Callisia - Turtle Vine

Callisia repens

For String of Turtles (succulent), click here!

This article is for Callisia. Common names of this genus are Basket Plants, Bolivian Jew, Inch Plants & Turtle Vines.

Top Tips

  • Maintain evenly moist soil at all times - never promote dryness due to the high risk of dehydration and death.
  • Average room humidity is acceptable.
  • Bright indirect light is best, avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun, especially in the summer.
  • With a houseplant fertiliser, supplement every two to four weeks depending on the season.
  • In spring, repot every three years with houseplant compost. Water the plant 24hrs beforehand, to reduce the risk of damaging the root hairs. (Transplant shock).
  • Keep an eye out for Aphids that'll attack the new growths of the plant.

Water - 🔸🔸

Callisia love moist soil - once the pot begins to feel light when lifted, it's time for another water. Under-watering symptoms include crispy/curling leaves, a grey, washed-out appearance, yellowing leaves and a lack of new growth. These issues are commonly down to either too much heat/light forgetfulness. Dehydration is the number one issue among growers, so always keep an eye out for drying soil. Over-watering symptoms, on the other hand, include yellowing lower leaves, little to no growth and a rotting stem or leaves. Never allow a Callisia to endure long periods of soggy soil or a dark location as both will significantly increase the chance of over-watering and death.

Read More - Identifying Common Houseplant Pests & Diseases

Humidity - 🔸🔸

Average humidity found in the home is more than enough to occupy a Callisia. If the leaf-tips begin to brown over, it could be a sign of too low air moisture - either mist the foliage weekly or introduce a humidity tray to keep life happy.

Location & Light - 🔸🔸

Bright indirect light is best. The combination of good soil moisture and a well-lit location will provide the best results for your plant.

Sunny locations should be avoided at all costs. Prolonged exposure to the sun or dry soil will result in pale leaves, stunted growth and crisping foliage - if it's too hot for a chocolate bar, it'll be too hot for the plant, too.

Alternatively, lower-lit areas should only be used, if wholly necessary. Although Callisia can thrive in shady locations, the reduced rates of photosynthesis and too moist soil will lead to a weakened plant, along with the chance of developing root rot. Variegated specimens situated in these areas will slowly revert back to its green appearance, too.

Fertilisation - 🔸🔸🔸

Fertile soil is a must; supplement using a houseplant feed every two weeks in the growing period, and monthly for the rest of the year.

Common Issues with Callisia

Under-watering is the biggest issue. Typical signs of this include wilting, sunken and yellowed leaves and stunted growth. If the plant is in direct sunlight, relocate it to a slightly darker area. Increase the amount of waters, too - they tend to grow along moist forest floors that rarely promote droughts. As long as you keep an eye out for drying soil, success is inevitable.
Those situated in direct sunlight or within three metres of a radiator are most likely to suffer from these issues.

Typical symptoms of under-watering.

Too much sunlight will lead to sun scorch, with typical signs including browning or crispy leaves, dry leaf-edges, sunken leaves or stunted growth. Although too little light will cause over-watering issues, too much sunlight will be a detriment, too. If yours has fallen short of this, reduce the amount of the sun considerably and always be mindful of environmental shock (when two locations offer too different growing conditions). Remove some of the affected leaves and increase waters slightly.

Never situate it within four metres of an operating heat source, for instance, a heater or fireplace. Due to the heightened temperature, the plant will soak up far more moisture than those situated in cooler locations, increasing the chance of droughts and browning leaf-edges.

As mentioned before, powdery mildew and southern blight are major threats among heavy foliage plants when excess moisture is allowed to sit on compacted foliage. Remove the affected areas and improve the growing conditions by situating the plant in a brighter location and keeping the leaves dry.

A loss of variegations is caused by too little light. Although Callisia can be used in shady locations, it'll come at the cost of the variegations. If you're not entirely bothered about this, simply skip this step. Move the plant into a brighter location to allow the patterns to re-develop on the new growth. Alternatively, extreme variegations that hinder the plant's green appearance is caused by too much sunlight.

Root rot is another common issue. Typical symptoms include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth and stem collapse. Those situated in darker locations and/or too-soggy soil are most likely to be hit with this issue. Take the plant out of the pot and inspect its root systems - if they sport a yellow appearance, you're okay, but if they're brown and mushy, action must be taken immediately. More information about addressing root rot can be found on this link.

