This pretty succulent will give you a beach-like feel because, just as the name implies, the leaves on string of dolphins mimic the look of a jumping dolphin pod. It’s a hybrid of the string of pearls plant and the candle plant, and it’s a trailing type of succulent in the Asteraceae family.
The characteristics that make a string of dolphins so iconic is the long hanging tendrils they produce and the dolphin-shaped leaves. They can also produce flowers, but the flowers tend to be very small. Instead, people grow the string of dolphins plant for the foliage. They look fantastic in hanging baskets or vertical gardens, or you can easily train them to grow in an upwards style on a moss pole or trellis, depending on the look you want to go for.
This plant is most commonly grown inside as a houseplant, but you can also grow them outside. They are not a succulent that is tolerant to frost, and they require warm weather all year-round to survive and thrive.
Description of the String of Dolphins Plant
This plant’s scientific name is Senecio Peregrinus, and it’s one of the cutest succulents you can buy. It’s a more rare live-animal variety that develops pretty curvy leaves, and they look like little dolphins. Just like any other “String of” plants like bananas, hearts, pearls, and turtles, this is a hybrid. It can get up to six inches tall and three feet long, and this makes it look fantastic if you grow it to spill over the side of your hanging basket. It also looks nice sitting on the edge of a bookshelf.
- Flowers – These plants fall into the Daisy or Aster family, and just like daisies, they have composite blooms that are made up of a ton of mini flowers. The petals form a sphere to give you a pom-pom bloom, and they can emit a light fragrance.
- Foliage – The String of Dolphins has leaves that are very fleshy and notched croissants that look like dolphins. In addition to this shape, each has a translucent window, and this allows sunlight to stream through to the leaf’s interior to help the plant survive low lighting.
- Form – Since this plant is a string succulent, it can grow in trailing stems that can reach between one and three feet long. In the wild, they creep along the ground, and they can form a dense cascade of greenery in hanging baskets.
String of Dolphins Quick Care Overview
|Botanical Name:||Senecio peregrinus|
|Common Name:||String of Dolphins, Flying Dolphins, and Dolphin Plant|
|Mature Size:||Six inches tall and one to three feet long|
|Native To:||Southwest Africa|
|Soil pH:||6.6 to 7.5|
|Soil Type:||Cactus or succulent soil that is well-draining|
|Sun Exposure:||Full to partial sun|
|Toxicity:||Toxic to cats and dogs|
|USDA Zone:||9b to 11b|
String of Dolphins Care
Generally speaking, the string of dolphins is a low-maintenance plant. The plump leaves will retain water, and this makes them very tolerant to drought. They don’t need any special care to keep them happy. They’re very easy to propagate, so you can easily share them with your friends or family.
This isn’t a low-light plant, and giving them enough sunlight to do well is essential to ensure they stay healthy. Put them in a very sunny, bright location and ignore it a lot of the time. If you do, this succulent will thrive.
Most succulents can’t handle direct sunlight, and this one is no different. Getting the growing conditions right ensures that it thrives. Sunlight by
You should place your string of dolphins in a clay or terracotta pot for the best results since it requires a well-drained soil. Clay pots are very porous, and this means that it won’t hold water for too long. This makes them great for succulents who like moderate watering and that have roots that won’t survive in soggy soil.
Also, terracotta pots will help strip the excess moisture out of the soil and help prevent root rot, and this is one big reason why succulents fail. Terracotta pots are also sturdier and longer when it comes to the shape than competing pots, and this allows the tendril-like root system to develop. Regardless of the pot type you pick out, you must always ensure that it has drainage holes to allow excess water out.
String of Dolphins will go dormant during the winter season, so it requires cooler temperatures to do so between 50 and 55 degrees. You’ll cut back on your watering during this time, and it’s a good idea to take it back to once a month to keep the plant healthy and happy.
The string of dolphins won’t require regular fertilizer applications. Over-fertilizing this plant is a huge issue, and it can cause the leaves to lose the dolphin shape. They do benefit from a light application of fertilizer during the early spring months to help encourage blooming and boost growth. Using organic fertilizer like liquid kelp, worm compost, or fish emulsion is the best route to take.
String of dolphins do not require regular fertilizing. In fact, over-fertilizing this plant can cause the leaves to lose their iconic dolphin shape. However, they can benefit from a light feeding in the early spring to help boost growth and encourage blooming. Using an organic fertilizer such as worm compost, liquid kelp, or fish emulsion is usually recommended.
It’s easy for the string of dolphins to get sunburned when you expose it to too much sunlight. This isn’t a heat-loving succulent, so don’t get them direct sunlight when it’s getting hot out. If you want to put them together with your other collection of plants outside, put them in a shaded spot where they get filtered or indirect sunlight all day long. They usually grow in zone 10, so they’re not hardy when it comes to cold either.
