String of Dolphins: How to Care For A Dolphin Succulent

String of Dolphins: How to Care For A Dolphin Succulent

String of Dolphins (Senecio hippogriff) is a hanging succulent plant with trailing stems, unusual dolphin-shaped leaves, and small white puffball flowers. String of dolphins grows easily indoors. Its cascading stems and foliage look like a pod of leaping dolphins, making this a popular and unusual houseplant.

String of dolphins with its succulent dangling stems has other common names such as flying dolphins, dolphin necklace, and the dolphin plant. The fleshy, oblong, arching leaves have small, pointed parts resembling a dolphin’s pectoral fins. Thanks to the cascading dolphin leaves hanging down over the pot, this plant is a talking point in any room.

This article is a complete guide to growing a string of dolphin plant at home. As well as finding out how to make your plant thrive, you’ll get helpful tips on resolving growing issues with this vine-like succulent.

String of Dolphins (Senecio hippogriff) Care Overview

To care for string of dolphins, grow the hanging succulent in a sunny location, protected from direct sunlight. Dolphin plants thrive in a porous potting mix with excellent drainage. Grow Senecio hippogriff in temperatures between 70°F and 80°F (21°C – 27°C) and keep humidity low. Flying dolphins have low fertilizer needs.

What is String of Dolphin Plant?

string of dolphins

String of dolphins succulent has cascading growth habit suitable for hanging baskets

String of dolphins is a succulent plant native to South America. The trailing succulent is a hybrid between the candle plant (Senecio articulatus) and a string of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus). The drought-tolerant species grows in warm, arid conditions in its native environment.

The botanical name of string of dolphins is Senecio hippogriff or Curio × peregrinus. However, many websites mistakenly refer to this species as Senecio peregrinus. Whatever its proper name is, this flowering plant species is a member of the family Asteraceae.

Outdoors, string of dolphins grows in USDA zones 10 and 11. The succulent creeping “string” stems can grow between 1 and 3 ft. (0.3 – 1 m) long. In ideal conditions, dolphin plants are fast-growing succulents that can grow around 20” (50 cm) a year.

Dolphin necklace plants are also a species of flowering succulent. The succulent produces small round white fuzzy flowers with pink, red, or yellow filaments when in bloom. However, dolphin plants rarely flower indoors. But the plant’s fascinating foliage of jumping dolphins makes up for any lack of flowers.

String of dolphins is a type of unusual trailing plant, similar to other hanging basket plants that are succulents. For example, string of bananas has curved banana-shaped fleshly leaves. String of pearls or string of beads has dangly stems with rounded ball-like leaves.

How to Care for String of Dolphins (Senecio hippogriff)

String of dolphins are succulents that are easy to care for. Plenty of bright indirect light, avoiding overwatering, and keeping humidity to a minimum are the three critical care factors for growing string of dolphins. If you get this right, the hanging basket plants will grow for many years.

Let’s look in more detail at how to care for string of dolphins.

String of Dolphins Light Requirements

String of dolphins grows best in bright light but protected from direct sunlight. Hang the plant near an east- or west-facing window to get enough light. Intense sunshine, such as growing at a south-facing window, can result in yellow, scorched leaves. Also, growing in low light or shade causes leggy growth and sparse foliage.

As with all succulents, plenty of sunshine encourages fast growth and healthy, green foliage. Ideally, dolphin necklace plants need at least six hours of sunlight daily to thrive. When growing indoors, try to ensure that the plant is in the brightest location in your home.

If growing in a south-facing room, the constant direct sunlight can burn the foliage. So, it’s best to keep the hanging succulent a few feet away from the window. Alternatively, you can get lighting conditions right by growing the dolphin plant behind a sheer curtain.

String of dolphin plants are not low-light plants. So, you should avoid growing them in rooms with little light or in shaded corners. Also, because dolphin plants don’t require much humidity, they are not ideal plants for bathrooms. The lack of light causes the dangling vines to stretch towards the light and give the plant an unkempt look.

The Best Soil for Growing String of Dolphins Indoors

Grow string of dolphin succulents in a loose potting mix that drains well. To make suitable succulent soil, mix two parts perlite with one part regular houseplant potting soil. Or, you can purchase a ready-made soil mix for growing cactus plants. The crucial factor is that water should drain fast through the soil.

The worst thing that can happen to a string of dolphins is for the plant to sit in waterlogged, soggy soil. Dense, clay soil or poor drainage retains too much moisture. This type of soil causes roots to decay and rot. This factor can be a reason why the dolphin leaves become brown and mushy.

