String of Pearls or String of Beads (Senecio rowleyanus) is a vining succulent with hanging stems and pea-shaped pearls that is easy to care for. It does well in dry conditions according to Wisconsin University. It is a flowering plant in the daisy family Asteraceae and looks best in a hanging basket. Senecio rowleyanus is native to Soutwest Africa (Namibia).
The name string of pearls is derived from its growth habit as it produces pearl-like beads that grow on the multiple vines these houseplants produce. They can be kept indoors and outdoors, depending on your climate zone.
|Synonyms||Senecio rowleyanus, Senecio rowleyanus, Kleinia rowleyana, Kleinia rowleyana, Curio rowleyanus, Curio rowleyanus, String of Pearls, String of Beads|
|Growth||Trailing succulent feet|
|Soil||Succulent or cactus soil. Potting mix containing sand|
|Watering||Water every 7 to 14 days|
|Temperature||60 to 80°F|
|Fertilizer||Fertilize 2 times per month|
|Toxicity||Mildly toxic to animals such as cats, dogs, and humans. Classified in the toxicity classes 2 and 4 by the University of California, Davis.|
String of Pearls Care
To care for a String of Pearls provide a well-draining succulent mix using sand. Provide bright indirect light. The ideal temperature range is 60-80 °F ( 16 – 27 °C). Water once every 7 days. Provide a humidity of 40% or lower. Fertilize using a balanced fertilizer using 1/2 of the recommended strength every 2 weeks.
Grow String of Pearls Indoors
Use cactus potting soil for your string of pearls. Regular potting soil will also do as long as you add in a third of sand.
They do well in bright indirect light and can be placed in front of a bright window where they get no more than a couple of hours of bright light. The String of Pearls houseplant needs no more or less than 2 to 4 hours of direct sunlight per day. Avoid direct sun during the rest of the day.
They are burnt easily if they are in direct sunlight for too long. Fluorescent light between 12-16 hours is a great alternative in case your apartment or house doesn’t offer suitable windows.
Keep the plant away from direct sunlight for more than 4 hours a day.
Water once every 7 days once the top 1-2 inches of soil are completely dry (2.5-5cm).
It is a succulent so water sparingly. Let your String of Pearls dry out before watering. When the plant is underwatered you will see that the beads are flattening.
I water my string of beads about once a week and let them soak completely so the soil can dry out until the next watering.
The ideal temperature range for a String of Pearl Plant is between 60-80 °F ( 16 – 27 °C).
The string of Beads like it warm in spring, summer, and autumn and cool in winter. Winter temperatures between 55 – 60 °F ( 13 – 16 °C) are optimal whereas all the other seasons should be in the range of 70 – 80 °F ( 21 – 27 °C).
Low humidity with humidity levels below 40% is optimal.
Use a balanced liquid fertilizer every two weeks and use half of the suggested strength. Fertilize from spring to fall. Reduce fertilizing to every 6 weeks in winter.
String of Pearls can grow up to 3 feet long (91cm). They grow fast and propagate easily. A good way to get a bushier string of pearls is to propagate the plant frequently by following the suggestions above.
They are very drought tolerant and should be put in a pot with a drainage hole. Repotting annually in spring is advised as they can be vigorous growers under good care.
Repot String of Pearls
Repot about once every 5 years in spring and summer. When repotting use a succulent soil or cactus mix and a terracotta pot that is unglazed.
Repotting in spring and summer will ensure that the temperature will not be cold and since the these are the main growing seasons the string of pearls will develop new roots quickly.
The terracotta pot will be able to soak up the excess water when watering too much.
Propagate String of Pearls
- Propagate String of Pearls in Spring or Summer
- Take cuttings of about 1.6 – 3.9 inches (4-10 cm) and put them either in damp soil or Spaghnum Moss
- Make sure that the beads are almost covered by soil but not entirely
- New roots will form from where the beads are attached to the stem within 2-3 weeks
String of Beads Propagation from Stem Cuttings
Cuttings are the easiest way to propagate your string of pearls. Take cuttings from your main stem and keep the size of each cutting about 1.6 – 3.9 inches (4-10 cm). This way your chance of successfully multiplying your string of pearls is the best. Generally, when taking cuttings it is best to have them dry out for a couple of hours before you place them into damp soil or moss.
Cut the stems with a clean knife or scissors. To make sure your blades are free of any bacteria, applying rubbing alcohol and placing your scissors or knife in a flame is a foolproof way of ensuring your propagation tool is free of pathogens and ready to do the job.
