Ceropegia Woodii also known as String of Hearts or Chain of Hearts is a beautiful succulent with hearts shaped leaves. It is incredibly popular amongst plant lovers.
Although Ceropegia Woodii and its variegated cousin are usually fairly easy to look after, there are a few things this plant dislikes and as a result, can become a bit problematic.
In this article we will have a look at problems the String of Hearts can encounter and how to fix them.
The Most Common Ceropegia Woodii Problems
Leaves falling off
Leaves growing too small
Leaves growing thin rather than plump
Dark spots on the leaves
Loss of colour
1. Leaves curling
Leaves curling on the String of Hearts can be due to lack of light, but it can also happen as a part of its natural growth or because of animals.
When the chain of hearts is kept indoors, the growth slows, and the leaves do not get as thick as when the plant’s grown outdoors. Ceropegia Woodii grown outside, especially the ones that get a little filtered sun, will have thicker leaves that are unlikely to curl.
String of Hearts indoors, that are not in bright light can end up with curled leaves. Although this will not kill the plant, it may distort the look.
To fix the curly leaf in this scenario, move the plant closer to a source of light.
The natural curl can happen when the leaves are young. New growth is thinner than more mature leaves, and so they are prone to bending. They should eventually straighten up as they grow older and thicker.
Having the plant in as much light as possible will help greatly. Young leaves in a dark spot can be a double whammy and the leaf curl can become more pronounced.
Despite the String of Hearts being fairly pest free the odd mealy bug or a bunch of aphids can sometimes attack and may cause the leaves to curl, as a result of the damage they have done to the leaves.
There are also other animals that cause leaves to curl such as some species of spiders, moth or butterfly eggs and other insect eggs. They commonly reside in a web which is strong enough to bend the leaves inwards.
2. Leaves drying
This is a very common problem one might experience with Ceropegia Woodii. Despite String of Hearts being a succulent, it does like to be watered regularly, providing the potting mix is not over-saturated/ soggy at all times.
Many people make the mistake of keeping the Chain of Hearts too dry which usually results in leaves drying up and looking shrivelled, especially on new growth as these leaves are still quite thin and not filled with water as much. Older leaves have much higher water content and can deal with a bit of drought.
The remedy for drying leaves is nearly always more water, though do make sure the plant is in well-draining succulent potting mix that will not stay soggy for too long.
Leaves can also start drying out when the plant is root-bound, and the roots are crammed in a small pot. When this happens, String of Hearts responds by losing some of its leaves.
Before they fall off, the leaves will start drying out. If the plant is watered often enough, it may help, but the best thing to do is upgrading the pot.
Another reason for leaves drying is the plant being in too much sun. Ceropegia Woodii can handle direct sun in the cold months, but not in summer when the temperatures are high.
The sun will dry the leaves out and can also cause burns. Moving the plant into bright shade will stop the drying.
3. Leaves falling off
Leaves can fall off the String of Hearts for a number of reasons. It is usually (but not always) the next step after the leaves have started to dry out, and the problem is not addressed. So all the causes in number two are also the causes here.
Another reason that can result in leaves abruptly falling off is lack of light. Although Chain of Hearts is shade tolerant and prefers bright shade/ filtered light to full sun, too much shade can cause the leaves falling off as a stress response. Plants need light to survive.
Ceropegia Woodii suffering from wet feet will also loose leaves, usually the ones closest to the roots. This would have to be a seriously soggy potting mix in a pot with no drainage as the String of Hearts usually does not mind moist (but not saturated) potting mix.
If water is the cause of leaves falling off, they will be yellow/ brownish as mushy. The Chain of Hearts plants in our nursery are kept outdoors and do not mind if it rains a lot, and so in our opinion, this plant is not easily killed by over-watering, though our plants are planted in good quality potting mix and are outside where the air will help water evaporate quicker.
Indoors, water evaporation from potting mix is slower. If the mix is heavy and retains too much water, the roots will become over-saturated, and this is when the plant can suffer.
The roots may also get waterlogged in a pot with no drainage hole. This can literally drown the plant as the roots need to breathe. For the Chain of Hearts not to loose leaves because of water, it should be planted in well-draining potting mix and in a pot with a hole at the bottom. Perlite can be added for extra drainage.
