All About the Variety, Care, and History of the String of Hearts Plant

The String of Hearts, or Ceropegia woodii, is an amazing houseplant.

It grows extremely fast, producing gorgeous trailing vines of heart-shaped leaves, and thrives on neglect.

It has MANY common names. It can be found under string of hearts, chain of hearts, rosary vine, sweetheart vine, and more. It is also known scientifically as Ceropegia woodii and Ceropegia linearis subsp. woodii.

This week we will dive into the many varieties of Ceropegia woodii, how to care for them, where they are found in the wild, and their origin story as a houseplant.

Table of Contents

The Varieties of String of Hearts (that I’m aware of)

String of Hearts (the original)

This is the String of Hearts or Ceropegia woodii that is generally considered the standard form.

It is the most widely available and most reasonably priced of all the varieties. The leaves are perfect little hearts with various levels of silver across the leaves.

The more light this one receives, the more silver splashing the leaves can potentially develop. Higher light also turns the backs of the leaves pink to purple, creating a beautiful contrast.

You can see below two different pots of String of Hearts that I’m growing in my home. One is in lower light and the other is in high light. Notice how much more silver is on the leaves of the one growing in high light.

It is an incredibly fast grower and tolerates neglect well, which has made it a fantastic houseplant.

String of Hearts Variegated

The variegated SOH develops white edges on the leaves. These white edges can turn pink in high light.

Because of its ability to turn pink when light-stressed, sometimes sellers will sell this plant as the “Pink String of Hearts,” however, there isn’t any formal plant that falls under this name. It’s just the variegated plant you see here.

It is a slower grower than the original but still grows decently fast in comparison to a lot of other plants.

String of Hearts Silver Glory

The String of Hearts (or SOH) Silver Glory has a similar leaf shape to the original and variegated SOH.

The front of the leaves are almost entirely covered in silver (thus the name silver glory) and the leaves can develop pink or purple undersides when grown in high light.

String of Hearts Orange River

SOH Orange River has more of a spade-shaped leaf that can blush orange in high light. It is a fast grower, like the original SOH.

It used to be hard to find, at least where I live. However, I’ve noticed it popping up more and more in 2021 at much lower prices. A wonderful change for enthusiasts like myself who might be looking for this plant!

String of Spades (Ceropegia woodii ‘Heartless’)

String of Spades has a leaf shape that is more similar to a spade or an arrowhead than a heart. Its coloration is the same as the original SOH.

It is sometimes referred to as the cultivar ‘Heartless’ to denote its departure from heart-shaped leaves.

String of Daggers

String of Daggers departs from the heart-shaped leaf, just like String of Spades. It differs from String of Spades because its leaves have a much narrower form than String of Spades.

I wonder if this plant is the result of a cross between String of Spades and String of Needles, but do not have any definitive answer about that. If you know the origin of this plant, please let me know!

Very few people talk about the String of Daggers, so I’m not sure how accepted this particular plant is. In fact, this plant was labeled as String of Spades, but you can see how different the shape of the leaves is from the plant above.

String of Needles (Ceropegia linearis subsp. debilis)

String of Needles is not a Ceropegia woodii cultivar. It’s actually its own subspecies of Ceropegia linearis, called debilis. Sometimes C. woodii is also categorized as a subspecies of Ceropegia linearis.

I included the String of Needles because the growth habit is very similar to the other varieties we discussed above, with the exception that the leaves are incredibly thin and needle-like. This one is an incredibly fast grower, just like the original String of Hearts.

I see it as a part of my SOH collection so I included it here as well. 🙂

The Care of String of Hearts (SOH)

Light

SOH can grow healthily and happily in any window that gets a couple of hours of direct sun each day.

If choosing a window that receives direct sun the majority of the day, you will want to use a sheer curtain or blinds to reduce the intensity a little.

This will ensure that the leaves do not burn.

When in lower light, SOH will stay green and grow moderately well.

When in high light, SOH will develop a pinkish or orangish hue and grow much faster.

I grew a large string of hearts for a couple of years in a South-facing window that received direct sunlight most of the day. I shaded the plant a little with a sheer curtain.

It did so well that it trailed about 6 feet, all the way to the floor. The backs of the leaves turned a beautiful pinkish purple.

Water

String of hearts like to dry between waterings, but do not want to sit dry for long periods of time.

Some people judge when to water by monitoring how succulent the leaves are.

When the leaves are plump and succulent, the plant is well hydrated.

When the leaves become softer and less succulent, the plant is ready for water.

This is the method I used for the first year I had String of Hearts so I could avoid potential rot.

