Because it looks so intriguing, you might think that the succulent called string of pearls plant is hard to grow. Nope! This is an excellent succulent for beginners. String of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) is hardy, fast-growing, and a plant you’ll love.
A string of pearls plant is instantly recognizable by the bead-like leaves that trail down each stem. Nicknamed ‘pearls’, these leaves are plump and a lovely shade of light green. Like a string of beads, the stems are long, thin, and delicate with pea-sized leaves applied along their length. The plant itself starts small but when fully grown reaches 2-3 feet!
You’ll find that string of pearls makes a great houseplant, and it works beautifully in the garden too. Because it’s a spraying plant, these succulents are perfect for hanging pots. Propagation is extremely easy with this plant, making it easy to increase your succulent collection.
In the summer, string of pearls plants produce clusters of white blooms. The flowers are small and not very showy. However, they smell a bit like cinnamon – a fun and unique trait for a succulent.
String of pearls comes from South Africa, so it likes to be warm and dry. It can be used as a shade plant, using up those dark places in your garden. However, the temperature should always be above 50° F. If you live in zones 9-11, you can grow string of pearls outdoors year-round. Otherwise, keep your houseplant indoors, with possible trips outside.
While most string of succulent beads are green in color, the ‘Variegata’ cultivar is a bit different. Each bead-like leaf features stripes of pale white. Unfortunately, this cultivar is difficult to find, and even stems to propagate may be hard to get. If you can find it, you’ll love it!
String Of Pearls
As we mentioned, the string of pearls plant is very easy to grow. That doesn’t mean you should go into it blindly! In order for growing succulents to be easy, you have to understand what they need and why. Let’s go over some of our top tips.
Light & Temperature
String of pearls grows best in indirect, bright light. It loves the sun, but it can easily be sunburned, so be careful it doesn’t get too much direct sun. Placing your plants a few feet away from the window should keep the direct sun off the pearl-shaped leaves while providing ample light.
If you don’t have any windows with the right lighting, don’t panic. These indoor plants are capable of growing in partial shade as well.
Pearl string plant can’t survive frost or freezing temperatures. As true desert plants, they like to be warm (70-80°F). Be careful of cold indoor drafts that could damage the stems.
During the winter, when string of pearls goes dormant, your indoor temperatures can drop down as low as 50° if necessary. If your home stays around 68° all year (as many people’s homes do), that’s perfect for this houseplant. Once outside temperatures increase to its preferred range, you can grow it in both indoor or outdoor situations. It’s a great addition to patio gardens!
Remember that if you want your plant to flower, it needs a cool fall and winter climate. Ideally, keep it at or near 65° until spring comes. It will also need indirect light from the sun in the spring to induce summer flowering.
Water & Humidity
Like most succulents, string of pearls prefers the “soak and dry” method of succulent watering. It’s simple and low-maintenance. This mimics a overflow and drought cycle, and string of pearl plant is used to that environment.
On average, you’ll give it water every other week. This will vary depending on the pot size and temperature in the area where your succulents grow. Indoor plants often don’t need water as much as those in a garden outside.
Overwatering is the biggest peril for your string of pearls plants. It can lead to rot and bacterial growth. When overwatered, the plant may turn yellow and mushy, and the pearls on the stems will fall off easily.
Underwatering is a less frequent problem for string of pearls plants, but still something to look out for. If they don’t get enough water the pearls will shrivel up or lose their plump look, and they might turn brown or black. Fortunately, this is usually reversible if caught quickly. Just give your string of pearls a good drink of water and it should perk up.
Well-draining soil is a necessity for string of pearls plant. You can buy pre-made succulent potting soil at most garden stores and online. A good quality cactus and succulent soil can make the difference between healthy stems and a dying disaster.
It’s possible to DIY your potting soil, but be careful not to make it too rich. It’s easier to increase fertility in small doses after than to add a lot at the beginning. In addition, many rich garden soils hold too much moisture around the plant’s roots. Stick with something that drains off easily and which you can fertilize after.
String of pearls has small and shallow roots, so it grows best in small pots. If the container is too large, it’s likely to build up moisture and lead to root rot. For succulents, the pot should always have a drainage hole. Without it, there’s a tremendous risk for root rot.
When repotting, handle your succulent with care so the pearls don’t fall off. If you see any signs of rotting in the roots, cut off the infected sections with a clean knife. Plant so that the base of the plant is level with or just below the top of the pot. It’s recommended to repot these plants every year in the spring so that you can ensure their soil is not compacted or lacking aeration.
String of pearls is so easy to propagate that it occasionally propagates itself! We have a step by step propagation guide for this plant that goes into great depth on the process.
Propagate during the spring or summer growing season, as the plant will be dormant in fall and winter. It’s possible to grow this succulent from seed, but it’s a less-preferred and lengthy process.
Pruning is only necessary if you want to make your plant smaller or remove damaged sections. All you have to do is clip back the stems with sterile pruning shears. After pruning, keep the cut sections dry until the wounds callous over. This will prevent bacteria and plant ailments from taking hold.
A common growing problem is shriveled pearls. This is usually due to underwatering, but can also be a sign of sunburn. Along with shriveling, sunburn also causes succulents to dry out and become scarred. To prevent and remedy this, move your houseplant away from direct bright light, whether in indoor or outdoor gardens.
Another issue is pearls falling off the stem. This is usually a symptom of overwatering. However, it may also be a symptom of cold damage from drafts or other related conditions. If you doubtful that’s the culprit, move your Senecio rowleyanus to a more sheltered location.
Older string of pears plants may begin to pass away back from age. They just aren’t as vigorous as younger plants are. If you love the variety you’re growing, this is a good time to take cuts and get them started in a new pot with a good potting mix. That way, you’ll still have a beautiful houseplant and can try to extend your succulent’s life too!
Aphids are tiny, obnoxious, and hungry for pearl juice! An infestation of these pests will drain the life from your string of pearls, make it discolored, wilted, and eventually finish it. As if that isn’t bad enough, aphids secrete honeydew that attracts ants.
Mealybugs are similar to aphids in that they cause plant damage and may attract ants. Another sap-sucking pest, these are easily identified by the white, waxy material they secrete.
Aphids and mealybugs can both be detected by insecticidal soap or neem oil. You can also use beneficial predatory insects, such as ladybugs or lacewings.
Root rot is the ever-constant threat to all succulents. It’s caused by an abundance of moisture in the soil creating the perfect climate for fungal growth. These fungi will cause the roots to burp, turning them black and mushy. The rot can work its way up stems and leaves as well.
Unfortunately, the damage caused by root rot usually can’t be fixed once it’s become extensive. Prevention of root rot is important. Use a good quality potting mix optimized for cacti and succulent gardens and make sure it’s well-aerated.
If your string of pearls has extensive root rot already, it’s best to take cuts of its healthy material and propagate them to start new plants. Use sterilized pruning snips and clean between cuts to make sure you’re not spreading the fungal rot. The parent plant can be disposed of once you’ve got the cuts rooted.