However, if you plan to grow them inside as a new houseplant, you want to put them in a south-facing window if you have one. This will allow them to get roughly six hours of sunlight in the morning before it gets too hot out. You can also place them under LED grow lights or T-5 fluorescent lights during the winter months.
Just like most succulents, the string of dolphins requires a well-draining, arid soil to stay happy. Cactus or succulent soil mixes are great for this plant, and you can easily make your own if you don’t want to buy it by mixing potting soil, perlite or pumice, and sand. This helps to increase how quickly it drains and avoid trapping water by the roots.
Temperature and Humidity
The string of dolphins grows best in average household humidity levels and temperatures when you grow it inside. Also, while this plant won’t tolerate frost, they like cooler temperatures than your average succulent. They can tolerate winter temperatures that dip as low as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in an area that gets cold winters, you don’t have to be as careful with putting the string of dolphins near drafty or cold windows as you would with other succulents.
The leaves on the string of dolphins plant can retain water for a long time. So, they’re considered to be a drought-tolerant plant that doesn’t require routine watering schedules. Let the soil thoroughly dry out between watering sessions to avoid root rot, and then water it thoroughly. During the fall and winter months, this plant will go into a dormant period, so cut back to watering once a month.
Making String of Dolphins Bloom
Making any succulent bloom can be a challenge, but the trick with the string of dolphins is to make sure it really goes dormant during the fall and winter months.
Once this plant starts to mature, you’ll see very small clusters of tiny white flowers with a cinnamon-like fragrance popping up along the vine. The flowers usually develop during the spring and early summer months. How big of a flower display you get will depend on the care you give your string of dolphins plant during the dormant winter period. To help you achieve flowering, there are a few things you can do to encourage the plant, including:
- Ensure that the soil dries out completely between watering sessions, and then water thoroughly.
- From late fall to early spring, give the plant two to three hours of off-peak but direct sunlight with little fertilizer to ensure it goes dormant.
- Keep the succulent slightly root bound.
- Starting in the late fall months and going to early spring, place the string of dolphins in a place that has a lower temperature range of roughly 59-degrees Fahrenheit.
Repotting String of Dolphins
Even though this plant likes to be slightly root bound as it grows to lead to stronger blooms, repotting it once every three years or so during the spring months will give it more space to grow since you’ll upgrade to a larger pot, but it also allows you to remove any dead or infected roots. To start this process, you’ll need to:
- Water the string of dolphins 24 hours before you repot it to help avoid the plant going into shock from this process.
- Get a good pair of gloves so your hands don’t get wet and dirty.
- You’ll need a new pot that is one size larger than the old pot. Terracotta pots are highly recommended because they pull excess moisture out of the soil. Also, it needs adequate drainage holes to help reduce the risks of waterlogged soil and root rot.
- Finally, get a well-drained and porous potting medium. A mixture of 20% perlite, 40% coco coir, 50% perlite, and 15% orchid bark is a highly recommended medium.
Once you gather all of your items, we can start the repotting process by following the simple steps below.
Step 1: Carefully remove your string of dolphin plant from the old pot. You can do this by tilting the pot sideways and gently tapping the bottom of the pot and the sides to help it slide out without any root damage.
Step 2: Loosen and inspect the roots with your fingers. If you see that the string of dolphins developed very thick roots, it’s best to carefully cut a minimum of an inch from the root ball. Also, you want to slice through the roots using a sharp, clean knife to promote new growth to fill the bigger pot.
Step 3: Fill the bottom ¼ of the new pot with the soil mix. To encourage a stronger root system and encourage drainage, add a thin layer of grit to the base of your pot.
Step 4: Put the root ball into the new pot and add soil around the edges. You’ll ideally want the top ridge of the pot to stay above the soil line since water may run-off when you irrigate it. Also, make sure that you lightly shake and tap the pot to ensure that the potting medium fills in all of the small spaces between the soil and roots.
Once you finish repotting your string of dolphins plant, make sure to take care of it until it stabilizes from the stem to stop any issues or problems from coming up. Since overwatering the plant will invite disease and pests, make sure your soil dries out between watering sessions.
Repotting any plant should be done very carefully in the spring months to avoid injuring the plants and reducing the risks of shock.
When to Propagate String of Dolphins
You have to ask yourself why you’re propagating your string of dolphins plant. Are you trying to salvage a dying plant? If so, you have to act immediately since you can only propagate it using a healthy plant. Using a clean knife, you want to cut off a healthy strand to start this process.
If you want to grow your indoor plant collection, you can take a cutting from a healthy plant and develop it slowly. However, you should always align this process with the spring months before the plant enters the active growing season. Doing so during this time will help ensure the plant won’t get overloaded with shock and fail to thrive.
