Variegated String Of Hearts
Ceropegia Woodii Variegata
It’s difficult to overlook the beauty and delicate intricacy of Ceropegia Woodii Variegata, or as it’s more commonly known, Variegated String of Hearts.
Perhaps it’s the perfectly formed heart shape of each individual leaf or the way they cascade in wispy trails, or maybe it’s their lacey leaf patterning that is tinged in all the right places with just a hint of baby pink.
A Variegated String of Hearts plant looks gorgeous placed on a high shelf with delicate stems allowed to elegantly cascade downwards. They can also be used to add color and interest to a hanging basket or planter by letting the stems spill gloriously over the sides.
Native to South Africa, these plants are used to drought conditions and nutrient-less soil and are therefore able to thrive on neglect. Even more pleasing is the surprise they bring in late summer when delicate pink and purple lantern-shaped flowers will appear along the length of the stems and last around 6 weeks.
Whatever their attraction, they are a hit with houseplant novices and experienced gardeners alike. Indeed, a houseplant collection just wouldn’t be complete without the addition of a Variegated String of Hearts.
Variegated String of Hearts Quick Guide
Position Part Sun, Part Shade
Watering Water thoroughly but infrequently
Size 2″ tall, 2ft long Trailing Succulent
Climate Not Cold-hardy, Zone 11a (40° F 4.5° C)
Propagate Stem cuttings, tubers, seeds
Seasonality Evergreen, Winter Dormant
Toxicity None Toxic
Flowers Tubular pink and purple flowers
Variegated String of Hearts Care
Possibly, another reason why the Variegated String of Hearts is so popular and appealing is that despite their fragile-looking appearance, they are such an easy-to-care-for plant with modest watering and feeding needs.
Of course, as with all houseplants, there are a few rules to follow in terms of understanding and mastering the basics of their care but once you have nailed that, it should be plain sailing from then on.
Here in this article, I’ll be sharing everything you need to know about growing, nurturing, and caring for Variegated String of Hearts. From what soil you should be using to when and how often you should be watering. I’ll also be sharing tips on how best to propagate and the problems you need to look out for in order to keep your Ceropegia Woodii Variegata in tip-top condition.
A Variegated String of Hearts plant needs to be ideally situated in a bright room with plenty of indirect sunlight. They respond best to bright light for at least 4 and 6 hours per day. However, too much sunlight can result in the leaves of your plant getting darker and even losing the lacey, silvery patterning.
If the climate in which you live is warm enough for them to live outdoors, bear in mind that they will need to be moved to a shady spot particularly when the sun is at its hottest.
Variegated String of Hearts is not a cold-hardy plant and prefers temperatures above 46° F / 8° C. Whilst it can tolerate lower temperatures for a very short period, it will not hold up against frost. For this reason, make sure you can accommodate your plant indoors in colder weather.
Height And Spread
You’ll want to leave plenty of space below your hanging Variegated String of Hearts in order for it to trail successfully. The trailing stems of a fully mature plant can reach lengths of up to 6ft (2m) in length. Height-wise, your plant will only grow 2” (5cm).
Ceropegia Woodii Variegata is happiest when their roots are kept away from moist or soggy soil conditions preferring a relatively dry environment so they can absorb the oxygen they need to thrive.
In fact, they will tolerate extreme drought and are very forgiving if underwatered from time to time. That’s because, in their native South Africa, these plants are used to arid, desert-like conditions. These plants are accustomed to extended periods without rainfall followed by intense and heavy downpours.
For that reason, Variegated String of Hearts prefers a thorough soaking, followed by a period where their soil can get completely dry before being watered again.
Rather than sticking to a calendarized watering schedule, I find that it is better to be guided by the moisture levels in the soil for this type of plant. There are two easy ways that you can test the moisture in your soil. Either the good old-fashioned method of placing two fingers 2-3 inches below the surface of the soil or by using a soil moisture test kit.
Essentially, you want the soil to be dry on the surface and slightly damp when your fingers are immersed in the soil before you water your plant.
If the soil is damp or bordering on soggy below the surface, hold off watering and wait a few days before checking the moisture levels again.
