Callisia Repens: How to Plant, Grow and Care For Turtle Vine
Thinking of adding Callisia Repens to your garden this season? Also known as turtle vine, this popular succulent is a garden favorite. In this article, gardening expert Paige Foley shares all you need to know about growing turtle vine both outdoors and indoors.
Turtle vine (Callisia repens) is a beautiful succulent that produces tiny leaves on deep purple stems. Native to tropical regions, they are an excellent indoor plant choice. They go by many names, including inch plant, creeping inch plant, and creeping basket plant. Different varieties display pink, yellow, or white leaves.
You can start growing this succulent indoors at any time, but it should be planted in early fall outdoors. This trailing succulent can be used as ground cover in warmer climates but also thrives in containers or hanging baskets. The tiny leaves will spill over and create a beautiful display of foliage.
Turtle vine is rather easy to care for and shares the same basic needs as many common succulents. You won’t have to spend hours maintaining it, making it an excellent houseplant for beginners. Once you find a location that provides the correct sunlight, it won’t require much beyond watering.
With so many varieties to choose from, there is a turtle plant to fit any style of garden or decor. In this article, we will look deeper into the growing requirements for turtle vine. Let’s dive in!
Callisia Repens Plant Overview
Plant Type Perennial
Plant Spacing 4 feet +
Native Area South America
Sunlight exposure Bright, indirect sunlight
Plant Lenght 2-4’
Water requirements Medium
Plant Depth Soil Level
Hardiness Zone 10-11
Soil Type Sandy, well-draining
Pest Mealy bugs, aphids, spider mites
Diseases Fungal Disease
About Turtle Vine
Turtle vine is a member of the Commelinaceae family. It is also called Callisia repens, creeping inch plant, Bolivian jew, or creeping basket plant. This plant originated from warmer regions of South America but has become a beloved ornamental plant worldwide.
Turtle vine is a perennial plant that has a creeping growth habit. The leaves are fleshy and oval-shaped and grow at the tops of the shoot. The stems grow rather long and, if allowed, will establish roots when touching the ground.
There are numerous varieties of turtle vine, but they all have the same growing habit. Some may produce pink, gold, or white leaves. They may also have variegated leaves or be completely solid in color. No matter the variety you choose, they will all cascade down a pot or act as a ground cover outdoors.
Flowers appear in the summer and have no scent. Seeds will develop after flowering and form capsules. It can be grown indoors as a houseplant or outdoors in warm regions. This tropical succulent isn’t winter hardy and, if left outdoors, will become damaged or die.
Size and Growth
Turtle vine is a trailing succulent, so you can expect them to get longer versus taller. It will only get 4 to 6 inches tall and two or more feet long. This is a fast-growing succulent, so expect it to grow many inches in one year. You can control the length through proper pruning, which we discuss later in the article.
Of course, growth is all dependent on care and conditions. If you want to see maximum growth, you must provide proper care.
Propagation by stem cutting is the most common method, but you can also grow Callisia repens from seed. Cuttings are best taken in early spring or summer. First, gather clean shears, pots, potting mix, and water. To take cuttings:
- Identify a 2-inch section of stem you wish to remove.
- Make a clean cut with garden pruners or a knife.
- Remove the bottom inch of the leaves to allow for proper root development.
- Place the bare end into the soil and lightly pack the soil around the stem.
- Moisten the soil lightly and place it in a warm location.
The cuttings should be kept out of direct sunlight. Water when soils dry and monitor for root development. If you are curious if roots have begun to grow, gently tug on the cutting. The roots haven’t formed if it comes out of the soil.
You can propagate by offsets and seeds, but these have a lower chance of success. Offsets are similar to stem cuttings, but you will take the stem and roots of the whole offset. Once you separate the offsets, place them into pots with soil mix and provide similar care to what you would provide for stem cuttings. Seed can be sown directly into the soil but it takes much longer to mature.
How To Grow
You can successfully grow this species if you are currently growing plants that tolerate bright, indirect sunlight. On top of sunlight, you must provide properly draining soils and moderate water.
Turtle vine prefers bright and indirect sunlight. Choose a window or location that receives at least 6 hours of sun per day. Be careful to avoid locations that receive direct sunlight. This can cause the leaves to become scorched.
If you are beginning to see color variations or pale leaves, that’s a sure sign it isn’t getting enough light. Other signs of lack of sunlight are yellowing, dropping leaves, and elongated stems.
