If your heart is entangled with someone else’s this Valentine’s Day, you might want to buy that person the plant sometimes known as "hearts entangled" as well as "sweetheart vine," "hearts on a string," or "chain of hearts." Because it produces bead-like aerial tubers, Ceropegia woodii often is called "rosary vine" as well.

Native to Africa and a member of the milkweed family, it usually grows in a hanging basket, since it can cascade to a dozen or more feet in length like a living beaded curtain. The plant wears its waxy hearts on its maroon strings instead of its sleeves, typically blue-green hearts with white markings and maroon-tinged backs.

During summer, it also makes curious blooms which somewhat resemble 1-inch tall vases, bulbous at their pale magenta bases but forming purple cages at their tips. Those cages reportedly incarcerate insects for long enough that they are sure to pollinate the flowers.

Ceropegia woodii flowers

Rosary vine care and propagation

Although the rosary vine can be hardy in USDA zones 11 and 12, it most often is grown as an easy-care houseplant. Easy-care for those who don’t water their plants very frequently, that is! Because the vine is tuberous and a succulent, it may rot if provided with too much moisture. So you’ll probably want to keep it in cactus potting soil and allow that soil to nearly dry out before you water the pot again. The rosary vine likes to receive some sun, but you should shield it from the hottest noonday rays during the summer.

Its seeds resemble those of milkweed. When starting them, you may want to stir some sand into your seed-starting medium and barely cover those seeds with the damp mix. When kept at warm temperatures, they should germinate within one or two weeks.

You also can start a plant from one of the aerial tubers, by pressing that tuber into the surface of a new pot full of lightly moist potting mix. Once the tuber has rooted there, you can detach it from the mother vine.

Ceropegia haygarthii,

If you want to grow more. . .

The rosary vine’s species name originally was derived from that of its discoverer, John Wood. However, it also—according to The Plant List—has been called barbertonensis, collaricorona, euryacme, hastata, leptocarpa, linearis subsp. woodii, and shoenlandii.

For those of you who become enamored of this numerously named plant, there are plenty of other ceropegia species with which you can expand your collection, some with even more exotic blooms. Ceropegia haygarthii, for example, has flowers resembling divided funnels, which are white spattered with maroon spots. Another interesting variety is Ceropegia devechii . It has similar coloring to haygarthiii, but a bullet shape topped by five claws. Those eventually open into “petals” lined with velvety white hairs.

Some other milkweed relatives, such as stapelias and huernias, recently have been absorbed into the Ceropegia genus too. And they, of course, tend to have star-shaped flowers with peculiar odors. Although that makes things confusing, you actually can have a lot of fun muddling about amid all those exotic blooms, which can trap your interest as easily as they trap flies!


Photos: The banner image is by Irene Ngoo, the second image by kniphofia, and the rotated third image by Cok Grootscholten, all from the Dave's Garden PlantFiles