How to Care for Variegated String of Hearts

If you are new to the String of Hearts or have struggled with caring for this plant in the past, this article should give you some guidance. We will discuss; watering, light, best location in the house, temperature, fertilizer, humidity, flowers, insects, diseases, pruning, propagation and toxicity.

It’s not difficult to see why this is one of the most beloved houseplants. I mean…that variegation. And those darling heart shaped leaves. C’mon.

Some trailing vines from one of my variegated SOH plants.

The beauty of this plant isn’t its only charm. It’s incredibly low maintenance which is wonderful. It’s a plant that makes me look like an amazing plant parent.

This plant has many synonyms including String of Hearts, Chain of Hearts and Rosary Vine. In this article I will refer to this plant as String of Hearts or even just SOH.

The scientific name of String of Hearts is Ceropegia linearis subs. woodii. Say that five times fast. Oddly, I don’t think I’ve ever heard or seen this plant labeled correctly. When referred to by its scientific name on social media or on almost every other website, it’s always called Ceropegia woodii. I’ve even considered labeling this one correctly on my Instagram, but I figure no one would know what plant I was talking about.

Another thing many don’t know about the String of Hearts is that it is a caudiciform plant. Everywhere I look people call the SOH a succulent. It does have succulent leaves and occasionally grows little onion-like bulbs along its stems, but the fact that it forms a caudex eclipses the “succulent” label. For many it may be hard to tell initially that your SOH is caudiciform, especially if your plant is young and/or was started from cuttings. No worries, the caudex will form in a few years. As your SOH plant matures the caudex can grow quite large in fact.

Let’s talk about how to care for this plant.

If you really want to rock your variegated String of Hearts game, there are 3 key issues you must focus on. This article will cover all of the care details, but these are the three things that must be in place to keep your SOH thriving; light, watering and temperature. Master those three points for this plant and you will have your Variegated SOH until you are so old that you can be pass it down to your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I promise.

The String of Hearts and many of its other relatives are native to Southern Africa. So that will give us some clues about its care needs.

Watering – Water deeply but only once the soil has dried out in the pot. Using a finger to check the moisture level is a must. I make sure that the potting mix is dried out down several inches before I even consider watering. Also, a drainage hole in the planter is a must. Caudiciform plants will not tolerate overly moist potting mix. Make sure to provide it a fast-draining potting mix and let all excess water drain out of the pot after watering.

Light requirements – Bright light is a must for this plant. Too much direct sun can burn those variegated leaves though, so only a few hours of direct sunlight is best.

Best Location in the House – Place your variegated SOH directly in an East facing window and it will love you forever.

Temperature requirements – Like most houseplants, the variegated SOH will live happily in the same temperatures that we humans like to live in. It can tolerate surprisingly cold temperatures, but that is not what I’d advise for this plant’s care. Another important temperature concern is that even though the SOH can live in regular household temperatures, it prefers heat (remember it is endemic to South Africa). So if you are puzzled as to why your variegated SOH is not growing as quickly as others you see online or elsewhere, it may be that your plant is desiring a bit more heat through its active growing season.

Fertilizer – Dilute fertilizer by half. Apply fertilizer during Spring and Summer as a general guideline. I personally use fertilizer as long as my SOH is showing new growth, even if the new growth is happening in the middle of winter. That may be a slightly controversial stance, but there it is.

Humidity – Normal household humidity levels are completely appropriate. However, if you own other houseplants that require higher humidity (like I do) and have humidifiers running in your house for those other plants, I would not personally recommend keeping your SOH too close to the humidifier. The more humid its environment, the slower its potting mix will dry out – which is not what our SOH wants at all.

Flowers – The Variegated String of Hearts does flower when it’s happy. So if you see these strange little pink/white flowers (pictured below), you are doing well my friend. It seems that they will flower for months as long as conditions are favorable. My plants had flowers from the mid-summer all the way up until Christmas this year.

SOH blooms are super cute. These are (obviously) on my regular SOH, not the variegated plant, but the blooms are basically identical.

Insects – Mealy bugs appear to be the most common insect complaint for this plant. Aphids and scale are also a potential threat. I have not had pests on any of my SOH plants (I’m knocking on wood right now!) which leads me to believe that they are not terribly insect prone.

Diseases – The SOH doesn’t seem to suffer many diseases. If you have lost a SOH plant, it was almost certainly lost because of rot.

Pruning – Obviously, one of the attractions of this plant are its long, trailing stems. If you want to take cuttings for propagation, it will not harm your plant. As long as you don’t take more than 20% or so of the plant’s foliage.

Propagation – Variegated String of Hearts is really easy to propagate, which is lovely. I simply take cuttings. I’ve seen many who use water to propagate SOH cuttings, I use soil. Do whatever works for you. I’ve never lost a single SOH cutting using soil, so that’s the method I’ll continue using. But again, use whatever method works best for you. I do also use a Ziploc bag as a “terrarium” of sorts and that actually works really well too.

Toxicity – I have done lots of research, my friends, but I cannot find a website that says definitively that this plant is or is not toxic to humans or pets. Personally, if I do not know the toxicity of a plant I choose to treat it as though it is highly toxic. Why? Because safety first. What does that mean? I do two things; first, I keep it out of the reach of my dog, Matilda, and any other young child that may come through our household. Second, I make sure to wash my hands after any direct contact with plants of unknown toxicity. I just think that it’s peace of mind to err on the side of caution and responsibility. (I will edit this post if I ever find out toxicity of this plant.)

Link to my Etsy shop, Matilda and Clementine which often (but not always) has variegated String of Hearts cuttings available.

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Mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you.

Products I use and (therefore) recommend:

Planty friends – Feel free to use these links to the products that I use for my houseplants.  I receive a small percentage of any sales through these links, so feel free not to use them if that bothers you.

Horticultural 1/4” pumice – https://amzn.to/2KfcNPT

Horticultural perlite – https://amzn.to/3f9wwvE

Coco coir – https://amzn.to/2UBBiZF

Orchid Bark – Extra small chips – https://amzn.to/38OXWWJ

Orchid Bark – Small chips – https://amzn.to/3kA8HOU

Earthworm castings – https://amzn.to/38TRkGw

Coco Loco potting mix – https://amzn.to/2UHV3OY

GE Balanced Spectrum grow light bulb – https://amzn.to/3fdeAAu

Monios L LED grow lights – 2 ft. – https://amzn.to/391NmeS

Bonsai scissors – https://amzn.to/33a6F29

Hygrometer (humidity monitor) – https://amzn.to/32WtiqO

Moisture meter sticks – https://amzn.to/35FR7Vk

Horticultural charcoal – https://amzn.to/2UKOv25

Organic houseplant fertilizer liquid – https://amzn.to/3pIb7ij

Insecticide/Miticide – (many bug sprays don’t kill spider mites, this one does) – https://amzn.to/3pHKREw

Systemic houseplant insecticide – https://amzn.to/36MuoX8

Full disclosure – the last three product links will be much cheaper if you can find them in your local garden center.  I’ve put them here so that you can see what they are called and what they look like, but I’d advise that you buy from these links only as a last resort.

Reference for this article:

“Ceropegia linearis subs. woodii” Text available under a CC-BY-SA Creative Commons Attribution License. http://www.llifle.com 14 Nov. 2005. 07 Jan 2020. </Encyclopedia/SUCCULENTS/Family/Asclepiadaceae/22150/Ceropegia_linearis_subs._woodii>

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