As a houseplant, string of needles is suitable for those who live in a hot and dry climate. It is easy to grow this plant either indoor or outdoor. If you want to multiply this plant, you just need to take some cuttings and repot in a new container.
Scientifically, string of needles belongs to Apocynaceae family and Ceropegia genus. Ernst Heinrich Friedrich Meyer was the first person who discovered string of needles (Ceropegia linearis).
The name “Ceropegia” comes from Greek language which is wax and fountains. The use of this word refers to the initial observation of the genus by Carl Linnaeus in 1753. While “Linearis” specifically refers to this particular species with its green and gray needle-like leaves.
Although the unique foliage shape and long vines are the main attraction of this plant, it also produces flower in spring and summer. At the beginning, you could see small cluster of brown flowers on the upper part. Around a week later, the white or pale magenta flowers will bloom.
If you eager to increase the possibility of blooming, there are a few things you can do. First, reduce the water intake. Second, lower the temperature in the range of 54 °F (12 °C) at night in winter. These actions will create a colder temperature, dry soil condition, and short days.
In short, the plant needs to enter dormancy in order to bloom some flowers in the next season. Make sure you enjoy the flowers as they only last for six weeks.
At the mature stage, the overall size of this plant could reach 2 m long and 3 cm wide. In average, string of needles grow around 15-20 cm on each season. Thus, you can expect the plant to reach a maximum size in 4-6 years.
Since string of needles is a native plant of South Africa, USDA zones 11a-11b is the perfect area for the plant to grow. If you live outside that zone, it is better to plant it indoor than outdoor.
By considering the plant feature and growth, you can grow string of needles in a hanging basket, above the window, or near the wall.
This plant will grow to its maximum potential under a full sun. However, more than three hours of direct sunlight exposure especially at noon would scorch and dehydrate the plant.
For this reason, try to locate the plant in a shaded area that would get the best morning and evening sunlight. A patio or under a big tree can be a great option as they could filter the strong sunlight above.
After all, it is better to provide a bright-indirect light for the plant on daily basis. This greenery is still able to survive in a lower or darker light condition, but it will affect its growth. Aside from stunted growth, low lighting also has a potential to drop the leaves and cause root problem.
What you need to do is to place the pot near a sunny windowsill. Moreover, in autumn and winter this plant will need morning sunlight, as much as it can get. Contrarily, you may consider putting a sheer curtain or drape in spring and summer if the sunlight is too strong during the day.
Generally, some people set the pot less than 3 feet near south-facing window. They do so to maximize the light absorption of the plant. Depend on where you live, you might want to check frequently the current weather in your living area. Therefore, some adjustments of the plant position is important.
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Humidity and Temperature
Coming from a hot climate area, string of needles prefers moderate humidity level. The good news is it can adapt to humidity in many typical houses.
Ideally, the plant would be happy with a temperature in the range of 15 °C-30 °C. Any temperature lower than 15 °C might kill the plant, specifically for a long time. For an outdoor setting in the summer, make sure the temperature is higher than 12 °C.
Similar to other succulents, string of needles demands a porous and well-drained soil. Likewise, this plant doesn’t need consistent moisture all day. Basically, you can mix potting soil with perlite or sand (3:1) or mixing potting soil, sand, and pumice/perlite (2:2:1).
Perlite, sand, and other alternative such as vermiculite work to improve the drainage. Another option is to add one layer of gravel on the pot base inside, instead of mixing other materials in the potting mix.
There is no exact ratio because there are other factors to consider including the plant itself, light, watering, humidity, and so on. You probably have to adjust the potting mix later after seeing the plant reaction.
Tips. Don’t add too much organic matter in the soil to avoid soil compaction.
Succulents don’t need too many nutrients in the first place. Once the plant runs out of nutrient from organic matters, occasionally adding a few dose of fertilizer would be okay.
When feeding the string of needles, you should do that in the growing season. During summer and spring, provide the plant with a Houseplant or ‘Cactus’ labelled fertilizer every four water. Even though it is not a mandatory, you may feed the plant every six water in cold season.
There is no need to add fertilizer after repotting or after changing the soil with new one. It is because the fresh soil usually has enough organic matter (nutrients) to support the plant.
Due to its nature, string of needles is a drought-tolerant plant. It means that this plant could survive with less water than other tropical plants. Then, you also need to take into account the lighting, temperature, and pot size when watering.
Time and frequency
The common watering frequency is 1 or 2 times a month in the warm months and less in cold months. During spring and summer the overall temperature and sunlight intensity might dry the water faster. So, is it is logical to give more water in the growing season. Moreover, watering in the morning or at noon is also good as the plant will have enough time to absorb the water.
- Before every watering, the soil should be dry. Soak and dry watering method could ensure the plant to get enough water.
- Some people water the plant from the top since it is easier. Pour/spray the water carefully, so that it would not hurt the leaves and vines. However, the droplet or moisture left on the leaves might cause root.
- For a safer option, other suggest to submerge the bottom part (quarter) of the pot in small pool of water (usually a saucer). In another words, you let the top parts dry. Let it be for several minutes.
