Growing An Indoor Jungle

A houseplant care blog to help you transform your home into a lush sanctuary.

How to Grow and Care for String of Hearts

care & maintenance home & garden plant guides
String of Hearts

If a cascading waterfall of vibrant green and light-pink heart-shaped leaves sounds like your ideal houseplant, look no further than the stunning string of hearts. While their delicate appearance might lead you to believe that they are challenging to grow, they are some of the most rewarding and straightforward houseplants to care for. With the proper care and conditions, these are famously bountiful growers! 

Whether this will be the first houseplant you'll bring home or your hundredth, this guide has everything you need to know to help this romantic houseplant thrive in your home. We'll cover everything from light requirements to watering your string of hearts, fertilizing, the ideal soil mix for success, and pet safety.

The Natural History of String of Hearts

The string of hearts, classified as Ceropegia woodii (or C. linearis subsp. woodii), is native to South Africa and tends to grow along rocky ledges and cliffs. They were officially named for their fountain-shaped flowers with a wax-like texture, but have plenty of nicknames such as sweetheart vine, rosary vine, chain of hearts and, of course, the string of hearts. Belonging to the milkweed subfamily (Asclepiadoideae), string of hearts is a distant cousin to the popular hoya houseplant genus. While its delicate appearance might mislead you to believe these beautiful cascading plants need tropical environments, they behave closer to a succulent and prefer warm, dry climates. This makes them rewarding houseplants to grow as they require minimal care and have the potential to explode with growth. String of hearts is often grown as a hanging or trailing houseplant, but you can also train your plant to climb a trellis or a beautiful frame. 

Lighting Needs for String of Hearts

String of hearts grows best with plenty of bright indirect light. This means it will do well in an eastern or southern-facing window and may do well if pulled a few feet from a western window. Avoid direct afternoon sun, but it will happily tolerate a few hours of direct light at any other time of day. Insufficient light will fade their beautiful marbled dark green leaf patterns. Not only that, but the leaves will grow very sporadically, smaller in size, and your plant will have a higher likelihood of getting root rot. 

While you might be tempted to hang your string of hearts high in the window so it can trail its long, beautiful tendrils down several feet, you might end up with sporadic growth at the top of the plant nearest to the soil. To avoid this, hang it a little lower in the window so the sun reaches the top of the pot. In the late spring or early summer, you can move your string of hearts outdoors to a shaded location but do so gradually to avoid scorching the leaves.

Watering String of Hearts

String of hearts, though seemingly delicate, is a drought-tolerant plant that prefers to dry out completely between waterings. They store a fair bit of extra water in their leaves and tubers and can easily be susceptible to overwatering if you aren't careful. You can test if the soil is dry by sticking your finger deep into the soil and watering only when the soil feels dry. Another great way to test if your string of hearts is ready for a drink is to gently pinch the leaves closest to the soil. If they are still plump and less pliable, your string of hearts can likely wait another day or so. If the leaves are soft and fold easily, it's ready for a drink. When watering your string of hearts, make sure to use room temperature water only to mimic those warm rains from their native environment. Avoid using stark cold water as this can shock the roots. 

Soil Requirements for String of Hearts

A chunky, well-draining soil mix is the key to growing a happy string of hearts houseplant. They do not like dense or compact potting soil, but you can amend a potting soil mix with perlite or granite to help keep the mix light and airy. James's Ultimate Potting Mix for Succulents is a great soil recipe for your string of hearts since it replicates soil in its natural environment. This blend has a mix of granite grit, coco coir, perlite, and rice hulls, which creates the ideal balance between moisture retention and drainage for succulent-like houseplants to thrive. Make sure that you are also potting your string of hearts in a pot with plenty of drainage, so the water isn't sitting at the bottom.  

Temperature and Humidity for String of Hearts

String of hearts prefer environments similar to their natural habitat: warm and dry. They require temperatures above 60°F (15°C) but ideally closer to 80°F (26°C). It is not a cold-tolerant plant, so avoid keeping it near a drafty window, appliance, or air conditioner. While they are hardy plants, newer growth can be quite delicate, and you might end up losing leaves if conditions are too cold. Fortunately, these houseplants are not overly picky about humidity and tend to do just fine in typical household conditions, around 40%. 

Fertilizing String of Hearts

If you notice stunted growth on your string of hearts, you may want to consider fertilizing your plant. String of hearts store water and nutrients in their tubers, and they can tolerate nutrient-poor soil. If, however, you want to give your string of hearts a nutritious boost, you can fertilize it infrequently with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half strength. Make sure that you only fertilize them during the growing season in spring and summer, approximately once per month. 

Pet Safety and String of Hearts

If you're a pet owner, you'll be happy to learn that string of hearts houseplants are non-toxic and generally considered pet-safe. Still, you shouldn't let your pets chew on your string of hearts as they are still capable of experiencing some digestive issues from ingesting plant matter, and not to mention, the long, tendril-like stems can easily become a choking hazard. String of hearts can be particularly tempting for cats, especially if you keep them as trailing houseplants, so it is best to keep them out of reach.  

Conclusion:

If you're ready to bring home the beautiful string of hearts houseplant, here are a few important points to remember.

  • Lighting: Give your string of hearts plenty of bright, indirect light to encourage growth. 
  • Watering: Allow the soil to completely dry out before watering, as you would a succulent. 
  • Soil: Give your string of hearts a chunky, well-draining soil mix like James's Ultimate Potting Mix for Succulents
  • Temperature and humidity: Keep temperatures between 60°F(15°C) to 80°F (26°C) and humidity around 40%. 
  • Fertilizing: Use a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer infrequently only during the growing season. Dilute your fertilizer to half strength to avoid fertilizer burn. 
  • Pet safety: String of hearts is considered non-toxic to pets, but it's still best not to allow them to feast on your plant. 

With these tips in mind, your string of hearts will produce full, cascading growth that will add beautiful depth and dimension to your home. 

If you have any questions about caring for your string of hearts, consider joining my Plant Club for additional support. 

I look forward to growing with you!

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