String of pearls plants are unique vining succulents that are easily recognizable by their tiny pea-shaped leaves. The leaves grow on trailing stems that gracefully spill over the sides of planters and hanging baskets much like the string of rubies succulent. You can use these stems to propagate the plant, which is a robust and quick grower—gaining about five to 15 inches per year—but does not live long without propagation.
Though typically cultivated globally year-round as a hanging plant, in its east African natural desert habitat, string of pearls plants are terrestrial and form a ground cover. You can plant it any time but will have the most success in the warmer months. In addition to its unique sphere-like leaves, the string of pearls produces white flowers in spring with a pleasant cinnamon-like scent; although, it rarely flowers indoors. This plant is toxic to humans and pets.
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|Common Name||String of pearls, string of beads, string of peas, rosary vine|
|Botanical Name||Curio rowleyanus (formerly Senecio rowleyanus)|
|Mature Size||1-2 ft. tall, 1-2 ft. long|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Sandy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Hardiness Zones||9-12 (USDA)|
|Toxicity||Toxic to humans, toxic to pets|
String of Pearls Care
The string of pearls plant is not particular about its conditions. Given enough light and fertilizer, it will grow quite vigorously in a season. A single plant will survive for about five years if properly cared for, but if you propagate new plants from stem cuttings, you can effectively keep it alive indefinitely.
To enable this plant to shine, consider growing string of pearls with multiple stems in a hanging basket. Its branches can also be intertwined, and you can also grow it in a dish, allowing it to form a terrestrial mat the way it does in the wild. String of pearls has no significant disease problems, and it doesn’t require much care. It does, however, need plenty of light all year.
String of pearls plants thrive on a combination of direct and indirect sunlight, totaling between six and eight hours a day. They're best when kept in direct sunlight during the softer morning hours, then moved to a spot that gets diffused, indirect light, or partial shade during the harsher afternoon hours.
Any regular succulent potting soil is acceptable for your string of pearls plants, but sandy soil is best. A good choice for this plant is a cactus potting mix. Alternatively, you can use a three-to-one mixture of potting soil to sharp sand. These plants are susceptible to root rot, so make sure their soil is well-draining. Plant them in a container that boasts ample drainage holes at its base. Terra cotta or clay pots can also help wick away excess moisture from the soil.
Keep the plant's soil lightly moist during the growing season in the spring and summer, then reduce water during the winter months. If you notice the succulent's spherical leaves flattening, it's a good indicator that the plant needs more water. You will likely need to water your plant once every seven to 14 days. Plants in hotter climates, outdoors during the summer, or in porous terra cotta pots might need water closer to every seven days, all depending on rain frequency and temperatures. If the soil is dry to the touch down to the first one-half inch of soil, that's a good sign your plant is thirsty.
Water thoroughly; you're done watering once the water drains out of the bottom of the pot. Succulents need good drainage and be careful not to overwater your string of pearls plants. Succulents are drought-resistant but cannot survive with wet, soggy roots.
Temperature and Humidity
String of pearls plants thrive in warm temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit from spring through fall, and it grows best with winter temperatures, ranging from 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This plant prefers low humidity, so avoid placing it in any already-humid areas of your home, like a kitchen or bathroom.
Feed your string of pearls plants biweekly during the growing season with a balanced liquid or water-soluble fertilizer, diluted to about half strength. During its dormant winter period, only feed the plant every six weeks.
Types of String of Pearls Plant
There are several closely related plants to String of pearls that feature differently shaped leaves, looking more like bananas, teardrops, or watermelons with stripes. These close cousins in the same daisy family include:
- 'Curio radicans': Fuller and not as trailing as string of pearls, this varietal has tendrils with banana-shaped leaves; commonly called string of bananas or string of fish hooks
- 'Curio herreanus': Commonly called string of watermelon or string of beads, this trailing plant has tiny melon-shaped leaves with purple striping.
- 'Curio citriformus': This varietal has both erect and trailing stems filled with plump, teardrop leaves and small white flowers that bloom between late summer and winter.
Using sterilized scissors or pruners, trim off any dead stems and pearls, as well as any stems that have lost a lot of their leaves. If your plant is getting leggy or too long, you can trim those branches and propagate new plants from the cuttings. Pruning will promote fuller, bushier plants.
Propagating String of Pearls Plant
String of pearls plants propagate easily via stem cuttings. To keep your plant alive for years, you'll want to take cuttings and make new plants. Spring, summer, or early fall (in warmer climates) are good times to propagate string of pearls plant. It can take three to four weeks for the plant to take root. You can also plant seeds, although it is often less successful. Here's how to grow plants from cuttings:
- To propagate string of pearls plant, you will need sterilized pruning snips or scissors, a four- or six-inch pot, and cactus or succulent soil.
- Cut several four to five-inch stems just below a leaf node. Remove the last two leaves. Lay out the stems for about one to two days before planting. The cut ends and areas where the leaves were removed need to callous over and get dry.
- Fill a pot with soil. In the center, make a hole where you will plant the stems.
