Growing and Caring for String of Dolphins (Senecio ‘Hippogriff’)

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The popular String of Dolphins plant is actually a hybrid between Senecio rowleyanus (String of Pearls) and Senecio articulatus (Candle plant). It’s a lovely trailing succulent that grows really well in hanging pots. 

The leaves on the plant resemble tiny, jumping dolphins. The individual leaves are crescent-shaped and curve outward. They have two points about halfway down each leaf that also curve slightly outwards. This makes it one of the cutest succulents on the planet.

The botanical name given to this species is a bit of a mystery. In some botanical databases, it’s either referred to as Senecio x peregrinus, Curio x peregrinus, or Senecio ‘Hippogriff’.

It’s believed that this plant is an F1 hybrid which means that its seeds are sterile and will not grow. This is quite common for hybrid plants.

History

It’s very difficult to find any actual history of this plant or where it came from. Back in 1879, August Grisebach identified a similar plant that he named Senecio peregrinus. However, this plant is slightly different and was revised in the early 1990s into the genus Dendrophorbium by Charles Jeffrey.

According to many different accounts, this succulent is indeed a hybrid between two different Senecio species.  This would then indicate that the botanical name of this plant is actually Senecio ‘Hippogriff’ because this type of nomenclature is reserved for hybrids of two plants within the one genus.

Plant Facts

Scientific nameSenecio ‘Hippogriff’
Common namesString of Dolphins, Dolphin necklace, Dolphin plant, Flying dolphins
GenusSenecio
FamilyAsteraceae
Height4 to 6 inches
Width6 to 12 inches
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone9b to 11b
OriginCommercially produced hybrid
Flower colorsWhite
Blooming seasonSpring to early summer
Plant/Flower special featuresThe flowers on this succulent are composite which means that each bloom is made up of many mini flowers. This results in each bloom looking like a pom pom. The flowers also have a lovely cinnamon fragrance.

How to Plant and Grow String of Dolphins

This lovely, popular succulent is best grown in hanging baskets or terracotta pots so that the trailing stems can hang down over the edges of the pot. Make sure that the pot you’re using has plenty of adequate drainage holes because this succulent can be prone to root rot if the roots are left to sit in water.

Choose a pot that is only slightly larger than the root ball of the plant as this succulent thrives in slightly crowded conditions. This is also necessary to encourage flowering. Most importantly, make sure that you use a well-draining soil mix and that the pot’s drainage holes are not covered.

How to Propagate String of Dolphins

When it comes to string of dolphins propagation, the easiest way to propagate your Dolphin plant is by using stem cuttings. Here’s what to do:

  • Choose a healthy piece of stem that is quite sturdy and has nice plump leaves.
  • Cut the stem just below a leaf node. Ensure that the stem piece is around 5 inches long.
  • Remove the lower leaves and keep the cutting in a warm, dry spot for around two days.
  • Once you see callouses form on the cut ends of the stem, you can place them into a tray or pot filled with a succulent mix, and water well.
  • Place your cuttings in a shady spot, to begin with. You can introduce the cuttings to more light slowly over the length of one to two weeks.
  • Water your cuttings once the top inch of soil is dry. Never let the soil dry out completely.
  • Once roots have formed, you can water your little plants deeply ensuring that all the excess water drains away.

String of Dolphins Care and Maintenance

This lovely succulent is fairly easy to care for and requires watering only when the soil has become dry and fertilizing only once a year. It also prefers indirect light and should not be exposed to direct sunlight.

One tip to encourage your plant to bloom in spring is to ensure that it receives a good period of dormancy during winter. This means that the plant should be kept at a temperature just below around 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius). Also, ensure that the soil dries out completely before watering and expose the plant to two to three hours of direct morning sunlight from early fall to early spring.

Soil

You should use a nice, gritty soil mix that is suitable for succulent plants to grow your Dolphin plant successfully. You need to ensure that you use well-draining soil for this succulent.

Water

Like most succulent plants, this plant will thrive when you employ the “soak and dry” method of watering. This involves letting the excess soil moisture dry out completely and then giving it a good soak until the water drains out from the pot. Let all the excess water drain away before placing the pot back in its usual spot. Never allow any water to sit in the saucer under the pot.

It’s common that your plant will need to be watered around once a week during the warmer months but only around once a month during winter when the plant becomes dormant.

Keep a close eye on the leaves of your string of dolphins plant because these will tell you if your plant is being over or under watered. If the leaves appear deflated, dull, and dry, then your plant needs more water. On the other hand, if the leaves appear a little transparent, yellow, or squishy, then your plant is getting too much water.

Fertilizer

This adorable string of dolphins succulent only needs minimal fertilizing around once a year in early spring. Use either a diluted liquid organic fertilizer or slow-release pellets.

Sunlight

This plant does thrive in bright, indirect sunlight. However, it can tolerate less light because each leaf has what is called a leaf window. This “window” is translucent and runs along the center of the leaf. It’s designed to easily let sunlight into the fleshy interior of the leaf.

Therefore, if you’re growing this succulent outdoors, you should place it in a shady spot as it can burn if it receives too much sun. If you’re growing it indoors, place it near a nice bright window. A south-facing window is ideal for this plant. 

Remember to keep your plant out of direct sunlight as this could easily burn the soft, succulent leaves. 

Temperature and Humidity

This succulent is not frost hardy so it needs to be kept indoors in areas that have very cold winters. The ideal temperature range for this plant is 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 27 degrees Celsius).

Pruning

Although it’s not necessary to prune this plant, you can give it a light trim if the stems start to get too long. Use these stem cutting to propagate new plants that you can give away to your friends.

Pest and diseases

Like all houseplants, your Dolphin plant may be subject to attacks from mealybugs and spider mites. You can try and remove the mealybugs with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol but for spider mites, it’s best to spray the plant with a diluted solution of water and insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Uses of Dolphin Plants

This plant is mainly grown for its ornamental value. It’s a great succulent to add to your collection, especially if you pop it into a hanging planter like other hanging succulent plants

Make sure that you keep this plant away from small children and pets because the little dolphins are toxic.

Common Varieties and Cultivars

As this is a cultivated hybrid, it does not have any additional varieties or cultivars. However, there are many similar types of trailing succulents that you might like to try. Many of these you can purchase from your local garden center. These include:

  • Senecio rowleyanus (String of pearls)
  • Crassula perforata (String of buttons)
  • Curio radicans (String of bananas)
  • Ceropegia linearis subsp. woodii (String of hearts)
  • Ceropegia linearis subsp. debilis (String of needles)
  • Senecio herreianus (String of watermelons)
  • Dischidia nummularia (String of nickels)
  • Senecio citriformis (String of tears)
  • Peperomia prostrata (String of turtles)
  • Sedum morganianum (Burro’s tail)
  • Othonna capensis (String of pickles)
  • Crassula marnieriana (String of necklace)
  • Peperomia axillaris (String of tacos)
  • Pilea glauca (String of blue tears)
  • Xerosicyos danguyi (String of coins)

Conclusion

The Dolphin plant succulent is a popular plant and fairly easy to grow. There appears to be very little knowledge of its origin but it’s believed that this plant is an F1 hybrid between Senecio rowleyanus and Senecio articulatus.

String succulents are the perfect trailing plants for hanging baskets and will add some vertical dimension to your succulent collection. It’s commonly grown indoors but will survive if grown outdoors in a protected spot in areas that experience mild climates and warmer winters.

*image by [email protected]/depositphotos