When you do water your Variegated String of Hearts, always remove the plant from its succulent pot or container and place the plant in a sink or bowl. Use a long-spouted watering can to direct water towards the soil of your plant and keep pouring the water until it seeps through the drainage holes freely.
Wait for the water to stop running through the drainage holes before returning your plant to its succulent pot or container. It’s really important to avoid water build-up in the decorative pot as this will encourage your Variegated String of Hearts to soak up the excess water that it doesn’t need.
Remember, Variegated String of Hearts’ dislike soggy soil with a passion.
Getting the watering needs of your Variegated String of Hearts just right is only part of the solution to the success of your plant, you also need to get the soil conditions right too.
Variegated String of Hearts plants need soil that is adequately well-draining. Avoid any soil that retains moisture for any length of time as these plants need air to circulate their roots and will not tolerate damp conditions. Put simply, long periods exposed to damp soil will just lead to leaf and worse still, root rot.
I like to use pre-made succulent and cacti potting soil such as Espoma Cactus Soil Mix. This one is 100% organic and does a good job of keeping my succulents in tip-top condition. I have to admit, I do add extra grit or perlite to help further with drainage. As I said, these plants are fine with drought conditions so it never seems to harm them.
You can of course make your own if you prefer. I would recommend a mixture of 1 Part Gravel, 1 Part Grit, 1 Part Perlite, 1 Part Coarse Sand and 2 Part Coir.
In late summer expect to see dainty little pink and purple lantern-shaped flowers. They seem to bloom quite easily without too much intervention but you can also encourage flowering by using a succulent and cacti fertilizer in a diluted liquid form when you water during the summer months.
Using a low ratio N-P-K fertilizer is adequate to fertilize a Variegated String of Hearts and will provide a good overall nutrient feed. If I’m using a concentrated formula I make sure that I dilute to a quarter strength to reduce the risk of a build-up of fertilizer in the soil that may lead to root burn. Recently,
I’ve been using Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food For Succulents. This is a liquid fertilizer that comes in a pump-action spray bottle.
It just means I can continue to fertilize between watering and all of the fertilizer product goes directly to where I need it to be – in the potting medium and not on the stem or leaves.
A Variegated String of Hearts is unlikely to need to be pruned. After all, the feature of this plant is its wispy, trailing stems.
Of course, you may need to remove any brown or dead leaves and flowers. These can easily be picked off using the thumb and forefinger or you can use a pruning knife or sharp scissors. Just make sure that they have been sterilized before you use them.
This plant is quite happy being tightly packed into its pot and will only need re-potting if the roots begin to appear from the drainage holes.
I’m never in a rush to repot Variegated String of Hearts but when I do I choose a succulent pot or container that is slighter larger than the last and also has good-sized drainage holes and I always use fresh Succulent or Cacti Soil.
It’s a good idea to replace the soil from time to time anyway to provide a fresh boost of nutrients to your plant.
Thankfully, these plants are not particularly precious and don’t tend to suffer shock as a result of being transplanted but do go lightly nonetheless to avoid damage to stems and roots.
When you do find yourself replacing the soil it’s a good idea to check the condition of the roots for any signs of root rot. You want to look for roots that are firm to the touch and cream or white in color. If you notice any roots that are brown or mushy then they need to be trimmed away immediately with sterile scissors or a sharp knife.
How to Propagate Variegated String of Hearts
By far the easiest and most prolific way to propagate Variegated String of Hearts is from stem cuttings. These can also be propagated from tubers (these are the ‘growths’ that appear along the stems during late summer), or they can be grown from seed.
I’ve always had success with propagating from stem cuttings and here is how I do it:
Use a sharp, sterile pruning knife or pair of scissors to take a cutting from the plant. The cutting needs to have at least 3-4 pairs of leaves attached to it so start from the end of a stem and count upwards until you get to the 5th pair of leaves.
Cut directly above the 5th pair of leaves. This is the node and is where the roots will appear from. Remove the two leaves that are directly next to the node as these will just rot as you wait for the roots to appear.