Indoors, water when the potting mix has dried out, but do not leave dry for too long.
4. Leaves growing too small
Leaves usually grow small when the Chain of Hearts is root-bound. As there is no space in the pot, the plant will slow its growth, and the leaves will become smaller. To get bigger leaves, the plant should be repotted into a larger pot once a year.
Lack of water can also see the leaves shrink as the plant tries to lessen the chance of water evaporating. A larger leaf surface will mean more water loss.
Ceropegia Woodii that is grown in a spot with quite a bit o sun will also grow smaller leaves, though if the plant has plenty of space in the pot this should not be too dramatic.
Lastly, new growth is always small, and it may take some time, especially for indoor plants, before these young leaves grow bigger. Remedy for this particular problem is patience.
5. Leaves growing thin rather than plump
In our experience, String of Hearts grown indoors or in deeper shade will always have thinner leaves compared to plants grown outside in plenty of light.
There is not much that can be done about this other than moving the plant into a bright spot/filtered light outdoors.
New growth is also pretty much always thin, but as the leaves mature, they will grow thicker.
6. Leaves rotting
Rotting leaves should not be too much of a problem with the Chain of Hearts if the potting mix is well-draining and the plant lives in a pot with a drainage hole. Leaves will rot when the plant has been sitting in waterlogged soil for too long.
Leaves may also rot if the plant is placed in dark and damp spots (bathroom with very little light etc.). String of hearts is not a good plant for rooms that lack in light.
Although this does not happen often, sometimes if Ceropegia Woodii is exposed to direct sun on a very hot day (over 35C/95F) the leaves can literally cook inside which will result in them turning to mush and rot. We would not recommend leaving the Hearts in direct sun on hot days as even a short exposure can damage the plant.
7. Dark spots on the leaves
Dark spots on String of Hearts' leaves are usually caused by fungal diseases, pests or the sun. If Ceropegia Woodii is grown somewhere dark and damp, it is quite likely black or brown spots will appear on the leaves. It is advisable to grow this plant in a bright and airy spot.
Sucking pests like aphids or mealybugs will create small holes in plants leaves to feed on the juices. When these wounds heals, they can permanently darken. Unfortunately not much can be done about this once the damage is done.
Sun can burn plants just like it can burn our skin. The difference is that our skin can regenerate, whereas the plants leaves will stay permanently damaged. The burns on Ceropegia Woddii can leave everlasting dark marks on leaves. The leaves can be pinched off, so the dark spots do not spoil the looks.
8. Loss of colour
Colour loss in Chain of Hearts can be caused by lack of light, seasons and temperature. Loss of colour is usually noticed on the Variegated String of Hearts as when grown in ideal conditions the leaves have a beautiful pink hue, more so if they are in filtered light with a bit of harmless sun (morning sun, sun in the cooler months). .Take away the bright light, and the pink disappears.
Loss of colour is hard to manage indoors as the plants will often not be able to get the same amount of light as outdoor plants. But closer to a sunny window the variegated Ceropegia Woodii is, the more colourful it will get.
The colour can also change with the seasons and temperature. Most succulents, including the String of Hearts, are more colourful once the temperature starts dropping. In winter, the hearts are at their most pink.
Please note that Ceropegia Woodii is not frost tolerant and should not stay outdoors when frost or snow is expected. This change is natural and very hard to be forced.
Seasons also affect the colour in another way- growth. In spring the plants race ahead with new growth and are likely to lose some colour. This can happen when repotting into a bigger planter too as the roots, all of a sudden, have more space, and the plant starts growing. Eventually, the plant will colour up again.
9. Slow growth
String of Hearts is likely to grow slower indoors or when the plant is in too much shade. The brighter the position, better the growth rate.
Same applies to pot size. Bigger the pot, faster the plant will grow. When the Chain of Hearts is rootbound or in a small pot, it is likely to slow all growth, even in the growing season.
The growth rate is also affected by the season. Ceropegia Woodii is dormant during the cold months and does not produce many new leaves or strings. In cold climates, it almost stops growing altogether. In more temperate climates, it will still produce new branches but not as much as it would in spring and summer.
If you would like to read about Ceropegia Woodii in more detail, we have a plant profile article here. Our nursery Fern Farm Plants also sells Ceropegia Woodii and Ceropegia Woodii variegata online in Australia.