Now that I’m more comfortable with its care, I do not monitor the succulence of the leaves. Instead, I check whether the soil is dry and water thoroughly.

Potting Mix

String of Hearts is a succulent plant that is prone to rot, like other plants that climb and scramble in the wild. As such, Ceropegia woodii and its many varieties require a well-draining potting mix.

I use my typical epiphytic potting mix for these plants: 1 part indoor potting soil, 1 part perlite, 1 part orchid bark, with some charcoal added in.

It would also be fine to use a succulent mix of some sort. The key is fast-draining. The individual ingredients are less important.

Pot/Container

To prevent String of Hearts from rotting, use a pot with drainage holes and ensure that the plant doesn’t sit in excess water in its drainage tray.

Fertilizer

String of Hearts, like most succulents, do not require a large amount of fertilizer. They are used to poor soil conditions, limited rainfall, and nutrients.

You can use a well-balanced fertilizer or a succulent fertilizer with success. Fertilize sparingly throughout the growing season.

Humidity

While String of Hearts does not mind having humidity, they definitely do not require it.

Temperature

String of hearts, like most houseplants we keep, want temperatures to remain similar to what we humans prefer. They cannot tolerate a lot of cold.

Common problems

Root Rot

String of Hearts is very prone to root rot. It doesn’t want to sit in wet soil, but it also doesn’t want to be massively underwatered either. Both over and underwatering can cause damage to the roots that allows harmful fungus and bacteria to move in and rot the roots.

Let String of Hearts dry, but not remain dry for a long time. This will ensure the roots do not develop rot.

It can become a tangled mess

The vines are very easy to tangle up and become a knotted mess that can take an hour or more to untangle. Some people leave it tangled and others work hard to keep their vines separated.

I’ve done both and have ended up in the category of leaving it tangled because the plant doesn’t care and it still looks nice just as it is.

Mealybugs and Aphids

String of hearts is pretty resilient in terms of pests. It can suffer from mealybugs and aphids, like most succulents, but I will say that I’ve been lucky to have neither on my SOH collection so far.

If you are dealing with mealybugs and want to know how to control them, click here to read that post.

If you are dealing with aphids and want to know how to control them, click here to read that post also.

Propagation

String of Hearts is incredibly easy to propagate.

It can be propagated from cuttings in water, in soil, in moss, or any other propagation method.

If you want to try water propagation and aren’t sure how, check out my post explaining water propagation with a Hoya vine. The process is exactly the same for most vining plants, including SOH.

You can also propagate the plant by placing a tuber from a cutting in soil. The tuber will root easily and continue to grow.

What’s a tuber? You are looking for the white-ish ball below. They can be smaller and a bit less obvious but are typically easy to find on plants that have been growing for a while.

What is the origin story of String of Hearts as a houseplant?

String of Hearts (SOH) has been kept as a houseplant for over a century!

Ceropegia woodii was first discovered in the late 1800s by a South African botanist, John Medley Wood.

The genus, Ceropegia, was chosen by Carl Linneaus (the father of taxonomy) to describe the plant:
– Cero (from the Greek word, keros) means waxy
– Pegia (from the Greek word, pege) means flowers shaped like a fountain

The SOH species (woodii) was named after John Medley Wood, its discoverer.

The genus Ceropegia is a member of the milkweed family, along with many other popular houseplants: Hoyas, Dischidias, Stapeliads, and more.

These plants are popular for a reason. They are easy to care for, fast growers, and absolutely beautiful.

They are also Pet and Kid Safe!

Photo by Jodie Franco, iNaturalist, Source

They develop bizarre, lantern or fountain-shaped flowers as shown above.

The flowers are pollinated by flies who enter the tubes to find food and get trapped inside temporarily. As they struggle to leave, pollen is rubbed onto their bodies which they can then transfer to other flowers.

The scent of the flowers is carrion (which attracts the flies), but it is so mild that I have never noticed a smell even when a large plant is prolifically blooming. Thank goodness!

Where is String of Hearts found in the wild?

String of Hearts grows natively from Zimbabwe to South Africa.

It can be found weaving its way across and between rocks and other plants in poor soil conditions with a lot of light being partially blocked by other plants.

It is used to fairly dry conditions in South Africa with temperate to hot temperatures.

Below you can see a number of photos of SOH in the wild. Note the variety of leaf shapes and sizes even within the same growing space.

Photo by: Nicola van Berkel , iNaturalist, Source
Photo by: Nicola van Berkel , iNaturalist, Source
Photo by: thinus, iNaturalist, Source
Photo by: Charles Abbott, iNaturalist, Source

Do you grow String of Hearts? What has your experience been? What is your favorite String of Hearts variety?

Happy Growing!

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