Why Is My Callisia Repens Dying? (And How to Save It)

This gorgeous perennial plant is also known as the turtle vine, creeping basket plant, Bolivian Jew, and chain plant. They are native to the southeastern United States, Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies.

Callisia repens is a succulent found in the shrublands of tropical and warm temperate regions.

Why Is My Callisia Repens Dying?
Photo by Mokkie, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Like any other plant, Callisia repens will struggle for different reasons. This article will discuss the symptoms of a declining Callisia repens and how to bring it back to health. 

Why Is My Callisia Repens Dying?

This plant may start to lose its luster for various reasons. It may be receiving too much water or not enough water.

It may also be planted in an area without enough sunlight or too much direct sun. It might need filtered light to grow to its maximum potential. It may also be planted in a region that doesn’t provide the ecosystem it needs.

The stems on this low-growing plant should enjoy round, waxy leaves. Its stems usually grow up to four inches tall, and the leaves measure an inch when fully grown and healthy.

The color of the leaves can be green-striped or pink and cream-striped with a burgundy color underneath. The leaves can also be green with dark purple coloring below.

But if it isn’t succeeding, Callisia repens is known to show the following signs that it is in trouble:

  • Stems feel mushy
  • Stems start to turn brown
  • Plant appears to be drooping
  • Edges of leaves drying out
  • Leaves turning yellow
  • Growth slows down

If your Callisia repens is showing any of these telltale signs, consider the following potential causes and adjust your care of this lovely succulent. 


Overwatering your Callisia is one of the common culprits. Although it needs consistently moist soil to thrive, the stems become mushy and brown if this plant sits in too much water.

Outdoors, it is essential to maintain moist soil during the spring and summer.

If growing in full sun, you must water frequently and keep the soil moist.

Water it sparingly in the winter.

Indoors, it does best when watered from the bottom.


If you start to notice the plant drooping or the edges of leaves drying out, this is likely a sign that the plant is not getting enough water.

It is essential to pay attention to how the soil feels to touch. If it feels very dry and light, it is important to water it as soon as possible.

For indoor plant enthusiasts, it helps to remove the Callisia repens from the pot to check for consistent moisture. Remember, watering from below works best for this plant.

Only water when the top inch feels dry. For those using Callisia repens as a ground cover, choose to plant it in a moist, warm area with indirect light or partial shade.

Callisia repens does not tolerate drought conditions, so water it at least twice weekly. It is time to water if you lift the container and it feels light.

Always pay attention to the weather. If your environment has been dry recently, water more often.

Too Much Direct Sunlight

Remember that Callisia repens is a succulent native to tropical and warm temperate regions. Often, in these areas, the ground cover is in an area near shrubs that help create spaces of indirect sunlight.

To do well in bright, direct sunlight, maintaining moist soil conditions would be very important.

Planting it in a partially shaded area will maximize its growth potential. Location is extremely important to its health and maturity.

Indoors, it is best placed in an east-facing window, where it will get indirect, natural, bright filtered, or artificial light. If placed in direct sunlight, it will likely present less attractive coloring on the variegated leaves.

Without enough light, the coloring could remain green.

Insufficient Soil Quality

This may be hard to believe, but Callisia is not fussy about its soil quality. What it needs is good drainage.

Using peat moss combined with the available soil will assist with drainage. Using equal parts of perlite and potting mix will also do the trick. 

You must fertilize your plant with a balanced, environmentally sustainable liquid product at least once a month. If you buy the plant from a local nursery, it may not need to be fertilized during the first year.


Cutting back the stems below the node may be an excellent first step when your plant shows signs that it is no longer thriving. This can be helpful to improve its growth rate, and it can also allow for a second bloom.

Due to its rapid growth as a ground cover, pruning the plant back and cutting back stems can not only bring on a second bloom but can also help with reseeding and containing the spread.

Temperature and Humidity

Your plant may need warmer temperatures and humidity because Callisia grows very well in moist temperate climates. Choose to put your Callisia in a moist, warm location both indoors and outside.

If your indoor living space is too dry, it is possible to mist the plant or put it near a humidifier to give it the moisture it needs.


As mentioned, Callisia grows rapidly and needs plenty of space for its roots.

If you start noticing signs of distress, consider repotting, pruning, and ensuring it is getting enough warm, moist air.

If your Callisia grows well and has no specific issues, it is still essential to repot every three years.

Author: Stanislav Lem


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.