase of cascading stems that will create a lush, green waterfall of delicate patterns for you to enjoy. Here is all you need to know to keep your String of Buttons well cared for and in pristine condition.
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In the mid-19th century, this quaint succulent caught the eye of Benjamin Williams, a botanical explorer, as he traversed the rainforests of South America. Native to the tropics, the Peperomia Prostrata thrives in dappled sunlight and enjoys being nestled in with other plants.
New growth begins at soil level and is stimulated by indirect light exposure. Artificial fluorescent lights work well too. But,over-exposure may singe the delicate leaves and cause the plant to fail. Keep these points in mind when choosing the right spot for your plant.
Another ease-of-care feature is, unlike other tropicals, it’s not as needy about humidity. Although, similar to other rainforest succulents it does require some compared to others that have adapted to drier conditions.
This graceful plant easily thrives in the natural humidity levels of most homes, unless conditions become too dry that is. For example, in winter if your heater is running for long periods of time. Daily misting will help to increase humidity and allow for continued healthy growth.
Average temperatures within our homes should suffice as well. String of Turtles will flourish in spaces that range between 65°F to 75°F. Again, if temperatures should climb above this, misting can help alleviate any heat stress.
Height & Spread
These tropical perennials tend to grow quite slowly when they’re young, with growth increasing with maturity and reaching its max around 5 years of age. All while remaining a pretty compact plant at a maximum size of 1ft all around. Each stem or vine can grow up to 1.5’ in length with each leaf growing along it spanning from .25” to 1” in diameter.
Given String of Turtle’s petite size, it requires little water. Which makes the perils of overwatering very common. A good rule of thumb is to limit its water intake to roughly 1/5th the pot’s volume. And spread watering out every two to three weeks or when the soil has completely dried out. If the humidity is adequate, this is all the extra moisture it needs. If you are growing this plant in lower light or under artificial sources, then even less watering is required.
These plants have very shallow root systems allowing them to absorb water quickly. This gives you the option to either water from the top or the bottom by placing the pot in water for no more than 10 minutes. Either way, be sure to let the excess water drain properly. Overwatering may result in plant failure.
Signs of overwatering include scab-like bumps on wilted leaves, mushy leaves and stems, and root rot. Signs of underwatering include deflated leaves and stunted growth.
Peperomia Prostrata will retain its elegant beauty when grown in soil that mimics its native South American environment. This means gritty soil that stays moist long enough for absorption and then dries out completely until the next rainfall.
The best soil for your Peperomia Prostrata will be well-draining and contain elements that allow for airflow around the roots. A fertile soil will encourage a robust root system with strong vines and leaves so choose one with a pH between 5-7 which is acidic to neutral.
There are several quality succulent soil choices on the market, or, you can mix your own by adding elements like perlite and bark chips to standard potting soil. Making sure that any mix you use is not pushed down or compacted around the roots will ensure the adequate airflow you need to support healthy growth.
Typically potted plants tend to lose some nutrients and soil, as they leech off a bit with water drainage. So, periodically check the soil level and top it off as needed to ensure that the root system is properly supported and protected.
Peperomias will flower after a number of years but because their stems easily root when their nodes come to rest on the soil (thereby propagating themselves) these vestigial blooms tend to be simple and unalluring to pollinators.
I find them architecturally interesting, though. Very different from a typical flower, these emerge from the center of the plant as individual spikes ranging in color from pale pink to dark Fuschia. Extending out between 2” – 6” in length all throughout the active growing season, they give this pretty plant yet another interesting facet to its personality.
How to Fertilize Peperomia Prostrata
Since your String of Turtles thrives in 5.0 to 7.0 pH soils and is also a light feeder, a fertilizer with a low dose NPK will work sufficiently for feeding throughout the growing season only. There are various succulent fertilizers available to buy. Do bear in mind that liquid fertilizer will need to be diluted to at least half-strength. And only applied once per month during the plant’s active growing season. Alternatively, slow-release houseplant fertilizer spikes (again only half the recommended amount) will release nutrients with every watering. Limited watering, as previously recommended, will prevent over-fertilizing with this option.
