String of pearls plants are unique vining succulents that are easily recognizable by their almost spherical, tiny pea-shaped leaves. The leaves grow on trailing stems that gracefully spill over the sides of planters and hanging baskets. You can use these stems to propagate the plant, which is a very robust and quick grower but does not live long without propagation.
Though normally cultivated year-round 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 in spring with a pleasant scent reminiscent of cinnamon (though it rarely flowers indoors).
|Botanical Name||Senecio rowleyanus (also referred to as Curio rowleyanus)|
|Common Name||String of pearls, string of beads, string of peas, rosary vine|
|Mature Size||1-2 ft. tall, 1-2 ft. long|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil Type||Sandy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Hardiness Zones||9-12 (USDA)|
|Toxicity||Toxic to humans, dogs, and cats|
String of Pearls Plant 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 stems can also be twined together, 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 major pest or 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 kept in direct sunlight during the softer morning hours, then moved to a spot that gets diffused, indirect light, or partial shade throughout the harsher afternoon hours.
Any regular succulent potting soil is fine 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 3:1 mixture of potting soil and sharp sand. These plants are It is susceptible to root rot, so it's important to make sure their soil is well-draining. Plant them in a container that boasts ample drainage holes at its base—one made of terra cotta or clay 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 are flattening out, that's a good indication that the plant needs more water. Be careful not to overwater your string of pearls plant—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. It grows best with cooler winter temperatures, ranging from 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Low humidity is also preferred for the plant, 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 their growing season with a balanced liquid or water-soluble fertilizer, diluted to about half strength. During its winter dormant period, you'll only need to feed the plant every six weeks or so.
Varieties of the Curio Species
String of pearls plants are 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 by its botanical name. There are some other, equally remarkable succulents in the same family which include:
- 'Curio radicans': Fuller and not as trailing as string of pearls, this varietal has tendrils with banana-shaped leaves. It's commonly known as 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
Propagating String of Pearls Plant
String of pearls plants propagate quite easily, and doing so is integral to the plant's continued presence in your home. To propagate, take stem cuttings that are several inches in length, and allow them to heal over (form a scab on the cut end) for a few days before replanting.
Fill a small pot with succulent or cactus mix and replant the cuttings in the soil. Allow the new plants to settle for a couple of days, then give them a good watering—they should take root quickly.
Potting and Repotting String of Pearls
It's a good idea to repot your string of pearls plant every year at the beginning of spring. These plants can be repotted only a few times before they eventually begin to die back, so after a few years, it's better to propagate a plant from new cuttings rather than trying to preserve and replant an older plant.