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Plant profile: how to care for…Chain of hearts

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If you want a miniature trailing plant, you can’t go far wrong with a chain of hearts. In my experience, they’re really easy to keep happy, especially if you’re a serial underwater like me.

There’s a variegated form if that’s your jam. Personally they don’t do it for me. The variegation is pretty, but not notably prettier than a regular form and they’re PRICEY.

Quickfire Chain of Hearts care

  • Light: bright, indirect to medium
  • Humidity: 40%
  • Temperature: above 60F/15C
  • Watering: infrequently but thoroughly
  • Fertilise: sparingly – worm castings or other gentle fertiliser
  • Potting medium: cactus mix
  • Propagation: stem cuttings
  • Pests: mealybugs, scale, aphids
  • Bloom? yes
  • Toxic? no

Botanic name: Ceropegia woodii

Other names: rosary vine, string of hearts, lantern flower, snake creeper, bushman’s pipe (?)

Similar care to: hoya – they like to be warm, to dry out, and medium-bright light.

Where do Chain of hearts come from?

Can you imagine being the first person to find a wild string of hearts? I mean, they’re amazing!

COH is native to Africa, southern Asia and Australia.

The dude that named it, Carl Linnaeus, thought it looked like a fountain of wax.

Ridiculous.

It’s clearly a chain of hearts.

Though he was brave enough to publish a book saying that humans and apes were both primates. This caused quite the furore at the time, since before then humans were in their own group, right at the top.

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Where should I put my Chain of hearts?

I’ve put mine in many different places, and as long as there’s some light, they’re fine. But. These things tangle. I don’t like mine to be tangled, because I tend to anthropomorphise plants, and I hate having knotty hair.

The problem is if you get your COH caught on another plant, you can break it.

This isn’t a huge issue, since they’re super easy to propagate, but if you’re after a super long, cascading plant, you’re gonna want to keep it away from other plants.

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What kind of light do Chain of Hearts need?

In my experience, they do well in medium light. A lot of people wrongly think COH is a succulent, and think they need a lot of bright light.

That’s not been my experience at all.

I keep mine about six feet back from a west-facing window, and it’s thriving.

Ok, having done some research, most people say they need bright, indirect light to grow properly, and they get really leggy in medium light.

I don’t think mine’s particularly leggy. It certainly grows pretty quickly. It looks cool and is growing well, and that’s all I care about.

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What temperature does Chain of Hearts like?

They like it pretty warm – nothing below 60F/15C.

What level of humidity do Chain of Hearts need?

COH are happy with average ambient room humidity – about 40%. Only mist if if it gets really dusty.

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How to water Chain of Hearts

Water a Chain of hearts like you would a hoya or a succulent – soak the soil thoroughly, let the water drain through the holes in the bottom, dump out any excess water if it’s in a saucer, and then leave it to dry out completely.

The leaves of a Chain of hearts are quite thick and waxy, suggesting that it a) can store water in them and b) they have a slow rate of transpiration.

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How to fertilise Chain of Hearts

A lot of people don’t fertilise their chain of hearts, others just add worm castings to the soil. I use liquid seaweed to fertilise all of my plants, though I only fertilise COH every couple of months.

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Pests common to Chain of Hearts

I’ve never had any, but there have been reports of mealybugs, scale, and aphids. Mist with neem oil when you dust your plants. If you dust the individual leaves of your COH, you’re a better plant parent than I.

Do Chain of hearts flower?

Yes, and pretty readily. The blooms are really delicate and pretty, like the plant.

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What potting mix do Chain of Hearts like?

I use regular house plant potting soil mixed with perlite, at about a 50:50 ratio. Cactus potting soil would be good too. A lot of people swear by adding coir to their potting mix, because COH hearts grow really well in it. Good to know.

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What type of pot does Chain of Hearts need?

Mine is still in its nursery pot, but I plan on moving it to terracotta this summer. They don’t have a very big root system so I’m probably going to transplant it into a similar-sized pot. Why? Chain of hearts has tuberous roots that like a lot of airflow, which would be maximised in a terracotta pot.

COH also like to be snug in their pot, hence me not putting it in a bigger pot.

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How to propagate Chain of Hearts

In my experience, Chain of hearts is really easy to propagate. Just snip of a length of about 3cm, and remove the bottom set of leaves, then put the root end back in the soil with the mother plant. They do have nodes, but I like to remove a couple of leaves just to be sure.

You can propagate them in water, but they root so readily in soil I personally don’t bother.

The hardest thing about propagating Chain of Hearts is remembering which end to put in the soil – only the cut end will root.

They’re so quick to propagate, they’re sometimes a bit of a problem in the wild.

Are Chain of Hearts toxic?

The general consensus is that it isn’t toxic, but the stringy nature of the plant does seem to make it irresistible to cats. Whilst it may not harm them, it probably won’t do them any good, so try to keep it out of reach.

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Notes

  • COH hearts can grow really, really long, and have a really cool cascading effect, if you say, stick it on a bookcase. To keep it bushy keep propagating it, otherwise, you’ll just have a couple of sad-looking, immensely long strings.
  • The internet says they go dormant in winter. Mine didn’t.
  • Chain of hearts grow really quickly, so try to untangle the strings on a regular basis.

How much does a Chain of Hearts cost?

It really depends on the size, but you can get a bambino for less than £5. I would’nt pay more than £20 for a big one, because they grow quickly. Variegated COH are a bit more expensive, and don’t crop up that often.

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