Once this is done you can cut your string of pearls between two beads at the described length.
The best seasons to take cuttings are spring and summer. This is when the plants are actively growing and will have no trouble of recovering from a little snip here and there.
As an indoor or outdoor gardener, you are constantly working on keeping your plants in check. Since the vines with their little green beads are growing quite rapidly and can also get pretty dense, it is just a natural thing to take cuttings that then can be used either to create a new plant or be put back into the original pot to get a fuller pot.
Only take cuttings off green healthy-looking stems as anything else will dramatically reduce your chances of success.
String of Pearls Rooting Stem Cuttings
Once you took cuttings of your string of pearls, the next step will be to make them root successfully.
This step is slightly more demanding than snipping of the cuttings from the mother plant.
For this step prepare your potting mixture of choice but make sure that it consists of at least 30% sand. A succulent mix is ideal.
Prepare the soil so it is slightly most but refrain from soaking it too much as your stem cuttings will rot.
The cuttings themselves have no roots and need to take in the humidity through the stem and produce roots as soon as possible.
Before placing the cutting into the soil make sure that you are taking off the bottom pearls, so you have a stem of a few inches that can be covered in soil.
The beads themselves are the leaves of the plant. Placing them in the soil would be a sure way for the beads to rot.
Before placing the stems in the soil use a pen or stick to make sure you create e small hole in the soil where the cuttings can be placed. Then put the cuttings in by covering the clear stem by gently pushing soil against the stem cuttings.
You can also place the cuttings on the soil. We had a lot of success with this method when propagating the Chinese money plant or jade plant. It seems counterintuitive at first but once roots start to grow they will grow toward the soil and will start to root.
A common mistake is to keep the cuttings in a dark place. This will not work as at this stage sufficient light is crucial. Therefore, once the cuttings are in or on the soil you want to move them into a bright spot with sufficient indirect sunlight or fluorescent light. In addition in the stage of rooting cuttings warmth plays a key role. The temperature will make a real difference as warmer temperatures will enhance root growth.
Now that the cuttings are in the right location with sufficient light and warm temperatures around them, the waiting game begins. String of pearls propagation is quite easy, but the cuttings take a long time to root. 3-4 months is more the rule than the exception. During that time you will need to make sure that the soil stays slightly humid.
This is best achieved by using a spray bottle every couple of days. Also here we need to say that overwatering would mean the end of your string of pearls propagation. So hold back on water as much as possible.
After about a month you can stop keeping the soil constantly damp. It will not be best to slightly let the soil dry out and start watering when the top soil is dry.
After a while, your cuttings will take roots and will start to produce new stems and grow beads. Hooray, you successfully propagated your string of beads.
An alternative way is to use sphagnum moss or water. We have successfully propagated a string of pearls in water multiple times and it is a good alternative to soil. If you are using water make sure the water is neither too hot or too cold. Room temperature is best.
Place your cuttings into the water and make sure the beads are staying out of the water and not in it.
String of Pearls: Propagation from seeds
Propagation from seeds for a string of pearls is similar to how you would propagate any other cactus or succulent seeds. You will need warmth and humidity. This is best achieved by using a ziplock bag. Use a small nursery plastic pot and put soil in it.
Moisten the soil slightly so it is damp but not soaking wet. Then put the string of pearl seeds in the soil. Make sure you keep some distance between the seeds so they have sufficient space to grow.
Put the ziplock bag under a fluorescent light or in front of a bright window. Make sure that it is kept warm as this is a prerequisite for the seeds to germinate and the string of pearl plants to grow well.
Do not open the zip lock bag for several months until you see that the seeds have germinated and the string of pearls is starting to grow. The ziplock bag will help greatly to keep the moisture.
Once the string of pearls produced several beads you can slightly open the ziplock bag just a few inches (centimeters) and open it up a bit more every week until your propagated string of pearls plants are fully accustomed to the climate outside of the bag.
This is when you can take them outside and grow and take care of your string of beads as you would for a mature plant.
String of Pearls Plant Care Tips
These are the most important string of pearls care tips:
- Do not overwater your string of pearls. You are dealing with succulents, that need to be watered every now and then
- They actually thrive best on neglect. Let them be and enjoy them without touching and watering them too much. They are delicate.
