The Complete Callisia Repens Care Guide

The Callisia repens, sometimes called turtle vine or creeping inchplant, is a succulent that grows in the wild in Central and South America. Like many succulents, the Callisia repens is easy to grow and super simple to propagate, making it an excellent plant for beginners.

The Callisia repens actually grows on rooftops in Hong Kong as a naturalized species, but Western Australians consider the plant an invasive species because it grows so fast and suffocates native plants.

Callisia Repens Care
Photo by Yercaud-elango, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Although the plant isn’t looked upon favorably everywhere around the world, it makes a beautiful houseplant with its delicately scented white flowers and the way it droops over the side of its pot.

In the following paragraphs, you’ll learn everything there is to know about the Callisia repens.

Callisia Repens Quick Care Guide

Scientific NameCallisia repens
Common Name(s)Turtle vine, creeping inchplant
FamilyCommelinaceae
Size4 inches tall and creeping
LightBright indirect light or part sun
SoilSoil for succulents with pumice
WaterEnough water to prevent it from drying completely
TemperatureFrost tolerant, no less than 30 degrees Fahrenheit
HumidityNot too humid or too dry
FertilizerNot required with yearly repotting
PropagationCuttings
Pests and DiseasesSpider mites, aphids, and mealybugs 
ToxicityWhen eaten, it is mildly toxic but not fatal to people and pets

Taking care of your Callisia repens is straightforward when you get all the ingredients right.

Start with well-draining soil that will help the plant retain moisture temporarily but won’t encourage the plant to remain moist for several days.

Then, find a location in your home that receives a lot of bright but indirect light. The Callisia likes bright light but doesn’t do well under direct sunlight.

Finally, adopt a watering schedule for your Callisia that allows the soil’s top inch to dry before each new watering.

All About the Callisia Repens

The Callisia repens is a popular ornamental houseplant and is also occasionally grown as a ground cover in gardens in warm climates. The plant is sometimes called turtle vine because turtles enjoy eating it.

However, the plant isn’t edible by humans and should remain out of reach of curious children.

A handful of variations of the plant exist, with the famous Pink Lady variety offering a beautiful combination of striped pink and green leaves.

The Callisia repens “variegate” is another beautiful variety. It resembles the Pink Lady but has a more significant difference between its pink and green leaves.

Some people gravitate toward the Pink Panther variety, which features a full head of pink striped leaves, but many people opt for the straight Callisia repens, with its gray-green foliage and pink stems.

If you look at the bottom of the leaves of the Callisia repens, you’ll notice they look purple.

The Callisia repens is a forgiving houseplant and an excellent option for first-time succulent owners. Even though the succulent is native to tropical regions, it’s possible to grow this plant virtually anywhere as a houseplant.

To grow the Callisia repens outside, you must live in USDA hardiness zones 10 or 11.

Callisia Repens Care

Light

Callisia repens loves light but not direct sunlight. If you have a bright window somewhere in your home, your Callisia should enjoy sitting near it in its little pot.

Although the plant might look beautiful next to your sun-loving collection of cactuses and echeveria, try to avoid putting it in direct sunlight.

The Callisia is relatively hardy when it comes to its light requirements, and you could stick the plant in the darkest corner of your home, and it wouldn’t die. However, you might not get the prettiest plant by putting it in the darkest recesses of your house.

Locate the brightest window in your home and place your Callisia a few feet away from the window’s direct sunlight.

Your Callisia repens will reward you with beautifully bushy growth, and its placement near the sunlight will also help you keep the plant from remaining too moist after you water it.

Water

The area of care where the Callisia repens is the most sensitive is its watering schedule. The succulent can die without enough water and can also die slowly when left to sit in a puddle of water in its pot.

Generally, it’s better to under-water a Callisia rather than water it too frequently.

As a succulent, the Callisia holds water inside itself, which means it doesn’t need as much water as other common houseplants like ferns, which enjoy constant moisture.

The soil of your Callisia repens should get mostly but not completely dry before you water it again.

Stick a finger in the soil if you need clarification on whether it’s time to water the plant. The top inch of the soil should dry out before the plant requires water again.

If you find that the plant isn’t drying out as expected, toss the soil around with a spoon or fork to aerate it and make it more likely to drain at the right rate.

Soil

With the right amount of water and sunlight, your Callisia repens can grow in virtually any soil, but as a succulent, well-draining soil is best.