Signs of too much sunlight include burned patches or leaves falling off. Finding a location that provides the proper sunlight may be tricky. Move the container to different locations until you find a spot it thrives best.
South-facing windows can allow too much direct sunlight and can lead to scorching. East and west-facing windows are great as they provide bright, indirect sunlight without damaging the leaves. Avoid placing in window sills as these tend to have direct sunlight and large temperature swings.
Since Callisia repens is a tropical succulent, it likes a little more water than some succulents. Keep soils consistently moist by checking the container often. It benefits from weekly waterings, but you should always check the moisture before you water.
The sunlight and temperature determine how much and often you need to water. When growing in direct sunlight, they will need more frequent watering. Vines planted outdoors may need more watering as well.
In the winter, you can cut back on the number of watering. Whenever you water, allow water to come out of the bottom of the pot.
This is a good indication that the water is moving through the entirety of the pot. If your pot doesn’t have drainage holes, be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to numerous problems.
Check the drainage holes often to ensure they don’t become clogged with soil or plant material. Occasionally, roots can begin to grow out of drainage holes, clogging them and inhibiting drainage. Roots growing through drainage holes are a good indication that it’s time to transplant to a larger pot. For pots without drainage holes, check for standing water at the bottom. The roots should never be in standing water for too long.
Choosing the right soil is important for the health of your turtle plant. Ordinary potting soil is suitable as long as it isn’t overwatered. If you are concerned about overwatering, use soil with peat moss or add some perlite.
Peat and perlite allow soils to drain faster and prevent the roots from becoming too damp. Compact soils have a more difficult time draining water. Not to mention they are more difficult for roots to develop. Avoid standing water in your pots, as this can lead to root rot.
This species can tolerate a range of pHs, but the ideal pH is 5.0 to 6.5. Every few years, you should change the soil in your potted turtle vine. Changing the soil will help prevent root rot and restore depleted nutrients. Check your soils often to catch over or underwatering issues. Catching problems early is key to saving your plant from further damage.
Callisia repens can be grown outdoors in hardiness zones 10 to 11. In cooler climates, it must be brought indoors during the winter. If this tropical succulent is exposed to frost, it will damage or kill it.
You can place a container outdoors in the summer, but you must bring it indoors before temperatures drop too low. It’s recommended to grow these vines in containers in cooler regions. This will allow you to move them easier when temperatures drop too low.
Indoor temperatures should be kept between 60 to 80 F. It prefers average humidity levels but can tolerate some light misting. Only mist when air moisture is low. Misting shouldn’t be done frequently as it can cause the leaves to develop diseases. It’s best to keep plants in dryer environments to help control pests.
Callisia repens requires very little maintenance, so they are perfect for growing indoors and for beginner succulent owners. They will need some light pruning and fertilizer during the growing season. During the winter months, very little maintenance is needed.
You should provide fertilizer every month or use a slow-release fertilizer for long-lasting nutrients. Fertilizer is typically only needed for indoor plants. When grown outdoors, Callisia repens generally don’t need any additional fertilizers.
Despite their vigorous growth, Callisia repens aren’t heavy feeders. However, plants grown in containers can quickly become depleted of nutrients. Choose a well-balanced fertilizer. Typically any general-purpose fertilizer from a garden center is suitable.
Avoid applying chemical-based fertilizers directly to the leaves. Fertilizers can burn the leaves and cause discoloration and possible death. Always apply liquid fertilizer to the soil’s surface. Slow-release fertilizers generally come as granular. Follow all label directions when applying any fertilizer.
You don’t necessarily need to prune these vines, but it helps to trim dead stems or stems that have begun to get leggy. Leggy stems will be the most common item you’ll prune off your plant. Optionally, remove spent flowers for a better aesthetic.
Leggy stems are common in vining plants and are more of a visual problem than a growing problem. They occur when vines become very long and the distance between leaves elongates. Simply cut the stem where the leaves become more spread out. This will help it stay short and compact.
The best time to prune your Callisia repens is in early spring, when it is actively growing. You can prune any other unsightly stems or leaves as needed. Pruning is beneficial for a happy and healthy plant.
There isn’t much that goes into preparing this succulent for winter. If you live in colder regions, remember to bring it indoors before temperatures become too cold. If you live in warmer regions, you can leave Callisia repens outside through winter.
