String of Turtles (Peperomia Prostrata) Plant Care

Peperomia Prostrata

The peperomia prostrata, also known as string of turtles, are commonly considered as succulents. This is a common misconception because peperomias have somewhat thick leaves that resemble those of succulents. However, they are not. Although, many peperomia varieties have succulent adaptations (characteristics) making people group them as such. The point is, it is important not to care for them exactly the same way you would succulents.

That said, the peperomia prostrata is a small plant that’s native to the rainforests of Brazil. It is known for its vining nature. As such, the first thing your notice about it are its small trailing foliage.

It is also the reason why most people grow them in hanging baskets or pots that allow the plant’s foliage to spread or cascade outward. In some cases, they are likewise grown in terrariums or dishes to cover most of the space.

What’s great about it is that even if it spreads outwards as it grows, the plant is not invasive. Thus, you can easily grow it alongside other plants and be sure that it stays well-behaved.

Peperomia Prostrata Plant Care

Peperomia Prostrata Light

The peperomia prostrata grows best with bright light. Although it prefers indirect lighting as opposed to direct light. Too much direct exposure to the sun’s rays can damage its leaves and cause sunburn.

Additionally, if you can’t find a spot where your plant can get a lot of bright light, it will do just as well with moderate lighting. Similarly, artificial lighting from fluorescent grow lights work just as well.

So, you do have a few options with this plant.

The key is not to overdo or underdo lighting. This is why an east facing window is perfect. It gets a few hours of gentle light from the morning sun (which is more than enough for this plant). And, avoids the sun’s harsh rays during noontime and mid-afternoons.

If you do decide on a west or south facing window, make sure it doesn’t get too much time under direct sunlight. Several hours of this on a daily basis with harm your plant in the long run. As such, keep it protected (via blinds, curtains or drapes) or place it a few feet from the windowsill.

 

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Peperomia Prostrata Temperature & Humidity

Another thing this small houseplant needs for proper growth is a warn, humid place to stay.

Ideally, you want to keep the thermostat between 65 and 75 degree Fahrenheit. Although the plant is able to tolerate so temperatures slightly outside the range.

The most important thing to keep in mind is never allow it to stay somewhere where the temperature is below 50 degrees. This is harmful for your plant as it isn’t frost hardy.

If you live in USDA zones 10 to 12, then you’ll be able to keep your peperomia prostrata outdoors all year round. Otherwise, it is better off indoors. Alternatively, you can bring it out during the summertime when the weather is warm then bring it back into the house when the temperatures start to drop in the fall. Just make sure that it isn’t placed under direct sunlight.

In addition to moderate to warm temperatures, peperomia prostrata also like humidity, especially during the summer when it is in the middle of its growing season.

peperomia prostrata

source: wikimedia commons

 

Watering Peperomia Prostrata

Like many other houseplants, overwatering is the biggest nemesis of your peperomia prostrata. While its nicknamed, String of Turtles, this plant does not like sitting in water.

As such, it is important to allow the soil to dry out before watering again. The best way to do this is to stick your finger into the soil. If the top 1-2 inches is still moist, wait and test again before watering. You want to feel the soil at that depth become dry before watering again.

If you see the peperomia prostrata’s leaves start wilting or form scabby bumps on its leaves, these are signs that you’re giving it too much water. Similarly, your plant may also shed a leave of two. Thus, it is important to immediately scale back. Otherwise, if you keep continuing, it will soon cause root rot. But, if you see a lot of foliage suddenly start dropping, the problem will likely be fertilizer or temperature as opposed to watering.

While underwatering is less of a problem because most people tend to pour more than less, lack of water can likewise negatively affect your peperomia prostrata. Among the most common symptoms of these are slow/stunted growth and its succulent-like leaves becoming flat.

 

Soil

Peperomia prostrata enjoy moist soil that drains well. This is because its native environment are rainforests where they often get drenched by rain daily. As such, the surface in these conditions are wet, loamy soil.

To mimic this, choose a rich (high organic content), loose (airy), and well draining potting mix. A combination peat and perlite (or sand) works well. The former helps to improves moisture retention so that your plant is able to absorb both water and fertilizer. The latter prevents the soil from retaining too much as both perlite and sand are well draining materials.

Another good way to reduce the risk of waterlogging is to use a pot that isn’t too big or deep. Since the peperomia prostrata is a small plant, using a small shallow pot also reduces the amount of soil you need to fill it.

The fewer the soil, the less moisture it is able to hold. Thus, it dries up faster.

