String of Dolphins: A Unique Houseplant with Captivating Charm

If you’re in search of a stunning addition to your houseplant collection, look no further than the string of dolphins. While you may already be familiar with its close relatives, the string of pearls and string of bananas, the string of dolphins possesses a captivating allure all its own. Sometimes referred to as the dolphin necklace, this plant stands out as the most intriguing member of its succulent family. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the year-round care and maintenance tips for the string of dolphins, ensuring its prosperity and vibrancy.

String of dolphins
String of dolphins, also known as the dolphin necklace plant, is a magnificent houseplant.

Unveiling the Splendor of the String of Dolphins Plant

Belonging to the Curio genus, the string of dolphins is one of several houseplants that bear the “string of” prefix in their common names. Among the most popular are string of bananas, fish hooks, pearls, tears (also known as watermelons), and, of course, dolphins. While all of them possess a certain charm, the string of dolphins (Curio x peregrinus) is particularly captivating. The plant’s succulent leaves resemble graceful dolphins with arched bodies and two side flippers. The cuteness overload is hard to resist! It’s worth noting that these plants were previously classified within the Senecio genus, so the scientific name Senecio peregrinus may still be used to refer to them.

The string of dolphins is commonly grown as a hanging houseplant, with its slender stems cascading elegantly over the edges of baskets or pots. The dusty blue-green hue of its leaves adds to its charm. This unique plant is actually a hybrid between the string of pearls (Curio rowleyanus; syn. Senecio rowleyanus) and the hot dog cactus (C. articulatus; syn. Senecio articulatus). Fortunately, it is rarely plagued by pests, but occasional infestations of spider mites, aphids, or mealybugs can be easily managed with insecticidal soap or rubbing alcohol applied with a cotton swab.

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String of bananas
This is the string of bananas, a closely related species to the string of dolphins.

The Perfect Indoor Lighting for the String of Dolphins

For optimal growth, the string of dolphins thrives in bright, sunny conditions. Ideally, it should be placed near a south-facing window, where it can bask in the morning to mid-day sun. If a south-facing window is not available, a west-facing window that receives sun from mid-day to evening will also suffice. In the absence of sufficient direct sunlight, you can provide artificial light using a grow light.

Mastering the Art of Watering

Similar to other succulent plants, the string of dolphins stores water in its thick, fleshy leaves. This means that it can go longer between waterings compared to many other houseplants. When the soil becomes too dry, the dolphins’ leaves may soften and droop. To maintain the plant’s vitality, water it a few days after the soil becomes dry to the touch. On the other hand, overwatering can lead to root rot. Ensure that the pot has a drainage hole and that no water accumulates in the saucer beneath it.

To water a string of dolphins plant, simply take the pot to the sink or bathtub and allow a small stream of tepid water to flow through it for several minutes. This will thoroughly soak the roots as the water seeps through the soil and drains from the bottom holes. Afterward, let the pot sit in the sink or tub for about twenty minutes to ensure complete drainage before returning the plant to its display location. Unlike many other plants, the string of dolphins doesn’t mind getting wet on its foliage during watering.

The best light for the string of dolphins plant
A south- or west-facing window provides the best light for the string of dolphins. Notice how the leaves resemble leaping dolphins—truly adorable!

Fertilizing: A Delicate Balance

To provide the necessary nutrients, fertilize the string of dolphins once every six to eight weeks from spring through early fall. However, refrain from fertilizing it in the winter when you don’t want to stimulate active growth. Using a liquid organic fertilizer diluted to half the recommended strength is ideal. You can opt for a general houseplant fertilizer or choose one specifically formulated for succulents.

Repotting: A Vital Refreshment

Every few years, your string of dolphins plant will require repotting. This becomes evident when it becomes challenging to keep the soil adequately moist due to the roots forming a dense mat or when the plant’s outer edge presses against the pot’s sides. At this point, it’s time to transplant it into a larger pot. Ensure the soil mix you use is well-draining and specifically formulated for cacti and other succulents, containing perlite to enhance drainage.