- Next, never let the plant alone before the excess water completely drain. Here is why you need a good pot with drainage holes. Don’t forget to throw away the water left in saucer too.
Control is the key when it comes to watering. If you don’t pay attention to this matter, your plant could suffer from the following condition.
- Under watering. A decline in leaf numbers, shriveled leaves, and slow growth are some symptoms of under watering. Before taking any action, you must know the exact cause of it. It could be due to excessive sunlight, too porous soil, or even your ignorance to water the plant when it needs.
- Over watering. The common symptoms of overwatering are mushy stem, yellow and wilting leaves, and basal rot. Over watering is more dangerous than under watering as it might lead to root rot resulting plant death.
The main reason for repotting is to give more spaces for the plant to grow. Besides, root bound is likely to reduce the chance for the flowers to bloom.
Since string of needles is a slow grower, gardeners usually repot string of needles every 1-3 years or when the plant size has doubled. In other cases, plant owners must repot their plant because the soil quality get worse or because the plant is sick due to pest or disease.
How to repot
- Water the plant 24 before repotting takes place top lower the risk of transplant shock.
- Prepare a slightly larger pot and fill with well-drained soil.
- Remove the plant from its old pot gently by considering its delicate tuber and vine.
- Put the plant in new pot, and water moderately.
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Spring and summer months are the right time for propagation because the plant is in an active growth phase.
With this method, you only need to plant the seeds in well-draining potting mix. For your information, you can perform the seed method in outdoor setting. And if you live in a cooler area, it is better to propagate the seeds indoor. Although seed propagation is possible with string of needles, you might lose your patience in the process.
Via stem/vine cuttings
To safe you from the misery from having to wait for “years” when using seed method, you must choose stem/vine cutting method.
- ONLY choose the healthy-looking part of the plant.
- Sterilized the sharp tools (shears, scissors, blade, or knife) with alcohol to prevent contamination.
- Cut them directly under a node (leaf). Each vine (cutting) should be 8 cm in length and has 3-6 leaves at minimum.
- Leave the cuttings for several days and let the callus to develop.
- Then, you can place the cuttings in the two different medium.
- Soil. Put the ready cuttings in the well-draining soil. Ensure to cover each end or the bottom of cutting with soil and then water them thoroughly.
- Water. Just simply put the cuttings in jar with clean water.
- After the roots develop and reach at least 3 cm long, prepare to move them in a new pot. Root development usually takes a few weeks or a month.
- Some recommend to use 7 cm pot/container with enough drainage holes. There are various pot materials, but people commonly use plastic or terracotta pot.
- Fill the pot with loose, well-draining soil, and a bit of compost. Or you can use some soil from the mother plant which is useful to create a bushier plant looks.
- When replant the cuttings, the leaves should be above the soil line.
- Maintain the soil moisture with moderate watering and protect it from direct sunlight.
- Once 6 weeks have passed (in average), you could go back to your regular plant care.
Maintenance is beneficial to encourage better growth of the string of needles. To handle this plant, always use disinfected tools to prevent the development of bacterial and fungal disease.
Remove the yellow, damaged, dying leaves, as well other plant debris around it. Don’t cut through the yellow tissue because more damage would occur. You must make a clean cut since the wound could shock the plant leading to the poor health of the plant itself.
Tips. You can also shower the plant with water using a hose quickly to get rid of the dust and pest that might live in your plant.
Generally, many classify string of needles as a mildly toxic plant. Humans or animals that accidentally consume any part of the plant might experience vomiting, nausea, as well as loss of appetite.
If you notice your kids or pets eat a large amount of the plant, please find medical assistance quickly.
In addition to natural causes, the plant might get sick due to improper care from the owner.
Beware of tiny pests such as aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and scale. Conduct a regular check in case some pests have attacked your plant without your knowing. They mostly target the leaves and create wounds and cause leaf discoloration which affect the plant immunity and appearance.
To eliminate the pests, give the plant a blast of water after separating them from other plants. Then, continue the treatment using neem oil or insecticidal soap. Keep what you have been doing until all pest are gone.
Since intense direct sunlight tends to cause sunburn, you must move the plant in an area with bright-indirect sunlight. Prune the scorched leaves and increase the water amount a little bit. When moving the plant, do this gradually so that the plant will not get shock because of the drastic change in environment.
Less leaves on the top soil
The possible cause for this issue is too much water that stay on the leaves. Therefore, bottom-up watering is better compare to water the plant from the top. Along with correct watering practice, you should remove the rotten or yellow debris on the soil, increase the light amount, and improve the air circulation.
Overwatering plus low light condition are the dangerous pairs that will threaten your plant health. Root rot problem usually starts with the yellowing leaves in a short amount of time. It may continue with stunted growth and brown-decayed base.
First, examine your plant ASAP. Then, if you find any yellow roots, you can still save the plant. Next, get rid of the dark and mushy roots, leaves, and stems. Last, replant the healthy parts in clean container with quality soil.