If you’re looking for a striking houseplant to add to your collection, look no further than string of dolphins. You may already be familiar with its more common relatives, string of pearls and string of bananas, but string of dolphins has a unique look all its own. Sometimes also called dolphin necklace, I find it to be the most intriguing member of this unique group of succulent plants. In this article, I’ll discuss how to care for a string of dolphins plant year-round and what to do to ensure it is thriving and healthy.
What is a string of dolphins plant?
In the genus Curio, there are several different houseplants that have “string of” at the beginning of their common name. The most common are: bananas, fish hooks, pearls, tears (sometimes also called watermelons), and dolphins. All of them are adorable, but if I had to choose a favorite, it would be string of dolphins (Curio x peregrinus). As you can see from the photos, the common name is spot-on. Each one of this plant’s succulent leaves looks like a little arching dolphin with two side flippers. It’s hard not to go into cuteness overload when you look at this plant! As a side note, these plants were formerly placed in the genus Senecio. As a result, you will sometimes still see the scientific name Senecio peregrinus used for this plant.
It’s also easy to see why string of dolphins is most commonly grown as a hanging houseplant. The slender stems cascade down over the edge of a hanging basket or pot. The dusty blue-green color of the leaves also adds to the fun. This plant is a hybrid between the string of pearls (Curio rowleyanus; syn. Senecio rowleyanus) and the hot dog cactus (C. articulatus; syn. Senecio articulatus). Thankfully, it is seldom bothered by pests, though occasionally spider mites, aphids, or mealybugs may be problematic. They are nothing a little insecticidal soap or a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol won’t handle.
The best indoor light for string of dolphins
A bright sunny windowsill is best for this house plant. A south-facing window is ideal because it receives sun from morning through mid-day, but the plant will also thrive in a west-facing window with sun from mid-day to evening. Alternatively, you can keep it under a grow light if you don’t have a window that receives enough direct sunlight.
How and when to water
Just like other succulent plants, the string of dolphins stores water in its thick, fleshy leaves. Because of this, the plant can go longer between waterings than many other houseplants. The dolphins will soften and go limp when the soil becomes too dry. To keep your dolphins in top form, water within a few days of the soil becoming dry to the touch. Alternatively, if the plant is kept too wet, it will develop root rot. Be sure your pot has a drainage hole in the bottom and that no water sits in the saucer beneath the pot to avoid overwatering.
To water a string of dolphins plant, move the pot to the sink or bathtub and run a small stream of tepid water through the pot for several minutes to soak the roots. This gives the soil time to absorb the moisture as it seeps through the container and drains out the drainage holes in the bottom. Let the container sit in the sink or tub for twenty minutes to fully drain before moving the plant back out to its display location. There is no need to water string of dolphins from the bottom because the foliage doesn’t mind getting wet when you water.
When to fertilize
Fertilize string of dolphins plants once every six to eight weeks from spring through early fall. Do not fertilize them in the winter as you don’t want to encourage any active growth at that time. Use a liquid organic fertilizer diluted to half the recommended strength. I use a general houseplant fertilizer, but one formulated especially for succulents would be fine, too.
When to repot a string of dolphins
Every few years, your string of dolphins plant will need repotting. When it becomes difficult to keep the soil moist because the roots have formed a thick mat, or when the outer edge of the plant is pressing against the sides of the pot, it’s time to transplant it into a larger pot. Use a well draining soil mix that is made for cacti and other succulents and contains perlite. It should be fast-draining and coarse.
You may also want to divide the plant at this time by using a sharp knife to cut the root mass in half or quarters. Repot each section into its own pot or pass the divisions along to friends.
Optimum temperature and humidity
String of dolphins is native to Southern Africa and will not tolerate frosts or freezing temperatures. They do best in warm, sunny climates. Indoors, temperatures between 65 and 85°F are ideal.
Because it is a trailing succulent that evolved in an arid region of the world, it does not require high humidity. There is no need to mist the plant or use a humidity tray, plant humidifier, or pebble tray. In fact, humidity that is too high can lead to leaf rot.
Growing string of dolphins outdoors
If you live in a cold growing zone and you like to give your houseplants a little vacation every summer by taking them outdoors for the warmer months, don’t leave string of dolphins behind. This plant enjoys spending the summer outdoors. Wait to move it outside until a few weeks after the danger of frost has passed and be sure to bring it back inside when nighttime temperatures drop to 55°F.
When your string of dolphins is outdoors, put it in a spot that receives either dappled sun, morning sun, or indirect light. Avoid hot, blasting sun at mid-day outdoors. You’ll need to water it more frequently than you do indoors since wind and sun often dry the soil out faster.
Does a string of dolphins plant bloom?
If you are lucky, your plant will produce flowers from time to time. Like other members of the Asteraceae family to which this plant belongs, the blooms are shaped like small daisies. They are a soft cream to white and smell slightly of cinnamon. Once the flowers fade, they turn into fluffy seed heads that mimic a dandelion poof.
Propagation methods for string of dolphins
All of the cascading Curio species with “string of” at the start of their name are very easy to propagate. The easiest method of propagation is to lay one of the stems down on top of a pot of soil and mist the soil once per day (or water it every three or four days). Roots will develop from the nodes (the spot where the leaf joins the stem). The section can then be severed from the mother plant a few weeks later to grow on its own.
Alternatively, you can cut off a 2 to 3-inch-long section of a healthy stem and insert the bottom inch of the cutting into a pot of sterile potting soil. The stem cuttings will develop roots within a month or so without much care beyond watering and a sunny windowsill. You can use rooting hormone if you like, but it isn’t necessary. String of dolphins are among the easiest succulents to propagate.
Where to buy string of dolphins plants
Though it was once a difficult plant to find in the trade, its rising popularity has changed that. It is now a common find at nurseries, garden centers, plant shops, and from various online sources. I encourage you to make space for this unique houseplant in your collection. It’s a great plant to display on the top tier of a plant shelf or hang from a hook on the ceiling. Basically, put it anywhere the cascading, dolphin-covered stems can strut their stuff.
To discover more fun houseplants, please visit the following articles:
- The Rex begonia vine
- Blue Star fern
- Venus fly trap care
- 12 Low light succulents
- Lithops: The living stone plant