Callisia repens, commonly referred to as the turtle vine, is a hardy, trailing succulent plant. If you’re new to caring for houseplants or just want something a bit more low maintenance than some of the finicky fodder out there, the turtle vine is an excellent choice. It’s perfect for hanging baskets or windowsill planters offering room for it to spread around. It grows quickly, too. If you’re too impatient for slow-growing plants that take months or even years to show substantial progress, the turtle vine is an excellent addition to your collection.
Care for these plants is simple, and they can stand up to a bit of neglect. Of course, any good plant parent wants to do more than just the minimum. Keep reading to learn about the ideal conditions for Callisia repens and how to help this fun little plant grow, flower, and thrive.
|Common Name||Turtle vine|
|Botanical Name||Callisia repens|
|Native Areas||Central America, South America, West Indies, Mexico|
|Sun/Light Requirements||Bright, indirect light|
|Water||Moderate, partially drought-tolerant|
|Soil||Well-draining, slightly acidic|
|Hardiness Zones||USDA zones 10 to 11|
Upon examining the leaves of the turtle vine, it’s no mystery how it earned the nickname. The top of the leaf is a delicate green and feels soft to the touch, with a slightly hairy or downy covering. The leaf’s underside is a darker purple, creating an image of a turtle wearing a green shell. The leaves can grow around one inch long. They’re not particularly large, but the plant grows quickly. As long as you offer it proper care, you’ll soon have a dense covering of those little ‘turtles’ all around the plant.
The turtle vine’s stems are a deep purple like the bottom of the leaf and can grow up to four feet long! They’re lovely to hang, either on their own or in combination with other plants. Callisia repens is a dream for those searching for a big payoff with little effort. You’ll gain a gorgeous hanging, trailing plant with minimal effort on your part.
If you manage to get your turtle vine to flower, don’t expect anything overly showy. Its flowers are small and white and reach out on thin, delicate stalks. They usually appear in late spring and early summer, so keep your eye out!
Turtle vine care isn’t difficult. It’s an easy plant to care for and you don’t need a wealth of plant care experience to successfully handle it. It has ideal conditions, just like every plant, but can tolerate fluctuation.
Since Callisia repens is a succulent, you can’t shut it away in a shaded room and expect it to live its best life. However, like with most succulents, direct light isn’t a great idea. It can burn and damage the leaves. Instead, give your turtle vine plenty of bright, indirect light.
If you have an east or north-facing window, that’s the perfect location for your turtle vine. Curtains can help create partially-shaded environments, too, if the only available location puts your plant in the path of direct sun. If you have any other succulents at home, you’re probably already meeting similar requirements. Squeezing in Callisia repens will be easy enough!
During summer, it’s safe to let your turtle vine spend some time outdoors. Keep it in a partially shaded area and don’t expose it to direct sunlight. When temperatures start to drop, bring it back inside! The fresh air and bright indirect light will kick its already fast growth into overdrive.
Too little light will stunt your turtle vine’s growth. If you’re not seeing the quick growth it’s known for, evaluate your lighting setup. Fortunately, remedying low-light situations is a lot easier than caring for a plant that was damaged or burned by too much sun.
Callisia repens prefers moist soil but doesn’t stand up well to being trapped in soggy, wet environments. It’s susceptible to root rot, like all succulents, so don’t overdo it. Use the finger test to determine when it needs more water. Once your soil’s top couple of inches feels dry, water your turtle vine.
Every two weeks will probably be sufficient, but it’s best to check the soil rather than set out specific times for watering. Turtle vines are only moderately drought-tolerant. They can’t store as much moisture in their leaves as other types of succulents, so you don’t want to fall too far behind on watering. Still, it’s better to miss out on watering than to overwater!
Well-draining soil is a must for your turtle vine. You’ll need something that stays moist without holding too much water. Callisia repens prefers things slightly acidic, too, so aim for a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. A standard potting soil mix is a viable option, as long as you combine it with extra drainage material like perlite or pumice. If you’re making your own mix, use a bit of peat moss to achieve the acidity levels – just don’t overdo it.
The priority with this soil mix is drainage. Everything else can be tweaked and adjusted if it seems that your turtle vine is lacking something! Root rot is difficult to reverse and can result in losing your whole plant.
During the growing season, use a balanced fertilizer every four to six weeks. Turtle vines don’t require a lot, but some extra supplementation certainly helps. Cut back on fertilizing once fall comes around and don’t dose these plants during winter.
Several commercial succulent fertilizers are on the market, and any will be suitable for your turtle vine. Just follow package instructions. If you notice any signs of yellowing or burn on your leaves, you’re giving too much fertilizer. Space your doses out a bit more.
Household temperatures are suitable for Callisia repens and you shouldn’t need to make any major adjustments. Anything from 60-85ºF is ideal, so they make happy houseplants.
If you keep your turtle vine outside, bring them indoors when temperatures dip toward 55ºF. They can tolerate brief periods of colder temperatures, but it’s not worth the risk. Move them away from cold drafts and they’ll be fine.
Temperatures are also tied to how frequently they need watering. Higher temperatures mean more watering.
These low-maintenance plants don’t have major preferences for humidity. Moderate levels suit them, so unless you have dry air in your home they’ll probably be fine without adjustment. If that’s the case, an occasional misting with room-temperature water will do the trick. There’s no need to break out the humidifier for Callisia repens.
If you’re taking great care of your turtle vine, it doesn’t require a lot of pruning. Remove any dead or decaying leaves and stems with sterilized pruning shears or scissors. Pruning during the growing season is best, but in general, you never want to leave dead leaves attached. Callisia repens replaces old growth quickly, so it’s necessary to keep your plant looking healthy and vibrant.
Turtle vines are easy to care for and easy to propagate. All you need is a healthy stem cutting, usually about four inches long. Remove the leaves from the bottom couple of inches, place the cutting in a container of clean water, and put that container in bright, indirect light. Change your water every few days to keep it clean.
Within a couple of weeks, you’ll see roots form. Remove your cutting and place it into your soil mixture. Voila! You’ll have a new turtle vine growing in no time.
Pests and Insects
Spider mites and mealybugs are common enemies for Callisia repens. You can identify them both easily enough.
Mealybugs leave evidence of their presence. If you spot something cottony or waxy on the surface of your turtle vine, go ahead and start treatment. Rinse the leaves thoroughly and start treatment with neem oil to get rid of them and keep them away!
Meanwhile, delicate webbing or stippling (with white or silvery dots) usually means you’re dealing with spider mites. They might also leave brown spots and damaged leaves in their wake. The insects themselves are tiny and either red or brown. Regardless of what tips you off first, you can treat them with plant-safe oils like neem oil or pyrethrum.
Although the turtle vine does grow quickly, you’ll only need to repot it every two years or so. Go one container size up and make sure there’s adequate drainage. You’ll overwhelm the roots if you choose a container that’s too large, so there’s no need to go overboard.
Once early spring rolls around, that’s the ideal time to repot. It’s the start of the growing season and your turtle vine will appreciate the extra room to spread.
Minimal effort and major reward – that’s what the turtle vine offers. With its easy-to-meet light requirements and a basic watering schedule, Callisia repens is a dream for new plant owners. This flowing plant will leave you feeling like your thumb has never been greener!