Ceropegia, the genus of plants more commonly referred to as “string of hearts,” make stunning houseplants. They’re easy to grow and make lovely hanging plants or trailing plants on a long wall. However, they can look stringy at times, which makes people wonder how to make them fuller.
To make your string of hearts plant fuller:
- Understand the string of hearts’ native environment.
- Ensure optimal light conditions.
- Practice balanced watering.
- Ensure your string of hearts has the right soil.
- Repot as needed.
- Add cuttings to the pot.
- Coil your plant.
In this article, I’ll talk about the optimal growing conditions for string of hearts as a houseplant. I’ll also share detailed information on actions you can take to make the plant look fuller, healthier, and hardier long term. Let’s get started!
1. Understand the String of Hearts’ Native Environment
To learn how to make a string of hearts plant fuller, you must first know a bit about the plant. Understanding a plant’s native habitat informs us about its optimal growing conditions, allowing you to best re-create those conditions at home.
Native to several countries in Southern Africa, string of hearts is a fast-growing evergreen vine that will endure various conditions. This makes them an excellent plant for beginners because they’re very forgiving. Interestingly, the string of hearts is considered a succulent.
String of hearts is a succulent that can be naturally found in warm, dry areas in bright but dappled sunlight. They’re often found in rocky areas and spread at the base of trees and shrubs in places that are at least partially shaded.
With these plants naturally occurring in these areas, it stands to reason that they like their soil to be a bit damper than most succulents and thrive with that consistent moisture level. It makes sense that they find themselves in shady areas at the base of trees, helping to maintain soil moisture for themselves and their shade source.
String of hearts also likes to be fertilized more frequently than most succulents. Again, this makes sense with them naturally occurring at the base of trees and shrubs, where they’ll naturally be fertilized by dropping leaves and other plant matter.
Interestingly, despite liking more moisture than most succulents, they prefer sandy, fast-draining soil similar to succulent mix. The succulent blend is at the proper pH levels for string of hearts and will help you track when the plant needs additional water.
2. Ensure Optimal Light Conditions
One of the reasons that string of hearts can get a little bare and stringy is due to inadequate sunlight. Ensuring the plant has an adequate amount of light during all seasons is one significant way to make your plant a bit fuller.
String of hearts likes some direct sunlight but primarily dappled sunlight. One of the best light combinations I’ve found for this plant is in direct sunlight in the morning for a few hours, followed by dappled, filtered sunlight in the afternoon.
This is a winning combination because the light is less intense in the morning. Leaves and other filtering sources help keep the afternoon sun from scorching the plant and from drying the plant out extremely quickly, which also stresses the plant.
String of hearts likes direct and bright sunlight to hit the pot and, thus, warm the roots, but the strings will actually do better when they’re in indirect light. You can set your plant on a low table near a window, allowing the pot to get light but the strings to trail down out of the direct sunlight.
One of the best places I’ve found for string of hearts plants is under an east-facing skylight. It’s the perfect combination because the light source is from above, and the strings are out of direct sunlight for most of the day. I have the pot positioned to where it’s only in direct sunlight for half of the day.
Another excellent place for string of hearts is in a hanging basket near an east-facing window. This gives the plant and pot bright and direct sunlight in the morning, followed by bright light throughout most of the day.
If your plant seems to be struggling, I suggest adjusting the light first to see if that helps. It could take a few weeks before you see any changes to the plant, so be patient and give the plant some time to adjust to its new location before determining whether or not that solved the problem.
3. Practice Balanced Watering
Because of its vine-like appearance, it’s easy to forget that string of hearts is a succulent. This may be advantageous since string of hearts needs more water than your typical succulent.
Most succulents have a broad leaf that is adapted to store water long-term. String of hearts doesn’t share that structure but is more like a vine with small, fleshy leaves positioned down the stem.
As such, it’s less well-adapted to storing water for a long time. This is precisely why string of hearts likes slightly higher soil moisture than most succulents and requires watering more frequently than your average succulent. Therefore, it’s more on par with the watering needs of your typical houseplant.