I find that propagating in water is quicker than in soil and also it’s more fun to watch the roots appear and grow bigger day by day. You can either use a propagation station or a jar. Ideally, you want to change the water every few days but don’t worry too much if you miss a day. The stem cuttings don’t seem to mind either way.
Roots should appear in 2-3 weeks at which point you can transfer your rooted cutting to a pot filled with well-draining potting soil. Poke a hole into the soil and gently place the rooted cutting inside. Press soil around the cutting to secure it in place.
You can either allow the rest of the stem to trail over the side of the pot or curl it around the inside of the pot over the soil. Often new roots appear from the remaining nodes to create a more voluminous plant.
For String of Hearts and Variegated String of Hearts, I like to take 8-10 cuttings at any one time. Once they have all rooted they can all be transferred to the same pot. This is a really quick and easy way to create a new plant and makes the pot look fuller.
Water your new plant very lightly the following day and continue to water only when the soil is almost dry from now on.
Position in a bright spot and avoid direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day.
Common problems with Variegated String of Hearts
Owning a Variegated String of Hearts can be a delight because it needs little attention and intervention and you’ll be rewarded with fast-growing stems and annual blooms that seem to appear effortlessly. Even so, there are a few common problems that you need to look out for.
Like many houseplants, Variegated String of Hearts can be susceptible to overwatering. If you notice yellowing or dropping leaves, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you watering too often by not allowing the soil to dry sufficiently before watering again?
- Is the soil sufficiently well-draining or does it remain soggy for prolonged periods of time?
- Does the pot or container have good-sized drainage holes?
- Is the plant allowed to sit in water after being watered?
- Does all excess water runoff before the plant is returned to its ornamental planter?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you’ll need to take corrective action immediately. Have a read back through this article to get the answers you need and to return your get your Variegated String of Hearts back to its former glory.
Variegated String of Hearts thrive on neglect and simply can’t tolerate being left in wet soil for extended periods of time so go easy on the watering schedule to avoid root rot. The early signs of root rot include the onset of yellow, brown, or rotten leaves, and when this does occur, it’s really crucial to take action immediately.
The best way to do this is to remove your plant from the pot and gently remove the soil from the plants’ roots. Now you can give the roots a thorough inspection.
Roots that appear brown or black and are soft and mushy are diseased and all traces will need to be trimmed away using a sterile and sharp knife or pair of scissors.
I like to wash and re-sterilize my scissors after every cut. This is the best way to avoid transferring any disease to other parts of the roots. It’s a little fiddly, but well worth the effort if you want to restore your Variegated String of Hearts to the best possible health.
Once you have removed all areas of the root that are diseased and you are left with just white or cream and firm roots, you are ready to repot. Make sure you have thoroughly cleaned the pot and are using fresh, well-draining potting soil. This will ensure that any wayward diseased roots are not transferred back into the vicinity of your plant.
Your Variegated String of Hearts will also thank you for resuming a less frequent watering schedule from now on!
Small leaves can indicate that your plant isn’t getting enough sunlight or is positioned in too much shade. Poor light conditions can also cause long spacings between leaves and can make your plant look a little leggy.
Try moving your plant to a brighter location and look to achieve spacings between leaves of around 3 inches for healthy luscious growth.
Mealybugs are those tiny but unsightly pests that are found in crevices of plants especially around leaf nodes and stem junctions.
These creatures are wingless insects that love humidity and they – rather charmingly- will feed on the sap of your plant using their straw-like mouths to puncture into the foliage.
It is easy to spot mealybugs because of the distinctive cotton-like mass that they produce on the surface of plants. Whilst not pleasant to look at, if treated quickly they won’t do any lasting damage to your plant.
I find it is best to prune out areas of the stems and leaves that the mealybugs have taken residence. You can also dab them off using a cotton bud that’s been soaked in diluted rubbing alcohol (such as surgical spirit). Once I have pruned away as much as possible without butchering the plant too much, I like to check over the plant daily and dab away any visible traces.
In addition, every 7 days use a household insect spray, detergent, or soapy water to wash the mealybugs away until the infestation ceases. You can also use Neem oil to help discourage future mealybug infestations.