To ensure you have the right type of potting mix for dolphin plants, ensure it dries every four to five days. To improve drainage, add perlite, pea gravel, or pumice so that the soil is more porous. Also, peat moss is light and airy and helps to retain just enough moisture for healthy growth.

Growing a string of dolphins in an unglazed terracotta pot can also improve soil texture. The porous material allows moisture to evaporate faster. This helps prevent soil from staying too damp for a week or longer.

How to Water String of Dolphins Hanging Plants

String of dolphins are succulents that don’t require much water. It’s usually enough to water the “dolphin strings” every week or so. In cooler weather, water the dolphin necklace every two weeks or less. However, before watering the plant, always make sure that the top 2” (5 cm) of soil is dry.

Water string of dolphin plants by using the drench and dry method. This houseplant watering technique helps ensure you don’t water the succulent too often. Drenching the soil after it has dried out means that the roots absorb enough moisture without ever sitting in wet, mushy soil.

As a rule, always check that the top 2” (5 cm) of soil is completely dry before watering. Pour in enough water at room temperature until it drains from the pot’s drainage hole. Allow all water to drip out before putting the pot back on the drip tray. Wait until the soil dries before soaking the soil again.

Here are some helpful care tips for growing string of dolphins:

  • Avoid watering the dolphin plant a little and often. Watering this way results in thirsty roots and can even attract fungus gnats and spider mites.
  • Let soil dryness rather than a schedule be your guide when to water houseplants.
  • String of dolphin plants prefer soil that is light and dry rather than dense and damp.
  • Let tap water sit out overnight to allow chemicals to evaporate and bring water up to room temperature.

Temperature Requirements for Growing String of Dolphins

String of dolphin succulents thrive in warm indoor temperatures between 70°F and 80°F (21°C – 27°C). Dolphin plants are native to warm, dry climates. Therefore, average room temperatures and humidity are ideal. If you feel comfortable, the chances are that the temperature is suitable for growing these hanging vine succulents.

There are a few challenges to get temperatures right when growing flying dolphins indoors. For example, cold drafts from windows or air-conditioning units can stress the heat-loving plants in summer. In winter, placing the trailing succulents near radiators or furnaces can affect growth.

You can grow Senecio hippogriff outdoors in USDA zones 10 and 11. The creeping vines with plump, fleshy leaves are ideal for growing as a ground cover plant for full sun. String of dolphins also grows well in rock gardens or growing so that their cascading vines drape over walls or fences.

The outdoor temperature range for the plant is between 40°F and 70°F (4.5°C – 21°C) in full sun to partial shade. If you live in temperate climates, bring the trailing succulent plants indoors when the temperatures drop below 50°F (10 °C). String of dolphins isn’t a frost-hardy type of plant.

String of Dolphins Humidity Recommendations

String of dolphins doesn’t need extra humidity when growing indoors. The dangling succulent stems and fleshy dolphin leaves prefer drier air, typical of most households. String of dolphins prefers humidity below 50 percent. Humidity is rarely in issue when dolphin plants grow in warm temperatures, and you only water them occasionally.

If you live in a humid climate, you can avoid humidity problems by watering dolphin plants less often. One of the signs of too much humidity is when the cute dolphin leaves drop off the plant.

How to Fertilize String of Dolphins Trailing Plants

String of dolphins hanging succulents are not heavy feeders and don’t require additional fertilizing. Although some people fertilize the cascading succulents once or twice a year, the plant generally thrives without it. Getting growing conditions right is more important than “feeding” the trailing plant.

If you want to apply fertilizer to string of dolphins, choose a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer. Dilute it to half-strength and apply in early spring to encourage vigorous growth. You can also use organic fertilizer for the hanging basket plants such as liquid kelp, worm compost, or fish emulsion.

How to Prune String of Dolphin Plants

Prune string of dolphins to remove yellow or dying leaves or control the plant’s trailing stems. Pruning string succulents can also encourage more growth. Some Senecio plants start growing multiple stems from the cut pruned vine. Or course, you can snip off leggy stems to help improve the plant’s appearance.

Apart from removing leggy growth and dead dolphin leaves, the most common reason to prune Senecio hippogriff is for propagation.

Propagating String of Dolphins

Propagating dolphin plants is best done using stem cuttings. The long creeping stems root easily in soil without growing in water first. All you need to do to propagate plants is to cut off lengths of healthy vines and place them in the soil. In a few weeks, new plants will start growing from the cuttings.