 

Fertilizing

Fertilizer is key for houseplants because potting soil isn’t actually soil at all. Instead, it is a growing medium that’s design to help keep the plant upright. Additionally, potting mixes are designed to help retain or drain moisture at the rate required by the plant.

At most, potting mixes are provided with starter doses of fertilizer. This means after the first month or so, all the sustenance your plant receives will be from the fertilizer your give in.

This is in contrast to garden soil where if you have rich organic soil, the plants’ roots can keep digging deeper to find nutrients. In this case, fertilizer becomes a supplement or use to adjust the soil as needed.

When it comes to feeding your peperomia prostrata, you want to use two kinds of schedules.

  • In spring and summer, when the plant is actively growing, apply a liquid houseplant fertilizer once very two weeks. Make sure to dilute the concentration by 50%. Otherwise, you run the risk of giving it too much.
  • In the fall and winter, the plant doesn’t need to be fed.

The key in both scenarios is to avoid overfeeding. During its active growth phase, this means ensuring you use a diluted solution and limiting application to every 14 days. In its dormant phase, it’s all about not applying any at all.

Too much fertilizer, just like too much water, is very harmful to your houseplant because it directly affects the roots (root burn and root rot, respectively). Since the roots are hidden from sight due to the soil, by the time your realize the damage, the extent is often severe already.

 

Pruning Peperomia Prostrata

As a vine, pruning the peperomia prostrata is mainly to keep it looking good. It is not a fast grower. But, the vines can grow all over the place making your plant look messy. It can likewise grow upward, making it look more like a bush, which isn’t its best look.

In addition to trimming for appearance, also use this time to cut back dead, dying, old or damaged leaves. This helps the plant stay healthy and look vibrant.

As always, make sure to use sterile cutting tools. You can use a sharp pair of scissors or knife. Then wipe it down with a cotton ball and rubbing alcohol. This ensures that you don’t pass any bacteria from the blade to the plant.

 

Peperomia Prostrata Propagation

Like other vines, the String of Turtles is fairly easy to propagate. Here, you have a few options that work really well including stem, leaf and root cuttings.

Here’s how to propagate peperomia prostrata via stem cuttings.

  • Pick a stem that’s quite prolific. These are stems with at least a few leaves. doing so ensures that the stem you pick isn’t a “dud” and ends up not producing any foliage.
  • Cut between 4 to 6 inches of the vine. You want enough length to dip it in water, then into the soil.

Now you have a couple of options. You can:

  • Start it in water. Then, once the roots grow, move it to a pot with soil.
  • Start in a pot. Here, you plan the cutting into potting soil in a container.

What’s the difference between the 2 methods? And, why bother?

Some plants can only be propagated in soil. Others can be done in both water and soil. That said, the peperomia prostrata works in both.

But, starting in water, while there are more steps since you need to move it again later, is easier, offers better chance of propagation success, and provides faster results. This is why most houseplant owners, especially those who propagate succulents, prefer this method.

In contrast, while going directly to soil has fewer steps, its doesn’t provide you the same results as water.

 

Transplanting & Repotting Peperomia Prostrata

The peperomia prostrata is a small plant. And, it’s a slow grower. This means you don’t need to worry about repotting it. If you do, it’ll be very rare.

That said, changing the potting soil once in a while (every year or every 2 years) helps the plant stay healthy. The best time to do this is during the spring.

An alternative to changing all the soil is just to replace the topsoil. This requires less work and it you don’t need to take the plant out of the pot.

If you do decide to use a larger pot, move it to a container that’s just one size bigger (2 inches more). Its slow growth pace and size put it at risk of waterlogging when the ratio of soil to plant is way too big.

Similarly, choose a shallow pot. Its small root system doesn’t need a lot of space. And, the deeper the pot means more soil that gets wet when you water. As such, it also takes longer to drain.

As always, remember to use a pot that has holes in the bottom to allow excess moisture to escape.

 

Pests and Diseases

As with other peperomia varieties, mealybug, spider mite and whitefly infestations can happen. These three are its common enemies. And the best way to prevent them from happening is to keep your plant healthy. The healthier it is, the more resistant it will be to them.

  • Mealybugs are easily removed by spraying with water. You can likewise use a 10% alcohol to water solution and spray it on these pests to get rid of them.
  • To get rid of spider mites and whiteflies, use insecticidal soap.

Whatever you do, make sure that you dry the leaves or avoid getting the leaves too wet (with spraying). Leaving moisture on foliage makes them susceptible to fungal and bacterial disease.

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