Step-by-Step Guide to Growing and Caring for Callisia repens (Turtle Vine) at Home  

The turtle vine (Callisia repens) is a stunning trailing succulent that’s ready to brighten up your home. If you put it in a hanging basket or on top of a tall table, you’ll be able to watch the stems cascade downwards. And since the cute tiny leaves come in all shades of green and purple, you can collect more than one variety. Fortunately, these plants are easy to care for as long as your home receives enough sun. Keep reading to learn all about how to grow and care for Callisia repens at home.


How to Grow Callisia repens (Turtle Vine) – The Essentials

Botanical Name:Callisia repens
Also Known As:Turtle vine, Bolivian Jew, creeping inchplant, basket plant
Growing Difficulty:Easy to moderate
Light Requirements:Bright yet indirect light for at least six hours each day; can handle some direct light and shade
Temp & Humidity:Prefers temperatures between 60-85ºF and moderate humidity
Watering Needs:Water when the top one to two inches of soil is dry; about once every two weeks in the summer and once every three weeks in the winter
Soil Preferences:Well-draining, pH of 5.0 to 6.5
Fertilizing:Feed with a succulent fertilizer every month during the summer
Growth Expectations:Up to four inches tall and four feet wide/long
Toxicity:Toxic to humans and pets

About Callisia repens (Turtle Vine)

About Callisia repens (Turtle Vine)

Plant Family, Genus, and Species

  • Family: Commelinaceae (spiderwort family)
  • Genus: Callisia
  • Species: repens

Origins and History

The turtle vine is native to areas in Central America and South America. In its native areas, it often covers the ground in rocky or sandy areas.

During the 20th century, Callisia repens became a common garden plant and houseplant. As the plant spread throughout the world, it made its way into wild landscapes.

Unfortunately, Callisia repens is considered an invasive species in areas outside its native range. It is deemed to be invasive in South Africa, Cuba, Hong Kong, and other countries.

General Botanical Characteristics

Callisia repens is a trailing succulent that can grow up to four inches tall and four inches wide/long.

These plants have many succulent, thin stems that can grow multiple feet long. These stems are covered with small, oppositely arranged leaves. If the stems make contact with the ground, they will root.

The leaves are ovular in shape with a pointed tip. At the stem tips, leaves are smaller and appear to curl around each other.

Leaves are typically some shade of green and purple, but some varieties are yellow or white. The leaves may be variegated, and the undersides may differ in color from the tops of the leaves.

While Callisia repens can produce clusters of small, white flowers, houseplants rarely flower.

There’s some overlap in various names, and plants aren’t always labeled. With that in mind, keep a lookout for the following popular varieties.

  • ‘Pink Lady’: light green and purple variegated leaves
  • ‘Copper Jewel’: yellow to lime green leaves set on pink stems
  • ‘Bianca’: a mixture of green leaves, light pink leaves, and pink and green variegated leaves

Uses & Benefits

The turtle vine is primarily used for ornamental purposes. It’s a popular houseplant around the world.

You can plant the turtle plant outdoors in frost-free areas. If you do choose to plant outdoors, be aware that it can quickly overtake areas.

Toxicity

Callisia repens is toxic to both humans and other animals. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep it out of reach of children and pets.

How Long Does Callisia repens Live?

With the proper care, Callisia repens plants can live for over ten years.


How to Grow Callisia repens (Turtle Vine) at Home

How to Grow Callisia repens (Turtle Vine) at Home

Growth Expectations

When grown indoors, Callisia repens typically max out at about four inches tall. Once it reaches this height, it starts trailing downwards.

If given the right environment and care, stems can grow up to four feet long.

The turtle vine grows quickly if you provide the proper care. Plants often grow over a foot each year.

What to Do Before Planting Callisia repens

Remember that the turtle vine is a trailing plant. While it won’t get very tall, it can grow quite long and makes an excellent indoor hanging plant around the home.

Therefore, you’ll need to select a container and area that can handle this growth. Hanging baskets work great, or you can place a pot on top of a tall table.

You’ll also need to find a suitable location in your home. Since these plants like bright yet indirect light, consider placing them a few feet away from a bright window. You can also hang them in front of a sunny window covered with a sheer curtain.

What’s the Best Soil Mix for Callisia repens?

What's the Best Soil Mix for Callisia repens?

Turtle vine plants require a well-draining potting mix. They aren’t too particular about the composition as long as the mix drains well.

Soil mixes labeled for cacti and succulents are a good choice. These allow access water to escape, which prevents conditions such as root rot.

Alternatively, you can make your own soil mix. To do so, mix together equal parts peat moss, perlite, and sand.

How to Plant Turtle Vine

Since turtle vine is a fast-growing plant, you’ll want to choose a container that allows for growth. Even if your plant is only a few inches tall, choose a planter that is at least four inches in diameter. You should also ensure that the container has drainage holes.

After you’ve filled the container with potting mix, place your plant so only the roots are covered.

Turtle Vine Light Preferences 

Turtle vine plants prefer bright yet indirect light. Low light will stunt their growth and too much direct light can cause leaf scorch.

Ideal locations include areas that are a few feet away from a south-facing or east-facing window.

