Episode 67: trailing plants week

It’s quite literally On The Ledge: S enecio rowleyanus  and  Hoya linearis . Photograph: Jane Perrone

It’s quite literally On The Ledge: Senecio rowleyanus and Hoya linearis. Photograph: Jane Perrone

It’s trailing plants week! We’re looking at seven iconic trailing plants across the week, in bite-sized daily mini-episodes.

Part one: string of pearls aka Senecio rowleyanus

Can you spot the epidermal windows? Photograph: Jane Perrone

Can you spot the epidermal windows? Photograph: Jane Perrone

First up: string of pearls, aka Senecio rowleyanus. This fascinating succulent grows in a very tiny part of the Eastern Cape province in South Africa, covering the ground with its wiry stems and rooting wherever it can. It has recently been reclassified by taxonomists as Curio rowleyanus but the new name isn’t catching on at present.

The leaves have evolved as bead-like globes to limit evaporation in its desert home. Leaf windows aka epidermal windows form a darker segment across each leaf, allowing sunlight to pass into the leaf for maximum photosynthesis: a technique used by other succulents including Lithops and Haworthia.

The small white fluffy flowers are cinnamon-scented, followed by dandelion-like seedheads. If you can get hold of the variegated version, well done, as it’s rather rare!

String of pearls care tips

  • This plants hates having moisture around its roots: plant in a very free-draining potting mix: I use 50% grit/cat litter, 50% John Innes no 2.

  • If you plant it in a terracotta pot, this helps to wick moisture away from the roots and prevent rotting off.

  • Slow down the watering in winter to maybe once a month, but check the soil before you water every time.

  • String of pearls likes lots of light but will make do with a couple of hours of sunlight a day.

  • It copes perfectly well in standard room temperatures of 20C or so but will be fine down to 15C and (if kept really dry) 10C in winter.

  • Taking cuttings is easy: snip off a ‘string’, place on top of very gritty compost and wait! It helps to strip some ‘pearls’ from part of the stem and bury this bit.

Let’s see your strings of pearls! Do send me a photo of your plants, and let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed…

Part two: Hoya linearis

Photograph: Jane Perrone

Photograph: Jane Perrone

I got my Hoya linearis as cuttings from James Wong when I visited his flat for episodes 55 and 56. They grow next to my strings of pearls and seem to be doing fine so far. I rooted the cuttings by stripping off the lower leaves from the bottom third of the stem, inserting those stems in free-draining compost and placing the cuttings and pot into a clear plastic bag until rooted.

This plant grows in the Himalayan region and is an epiphyte, dangling from trees like green furry tinsel. Take a look at this page for a glimpse of the plant in its native habitat, in this case in Sikkim in NE India.

Mine hasn’t flowered yet, but I am looking forward to the clusters of starry white flowers that are reputedly lemon-scented.

Hoya linearis care tips

  • As an epiphyte, this plant prefers to be a bit rootbound and likes its potting soil on the dry to very dry side.

  • When you do repot, add in some orchid bark to regular houseplant potting soil to make a free-draining mix.

  • Hoya linearis likes some humidity so a bathroom or kitchen is a good plan, or group with other plants.

  • Temperatures of 10C+ should be fine but let me know if you’ve grown it successfully lower than that.

Where to buy Hoya linearis

In the UK, this plant is currently available from Shrubland Park Nurseries and Perfectplants.co.uk: I have also seen it on sale in garden centres from time to time. In Europe, it is available at Claessen Orchids. Let mw know where you sourced your plant and I shall add it to the list!

Let’s see your Hoya linearis! Do send me a photo of your plants, and let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed…

Part three: string of hearts aka Ceropegia woodii

String of hearts, hearts entangled, chain of hearts … there are so many common names for this popular trailing plant. It’s simple to grow, widely available and endlessly fascinating. Here’s some key points from the episode:

Photograph: Jane Perrone.

Photograph: Jane Perrone.

  • Ceropegia linearis subsp. woodii to give the plant its full name is a caudiciform plant, because it grows from tubers that look a bit like water chestnuts: you may also find these tubs developing along the wiry stems.