With any plant, it’s crucial to manually test the plant’s soil to see how damp it is before watering. Having a rough idea for a watering schedule is fine, but so many factors affect soil moisture that there’s no substitute for manually testing the plant before watering.
Manually check the plant’s soil by simply pushing a finger into the soil a few inches below the surface to see how damp it is. With string of hearts, you want the water to be slightly dry 2 inches (5 cm) deep when it’s time to water the plant again.
Pro-tip: Those in hanging baskets can also dry out more quickly, requiring more frequent watering. Make it a habit to check the soil regularly, especially during hot and dry weather.
It’s best to keep the plant from drying out thoroughly between waterings. But it’s also crucial not to leave it in waterlogged soil. Moist soil is good, but wet roots will only lead to root rot, which occurs when the plant doesn’t fully drain between waterings and the roots sit in water too long.
It causes irreversible damage to the plant and won’t allow its roots to absorb water long-term, ultimately dehydrating the plant.
4. Ensure Your String of Hearts Has the Right Soil
String of hearts is a plant of many contradictions. It’s a succulent, but it doesn’t look like a succulent. It also has a different water requirement than most succulents, which may have you wondering what soil is ideal for this plant.
String of hearts requires a fast-draining soil that diverts water away from the roots quickly and efficiently. Often, soil that’s been amended with landscape sand is an excellent potting medium for this plant.
Succulent Soil vs. Regular Potting Soil
Succulent soil is an excellent option for string of hearts. It has the correct pH for the plant and is formulated to drain water quickly and efficiently. For many indoor gardeners, this is a much easier option than mixing your own soil combinations to suit each plant.
Standard potting soil has additives that are designed to retain as much moisture in the soil for as long as possible. This makes it a poor choice for succulents, and string of hearts is no exception.
A string of hearts plant needs the same fast-draining potting mix as succulents. The only difference is that it has smaller and less succulent leaves that can hold water relatively shorter than popular succulents like jade plants.
The key is to water it more frequently (roughly once every 5-7 days) than other succulents (roughly once in 10-14 days). String of hearts doesn’t need soil with excellent moisture retention. This extra moisture will be bad for your plant’s roots.
Regular potting soil will cause root rot in most succulent species. Given enough time, it could do the same with string of hearts. It can also create a leggier, stringier plant with string of hearts. It’s an interesting difference from other succulents.
Remember this fact because if your string of hearts looks stringy and you want it to look a bit fuller, one solution is to repot the plant in succulent soil. Often, plants come from the greenhouse or store with standard potting soil to make them easier to keep alive until they’re sold.
Repotting them with the correct, fast-draining soil is a huge improvement for the plant and, over time, will help the plant grow in and fill out. Remember the natural environment where string of hearts are found and make all efforts to reproduce those conditions, including the soil composition.
5. Repot as Needed
There are times when your string of hearts may have adequate light and water. You know that the plant doesn’t have typical potting soil causing moisture issues and creating conditions that make the plant look straggly.
If you’ve never repotted your string of hearts or if it’s been a long time since the plant has been repotted, one way to encourage the plant to fill in its growth is to repot it. However, they don’t need to be repotted often.
If you’ve never repotted a plant, don’t be intimidated. The steps are relatively easy, and string of hearts is very hardy.
Before you get started, there are a few items you need to have on hand:
- Succulent potting soil is essential to use succulent soil rather than standard potting soil. Succulent soil moves water away from the roots rather than holding it at the roots as long as possible, like typical potting soil.
- String of hearts thrives in a wide, medium-depth pot to allow for additional plants, making your plant look fuller. It’s best to choose a plant pot that’s as wide at the top as it is deep.
To repot your string of hearts, follow these steps:
Remove It From the Pot
Tip the pot on its side and slowly turn it upside down, supporting the plant with your hand. Take care to never pull the plant from the pot, as doing so could damage the roots.