If you’re worried about the plant becoming too waterlogged and developing root rot, adding peat moss to the soil should help you avoid that problem.

If you’re not inclined to purchase specialized succulent soil for your Callisia repens, add perlite to the soil to increase drainage. Remember to make sure the pot has some drainage holes, too, or it won’t matter that you choose well-draining soil.

Alternatively, you can also purposefully use soil that drips less quickly, which can help you when you regularly forget to water your Callisia repens.

The plant is quite forgiving but can only tolerate a lack of water for so long before it just gives up. Try a regular houseplant potting mix rather than a succulent mix.

Fertilizer

Technically, the Callisia repens can grow without fertilizer and won’t die without it. If you feed the plant, you don’t need to choose a specialty fertilizer.

A general-purpose fertilizer for succulents is fine, but you can also use any fertilizer designed for indoor plants, especially if your plant lives inside.

Fertilizing your Callisia is also one way to make your plant bushier, especially when it’s become too leggy due to a lack of sunlight.

After pruning the plant back, you can add some fertilizer to encourage regrowth, preferably in the summer when the plant is most active.

If you choose to fertilize your Callisia, add liquid fertilizer to the water about once a month during the summer.

The best NPK ratio is 8-8-8. If you have just purchased your Callisia repens from a garden center, you don’t need to fertilize the plant for at least a year.

Propagation

It’s pretty simple to propagate a Callisia repens via a cutting.

When you want to make a new plant, cut off one of the stems so that it retains at least five leaves. The cutting shouldn’t sit in direct sunlight and should rest for a few days in the shade as the end of the stem scabs over.

It’s important to wait to plant the cutting until the scab forms because an open wound at the base of the stem may invite bacteria into the plant when it enters the soil.

You can place the cutting in a cup of water for about a week if you’d like the cutting to create some roots before you put it in the soil.

Overall, Callisia repens are incredibly easy to propagate, and the process is virtually always successful, as long as you’re careful about how much sun the cutting receives while it rests.

You may want to disinfect the scissors you use to reduce the likelihood of bacteria or harm to the new plant.

Troubleshooting

Common Problems

Watering. Callisia repens are easy to grow but still suffer when they get too much or too little water. Once you know how often to water your Callisia, the plant is relatively easy to care for, especially when you get its placement right.

However, if you see the stems starting to get brown or the tiny leaves of the plant begin to drop off, you could be watering the plant at the wrong interval.

If you wait too long before changing the frequency of watering, the only way to save the plant is to take a cutting and make a new Callisia.

Sunlight. Some succulents like tons of sun, and others live pretty easily in the shade. The Callisia enjoys less sun than a succulent like an echeveria or jade plant.

A sign that your Callisia is getting too much sun is crispy brown leaves that seem parched despite a proper watering schedule.

A lack of sunlight can also cause problems for the Callisia. Although the plant will grow in low light, it may become leggy or stretched out because it is searching for brighter light.

If your Callisia is becoming leggy, moving it to a brighter place in your home should reverse the problem.

Pests and Diseases

Several bugs enjoy feasting on Callisia repens and living on the plant’s delicate parts, and it’s important to examine the plant regularly for signs of insect infestation.

Even if you keep your home clean, bugs can find their way in, especially when there are welcoming places to live, like plants.

Common bugs that attack Callisia repens include spider mites, whiteflies, aphids, mealybugs, thrips, and scale. Some of these bugs are easy to eradicate when you catch them early.

For example, you can pluck aphids off plants with your fingers and get ahead of an infestation.

However, advanced infestations may require using an insecticide to fight the problem. It’s usually a good idea to keep the plant isolated while you deal with the infestation so the problem doesn’t spread.

The best way to fight infestations is to catch them early, so regular plant inspections are incredibly valuable.

As far as diseases are concerned, Callisia may develop botrytis, root rot, powdery mildew, or leaf-spot disease. Plants that do not get the proper care level are vulnerable to developing these diseases.

For example, a Callisia that receives too much water may eventually develop root rot.

Related: Why Is My Callisia Repens Dying?, Callisia Navicularis (Chain Plant) Care

Author: Stanislav Lem

Bio:

Stanislav Lem is the founder of Big Time Living, where he provides tips for gardening, traveling and lifestyle. Stan is an entrepreneur, journalist and traveler.
His mission is to provide information to help people become better planters, travel more and live a happy life. His blog has been featured on Huffpost, Yahoo and MSN.
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