Pest damage can also cause issues down the line, with Spider Mite being the usual inhabitants. Check the under-leaves for their webs and near-transparent critters that are the size of a sand grain. Typical signs to look out for are mottled yellow leaves, stunted growth and sticky webs that'll hold bits of dirt. Click on this link for more info.

Too-low humidity will cause the browning of leaf tips with yellow halos, commonly caused by nearby operating radiators. As dry air is a big issue among households during the colder months, introducing a humidity/pebble tray will help deter this issue, along with providing better growth. Although this won't help with the already-affected leaves, its new growth will look as good as new. The use of artificial humidifiers is only needed whilst the radiators are operating.

Yellowing older leaves is a clear sign of over-watering, usually caused by too little light. Although they can do well in darker locations, the frequency of irrigations must be reduced to counteract the chance of root rot. People don't realise that a plant's root system needs access to oxygen too, so when the soil is overly-saturated, the roots will suffocate and therefore will begin to breakdown. Click on this link to learn more about root rot and how to address it.

Why not use Turtle Vines as hair for head/face plant pots? 


There are over nineteen species of Callisia that originate right across the Americas. The genus was first described in the 1720's by Pehr Löfling, using the Greek word for 'beauty' in reference to some of the species' foliar appearance. Some popular species within the genus are the C. elegans, C. fragrans and C. repens. - scroll down to 'Flowers' to learn when each produce blooms.


10° - 30°C   (50° - 86°F)
H1b - can be grown outdoors in the summer whilst the nighttime temperatures are above 10°C. If you decide to bring this houseplant outdoors, do not allow it to endure more than an hour of direct sunlight a day as this will burn the leaves. Regularly keep an eye out for pests, especially when re-introducing it back into the home.


Up to 3m in length and width, when given enough space. The ultimate height will take between 3 - 6 years to achieve. The growth rate is rapid - some cases can see specimens grow up to 50cm per year!


Remove yellowed or dying leaves and plant debris to encourage better growth and improve the all-round appearance. Pruning must be done with clean scissors or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases - remember to make clean incisions as too much damage can shock the plant.


Via seed or vine cuttings. To learn about the essentials with sowing seeds, be sure to click on this link - Seed Propagation Tips.

Vine Cuttings

  1. This method of propagation is very easy. Choose the healthiest, most established vines from the leading growths. This method can be taken from spring to summer, using between three to six leaves, with the vine being at least 8cm (3 inches) in length. Remove the bottom half of the leaves to aid the production of roots.
  2. Cut directly below a node (leaf), using a clean knife to reduce bacteria count. Have a look at the image above if you're stuck.
  3. Place the bottom half of the cutting into water to root - this process will be quick and should only take a few weeks. Once small roots surpass 3cm in length (1 inch +), it's time to prepare the soil and pot.
  4. Use a 5 inch pot that has good drainage holes - plastic or terracotta are both acceptable in this instance.
  5. Set the cutting's rooted half into a well-draining compost, for example Houseplant or multipurpose compost, keeping the foliage above the soil line.
  6. Avoid direct sunlight and offer good humidity by placing the potted plants into a transparent plastic bag for the first couple of weeks. 
  7. Open the bag every two days for half an hour for the prevention of disease. After a month of being placed in soil, remove it from the bag and treat like an ordinary houseplant.


Achieving blooms every year is very easy - just provide a good dormancy period over the winter that consists of cooler nights (12⁰C, 59⁰F), drier soil with less fertiliser and you'll succeed!

C. elegans  - Produces white flowers along a 20cm shaft during late winter.

C. fragrans - Commonly called the 'Basket Plant' due to the cup-shaped sepals that resemble a woven container. Flowers during late summer and will produce white honey-scented blooms that'll last for several weeks.

C. repens - A cluster of white flowers above the will develop in the summer months, lasting several days once opened.


Repot every three years using Houseplant Compost and the next sized up pot. Water the plant's soil 24hrs before the repot, as damage to the dry root hairs will cause transplant shock. For matured specimens, introduce more grit to promote a stronger root ball; click on this link for more information on how to perform the perfect transplant.

Diseases & Pests

Typical diseases associated with Callisia are leaf-spot disease, botrytis, powdery mildew & root rot. Keep an eye out for spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, whitefly, root mealybugs, scale & thrips. Click here for more information about how to identify and address any of these issues.


This plant is classified as poisonous; if large quantities of the plant is eaten, vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite may occur, especially with dogs.

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