Ceropegia Woodii: Grow A String Of Hearts

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Hearts entangled, indeed! Ceropegia woodii is known by many different names. Sweetheart vine, string of hearts, or even the rosary vine are but a few. And it’s a sweet plant indeed!

Its heart-shaped leaves and distinctive flowers are popular in hanging baskets. Indoor growers will love this plant, as it’s an easy grower with partial lighting. Distinctive in color, it stands out from other trailing vines.

Let’s discuss the details of growing chain of hearts plant. You’ll love this unusual and stunning showpiece!

Good Products For Growing Rosary Vine:

Ceropegia Woodii Overview

Full video care guide on my YouTube channel.
Common Name(s): String of hearts, rosary vine, chain of hearts, sweetheart vine
Scientific NameCeropegia woodii, alt. name Ceropegia linearis subsp. woodii
Family:Apocynaceae
Zone:Hardiness zone 10 if grown outdoors
Height & Spread:Draping, only reaches 2-3″ tall but can have vines up to 9 feet
LightBright indirect light or dappled partial sun
SoilExtremely well-draining, such as a cactus mix
Water:Water only when potting mix is dry
Pests & Diseases:Aphids and some scale insects, mostly mealybugs. Can get root rot.

All About The Rosary Vine

With proper string of hearts care, you can get 9' long vines
With proper string of hearts care, you can get 9′ long vines. source

Ceropegia woodii was first discovered in 1881 by John Medley Wood. In 1894, he sent a sample to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew. It has become a beloved houseplant ever since!

A plethora of names are in common use for this plant. String of hearts, rosary vine, chain of hearts, hearts on a string, hearts entangled, collar of hearts, and sweetheart vine are all used. But these all refer to the same plant!

The stems have a purplish hue, as do the underside of its heart-shaped leaves. The upper surface is deep green, often with bluish-white or silvery markings. Along the stems may form aerial tubers called bulbils. White in color, the bulbils look like small beads, which may have led to the name “rosary vine”.

Its tubular flowers are incredible and distinctive to see. Vase-shaped, they have a bulb on one end from which a purplish-pink tube reaches. Five hairy petal-like extensions in a darker purple tone extend from the tip of the flower. These are quite showy and definitely attract attention!

Native to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Swaziland, it was originally discovered trailing from rocks. This trailing, curtain-like tendency makes it the perfect plant for hanging displays. The vines can reach extreme lengths, but average at least 4 feet long.

The sweetheart vine is considered an evergreen plant in subtropical or tropical regions. Indoors, it will also remain evergreen as long as it’s in the right temperature range.

On occasion, it is treated as a subspecies of Ceropegia linearis, a close relative. But most often, it uses the botanical name of Ceropegia woodii.

Ceropegia Woodii Plant Care

Rosary vine flowers have a unique, gorgeous look
Rosary vine flowers have a unique, gorgeous look. source

As long as you don’t over-water your plant, chances are that it’ll just keep growing. The chain of hearts is a forgiving plant, and great for beginners. But let’s go over what will get you fabulous flowers and stunning vines!

Light

Lighting for your ceropegia woodii is variable. Most of the time, it performs well in bright, but indirect lighting indoors. If given ample lighting, the leaves will be dark in color with obvious patterning. Lower light conditions will result in paler, light green leaves. Aim for 3-4 hours of bright light, either direct sunlight or bright indirect lighting, as a baseline.

It can adapt to partial sun conditions outdoors during the summer. You will need to harden the plant off to the outdoor climate first. Increase its exposure to the direct sun gradually to prevent sunburned leaves. The rosary plant will tolerate full sun as long as it’s not scorching – aim for afternoon shade in very hot climates.

Outdoor growing should only occur in consistent temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Your string of hearts plant won’t like cooler temps, as it’s a tropical species. Zone 10 and 11 is the only climate where year-round outdoor growth can occur.

Water

One of the trickier things about this plant is that it absolutely hates overwatering. In fact, it’s easily killed by an excess of water. Ensure your soil is very well-draining, and do not water it until the soil is dry. Err on the side of too little, not too much!

When you do water, it’s best to do it in gradual, slow drenchings. Start by dampening the soil, then wait a few minutes. Remoisten the soil, and wait again. Repeat this process a few times until the soil has absorbed what water it needs. Drain off any excess, and don’t leave the pot standing in water for long.

As the seasons shift to the fall and winter, reduce the watering frequency. When your plant shifts from active growth to a dormant state for the cooler months, it won’t need as much water.

Soil

Opt for an extremely well-draining potting blend. Cacti or succulent mixes work well for the rosary vine. So too do potting mixes with large-grain sand or perlite blended through them. Avoid heavy, sticky soils with large amounts of clay in them. Your plant may be at risk of rot in soils that hold lots of extra moisture.

It is possible to grow this houseplant in a modified orchid mix, too. However, it prefers less bark than most orchids do. If you screen an orchid bark to remove the largest chunks, it’ll work. You may want to add a little extra perlite for added drainage.

Fertilizer

If you do want to fertilize, do so infrequently. Don’t fertilize any more regularly than monthly during active growth. Even then, if your plant doesn’t appear to need fertilizer, skip it.

