The lovely String of Hearts has opened up this bizarre genus to the wandering eyes of the gardening community. It seems that even the tiniest gardener is fascinated by the tube-like flowers.
And why not? When Carl Linnaeus first laid eyes on them, he thought they looked like wax fountains, but many have added names to the list: Lantern flower, Parachute flower, Bushman's pipe, Parasol flower, Glass vine and Rosary vine. Not familiar with these names? Then have I got a wonderful surprise for you!
Ceropegia are part of the milkweed family and are pollinated by Diptera (flies). The resultant seed pods look like this.
Introduction to Ceropegia
Most will have come across the beloved String of Hearts, but the genus Ceropegia is home to an abundance of species. The 180 odd species (excluding the stapeliads under revision) are distributed between SE Africa (115), India (40), Madagascar (20) and China (17).
Did you Know? The String of Hearts, Ceropegia linearis subsp. woodii, is one of three subspecies. You also get Ceropegia linearis subsp. linearis and Ceropegia linearis subsp. tenuis.
Their common features include what is known as a pitfall flower. The latter will remind some of monkey cups or Nepenthes as the flowers resemble long parachutes. Some like, Ceropegia conrathii are borderline Brachystelma with a caudex from which the flowers sprout.
Sadly, two South African species have already gone extinct due to habitat encroachment. Without the unusual flowers, the plants may appear like long green vines, so hopefully, this will make you stop and have a closer look at what may not be weeds. Who knows, you might have them in your backyard.
String of Needles (Ceropegia linearis subsp. linearis) and String of Hearts (Ceropegia linearis subsp. woodii differ in leaves, but not flowers.
If you have not stumbled upon a string of hearts, then now is your chance. It is a fast-growing and reliable flowerer that will ease you into their care instruction.
For more on String of Hearts see:
Most likely, you have already got one in your collection and thinking of expanding. Several species require similar care and will make your heart skip a beat. Indoor growers will be able to modulate their growth conditions, but if you want to grow them outside you might benefit from choosing local species.
Here are some suggestions grouped by distribution range:
Throughout South Africa:
- Ceropegia africana
- Ceropegia crassifolia
Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and North West:
(including Eastern Cape, excluding Northern Cape)
(including Eastern Cape, excluding Northern Cape/Gauteng/North West)
Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal:
Western Cape and/or Eastern Cape:
- Ceropegia fimbriata subs. geniculata
- Ceropegia multiflora
The length between nodes or sets of leaves get shorter with higher light and longer with low light.
Most of these species have a storage organ or succulent roots or stem that will protect them against desiccation (drying out). That said, the more subtropical species do well with a good soaking when the medium is nice and aerated.
- Growing medium: Aerated succulent soil (Akadama is ideal)
- Exposure: Bright indirect sunlight
- Watering: Weekly during the growing season, monthly during dormancy
- Dormancy: Some will go through a dormancy period when temperatures drop
On the whole, you will find them easy to take care of and to propagate in water or soil. Note that some species may take a month or two to form roots, while others do so in a matter of days. As with all plants within this family, one should be on the lookout for mealybugs and steer clear of overwatering as they are prone to root rot. The roots can be thin and spindly to thick and succulent, so mind the root system when selecting a pot size.
Where to Buy Ceropegia
You will find that, apart from Ceropegia woodii, no other species have made it onto the general market. This does not mean they are not available from hobby shops or specialised nurseries. You will often find them at the local succulent festivals. SHEILAM Cactus nursery has several species on offer. So pop over to their profile to learn more.
Propagation of Ceropegia
Propagating Ceropegia other than String of Hearts may be a slow process. They can be propagated in water, soil or a semi-hydro medium as long as an active node is exposed to water for a prolonged period.
Note that some may take months to form roots, whereas String of Hearts will pop out roots in mere days. Creating the bulbous root structure may take longer.
Mealy bugs are hard to spot and (like in this photo) will tend to aggregate around new leaves.
If you love Ceropegia remember to hit that dig button and explore the rest of the exotic succulent series.
(1) Meve, U., & Liede-Schumann, S. (2007). CEROPEGIA (APOCYNACEAE, CEROPEGIEAE, STAPELIINAE): PARAPHYLETIC BUT STILL TAXONOMICALLY SOUND1. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 94(2), 392-406.
(2) Bruyns, P. V., Klak, C., & Hanáček, P. (2017). A revised, phylogenetically-based concept of Ceropegia (Apocynaceae). South African journal of botany, 112, 399-436.
(3) Chavan, J. J., Gaikwad, N. B., Dixit, G. B., Yadav, S. R., & Bapat, V. A. (2018). Biotechnological interventions for propagation, conservation and improvement of ‘Lantern Flowers’(Ceropegia spp.). South African Journal of Botany, 114, 192-216.