String Of Dolphins Plant: Comprehensive Care And Growing Guide

The String of Dolphins plant is a beautiful, quirky succulent with long, hanging stems and leaves shaped like little green jumping dolphins!

It is a ‘mild-mannered’ plant with a dislike of extremes, including:

  • heat – not too hot and not too cold
  • light – harsh direct sun will turn leaves reddish and cause sunburn, while too little light will make the plant grow leggy with flat leaves
  • moisture – like most succulents, it needs well-draining soil, but it likes a little bit of humidity

It’s ideal for growing in hanging baskets or as a trailing vine and makes an excellent houseplant that can be grown indoors in all climates or outdoors in warm climates. It is an easy-to-grow succulent plant that requires little maintenance.

String of Dolphins

In this guide we will tell you everything you need to know about caring for your string of dolphins plant. Light requirements, watering needs, temperature, soil and propagation. Plus, we’ll run through the steps you need to take if your string of dolphins starts to grow flat leaves, look leggy or otherwise unhealthy.

This really is a gorgeous, versatile plant, so you will want to know how to keep it healthy!

String Of Dolphins Plant

The string of dolphins succulent is part of a family of succulents native to South Africa. The scientific name for the String of Dolphins plant is Senecio peregrinus and Senecio Hippogriff.  Why two names? Senecio Hippogriff is now considered the correct name for this plant, but it is so widely known as senecio peregrinus that both are commonly used.

To add to the confusion, it is also known as Curio peregrinus. The senecio species covers over 1,250 varieties and Curio types are a designated subset of the senecio species.

Its other common names include dolphin necklace, flying dolphins and dolphin plant.

String of dolphins is a hybrid plant cultivated from a cross between Senecio rowleyanus (String of Pearls) and Senecio articulates (Candle Plant). Props to the botanists for creating this gem of a plant!

It is closely related to other trailing senecios, including String of Pearls, String of Bananas and String of Watermelons.

What Does A String Of Dolphins Plant Look Like?

String of Dolphins is a striking succulent plant with long, firm, green stems that trail over the edges of containers or hanging baskets.

The leaves are the talking point of this plant. They are relatively small at a maximum of 2 inches (5 cm) long. Fleshy and green in color, their shape resembles miniature leaping dolphins. The leaves grow on alternate sides of the stem and the whole plant looks like a pod of jumping dolphins!

String of Dolphins stem and leaves

Image source Pinterest

The leaves are not completely cylindrical. They have a groove along the center back of the leaf. You can see examples in the closeup photograph below. Think of them as a leaf that has curled up on itself with the two ‘flippers’ of the dolphin moving together. With incorrect watering, particularly overwatering, the leaf can start to uncurl and flatten out. And then it looks more like a flat fish than a dolphin!

Close up of string of dolphins leaves

How Big Does a String of Dolphins Succulent Get?

String of dolphins plants grow wide or long rather than tall. New stems grow up to 4 inches (10cm) before trailing over. In a mature plant, trailing stems can reach lengths up to 4 feet (1.2m) long.

String of dolphins is a fast-growing plant. In ideal growing conditions, the stems of young plants can grow by 20 inches (50cm) in a year. Given that rate of growth, it doesn’t take long to reach its mature size of 4 feet (1.2m).

This fast growth rate makes it popular for vertical green walls, hanging baskets and ground cover.

How Long Does String of Dolphins Plant Live?

Given its impressive growth rate, a string of dolphins plant can reach maturity within 3 – 5 years.

With the right care, your string of dolphins plant can live for up to 20 years.

Does String Of Dolphins Flower?

The String of Dolphins plant does flower once it has reached maturity, with small white flowers in late spring or early summer.

The flowers are delicate in appearance, with a scent of cinnamon. The flowers are white puffballs with surrounding red or bronze filaments. However, the plant is really kept for its unusual leaves rather than its flowers.