It is possible to propagate string of dolphins in water. However, this propagation method usually takes longer than rooting in soil. The same is also true for using leaves to propagate dolphin plants.

Here is how to propagate string of dolphins from stem cuttings:

  • Take a 3” to 6” (7.5 – 15 cm) cutting from a healthy string of dolphin plant.
  • Allow the stems to dry for a day to prevent moisture issues when propagating in soil.
  • Fill a pot with a moist, succulent potting mix.
  • Place the cut ends of the stems about 2” (5 cm) into the potting soil.
  • Put the cuttings in a warm place out of direct sunlight.
  • Mist the plants regularly to keep the soil slightly moist.
  • After two to three weeks, you should notice new plant growth when the cuttings have rooted.
  • Place the newly-propagated string succulent in a sunny location and care for it as usual.

Repotting String of Dolphins Hanging Succulents

String of dolphins benefits from repotting every two or three years. This hanging succulent grows best when it’s slightly rootbound. Transferring the trailing plant to a new pot allows you to refresh the soil and grow it in a larger container. This encourages healthy growth and keeps your plant thriving.

When choosing the right pot for string of dolphins, pick one that’s one to two sizes larger than the current size. It’s also vital to check that the pot has a drainage hole. If planting the succulent in a hanging basket, ensure that the pot allows excess water to run free; otherwise, the roots will start to decay in waterlogged soil.

Pests Affecting String of Dolphins Growth

String of dolphins isn’t generally affected by pests. Healthy succulents are fairly pest-resistant. However, dolphin plants that have care issues could succumb to aphids, spider mites, or mealybugs. It’s crucial to know how to spot the signs of houseplant bugs and take quick action.

To treat string of dolphins that have houseplant pests, use a neem oil spray. Fill a quart (1 l) spray bottle with lukewarm water and add 2 tsp. neem oil and 1 tsp. liquid Castile soap. Mix thoroughly. Spray the neem oil solution liberally on the foliage to kill bugs. Repeat the neem oil application weekly until the bugs are gone.

Related reading: A complete guide to using neem oil sprays on houseplants.

Diseases Affecting String of Dolphins

With proper care, string of dolphins rarely suffers from houseplant diseases. Root rot is the most common disease that affects dolphin plant growth. Overwatering results in the roots becoming mushy, and they then start to decay. Follow proper watering techniques to prevent disease issues when growing string of dolphins.

If you notice mushy stems or leaves near the soil line, you should hold off watering until the soil dries. Remember, string of dolphins grows better when they are slightly underwatered than getting too much water.

In severe root rot cases, you may need to cut off healthy stems to propagate them and discard the diseased plant.

Are String of Dolphin plants Toxic?

There is no evidence that string of dolphins is toxic to cats or dogs. However, it’s important to note that researchers from the University of California list a related plant, string of beads (Senecio rowleyanus), as mildly toxic. Ingesting string of beads can cause digestive upset, and contact with the skin can result in dermatitis.

To be on the safe side, take care with string of dolphins if you have pets at home.

FAQ — String of Dolphins Indoor Care

String of dolphin plants are easy-care hanging houseplant succulents. When the plants get enough sunlight and don’t sit in waterlogged soil, you shouldn’t have many growing problems. However, some care issues can cause brown or yellow leaves or withered growth.

Read on to find out why your string of dolphins seems to be dying.

Why is my string of dolphins flat?

The small dolphin-shaped leaves can start to flatten out if the plant gets too much water. Hold off watering until the soil dries out before hydrating the soil. You should notice that the dolphin leaves regain their curved shape and look like miniature dolphins jumping out of the water.

Why is my string of dolphins turning yellow?

Dolphin plant leaves usually turn yellow due to overexposure to the sun. Intense sunlight can bleach the leaves, resulting in the curved green leaves becoming pale green or yellow. To help revive your plant, remove it from direct sunlight.

Why does string of dolphins turn brown?

Brown string of dolphin leaves could be due to overwatering or underwatering. Check the dryness of the soil and adjust your watering technique appropriately.

Brown tips on the leaves could be because of too much sunlight or the plant being too thirsty.

Why is my dolphin plant dying?

Overwatering or severe underwatering are the most common reasons why string of dolphins start to die.

To save a dying string of dolphin succulent plant that is overwatered, hold off watering until the soil dries.

If the potting soil is dry and the dolphin leaves appear shriveled, drench the soil with water to help bring it back to life.

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