When you do fertilize, use a diluted houseplant fertilizer. Opt for half strength or weaker, and limit your feedings. As autumn approaches, reduce the frequency even more. Your plant needs a winter rest, and during that period of time it needs less water and even less fertilizer.

Propagation

Full propagation guide on my YouTube channel.

Propagation of your sweetheart vine can be from bulbil, cutting, or from seed. But the most fun way is from the bulbils.

Those little white bead-like bits that grow from the stem are actually aerial roots. If you nestle one of those bulbils into your potting blend, it will develop roots quickly. Leave it attached to the vine as you’re allowing it to take root. Once it’s formed roots and is actively growing, you can separate it from its parent plant.

This vine can also be grown from cuttings. Use a clean and sterilized pair of shears to take healthy cuttings, at least 6-8″ in length. Press them into your prepared potting blend. Provide bottom heat to encourage the roots to form more quickly.

Seeds can be difficult to come by for this plant, but they are out there. Follow the directions which come with your seeds for the best way to germinate these.

The easiest of these options, and the most entertaining, is to plant the bead-like tubers. I definitely consider that to be the best method of propagating new vines of this species! Just be aware that it can take up to eight weeks for a good set of roots to form and get established.

Repotting

Ceropegia woodii with bulbils
In the far right of this image, you can see one of the whitish bulbils. Source: blumenbiene

These perform well in crowded pots, so repotting isn’t going to be an annual affair. If you do start to experience overcrowding, opt to repot in the spring. This gives you the chance to re-establish your plant before it moves into its active growth phase.

To repot, prepare your extremely well-draining potting mix in advance. Make sure it’s pre-moistened. Unpot your plant from its older pot, gently removing the old soil. Replant in its new container at the same depth as it was before. Be sure that if you have more than one plant in the pot, you separate them. This allows each plant enough space to stretch its roots.

Due to its preference for drier soils, this plant doesn’t do well in terracotta pots. The absorbent nature of terracotta may actually retain too much water for your vine. Opt for plastic pots for your sweetheart vines.

Pruning

Pruning is not strictly necessary for this plant. In fact, its only real purpose is aesthetic. If you’re aiming for a specific length of vine growth, you can trim excess with sterile shears. These cuttings can be used to propagate a new plant if you wish.

Problems

Head on view of rosary vine flower
One of the rosary vine’s flowers, as seen from its tip. Source: gisellecb

Are you likely to run across issues with your chain of hearts? Possibly, but most of the issues you’ll encounter will be from incorrect care. Let’s talk about what you’ll be facing and how to handle it.

Growing Problems

As mentioned in the paragraph above, pale leaves are a sure sign that your plant’s getting low light. It won’t harm the plant, but you won’t get the full effect of its foliage without a little sun!

Overwatering is the largest cause of plant death for ceropegia plants. While they can tolerate some humidity in the air (and actually seem to enjoy it), soggy soil is a sure way to cause rot. Ensure you’ve got good quality, well-draining potting soil. If needed, add more coarse sand or perlite to your blend to allow it to drain freely.

Some people experience leaf crinkling when their plant has been dry too long. While this is uncommon, it can happen if you’ve been negligent about your watering regimen for a while. Ensure that you water when the soil dries out, and you should have lush leaves.

Pests

Aphids are a common pest. Those juicy leaves seem to draw them in like a moth to a candle’s flame. Dissuade them from moving in on the heart-shaped leaves with neem oil. A misting on both the upper and lower parts of your leaves should keep them aphid-free. If you encounter some, use an insecticidal soap to wipe them out.

Mealybugs and other forms of scale insects can also appear. Of the scale insect family, mealybugs are the most common. Remove these with a cotton swab dipped into rubbing alcohol. The alcohol makes scale release from the leaf, and you can get rid of them that way. Neem oil makes for a great preventative measure here too!

Diseases

Diseases are not common for the string of hearts plant. Of the varied plant diseases that exist, only a few fungal-based root rots will impact your plant. Even then, those are rare.

To avoid root rot, do not overwater your plant. If it shows signs of yellowing leaves, you may already be suffering from a fungal root rot issue. Often, plants with a high enough level of rot to begin to yellow should be disposed of. It’s best to avoid rots by simply not overwatering your plant.

FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about the Ceropegia woodii.

Q. When does String of Hearts flower?

A. Late summer to early fall, usually. The flowers can last for up to six weeks.

Q. Is Rosary Vine drought tolerant?

A. It’s extremely drought-tolerant for a succulent vine, yes. While it does like slight humidity in the air, the soil can be dry for a bit before the plant actually suffers. Wait until the soil is dry before watering again.

Q. Is Ceropegia woodii safe around my pets?

A. At this time, it’s not believed to be poisonous to common pets. If you do discover your cat or dog nibbling on the leaves, check with your vet, but the ASPCA hasn’t issued a warning for this plant.


Your heartstrings will be tugged by this string of hearts! The vivid foliage and astonishingly unique flowers make it a houseplant staple. Find a little room in your home for a rosary vine, and you too can enjoy the glorious cascade of heart-shaped leaves!


The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:

Kevin Espiritu
Founder

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