- Place the cut ends into the hole at least an inch deep. All leaves should be above the soil. Pack the dirt around the stems. Wait a few days before watering thoroughly.
- If indoors, place it in a bright spot. Outdoors, the plant does better in partial sun. Water the soil when it dries up.
How to Grow String of Pearl Plant From Seed
One of the reasons why strings of pearls plant is difficult to grow from seeds is that the flower heads need to be pollinated to produce seeds that will germinate. A big unknown is whether the seeds are viable, which you won't know until you plant them.
Plant the seeds in a fast-draining succulent or cactus potting mix. Make sure you never let the soil dry up. If you don’t think you can maintain soil moistness, put a clear plastic bag around the growing pot. The germination rate of the seed can be a few weeks to two to three months, and seeds germinate quicker in spring or summer.
Potting and Repotting String of Pearls Plant
The ideal time to repot your string of pearls plant is at the beginning of spring. Use a fast-draining succulent or cactus soil mix. Get a well-draining pot with ample drainage holes. Terra cotta and unglazed ceramic pots are ideal for succulents. The pot should be the next size up from the pot you currently have, usually two to three inches larger and deeper. Add the soil to the bottom of the pot, gently remove the root ball from the old pot and center it on the bed of fresh soil. Fill the soil around the root ball up to one inch below the lip of the pot.
You can repot these plants annually but only a few times before they eventually begin to die back. After a few years, it's better to propagate a plant from new cuttings rather than trying to preserve and replant an older plant.
If you live in zone 8 or below, bring your string of pearls plant indoors during the winter; it will not survive a freezing winter outdoors. If you want your plant to eventually bloom, you will want to give it a cool-down period with temperatures just above freezing between 35 to 44 F. Keep the plant in a non-heated room that gets at least six hours of light, providing it the cool period it needs. Water very rarely—about once per month during the dormant period.
Aphids, mites, whiteflies, gnats, mealybugs, and ants are common bugs attracted to string of pearls. Insects often overtake it if the plant is unhealthy. Poor drainage, high humidity, overcrowding, and insufficient light can weaken a string of pearls plant's defenses. Avoid overwatering, mist the plant with neem oil solution, move the plant to a well-ventilated area, and inspect your plants regularly for pests. Neem oil and insecticidal soap are two organic pest control methods for insects on your plant. Try these methods before going the route of synthetic pesticides.
How to Get String of Pearls Plant to Bloom
Overwintering is essential if you want to see your succulents bloom. String of pearls bloom in summer, producing one-half-inch daisy-like white flowers with long red stamens and bright yellow anthers. The small flowers are not showy but are fragrant with a sweet and spicy, cinnamon-like scent. Give the plant a cool-down period, leaving it relatively dry in the winter months. Once the growing season begins in spring, fertilize twice a week. Although it rarely flowers when kept indoors, it can bloom if it's fed regularly and has sufficient water and light. A bright windowsill with several hours of direct sun is adequate. When it flowers, its blooms last a month or so.
Common Problems With String of Pearls Plant
String of pearls plants rarely have issues with pests and diseases, making them great to keep. The biggest problem this plant has is usually related to too much or not enough water.
If your plant's leaves are wilting or withering, it can be a sign of underwatering or overwatering. If you've frequently been watering and the soil feels soggy, you are watering too much, or the plant needs better drainage. Water once every seven to 14 days; the top inch of soil should feel dry before watering again. If the round leaves flatten, it's a sign you should increase water frequency.
Yellowing or Graying Leaves
Yellowing or gray-colored leaves are often caused by insect activity. Regularly treating the plant with neem oil should keep insects at bay.
Mushy Stems and Leaves Turning Purple
Overwatering is another reason for mushy stems and leaves; it causes the root to rot, making it easy for soil-borne fungus to set in. Root rot can kill the plant. Prevent this condition by watering on a regular schedule. To save the plant, you can let the plant dry out and see if it recovers. If the plant is too far gone, you can cut off any remaining healthy stems and propagate them in a small pot with clean soil. Discard the infected soil and root. Sterilize the pot before using it again.
Are string of pearls plants easy to care for?
String of pearl plants are easy to care for, requiring water only once every week or two.
What's the difference between string of pearls and string of tears plants?
String of pearls (Curio rowleyanus) and string of tears (Curio citriformis) are closely related, coming from the same part of the world, and look very similar. The string of pearls leaves are more pea-shaped and can grow on vines up to three feet long, while string of tears leaves are raindrop-shaped with vines usually growing up to one foot.
How long can string of pearls plants live?
String of pearl plants are short-lived plants. They only live about three to five years before they start losing vitality and begin to die back. They are easy to propagate by stem cuttings to create new plants, allowing the plant to live on indefinitely.
Can string of pearls plant grow indoors?
Yes, string of pearls plant can grow indoors in a sunny window. It's a popular indoor hanging plant.
String of Pearls, Senecio rowleyanus. University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension
Senecio rowleyanus. Missouri Botanical Garden.