With its signature foliage, the String of Dolphins is an undeniably beautiful plant – and one that gardeners around the world enjoy propagating from.
Why? Because whether you’re a beginner or expert, propagating from this succulent is both easy and straightforward – and I am here to guide you through it all.
Whether it’s propagation by soil or water, the result will be fresh, rich-looking succulents that are easy to take care of, and will undoubtedly beautify any room of your home.
A hybrid between the string of pearls and candle plant, the String of Dolphins is a hardy succulent that is straightforward to propagate from. Provide well-drained soil, an effective root hormone, and place in a bright space with indirect light, and watch one of the world’s most interesting-looking plants thrive before your very eyes.
Why Propagate String of Dolphins?
There are two main reasons for propagating a String of Dolphins:
The first is by salvaging a failing plant. Often, gardeners will seek to grow a new plant and start afresh when things didn’t go quite to plan.
The String of Dolphins is a very easy plant to salvage – simply cut a healthy tendril from it and you may hold everything you need to harvest a brand new plant!
Secondly, gardeners often propagate The String of Dolphins because it is such an easy to grow, enjoyable plant to have in your home. It’s both hardy and drought-tolerant, meaning it can thrive even if you forget to water it.
Not only that, but as succulents, they have a beautiful, vibrant green hue with fragrant flowers too. And because they’re easy to look after, making copies you won’t be adding any additional work to your weekly gardening routine.
When to Propagate String of Dolphins
There are two scenarios you must consider with this question. Ask yourself – why am I propagating?
If it’s to help salvage a failing String of Dolphins, act immediately. After all, you can only propagate using healthy parts of the plant. With a clean knife, cut off a healthy strand to begin the propagation process.
If you want to develop your collection of indoor plants, you can take a cutting from a healthy plant to develop in your own time.
However, it’s always best practice to align this with just before the plant’s growing season, which in this case is springtime or early summer.
Doing so during these seasons ensures the main plant won’t succumb to much distress when you make take your cuttings.
Does Your String of Dolphins Have to Be Healthy to Successfully Propagate?
The simple answer is no, not entirely. Propagation is a useful tool gardeners use to salvage damaged or failing plants. That said, you can only take leaf cuttings from the undamaged parts of your plant.
For that reason, if propagating from a failing String of Dolphins, time is of the essence! Select healthy tendrils and ensure any damaged or decayed parts are cut cleanly off.
It’s always a good idea to remove any ‘dolphin-like leaves from your cuttings that are located near the bottom, as you don’t want them to rot in the soil or water.
How Long Does It Take to Propagate String of Dolphins?
The string of Dolphins is a slow-growing succulent and as such, it may take up to 2 weeks for signs of growth to appear, or even longer.
For that reason, many gardeners apply a rooting hormone on the cutting to help give it a head start, and fertilizer to speed up growth.
Be mindful that succulents appreciate light fertilizing, with a dilute mixture. If a String of Dolphins grows too fast, it will look baldy, stringy, and weed-like.
What You’ll Need:
Get your pencil and checklist ready – here’s what you need to start your propagating off.
● A clean pair of scissors/shears or sharp cutting knife
● A suitable container/pot close by. I recommend terracotta or clay.
● Filtered, distilled water if propagating by water
● Well-draining potting soil
● Root hormone (optional)
● Depending on your space, you may need a net/burlap to block direct sunlight
The Best Conditions for String of Dolphins Propagation
Bright, Indirect Light
To give your propagated Strings of Dolphin the best possible chance, you need to get your lighting just right.
Although this succulent plant normally manages direct sunlight well, its cuttings are more vulnerable to scorching and dehydration. Think of them as babies needing additional help in the early stages.
If your cuttings get too much harsh sunlight, any new growth you spot may be discolored, have spots, and have an altogether withered appearance. Your dolphin leaves will look more like sardines!
So how do you manage light? The best lighting for your propagation to succeed will be a bright space with indirect light.
As I’ve said previously, you can always add protection to your plants by placing a net or similar material over to block out harmful rays. As your cuttings grow, you can introduce them to more and more gradual natural light.
The Right Pot
Next, you need to find the right home for your propagated String of Dolphins.