  • Because of the plant’s tuberous nature, overwatering is the main risk. Keep the plant on the dry side, especially during winter.

  • Propagation is easy: if tubers develop along the stem, snip them off and plant: if not, stem cuttings in water work just as well but take a bit longer to get going.

  • It is adaptable to a wide range of light conditions from full sun to shade, although the leaves will be paler the less light they get.

  • Check out the beautiful botanical illustration of this plant from Curtis’s Botanical magazine dating back to 1900.

  • Ceropegia woodii grows in the wild in Southern Africa and was first recorded by botanist John Medley Wood in 1881 (hence the name).

  • Variegated forms are available although rare … I am not personally keen on them, but do let me know if you have a particularly choice specimen as I’d love to hear about it (and cadge a cutting, obviously…).

  • Any other interesting members of the Ceropegia clan grown as houseplants? Look out for C. sandersonii aka umbrella plant which has curious green flowers.

Where to buy Ceropegia woodii

This plant is widely available and shouldn’t be hard to get hold of: Cactusshop.co.uk in the UK has a variegated form for a great price as I type, if that’s your thing.

Part four: Episcia cupreata aka flame violet

Episcias showing off their talents as trailing plants. Photograph: Dale Martens/The Gesneriad Society

Episcias showing off their talents as trailing plants. Photograph: Dale Martens/The Gesneriad Society

The flame violet holds its own among any variegated plant you can name, and yet for some reason they are not as popular as they should be! These members of the Gesneriad clan grow in central America where they tend to romp around at ground level, but they also make brilliant trailing plants. The ‘cupreata’ bit means coppery, reflecting the metallic tones of the foliage.

They have been bred extensively to create many beautiful hybrids: some majoring on the flowers, but mostly it’s the foliage that’s the central attraction. Take a look at Gesneriads.info for a great guide to species and hybrids.

Variegation to the max: the leaves of some of my Episcias. Photograph: Jane Perrone

Variegation to the max: the leaves of some of my Episcias. Photograph: Jane Perrone

How to grow Episcia cupreata

  • Flame violets are close relatives of Afircan violets, and just like them they don’t like having water splashed on their leaves, so don’t mist or splash their leaves when watering - water from below, or use a long-spouted watering can to target the soil rather than the leaves.

  • When potting up, use African violet potting soil or regular houseplant potting soil with a bit of added grit.

  • Flame violets need bright light but no direct sun which will burn their leaves.

  • They don’t like cool temperatures and need a minimum of 17/18C or 65F even in winter.

  • Although the plants thrive on humidity, they’ll make do with 30%, although remember - the warmer it is, the more humidity they need.

  • Propagation is easy: just remove a plantlet that grows along stolons (aka runners) to make a new plant. If your plant starts to look rather sad over winter, you can regenerate it using plantlets in spring.

  • Episcias are easy to raise from seed: see below for details of where to get the seed from.

Where to get your hands on a flame violet

  • Violet Barn sells a nice range of Episcias: based in the US but they ship internationally

  • Glass Box Tropicals offers a range of Episcias suitable for terrariums but does not ship outside the US

  • If you are in the US, eBay.com has a lot of plants available

  • I got my mixed Episcia seed from Chiltern Seeds in the UK

  • Join the Gesneriad Society to get access to their seed scheme

Part five: Peperomia prostrata

As the Latin name suggests, in its native Brazil this tiny Peperomia grows by creeping around on the ground and along tree bark. That said, it grows brilliantly as a trailing pot plant, and is so diminutive that it’s perfect for keeping ‘on the ledge’. It’s a member of the pepper family, so you may seen this sold as ‘trailing pepper plant’.

If you squint you might mistake it for string of hearts, and the stems are equally as wiry, but the leaves are fleshier and rounder - some compare the shape and variegation to a turtle’s back!

P. prostrata . Photograph:  Bakker.com

P. prostrata. Photograph: Bakker.com

How to care for your Peperomia prostrata

  • Peperomias are tough, unfussy plants: they will do well in most homes, doing fine with most light situations provided they are not in full sun or full shade, average humidity and normal room temperature.