- Use the right soil mix that is well-draining. Potting mixes that are not containing sufficient sand will become soggy and stay moist for too long and might rot your plants
- Propagate your string of pearls often and stick the cuttings back into the pot. This way you will end up with a full plant.
- Make sure your string of pearls gets bright indirect light. 2-3 hours of direct sunlight is fine but make sure they don’t stay in direct sunlight for too long.
How to Water String of Pearls in Pots
When you water your string of pearls, water them thoroughly. This means watering heavily and then letting your string of pearls dry out. Generally, in our case, it takes about a week until we have to water again.
You can water from the top or from the bottom, both are fine. But you will need to ensure that the water flows right through the soil as this is a good indicator for well-draining soil.
Make sure you are using a pot with a draining hole as otherwise excess water will stay at the bottom of the pot and will first rot the roots of the string of pearls and then kill the entire plant.
What Does the String of Pearls Look Like?
String of pearls is a perennial plant that has a unique look. It has little green beads and stems in between. The beads are its leaves. When looking at a string of pearls you cannot resist thinking about a unique necklace created by nature.
When the string of pearls is happy the pearls or beads are compact and round. When it is unhappy eg. underwatered its beads will look flatish.
There also is a variegated form of string of pearls called a variegated string of pearls. These have yellowish lines on the otherwise greenish pearls.
Prune String of Pearls
You can prune your string of pearls by taking off dead stems and pearls. When a lot of pearls fall off the stem you can also cut off the stem and prune your plant. The best season to prune is spring and summer.
Pruning will also help to get a bushier plant as you can replant the pruned-off cuttings back into the same pot.
Problems with String of Pearls
String of pearls is susceptible to root rot. If you water too frequently or if your potting mix is not well-draining enough, excess water will build up in the potting soil and will make it soggy.
Soggy soil will lead to root rot as the roots are deprived of oxygen. Root from infected roots rot quickly spreads to healthy roots.
As you plant cannot take in any more water and nutrients it will eventually wilt and die.
The best thing is to take the plant out of its pot if you suspect root rot. Cut off any mushy roots and rinse the plant with lukewarm water. Disinfect the pot. Add the plan in the disinfected pot using fresh potting soil.
The most common pests on a String of Pearls are melaybugs, thrips, and aphids. Mealybugs are white insects that look like cotton balls. Thrips are small black or brown insects with longish bodies. Aphids are brown to red and clearly visible pests with wings.
You can get rid of pests on Senecio rowleyanus by inspecting your plants weekly. Check on the upper side as well as on the underside of leaves, stems, and in the soil. Look out for moving insects and pests.
If you identify any pests use neem oil, a mix of rubbing alcohol, and dishwater soap, and spray your plants every 7 days for 3 weeks.
Alternatively, you can use beneficial nematodes such as Ambyseisus swirksii or Cryptolaemus montrouzieri.
String of Pearls Bloom
The string of beads produces white flowers with red stamens and yellow anthers. They bloom in spring and are fragrant according to Wisconsin University. They smell like cinnamon.
Types of String of Pearls
The following species of string of pearls are known:
- Senecio rowleyanus (String of Pearls) – Hanging succulent plant with trailing stems and green bead-shaped leaves
- Senecio rowleyanus variegata (String of Pearls Variegated) – Hanging succulent plant with trailing stems and variegated green and white bead-shaped leaves
- Senecio radicans (String of Bananas) – Hanging succulent plant with trailing stems and green banana-shaped leaves
- Senecio herreianus (String of Bananas Pruple Flush) – Hanging succulent plant with purple trailing stems and green oval-shaped leaves
- Senecio herreanus (String of Tears) – Hanging succulent plant with purple trailing stems and green tear-shaped leaves
The Origin of String of Beads
The string of pearls was named after British botanist Gordon Douglas Rowley. He was a botanist and specialized in Cacti and succulents. The string of pearls is a native of southwest Africa and inhabits drier places.
In their natural habitat, they grow on the ground and are not hanging. It prefers indirect sunlight and can therefore often be found on rocks and ground in the shade where they tend to form dense mats.
The small beads that look like peas developed to store water and only offer limited surface area. This is specifically important as the string of pearls inhabits arid areas where water is rare.
String of Pearls Toxicity
Mildly toxic to cats and dogs as well as humans. Can lead to vomiting and diarrhea when ingested. The University of California classified this plant into toxicity classes 2 and 4.
Read More “String of” Plants Care Guides
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Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.