String of pearls (Curio rowleyanus; formerly Senecio rowleyanus) is a unique vining succulent that is easily recognizable by its almost spherical, tiny pea-shaped leaves. The leaves grow on 2-foot trailing stems that gracefully spill over the sides of planters and hanging baskets. You can use the stems to propagate the plant, which is a very robust grower but does not live long without propagation.
Though normally cultivated as a hanging plant, in its natural habitat (the deserts of East Africa) the string of pearls is terrestrial and forms a ground cover. In addition to its peculiar sphere-like leaves, the string of pearls produces white flowers with a pleasant scent reminiscent of cinnamon.
|Botanical Name||Curio rowleyanus (formerly Senecio rowleyanus)|
|Common Name||String of pearls, string of beads, string of peas, rosary vine|
|Mature Size||Trailing stems grow to 2 feet long|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun to part sun|
|Soil Type||Sandy mix with good drainage|
|Hardiness Zones||9 to 12|
|Native Area||East Africa|
How to Grow String of Pearls
The string of pearls plant is not particular about its conditions. Given enough light and fertilizer, it will grow quite vigorously in a single 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 stems can also be twined together. 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 major pest or disease problems, and it doesn’t require much care. It does, however, need plenty of light all year. It is susceptible to root rot, so make sure soil is well-drained.
String of pearls needs only a few hours of direct sunlight per day. It does, however, require indirect sunlight as well. While your plant can survive and thrive with a minimum of care, plenty of light is absolutely essential.
Any regular succulent potting soil is fine, but sandy soil is best. A good choice for this plant is a cactus potting mix; alternatively, use a 3:1 mix of potting soil and sharp sand.
Keep its soil lightly moist during the growing season in the spring and summer. Reduce water during the winter months. If its spherical leaves are flattening out, the plant needs more water. Be careful not to overwater; succulents like string of pearls are drought-resistant but cannot survive with wet, soggy roots.
Temperature and Humidity
String of pearls thrives in warm temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit from spring through fall. It grows best with cooler winter temperatures of 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Low humidity is best for this plant (40 percent or lower). Your string of pearls plant will thrive outdoors in summer, but avoid very hot noonday sun, which can burn its leaves.
Feed your string of pearls plants biweekly during the growing season with a balanced liquid or water-soluble fertilizer l(for example,12-12-12), diluted to about half strength. During its winter dormant period, feed only about every six weeks.
Potting and Repotting
It's a good idea to repot string of pearls every year at the beginning of spring. These plants can be repotted only a few times before they eventually begin to die back. After a few years, its better to propagate a plant from new cuttings rather than trying to preserve an older plant.
Propagating String of Pearls
The string of pearls propagates quite easily: simply take stem cuttings and replant the leaves in potting soil. Make sure to keep its soil slightly moist. It should root quickly.
Varieties of the Curio Species
Curio rowleyanus is a member of the daisy family, but no other plant quite resembles it, and it’s usually sold simply as string of pearls rather than its botanical name. There are some other, equally remarkable succulents in the same family:
- Curio radicans: Fuller and not as trailing as C. rowleyanus; has tendrils with banana-shaped leaves; commonly known as string of bananas or string of fish hooks
- Curio herreanus: Commonly called string of watermelon or string of beads; trailing plant with tiny melon-shaped leaves with purple striping
- Curio citriformus: Has both erect and trailing stems filled with plump, teardrop leaves and small white flowers that bloom between late summer and winter
Toxicity of String of Pearls
The foliage of this plant is slightly toxic and should never be consumed, so make sure it’s not easily accessible to children or pets. If ingested, it can cause stomach problems like vomiting or diarrhea, and its sap can also irritate the skin.