  • They do well in a hanging container, but do be careful when watering that you don’t leave water sitting at the bottom as this is the quickest way to rot your plant.

  • This plant will do equally well creeping about in a terrarium if you prefer, or even as ground cover around the base of a bigger specimen plant.

  • Don’t be afraid to snip off bits of stem if they become too leggy, damaged or start heading in the wrong direction. They are easy to propagate in a glass of water of in some cutting compost.

  • There’s a great blogpost on P. prostrata on Pumpkin Beth’s website.

Gardeners’ Chronicle, 1879 entry on  Peperomia prostrata . Source:  Peperomia.net .

Gardeners’ Chronicle, 1879 entry on Peperomia prostrata. Source: Peperomia.net.

Where to get hold of a Peperomia prostrata

Part six: Sedum morganianum aka burro’s tail

Burro’s tail looks good in a ‘head pot’. Photograph:  RDPixelShop  on  Flickr .

Burro’s tail looks good in a ‘head pot’. Photograph: RDPixelShop on Flickr.

Sedum morganianum was a bit of a botanical mystery until ten years ago. No one really knew where it grew in the wild, although it was believed to live in Veracruz in Mexico. Then a couple of botanists stumbled across some specimens growing in a ravine near Coatepec in Veracruz, Mexico. Read the full tale - including how the plant was first found and brought into cultivation in 1935 - in this piece from the International Crassulaceae Network.

Care tips for burro’s tail

  • This plant can be extremely fragile - the leaves detach very easily - so take care to position it somewhere it won’t get knocked.

  • Burro’s tail needs plenty of light but may get sunburned if exposed to full midday sun (bear in mind it grows in ravines).

  • Be sparing with water especially during winter.

  • As a shallow rooted plant it won’t need repotting often, but feeling regularly through the growing season with specialist cactus and succulent feed or houseplant feed at half or quarter strength.

  • Burro’s tail propagates from individual leaves or from stems - just remember to let the stems callus over before planting.

Part seven: Epiphyllum anguliger, aka fishbone cactus

The first challenge with this plant is mastering its Latin name! The genus Epiphyllum belongs to the forest or orchid cacti, named for their orchid-like stems. Anguliger means ‘angle bearing’ and if you’ve seen the flattened stems of this plant you’ll know why! Its striking zigzag or ric rac patterns make E. anguliger a popular feature on Instagram.

E. anguliger care tips

  • This plant may be a cactus but it does need relative high humidity, because it comes from Central America - do this by grouping plants together, misting, or placing on a pebble tray.

  • A cool spell in winter helps to prompt flowering of the pale yellow or white blooms.: it will cop e with temperatures down to 4-7C 40-45F, but will also do fine at standard room conditions provided the humidity isn’t too low.

  • This one needs a well drained compost - maybe cactus compost with a bit of added organic material.

  • Mine is doing really well in a self-watering pot: that way it stays moist but not wet, and I don’t have to remember to water it!

  • Light-wise this one can cope with partial shade, but make sure you don’t expose it to full sun.

  • Cuttings are easy! Cut off 10cm segments of stem and allow to callus over for a week or two then place in water or in moist gritty compost.

Thejoyofplants Yasuyo Harvey at home.jpg

This week’s sponsor

Thanks to my sponsor for episode 67, Thejoyofplants.co.uk: over the next couple of weeks, they’re focusing on the ancient Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi, and how to achieve this with houseplants. Wabi sabi encourages us to embrace and celebrate our own imperfections, and that includes the perfect imperfections of our plants as well!

Social media makes us all compare ourselves unnecessarily with others, and in our plant-obsessed world, we also tend to strive for the Instagram-perfect portrait of our green companions. Wabi sabi is a way of life to simplify your life and own expectations and learning to celebrate its imperfections and uniqueness.

The Joy of Plants invite you to step into Yasuyo Harvey's house for wabi sabi style inspiration and we get a glimpse of the gorgeous plants in her home.

Visit the joy of plants for the latest plant-filled inspiration, care tips and DIY projects: check out the links below to find out more.




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This week's show featured Roll Jordan Roll by the Joy Drops, licensed under Creative Commons.