Once the winter months hit, you will not need to fertilize. It isn’t actively growing during the winter and doesn’t need any added nutrients. Typically you can slow down watering in the winter as well. The succulent goes into a semi-dormant state requiring very little water and nutrients.
Avoid pruning or propagating during the winter. Pruning and propagation should only occur in the spring or summer when it is actively growing. Even when semi-dormant, these vines will still display their vibrant leaf colors. You may not even notice any change between the summer and winter months.
Potting and Repotting
Repotting usually needs to be done every 2 years or so. Choose a container with numerous drainage holes to allow excess water to escape. The pot should only be one to two sizes bigger than the previous pot.
Pinching back the stems and keeping a compact shape will help keep the plant in the same pot even longer. Repotting every few years is healthy. Changing the soil in your pots is also beneficial. New soils are a good option when old soils become depleted of nutrients or soils are struggling to drain water.
When choosing a pot, you have to consider more than looks. Callisia repens is a succulent, so they prefer pots made of terracotta or ceramic. These types of pots allow for proper airflow and drainage. Next, choose a container that has one or more drainage holes. Drainage holes are key in helping prevent root rot.
There are several different varieties of Callisia repens. They vary in leaf color and size, but their care is all relatively the same. Below are some popular hybrids you can grow indoors or outdoors.
This specific cultivar has soft leaves with green, white, and pink hues. The pink hues are most notable and give the variety a unique appearance. The growing requirements are no different than any other variety. Provide bright, indirect sunlight and moist soils, and your ‘Pink Panther’ will thrive.
This popular variety has unique leaves that are small and oval. The leaves are glossy green with white stripes. Over time, they begin to turn pink. These succulents look beautiful in hanging baskets or pots.
You can probably guess by the name what color of leaves this variety will produce. The tops of the leaves are a beautiful yellow-golden color. The underside of the leaves is a beautiful coppery bronze color. Place in bright, indirect sunlight and evenly moist soils. This variety is fast-growing under ideal conditions.
Turtle vine generally doesn’t experience many problems. Provide the proper care, and you may never see any issues. Occasionally, it will show signs that something in its environment isn’t suitable. Below are a few common problems this succulent can experience.
If you notice the leaves are much paler and lack the vibrant green color they once did, this is a sign they need more light. If grown indoors, you need to place this succulent in bright, indirect lighting. Bright sunlight can be too harsh. On the other hand, low light can cause dull, stunted plants.
Soft or Slimy Leaves
If you notice leaves that look shiny and slimy to the touch, this is a sign of overwatering. Overwatering can lead to root rot which can kill a turtle vine.
If you water too often, the soil can become too soggy. Root rot starts at the roots and works its way up the plant. Typically, you can save the plant from root rot by changing the soil and watering less.
Brown or Yellow Patches
Leaf discoloration is common and indicates that something in their environment is off. The difficult part is figuring out which conditions the plant dislikes.
Typically, these patches show up when plants are exposed to too much sunlight. The leaves become scorched and cause discoloration. Move the plant to a less bright area and monitor for signs of sun damage.
Callisia repens generally doesn’t have issues with pests. If the plant is stressed by another factor, such as root rot or lack of sunlight, it can attract pests. Common pests are aphids and mealybugs.
These insects are treatable if caught early enough. If you notice pests of any kind, separate the plant from others in the home. Treat with your preferred method and return to its original location once pests are gone.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Turtle Vine Toxic?
Yes, turtle vine is toxic to humans, cats, and dogs. Place the plant out of reach of small children, cats, and dogs.
Does Turtle Vine Flower?
Yes! Turtle vine produces beautiful, small white blooms in late spring to early summer. The flowers don’t produce a scent and will go to see when finished.
How Long Does The Turtle Vine Live?
The plant can live for many years under the right conditions. They have been known to live for over ten years or more. Of course, their lifespan is dependent on the growing conditions they are provided.
How To Make Turtle Vine Look Fuller?
Turtle vine is a trailing plant and won’t get much taller than a few inches. If you want your plant to stay more compact, you will need to prune it regularly. Regular pruning is healthy for the plant and will help keep it from getting too long.
Turtle vine is a beautiful succulent that provides a beautiful contrast of colors. The deep green, pink, white, or gold leaves contrast well against the deep purple stems. Provide indirect lighting and moist soil, and your Callisia repens will live for many years. These plants look great on tables, shelves, or anywhere that needs a pop of life.