Temperature and Humidity Preferences

Callisia repens prefers temperatures between 60-85ºF. With that said, these plants can tolerate brief periods of colder temperatures.

These plants also prefer moderate humidity.


How to Care for Callisia repens (Turtle Vine) at Home

How to Care for Callisia repens (Turtle Vine) at Home

When and How to Water Callisia repens

While Callisia repens is a type of succulent, its leaves don’t hold quite as much water as other succulents. Therefore, it isn’t quite as drought tolerant.

With that said, the turtle vine can handle periods of drought. It will suffer if it is in constantly damp soil.

A good rule of thumb is to allow the top one to two inches of soil to dry out in between waterings. The amount of time this will take depends on the temperature, light, and time of year. However, expect to water about every two weeks in the summer and every three to four weeks in the winter.

When you water Callisia repens, make sure to saturate the soil thoroughly.

These plants aren’t too picky about the type of water, so tap water is fine. You can also use filtered water or rainwater.

Fertilizing Turtle Vine

The turtle vine isn’t a heavy feeder, but it will benefit from regular fertilization during the growing season. You should fertilize from late spring to late summer and stop once fall arrives.

Select a balanced fertilizer labeled for houseplants or succulents. Dilute the product following package instructions.

Pruning Callisia repens

While you don’t need to prune turtle vines, pruning will help keep larger plants under control. Fortunately, pruning is easy.

Before you start pruning, you’ll need to gather the proper tools. You can use either a sharp knife or a pair of pruning shears. Make sure to sanitize whatever tool you choose.

Once you have your tool, simply cut off sections of stem. It’s important not to remove more than a third of the plant tissue at one time.

The best time to year to prune is during the early spring when plants are actively growing.

Propagating Callisia repens

Turtle vine is easy to propagate by stem cuttings. To propagate new plants, follow these steps.

  1. Use a sanitized pair of shears to remove a three to four-inch-long stem tip.
  2. Carefully remove leaves from the bottom two inches of the cutting.
  3. Place the cutting in a jar of clean water. Make sure no leaves are touching the water.
  4. Set the container somewhere where it receives indirect light.
  5. Wait for a few weeks until the plant has sprouted roots. During this period, change the water every few days.
  6. Once the roots are half an inch long, you may repot the cutting in a container filled with a well-draining soil mix.

When and How to Repot Callisia repens 

Since the turtle vine is a quick-growing plant, it typically needs to be repotted every one to two years. As plants grow older, they’ll need to be repotted less frequently. Early to mid-spring is the best time to repot turtle vine plants.

To repot your plant, remove it from its current container. Inspect the roots for signs of damage and prune off any diseased areas—dust of any excess potting mix.

Select a new container that is a few inches bigger than the old pot. Fill the bottom with fresh potting soil and add your plant. Fill the remainder of the pot with potting soil and water well.


Common Callisia repens (Turtle Vine) Problems & How to Treat Them

Common Callisia repens (Turtle Vine) Problems & How to Treat Them

Overwatering

Overwatering is a common problem with turtle vine plants. Unfortunately, it’s possible to water these plants to death!

If you water too often, plants will end up sitting in constantly moist soil. This can lead to a group of fungi known as root rot.

Root rot can cause roots to become soft and slimy. As you might expect, these roots are unable to take up water and nutrients. Therefore, the whole plant suffers.

Remedying overwatering is simple; water less. Remember that you only need to water turtle vines when the top one to two inches of soil is dry.

Even if you’re watering the proper amount, there could be other underlying issues. Ensure that you are using well-draining soil and a container with drainage holes.

Brown or Yellow Patches on Leaves

If you notice sections of the leaves are discoloring, the environment is likely to blame. The tricky part is figuring out what aspect of the environment is off.

Too much direct sun can scorch a turtle vine’s leaves, causing discoloration. If your plant receives a lot of direct sun, this could be the cause. This is especially true during periods of high temperatures.

Fortunately, the solution is easy: move your plant to an area that receives less direct light.

Another potential cause of discolored leaves is not enough water. While these plants don’t need a ton of water, they will suffer during periods of intense drought. If the top two inches of soil is dry, it’s time to water your plant.


Essential Tools

Essential House Plant Tools

It’s good to have a sharp pair of pruning shears on hand to trim back stems. A hanging basket or tall table is also helpful since either will give the plant room to spread.


Wrapping Up Turtle Vine Care

If you’re looking for a stunning trailing plant, the turtle vine fits the bill. With a little bit of care, you can watch your turtle vine grow into an impressive statement plant.


Growing Callisia repens (Turtle Vine) FAQs:

Yes, Callisia repens is a good indoor plant. As long as you provide bright, indirect light, these plants can thrive indoors.

Callisia repens plants can grow up to four inches tall and four feet long.

Callisia repens is a quick-growing plant. The vines can grow over a foot per year.

Turtle vines prefer moderate humidity. You generally don’t need to worry about humidity unless your home is extremely dry. If this is the case, mist the air around your plant with water every few days.

Yes, these plants are toxic to pets.

Callisia repens plants can handle a bit of shade, but they won’t thrive in low light. They should receive at least five to six hours of bright light each day.


Briana Yablonski
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Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

Author

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

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