These plants are quite difficult to get to flower if kept indoors.

string of dolphins flower

Image source Pinterest

To encourage blooms, ensure your string of dolphins is allowed to rest well during winter. Cut back on watering, keep it in cooler temperatures (between 40 – 60 degrees Fahrenheit; 4 – 15 degrees Celsius) and provide plenty of indirect sunlight.  Also, keep your plant in a fairly small pot – being root-bound encourages flowering in this plant. 

String of Dolphins Light Requirements

A string of dolphin succulent thrives in bright, indirect sunlight.

If grown indoors, place your plant near a window where it will receive plenty of light.

If you live in a hot climate, steer clear of a window that is south-facing (if you are in the northern hemisphere or north-facing if you are in the southern hemisphere) where the direct sun and heat that goes with it may be too much for the plant.

If your string of dolphins is subjected to too much direct sunlight, its leaves can turn reddish or develop dark sunburn spots.

If growing your string of dolphins succulent outdoors, house it in a sheltered location where it will be protected from the harsh afternoon sun.

A string of dolphins plant can tolerate low light levels for a few months. If you grow your string of dolphins in a bathroom or office with low light, consider rotating its location every few months to a brighter environment.

If light levels are too low for too long, your string of dolphins may become leggy and stretched out, and its leaves may flatten. The stems may even start to grow upwards, searching for light, rather than trailing downwards.

String of dolphins can be grown under growlights if you can’t provide enough light for them naturally.

Water

Like most succulents, a string of dolphins plant prefers dry conditions. Water only when the soil is completely dry. Use room temperature water and the bottom-watering method if the plant’s pot has drainage holes.

If there are no drainage holes in the container, water from the top and give the plant a thorough water. This encourages the roots to grow downwards rather than staying shallow. However, you need to ensure you don’t overdo the water and leave the plant waterlogged. You want the soil to be completely dry after about a week – adjust any top watering to that amount.

Avoid getting water on the foliage if possible. Water early in the day to allow excess water to evaporate from the surface of the plant and soil’s surface before nightfall. Excess moisture can encourage rot and fungal growth (and you don’t want that).

String of dolphins is susceptible to root rot if the soil is left damp for too long.

An overwatered string of dolphins will have leaves that may become flat and turn yellow and mushy. The damage will start from the stem and move towards the tips of the leaves over time.

An underwatered string of dolphins plant will have shrivelled leaves with puckered skin. Signs of underwatering usually start from the tips of the leaves, migrating towards the stem over time.

It is a summer dormant plant, so you should reduce watering during summer heat and protect your string of dolphins plant from intense heat and direct sunlight.

For more information see our guide on how to tell if your succulent is overwatered or underwatered.

Humidity

A string of dolphin succulents can tolerate average indoor humidity levels and can live happily in a well-ventilated bathroom (don’t put it in a bathroom that stays steamy and has high humidity).

It prefers humidity levels of 40-50%.

If you live in a particularly dry climate, consider placing your plant on a pebble tray or use a humidifier to raise the humidity around it.

Temperature

The String of dolphins plant prefers warm temperatures and a Meditteranean-style climate. It does not thrive in extremes of cold or heat.

Its optimal temperature range is 65 – 72 degrees Fahrenheit (18 – 22 degrees Celsius) but it is comfortable in temperatures up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius).

It likes cooler temperatures of 40 – 60 degrees Fahrenheit (4 – 15 degrees Celsius) during its winter rest period.

String of dolphins is not cold-hardy and will not tolerate frost. Prolonged exposure to temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) can cause stunted growth.

If you live in a cold climate and want to grow your string of dolphins plant outside during summer, consider planting it in a pot so it can be brought inside during winter.

Soil

A string of dolphin succulents grows best in a well-draining succulent-specific soil.

If grown in a container, choose one with drainage holes in the bottom to allow excess water to escape. Damp soil can lead to root rot which is very damaging to succulents. It prefers a neutral soil with a pH range of 6.6-7.5.

For more information, see our guide to the best soil for succulents.

Fertilizer

A string of dolphin succulents doesn’t need much fertilizer to thrive. Too much fertilizer can damage this plant and, strangely, cause distorted leaf growth and the loss of the coveted dolphin shape.