How Long it Takes to Propagate String of Dolphins
Since this is a very slow-growing succulent, it’s not uncommon for it to take up to two weeks for growth signs to appear, and it can take a full month. For this reason, many people put a rooting hormone on the cutting to boost the growth, and they add fertilizer to encourage quick growth. You’ll want to dilute your fertilizer mixture before you apply it because too fast growth promotes a stringy and weed-like plant.
To start the propagate the string of dolphins, you’ll need a few tools:
- Clean pair of shears, scissors, or a sharp cutting knife
- Distilled, filtered water if you plant to use water propagation
- Net or burlap to block any direct sunlight
- Rooting hormone
- Terracotta or clay container
- Well-draining potting soil
Two Ways to Propagate String of Dolphins
If you’re brand new to propagation, don’t worry about it. The string of dolphins is one of the easier plants to work with, and we’ll give you two ways to propagate your plant so you can choose which avenue works best for your needs.
Stem Cuttings Using Water Propagation
Using water propagation is an easy way to create new plants, and it requires that you have no specialized equipment. All you need to get started is the sterile equipment you need to cut like a knife or scissors, a healthy selection from your current plant, and a jar or glass.
- Look for a suitable strand on your plant that is between three and five inches long. Cut through it cleanly with a sterile pair of scissors or a knife, and remove any low foliage near the bottom to prevent them from rotting.
- Immediately after trimming the foliage, place the strand in a glass jar and fill it with filtered or distilled water. Tap water can have harsh chemicals like fluoride or chlorine that can stunt your plant’s growth.
- Put the jar with the cutting into a west-facing window, and make sure you’re not giving it a ton of direct sunlight.
- Replace the water in the jar once a week to replenish the oxygen and nutrients.
- In the coming weeks, look for long, thin tendril-like roots to form. Once they do, transfer the cutting into a container with well-draining soil.
The biggest benefits of this propagation method is that you can watch the roots develop and gauge how healthy your plants are. There are also lower chances of the plant developing issues with fungi or bacterial infections.
Stem Cuttings Using Soil Propagation
You can use the soil method to propagate the string of dolphins plant. The biggest thing to consider with this method is that you have to monitor the callus. When you cut it, this plant will form a callus, and this is soft tissue on the cut. This is where new roots will develop.
- Using a sterile knife or pair of scissors, carefully cut a healthy strand off of your string of dolphins plant that measures three to five inches long.
- Give the plant two days for the callus to form.
- Put the cutting into a container of prepared soil mix.
- To help promote new growth, you can dip the end of your cutting into rooting hormone.
- Keep the container in a bright space with indirect sunlight and only water it when the soil dries out.
Propagating using soil will secure the cutting in place and help strengthen the root system. The only thing you want to keep in mind with this method is that you’ll need to ensure your soil is free of fungi and bacteria and suitable for succulents. The soil should be sandy with perlite and pumice added, and this prevents root rot by adding aeration and promoting good drainage.
Promoting Fuller Growth with String of Dolphins
You want any plant you grow to be full and lush, and there are a few things you can do with the string of dolphin plant to produce a thicker growth habit.
One of the biggest selling points with the string of dolphins plant is the striking, vivid foliage. But, if the plant starts to look exhausted, sparse, or worse for wear, it takes away from the charm. You can revitalize your newly propagated plant easily by:
- Fertilizer – Succulents like light fertilizers. If you think your plant needs a quick boost, it’s worth considering adding it. Dilute a liquid fertilizer to half strength with water and apply it during the summer months.
- Lighting – Ensure you have your plant in a spot where it’ll get enough light to keep the tendrils bulky and strong. Remember, this plant can handle some sunlight, but it’s best to pick a space that has indirect but bright lighting. Too much light can cause dehydration and scorch the leaves.
- Repotting – Sometimes, appearances can be deceiving, and it may be that the pot you have your plant in isn’t a good match for the growth rate and needs of your plant. Remember, when you repot it to a new container, check the roots for any disease or stress signs. They enjoy taller containers since they have long-stretching root systems.
- Watering – One of the most important resources for any plant is water. Too much water will suffocate the root system and lead to root rot development. This will quickly deplete the plant’s nutrients and leave it looking discolored and withered. Too little water will cause the dolphin-shaped leaves to look blue.
Common Pests and Disease Issues
Mealybugs, scale, aphids, and spider mites can also be a problem for the string of dolphins plant. These are sap-sucking pests, and if you don’t treat them quickly, they can wreak havoc. With proper treatment and early detection, you can easily control an infestation of these pests.
The string of dolphins plant isn’t prone to any certain diseases other than root rot that overwatering causes. If you only water it when the soil is completely dry, use a well-draining potting soil mix, and put it in a pot with a lot of drainage holes, you shouldn’t have a problem.
The string of dolphins plant is a unique succulent that looks fabulous when it’s well-maintained and happy. This quick guide outlines everything you need to know about keeping it thriving, and you can now add it to your collection and watch it grow.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.