Because this plant appreciates well-drained soil, I highly recommend using a terracotta or clay pot for your preparation needs. Why?
Clay pots are porous, which means they won’t hold on to the water for too long. This makes them ideal for succulent plants like the String of Dolphins, who prefer moderate watering and whose roots will not fair well when soggy.
Similarly, terracotta pots help take excess moisture out of the soil and help prevent root rot – a major cause of succulents failing.
Terracotta pots are often longer and sturdier in shape than competing materials, allowing the long tendril-like roots of the String of Dolphins to develop.
Regardless of the pot type, the one thing you must always ensure is that it has drainage holes to allow excess water to escape.
Clean Pots and Tools
Think of propagation as a form of surgery on your plant – and the first rule of any surgery is keeping things clean and sterile.
That means the tablespace you are working on should be prepare beforehand and be in pristine condition. All tools you use, including the jar/container, should also be sterile before you start propagation.
If you’re taking multiple cuts, remember to sterilize each instrument after use to ensure no cross-contamination occurs. If propagating by soil, ensure it is fresh and free from fungus/bacteria – likewise if you’re using water.
I highly recommend that you use distilled, filtered water instead of tap water. Tap water often has fluctuating levels of harsh chemicals like fluoride and chlorine which can hamper propagated cuttings from taking form.
The Right Soil Medium
It’s very easy to get the soil just right for a String of Dolphins. As succulent, they enjoy well-drained soil. I highly recommend using a mixture of 50% sand and 50% peat/compost, which will provide enough moisture and drainage.
Some gardeners like to add organic mixtures to the soil to help improve drainage even further. You can add substances like coco coir, bark, and perlite to improve aeration and manage your watering.
Additionally, substances like charcoal will also help your propagated plant’s newly formed roots to absorb nutrients more efficiently.
Like many other plants, I highly recommend that you conduct a feel test frequently on the soil. Only water your plant when the first 2 inches or so are dry.
The Right Amount of Water
Succulents can typically retain water for much longer periods versus other indoor plants. That’s why many forgetful gardeners love them so much because they don’t mind long periods of drought.
That said, you need to strike the right balance of water to ensure your propagated String of Dolphins has the best chance of success. Especially in the early days.
The major concern you’ll face is root rot, which is when too much water accumulates at the bottom of the container and suffocates roots.
Roots can’t absorb oxygen or nutrients, and the entire plant will begin to fail. Not only that, with root rot the roots will slowly decay and emit a foul smell. Not a pretty outcome, right?
The good news is that you can easily avoid this scenario. When watering your String of Dolphins, ensure that the water can make its way through the soil to the bottom.
The container should have drainage holes where excess water can escape. Make sure to tip this water out when it arises.
A sure sign your new plant is being overwatered is the dolphin-like leaves we all so admire become swollen and develop discoloration and spotting. Reduce watering until your leaves recover, and only water when the top 2 inches of the container’s soil is dry.
The Right Temperatures
The String of Dolphins makes for an ideal indoor plant because it not only tolerates average temperatures but thrives in them.
This is the same for every step of the propagation process. The ideal temperature you should be aiming for is around 68-77°F (20 – 25°C).
Ensure you propagate in a shaded area, as cuttings should never be exposed to direct sunlight. An easy fix for this is placing a net or burlap over the area, thus protecting your vulnerable String of Dolphins from sunburn.
Root hormones can be used during propagation to stimulate root development and bolster your new plant. Generally, as String of Dolphins is slow-growing, a rooting hormone can give it just the head-start it needs.
There are natural root hormones and synthetic hormones you can use. Natural root hormones like honey, yeast extract, and coconut milk are effective ways of amplifying your plant’s growth rate. (Source: ResearchGate)
Ways to Propagate String of Dolphins
Don’t worry if you’re new to propagation, as the String of Dolphins is one of the easier succulents to work with. There are two main avenues I’m going to suggest – propagating in water, and soil.
Stem Cuttings Propagation in Water
Propagating plants in water is an easy way of making new plants, and requires no specialized equipment. All you need to get started are sterile cutting equipment (scissors/knife), a glass or jar, and a healthy selection of your String of Dolphins plant.
