Heart chain, also known as Ceropegia woodii, is a graceful, elegant houseplant, renowned for its heart-shaped leaves and long, drooping stems. It’s an easy-care plant that’s perfect for beginners and experienced gardeners alike.
Origin of ceropegia woodii
The chain of hearts originates from the southern African countries of Zimbabwe and the Republic of South Africa. The species was named Ceropegia woodii in honor of the botanist who discovered it in 181. It belongs to the ceropegia genus, which comprises over 400 species.
Characteristics of ceropegia woodii
- Stem: This plant has creeping stems. From a single root system, a stem will grow about 10 cm before branching out in different directions. The slender, purplish stems drop straight down, making this plant the ideal choice for a hanging basket. The stems are stronger than they look. Under the right conditions, they can reach lengths of up to 4 m.
- Leaves: the plant is characterized by its small, thick, heart-shaped leaves (1 to 2 cm in diameter), which appear in pairs on the stem.
- Flowers: Summer is the main flowering season. The flowers have a surprising shape. They have a curious tubular shape with a bulbous base, pale purple-pink in color with a surprising brown hairy tip.
- Tubers: The heart chain also produces a tuber at its base and smaller tubers along its stem, at the bottom of a pair of leaves. They look like mini potatoes suspended in mid-air! They are in fact edible, and the larger tubers of other Ceropegia species are harvested for human consumption.
Where to place your heart chain?
The chain of hearts loves sunny places and warmth. It therefore needs a bright spot to thrive. It does not fear direct sunlight.
If the drooping habit of the stems has its charm, you can also grow it as a climber or keep it more compact, if that’s the effect you’re looking for.
Palisade Ceropegia woodii
It can be trained on a support, like a small vine. Shape a solid wire into the shape you prefer (heart-shaped, for example). Plant this support in the pot and wrap the stems one by one around it. Beware: Ceropegia stems get tangled and the whole affair can turn into a nervous breakdown if the stems have not been untangled beforehand!
Wrap it around itself
Wrapping the heart chains around themselves to form a loose ball. The plant loses its drooping appearance, but remains more compact. If you’ve got a playful cat, this is probably the right solution, especially as the sap from this oily plant can be toxic to cats who play with it too much…
How to care for your heart chain
☀ Light & temperature
The heart chain prefers bright light but also tolerates part shade. Avoid exposing it to direct sunlight, as this may cause burns on the leaves. A location near an east- or west-facing window would be ideal.
The heart chain prefers temperatures between 15°C and 25°C and does not like cold draughts.
💧 Water and feed
Ceropegia woodii is fairly drought-resistant. Let the potting soil dry between waterings, and make sure the pot has drainage holes to prevent water accumulation, as roots are sensitive to rot. In winter, reduce watering even more.
This plant does not require high levels of fertilization. A dilute fertilizer applied once a month during the growing season, from spring to autumn, is sufficient. Avoid fertilizing in winter when the plant is resting.
🦟 Diseases, pests and parasites
The heart chain is relatively resistant to disease and parasites. However, it can be affected by aphids, mealybugs and red spiders if growing conditions are not optimal. Make sure you maintain the right humidity and regularly inspect the leaves and stems for any signs of trouble.
🗑 Potting and cutting
Prune the stems of your Ceropegia regularly to encourage bushier growth. If the stems become too long, you can cut them off and replant them to create new plants. Repot your plant every 2 to 3 years, in spring, when you notice that the substrate is exhausted or the roots need more space.
Other varieties of ceropegia
Ceropegia woodii is mainly found in window boxes. But there are many other species, just as spectacular. Here are three of them:
- Ceropegia woodii ‘variegata’– this variegated variety has very pretty little silver, pink and cream leaves. The stem is purple and the intensity of the pink increases with the light.
- Ceropegia sandersonii or parachute plant. It can be rolled up on a support about 1m high. Its small, dark-green leaves are accompanied by umbrella-shaped white flowers speckled with green.
- Ceropegia ampliata – This succulent climber has stems up to 2m long and small, cylindrical leaves just a few millimetres long. Its flowers are what make it so original! They take the form of white tubes, swollen at the base.
- Ceropegia stapeliiformis – This curious species has a creeping habit and very broad stems compared with its tiny triangular leaves. The floral stems wrap around a support to rise high and host a strange flower, to say the least. White and purple, it opens with five pointed, funnel-shaped petals. A real plant curiosity!
Heart chain is a charming, undemanding plant that, with the right care, will reward you with beauty and vigorous growth. By respecting its needs in terms of light, water and nutrition, you’ll be able to enjoy the presence of this delicate plant for many years to come.