Get Rid of Old Soil
Once you have the plant out of the pot, crumble as much old soil away from the roots as you can, discarding it once it’s been removed. Set the plant aside while you prepare the pot.
Add Succulent Soil to the Pot
Prepare the pot for planting by adding succulent soil to the pot to fill it up by approximately one-third. Set the plant in the pot, taking care to tuck all the roots in before covering the roots with succulent soil. Fill the pot to within approximately one inch (2.5 cm) below the top of the pot.
Water the Plant Lightly
Watering the plant lightly serves to help reduce repot shock and to tamp the soil down. There’s no need to manually compact the soil when repotting string of hearts. Allowing water to do the job also gives the roots less resistance when growing.
6. Add Cuttings to the Pot
Another simple and easy way to make your string of hearts plant fuller is to add more plants to the pot. Fortunately, this doesn’t require you to buy more plants. Instead, you can quickly propagate more plants from your existing plant.
There are a few ways to propagate string of hearts, but the easiest is to take a cutting and root it in water.
Simply follow these steps:
Clip Healthy Sections
First, you’ll clip healthy sections 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) in length. Use sterile scissors to avoid microbial infections. Also, the bottom of the cuttings should be at a 45° angle.
Remove the Lower Leaves
Remove the leaves from the lower 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) of the cuttings. This is the section you’ll submerge in water. When propagating from a cutting, it’s best to do at least four of five at a time just to be sure you have successful new starts to plant.
Put the Cuttings in a Jar With Water
Place the leafless end in a jar of distilled water in bright sunlight until you see roots form. Ensure the bottom of the cutting doesn’t touch the bottom of the jar. You need to change the water if it gets cloudy or discolored, typically every two days.
Wait for Root Growth
Wait until you see more than one root more than one inch (2.5 cm) in length. This is a sign that your cuttings are ready to move into the succulent potting mix.
Place the Cutting Into Your Pot
Use a finger to poke a 1.5-inch (3.8 cm) hole in the soil of your existing plant and gently place the cutting in the hole. Repeat for all new starts you wish to plant in the same pot, taking care to space them equally.
Gently fill in each hole with potting soil and water the plant lightly. Keep the plant’s soil moist over the next few weeks to reduce shock for the cuttings, which have gone from water to soil.
These simple cuttings will quickly begin to grow, establishing more leaves towards the top of your plant since they are new. They’ll also add length quickly, further bulking up the appearance of your string of hearts.
Repeat as Needed
You can repeat this process as many times as you need. I typically take cuttings to bulk up my string of hearts every time I repot my plant into a larger pot. The plant will fill in naturally, but I like to give the plant a head start by adding new cuttings each time.
7. Coil Your Plant
If you need more time, patience, or confidence in your horticultural skills to propagate new plants from cuttings, a slightly easier option produces similar results. This method is referred to as coiling.
With this method, you simply take the top portions of the stringy strands and coil them a few times inside the pot. If needed, you can sprinkle a bit of additional succulent soil on and around the coils to ensure a few of the junctures of the plant has contact with the soil.
Another way to ensure the plant junctures have contact with the soil is to use something to pin the coils down, such as a bent piece of wire or a reshaped paper clip. The goal is to ensure the new roots that the plant forms from the coils have contact with the soil.
This method is similar to propagating new plants because it allows the plant to create more roots in the coiled area. It doesn’t necessarily add new strands to the plant, so coiling is a short-term solution to a stringy plant.
To add more lengths of string of hearts, you may eventually need to propagate more plants from cuttings, but coiling shortens the stringy lengths and generates more roots. It’ll definitely help to reduce the appearance of thin, scraggly vines.
Your string of hearts will survive and thrive, given the right conditions and atmosphere. But to make the plant fuller, you might have to take some extra steps.
Adding cuttings to your plant’s pot and coiling your plant can both help increase fullness. While adding cuttings is a more long-term solution, simply coiling the plant, for the time being, is a great option for beginners.
Remember the plant’s native environment and do all you can to reproduce those conditions in your home, and you’ll have a plant that stays happy and healthy.