My preference is for a low-dose N-P-K ready-to-use succulent fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food.
The pump-action dispenser means that I can direct fertilizer to the roots via the soil rather than getting any product on the leaves and foliage that might otherwise burn.
The low dose of this fertilizer means my String of Turtles won’t be subjected to potential root burn which can result in stunted growth or browning leaves.
Due to the growing habits and maximum size of this plant, it very seldom needs pruning. This is generally saved for managing overly bushy bits, removing unhealthy or damaged leaves, or clearing out flowers. Over-pruning will actually stunt the plant’s growth. However, if you happen to remove some healthy vines when pruning to maintain shape, save those to propagate more turtles!
If removing flowers or trailing vines, cut as close to the inner base of the plant as possible to prevent infection at the cutting site. Yellowing or damaged leaves typically fall off on their own. If pruning is needed, two rules should be followed, otherwise, the risk of the plant deteriorating could result.
- Always use a cutting tool that has been sterilized prior to use. Microscopic bacteria on the cutting tool may be accidentally transferred to the plant.
- Never cut through the yellowing part of a leaf as this exposes the plant to pests and disease at the cutting point. Remove the whole vine with a clean cut as close to the base of the plant as possible.
Another benefit of slow growth is the rare need for repotting. Sometimes though, these pretty plants are acquired as little, tiny babies in little, tiny pots. So cute! But, they will grow and will need to be repotted at some point.
If it has become root bound, which could take several years, choose a new succulent pot no bigger than 1-2 inches larger than the original. Otherwise, water will drain out through the excess soil without ever reaching the rhizomes. If your plant has become root bound, simply make a few vertical cuts in the root ball before replanting. This will encourage new root formation that will spread into the new pot and remember to use soil rich in material that will promote ample drainage and airflow.
How to Propagate Peperomia Prostrata
The best time to propagate your Peperomia Prostrata is at the beginning of its active growing stage in March and this is easily done with stem cuttings. Remember I suggested saving healthy stems when pruning? Here’s what to do with them to create new plants:
- Choose the healthiest stems with no dryness or damage.
- Make sure they are at least 5 inches in length.
- Wrap the stem into a circle and place it in a new pot with rich, free-draining soil. You can secure it with a small bobby pin. Wrapping it around will help the plant take root in one primary point in the pot, rather than in several places across it, which makes for a stronger forming plant.
- Allow the coiled stem to remain on top of the soil. Do not cover it with soil as the stem needs direct access to light to form new roots.
Avoid watering your new planting for one week to allow the severed end to heal and prevent infection and always keep this in bright, indirect light in a room with the same temperature and humidity as the mother plant. Within a short time, you should see new growth begin to emerge.
Common problems with Peperomia Prostrata
With proper care, your petite peperomia will thrive and provide you with not only years of enjoyment but the peace of mind that comes with growing one of the few tropical houseplants that are completely non-toxic to pets and humans.
But, there are a few things you need to be aware of, to avoid any complications with the plant itself.
Dull and Damaged Leaves – when left exposed to intense light and heat, delicate leaves can become “bleached” in appearance as they lose color and pattern. Too much light can also result in rapid moisture loss and the decline of your plant. An easy remedy is to move it to another location with less intense, indirect light exposure.
Root rot is one of the most common issues new peperomia growers experience. It results from over-watering or the roots sitting in soggy soil too long. Thus, the need for soil and pots that provide proper drainage.
Spider Mites – tiny dots on the underside of leaves. While yellowing leaves can indicate a watering issue, these can also indicate infestation. They’re attracted to overly dry soil where they lay their eggs. You do want to let the soil dry out a bit in between waterings but if left too long these mites may appear.
Mealy Bugs – tiny white bugs that prefer wet and heavily fertilized soil. Because these pests can lay up to 600 eggs at a time, make sure your turtle strings are consistently watered but with enough time in between to allow for drying out. As well as ensuring that it’s not being overfed.
White Flies – small, white-flying insects that feed on juices from leaves and flower buds. Females lay their eggs on the underside of leaves. A periodic inspection will reveal an infestation so you can quickly eradicate it.