We only fertilize our string of dolphins plant a couple of times a year – once at the start of spring as it moves into its growing phase and later in spring, or early summer, when it begins to flower.

Use a succulent-specific fertilizer at half the recommended strength and skip fertilizing altogether during summer and winter when growth slows down.

Fertilizer Burn

A string of dolphin succulents is susceptible to fertilizer burn, caused by using too much fertilizer or fertilizing too often.

If you notice brown or yellow spots on your leaves, this can be a sign that you need to cut back on fertilizing. Water the plant well and wait for signs of new growth before using fertilizer again.

String of Dolphins

Pruning

A string of dolphins succulent doesn’t need much pruning, but you may want to trim the stems if they are getting too long for you.

Use clean, sharp scissors and cut the stems down to a size that’s comfortable for you.

You should also remove yellowing, dead or damaged leaves, stems and flower stalks on a regular basis.

Are String Of Dolphins Toxic To Cats and Dogs?

String of dolphins is a toxic plant and is toxic to cats, dogs and other pets. They can even be harmful to humans.

If ingested, it can cause stomach pains, drooling, vomiting, lethargy and diarrhea.

It is best to keep your string of dolphins plant out of reach of pets and children.

Common Pests And Diseases

Pests

A string of dolphins succulent can be subjected to infestations of common succulent pests, such as mealy bugs, scale insects, spider mites and aphids.

Pests are attracted to plants that are unhealthy or growing in unsuitable conditions. Make sure you’re providing your plant with plenty of bright indirect light, good air circulation, and only water when the soil is completely dry.

Check the plant, including the undersides of leaves, regularly for evidence of small bugs, webbing or a sticky coating. These are all signs of a pest infestation.

If spotted early enough, most pest infestations can be treated by physically removing the pests with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol or by spraying with neem oil or insecticial soap.

Read our guide for more information on diagnosing succulent pests and treating pest infestations on succulents.

Diseases

String of dolphins can suffer from fungal infections, which tend to thrive in moist conditions.

If you notice brown spots on the leaves or stems of your plant, this is a sign of fungal infection. Cut away any affected parts of the plant and discard them immediately. You may also want to treat the soil with a fungicide to prevent the further spread of the disease.

To prevent further fungal infections, only water the soil and avoid getting water on the leaves. Water early in the day to allow surface moisture to evaporate before nightfall and ensure your plant has good air circulation around it.

Like most succulents, string of dolphins is susceptible to root rot if overwatering is combined with poor-draining soil resulting in its roots being waterlogged. For more information, read our comprehensive guide to succulent root rot, including signs, treatments and prevention.

String of Dolphins Potting And Repotting

String of dolphins plants don’t like having their roots disturbed, and being pot-bound can encourage flowering. You should only repot when you feel the current container is definitely too small or you want to refresh old nutrient-depleted soil.

If you do decide to repot, do so in the spring. Remove your plant from its current pot and shake off any loose soil. Place it in a new pot that’s only 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) larger than the previous one and backfill with fresh succulent-specific potting mix.

If at all possible, use a pot with drainage holes. It will make it more difficult to overwater and greatly decrease the chances of your plant developing root rot. If your preferred pot does not have drainage holes, consider double-potting; plant your succulent in a pot with drainage holes and place that inside your preferred decorative container.

Water well after repotting and don’t fertilize for at least a month to allow the plant time to adjust to its new home.

How To Propagate String of Dolphins

The easiest way to propagate a string of dolphin succulents is by taking stem cuttings. The best time of year to take cuttings is in spring.

Start by trimming off a 4-inch (10 cm) stem tip with clean, sharp scissors. Choose a healthy, undamaged stem with at least two leaf nodes.

Remove all but the two topmost sets of leaves of the cutting and any flowers.

Allow the cut end to dry out and callous over for a couple of days. Then, place it into moistened succulent soil so only an inch (2.5 cm) of the stem is buried.