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You may also consider dividing the plant during repotting. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the root mass in half or quarters. Repot each divided section into its own pot or share them with friends who will undoubtedly appreciate this delightful plant.

Hanging succulent plants
The string of dolphins is perfect for plant shelves or hanging pots as its cascading stems gracefully drape over the container’s edges.

Optimal Temperature and Humidity Conditions

Originating from Southern Africa, the string of dolphins is not frost-tolerant and cannot withstand freezing temperatures. It thrives best in warm, sunny climates. Indoors, temperatures ranging from 65 to 85°F (18 to 29°C) provide an ideal environment for its growth.

Due to its evolution in arid regions, the string of dolphins doesn’t require high humidity. Therefore, there’s no need to mist the plant or utilize humidity trays, plant humidifiers, or pebble trays. In fact, excessive humidity can lead to leaf rot. Simply provide it with the average room humidity found in most homes.

How to grow a dolphin necklace plant
As a succulent plant, the string of dolphins doesn’t require high humidity or the use of a pebble tray beneath the pot.

Thriving Outdoors: A Summer Adventure

If you reside in a cold climate and enjoy giving your houseplants a summer vacation outdoors, don’t forget about your string of dolphins. This plant truly relishes the opportunity to spend the summer outside. However, wait until the danger of frost has passed before moving it outdoors and bring it back inside once nighttime temperatures drop to 55°F (13°C).

When your string of dolphins is outside, find a spot that offers dappled sun, morning sun, or indirect light. Avoid exposing it to intense, direct mid-day sunlight, as this can be detrimental. Additionally, you’ll need to water it more frequently than when it’s indoors since wind and sunlight tend to dry out the soil faster.

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How to grow Curio peregrinus
During the summer months, you can move your string of dolphins outdoors, but make sure to avoid direct afternoon sun exposure.

Blooming Beauties: The String of Dolphins’ Floral Display

If you’re fortunate enough, your string of dolphins may produce flowers occasionally. Resembling small daisies, the blooms possess a soft cream-to-white color and emit a subtle cinnamon fragrance. Once the flowers fade, they transform into fluffy seed heads reminiscent of dandelion fluff.

Propagation: Creating New Dolphin Delights

All the cascading Curio species with “string of” in their names are remarkably easy to propagate. The simplest method involves laying one of the stems on top of a pot filled with soil and misting the soil once a day or watering it every few days. Roots will develop from the nodes—the points where the leaves join the stem. After a few weeks, you can separate the section from the mother plant and let it grow on its own.

Alternatively, you can take a healthy stem and cut a 2 to 3-inch-long section from it. Insert the bottom inch of the cutting into a pot of sterile potting soil. With regular watering and exposure to a sunny windowsill, the stem cuttings will develop roots within a month, or even sooner. Using rooting hormone is optional but not necessary. The string of dolphins plant is one of the easiest succulents to propagate.

Propagation and care tips for string of dolphins
Among the easiest plants to propagate, the string of dolphins allows you to create new plants to share with friends.

Where to Find the String of Dolphins

While the string of dolphins was once a rarity in the plant trade, its popularity has made it readily available today. You can find it at nurseries, garden centers, plant shops, and various online sources. I encourage you to make room for this unique houseplant in your collection. It will thrive on the top tier of a plant shelf or gracefully hang from a ceiling hook. Essentially, anywhere the cascading stems adorned with dolphins can proudly showcase their splendor.

To discover more delightful houseplants, check out the following articles:

  • The Rex begonia vine
  • Growing the fishbone cactus
  • Blue Star fern
  • Venus flytrap care
  • 12 Low-light succulents
  • Lithops: The living stone plant
  • Bridal Veil plant: A beautiful hanging houseplant

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Learn how to grow a string of dolphins succulent