How to Grow and Care for String of Dolphins Succulent

This easy-care houseplant has leaves that look like tiny, leaping dolphins.

There are many kinds of cacti and succulents in the world, but one of the most whimsical is the popular string of dolphins. Aptly named for the shape of the leaves that resemble leaping dolphins, this plant is a relative of the string of pearls, string of bananas, and string fish hooks, each named for their resemblance to these objects, respectively. 

String of dolphins are native to the southwest portion of South Africa where they grow in a dry, Mediterranean climate with hot summers and cool winters. As such, they make excellent landscaping plants for milder climates like along the California coastline, but also do very well as indoor plants in hanging baskets. Perhaps best of all, these easy-to-grow succulents are also exceptionally easy to propagate, so you can produce many plantlets and share them with friends and family. 

Note that this succulent contains chemicals that are toxic to cats and dogs, so keep it out of their reach.

String of Dolphins Overview

Genus Name Senecio
Common Name String of Dolphins
Plant Type Houseplant
Light Part Sun
Height 3 to 5 inches
Width 2 to 3 feet
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Zones 10, 11, 9
Propagation Layering, Leaf Cuttings, Seed, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Drought Tolerant

Where to Plant String of Dolphins

String of dolphins can be grown indoors or outdoors in warm climate regions. For best effect, plant in hanging baskets or along walls where their form can be appreciated up close.

These plants do best in bright, indirect light, but can take full sun during cooler weather or after plants have been allowed to acclimate to brighter conditions. Moving plants from indoors to full sun will burn leaves and stems.

How and When to Plant String of Dolphins

As with many cacti and succulents, the string of dolphins can be planted or transplanted at any time of the year. Plants in active growth may show signs of stress if roots are overly disturbed. Over the course of a few years, you might begin to notice a slow decline in the health and vigor of the plant. Looping long growth back over the soil in the pot can allow newer growth to re-root and reinvigorate and refill the growth at the base of the plant within the pot.

string of succulents plant
Courtesy of The Elephants Ear

String of Dolphin Care Tips

Light

String of dolphins prefer bright, indirect light for best growth and will do well in a south-facing window. Plants can be acclimated to withstand some sun in cooler climates.

Soil and Water

Plants should be grown in a well-draining cactus and succulent mix with little organic matter to avoid rotting roots. Additional sand or perlite can be added to help aerate soil mixes. Watering should be approximately once a week while plants are actively growing, but soil should be allowed to dry out between waterings. Over winter and during inactive growth, soil can be allowed to dry out for weeks at a time without hurting the plants. However, some regular moisture is helpful to avoid stressing plants unnecessarily.

Temperature and Humidity

As with many succulents, string of dolphins prefer warm temperatures year-round. Temperatures below about 60°F will slow growth and increase chances of diseases taking hold. Freezing temperatures will kill plants and should be avoided, including near windows with excessively cold temperatures outside. Humidity is best kept low, although it can be tolerated and even beneficial during active growth. 

Fertilizer

A mild, general purpose organic fertilizer during active growth once a month will help keep plants healthy and thriving. While plants are not actively growing during cooler temperatures, fertilizer is not necessary. 

Pruning

Over time, plants will begin to lose leaves near the base of each “string.” To refill the pot and encourage fuller growth, loop longer stems around back over soil to encourage new root growth. Alternatively, longer growth can be pruned off and planted in soil. 

Potting and Repotting

Cacti and succulents require excellent drainage. Using a terra cotta pot is preferred, too, for additional breathability. Glazed and plastic pots are lightweight and easy to ship plants, but they retain excessive moisture and don't allow for air flow, increasing the risk of overwatering these succulents.

Due to their long, trailing growth, string of dolphins put most of their energy into expanding their stems and develop relatively weak root systems. That means they don't need very large containers to grow in, and you won't need to repot them very often.

Pests and Problems

String of dolphins are prone to a few pests such as mealybugs, as well as root rot. Get rid of pests with neem oil or insecticidal soap applied according to label instructions. Avoid overwatering plants to decrease likelihood of root rot. If root rot does occur, cut off all healthy growth and throw away root ball and soil. Replant cuttings in a fresh, well-draining soil mix in a clean pot.

How to Propagate String of Dolphins

As mentioned above, propagating string of dolphins is easy and can be achieved by allowing stems to grow over soil or taking cuttings. Cuttings should be no longer than about six inches and upwards of one half of the stem can be covered with soil to allow for new roots to grow. In some instances, new roots will begin to grow from the trailing stems. These sections are excellent for propagation because roots have already formed and will readily root into the soil.

Companion Plants

String of dolphins do well when planted with other succulents and cacti. Because they will flow over the side of a pot, they make good companions with more upright plants.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can string of dolphins be grown from seed?

    While it's possible to grow these and other “string of” succulents from seeds, the resulting plants may not look exactly like their parents. Cuttings will retain the leaf shape that gives these plants their name.

  • Will string of dolphins root in water?

    Yes, you can place cut stems into a glass of water (filtered or distilled water is better than tap) and they will develop roots. Make sure to change the water every few days. Once roots are a couple inches long, plant your cuttings into moist potting soil.

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