- Scout a suitable strand off your String of Dolphins measuring 3-5 inches in length. Cut cleanly with a sterile pair of scissors or knives. Remove any low-bearing foliage near the bottom, to prevent them from rotting.
- Then, immediately place the strand in a glass jar and fill it with distilled/filtered water. Tap water mat contains harsh chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride which can negatively affect a cuttings’ progress.
- Place in a west-facing window, making sure there is not too much direct sunlight.
- Replace the jar’s water in a week to replenish nutrients and oxygen.
- Thin, long tendril-like roots should develop in the coming weeks. Transfer to a container with well-draining soil.
The benefits of water propagation are that you’ll be able to see root development easier (and thus assess the health of cuttings), and there are reduced chances of bacteria/fungi versus soil propagation.
Stem Cuttings Propagation in Soil
You can also use soil to propagate a String of Dolphins plant. The main thing to consider when propagating by this means is observing ‘the callus’. When cut, the String of Dolphins forms a callus, which is soft tissue on the wound. It is here where the new roots will take hold.
- Cut a suitable strand off your String of Dolphins measuring 3-5 inches in length. Again, remember to use a sterile pair of scissors or knives.
- Allow a callus to form, which should take up to 2 days.
- Place the cutting in a container with prepared soil mix.
- You can dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone to help promote new growth.
- Keep the container in a bright space with indirect sunlight and only water when soil is dry to the touch.
Propagating with soil has the added benefit of securing the cutting in place and strengthening its roots.
The only thing to keep in mind with soil propagation is that you’ll need to ensure soil is fungus/bacteria-free and suitable for succulents to grow in.
Soil should contain sandy as well as pumice or perlite, which provides drainage and enhanced aeration, preventing root rot.
String of Dolphins Propagation Problems
One of the major considerations you should have when propagating any succulent, especially a String of Dolphins is root rot. This mainly occurs through soil propagation, but can also crop up via water propagation when you transfer it into a new pot.
Root rot occurs when too much water clumps into the root area, suffocating roots and preventing them from absorbing nutrients correctly.
Also, remember to wait the appropriate amount of time to allow the callus to heal before placing the cutting in the soil. Placing an exposed wound into the soil may make the cutting susceptible to disease.
How to Care for String of Dolphins After Propagation
It’s important to keep your String of Dolphins in a bright space with indirect sunlight in the early days of propagation. Too much direct light can damage the cutting and scorch its leaves.
It also can dehydrate the plant and soil quicker, making it harder to strike the right balance when watering. My advice is to gradually introduce more light to the plant in tandem with new growth.
String of Dolphins Propagation Success Rate
Generally, it may take up to 2 weeks for your String of Dolphins to take form. Be patient, but you’ll be glad to know that succulents are incredibly hardy and have a high rate of successful propagation.
How to make String of Dolphins Fuller
One of the major selling points of the String of Dolphins is its vibrant, striking foliage. But if your String of Dolphins is looking sparse, exhausted, and worse for wear, it can be disheartening. Don’t worry.
Your newly propagated plant can be revitalized easily. Consider the following:
- Fertilizer – succulent enjoy light fertilizers, if you think your String of Dolphins needs a quick pick-me-up, it’s worth considering. Dilute a liquid fertilizer 50/50 with water, and use it during the active growing season (summertime).
- Lighting – ensure your plant is getting enough light to keep leave tendrils strong and bulky. Remember, whilst String of Dolphins can handle some sunlight, it’s best to choose a bright space with indirect light. Too much sun can scorch leaves and dehydrate your plant.
- Watering – as one of the most important resources for a plant, you must always strike a balance with watering. Too much water will suffocate roots and lead to root rot. This will deplete your plant’s nutrients, and leave it looking withered and discolored. Too little water and the dolphin-shaped leaves will turn blueish. Too much water and leaves will start to droop and sag.
- Repotting – sometimes appearances can be deceiving, and it may be that your pot is not suited to the needs and growth rate of your String of Dolphins. Remember when repotting to a new container, to check roots for any signs of stress or disease. Because of their long-stretching roots, succulents enjoy taller containers to grow in.