Water well and place the pot in a bright, warm spot out of direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist, but not wet, until roots have formed and new growth appears. This can take four to eight weeks.

Once your plant has rooted, you can begin watering it as normal.

Can You Propagate A String of Dolphins From A Leaf?

Yes, you can propagate a string of dolphins from a leaf. Find a healthy leaf, twist it to break it off from the stem gently and leave the end to dry out and callous over for a few days before potting in suitable soil and continue care as described above.

Can You Propagate String Of Dolphins Succulent Plant In Water?

Yes, you can propagate a string of dolphins succulent plant in water. To do so, cut a healthy stem and remove all but the topmost leaves as described above.

Place the cutting in a glass of filtered or distilled water in a spot with bright, indirect light, and wait for roots to form. (You don’t need to wait for the cut end to callous over if you place the cutting straight into water rather than soil).

Tap water can contain chlorine or fluoride, which is harmful to the plant, so it’s best to use distilled or filtered water if possible.

Once roots have formed, you can transplant the cutting into the soil and continue care as described in the sections above.

FAQS

Why Does My String Of Dolphins Plant Have Flat Leaves?

A healthy string of dolphins plant has plump, green leaves. If the leaves are flat, it can be a sign of:

  • insufficient bright light – move your light to a brighter location with plenty of bright, indirect sunlight
  • overwatering – leave your plant to dry out completely before watering again
  • nutrient deficiencies – consider giving your plant a boost with carefully applied fertilizer

Why Is My String Of Dolphins Dying?

The most common causes of decline in a string of dolphins plant are:

  • underwatering
  • overwatering
  • too much or too little sunlight
  • poor draining soil
  • root rot

The sections above describe the various signs of each. Once you have identified the problem, treat it or move your plant to more optimal conditions, which should improve its health. If you think your plant is too far gone but has a few healthy leaves or stems, consider propagating a new plant from a healthy stem.

Why Is My String Of Dolphins Plant Drying Up?

If your string of dolphins plant is drying up, it could be due to the following:

  • excessive heat – move the plant to a cooler spot (and make sure it is not exposed to direct sunlight).
  • underwatering – this will usually be accompanied by shriveling leaves with puckered skin.
  • insufficient light – move your plant to a brighter spot with indirect sunlight or place it under a growlight. If your window has direct sunlight, consider using a sheer curtain to diffuse the light and protect your plant.
  • overwatering – perversely, your plant may start to shrivel up and die if you overwater it. If the roots become waterlogged and unable to take up nutrients, the plant will start to shrivel and die. If the soil is damp, check the roots of the plant for root rot and allow the plant to dry out thoroughly before repotting in dry soil.

If parts of the plant are extremely dry and crispy, you may need to prune those damaged parts and allow your plant to concentrate its energy on revitalising the rest of the plant.

Why Is My String of Dolphins Plant Turning Yellow Or Brown?

Leaf discoloration is usually due to:

  • overwatering – the leaves will start to turn translucent and mushy. The soil may be damp.
  • underwatering – the skin of the leaves will appeared puckered and the leaves will start to shrivel. The soil will be completely dry.
  • insufficient light – move your plant to a brighter spot. If the leaves have brown spots, this could be sunburn, and you need to move your plant to an area with indirect sunlight and away from direct sun.
  • pest infestation – check for pests and treat the infestation immediately.

String of Dolphins Dying At Base

If your string of dolphins plant has stems that are turning brown and mushy at the base, it is probably suffering from root rot.

If the root has advanced to an extent that the stems are brown and rotting, your best bet is to propagate a new  plant from a healthy stem tip.

Wrapping Up

String of Dolphins is a stunning succulent with beautiful leaves that are sure to be a talking point and a firm family favorite.

It is an easy-care, fast-growing plant that thrives in mild conditions. It’s perfect for hanging baskets and trailing from shelves and the tops of cupboards. An ideal plant for home decor and outdoor spaces, provided the light and temperature conditions are suitable.

It’s a sure-fire winner and one of our absolute favorites.

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