If you are looking for a plant that is great for a beginner or you forget to water your plants, try growing string of buttons (Crassula perforata). String of buttons is a succulent with square or triangle-shaped leaves that create a spiral shape around the plant's stem to give it a stacked appearance. The gray-green leaves can take on a pink hue when exposed to sufficient light. Plant this fast-growing succulent indoors or outdoors in the spring and summer. Crassula perforata is toxic to humans and animals.
|Common Name||String of buttons|
|Botanical Name||Crassula perforata|
|Plant Type||Succulent, perennial|
|Mature Size||1-2 ft. tall, 2-3 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Well-drained, loamy, sandy|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral, alkaline|
|Flower Color||Yellow, white|
|Hardiness Zones||9-12 (USDA)|
|Native Area||South Africa|
|Toxicity||Toxic to people, toxic to pets|
String of Buttons Care
String of buttons can deal with less-than-ideal light, little water, and extremes in temperatures. This makes it the perfect plant to stand up to the neglect often suffered at the hands of an inexperienced plant owner.
This succulent’s hardiness comes from the fact that it is native to the gritty arid soil and rocky slopes of South Africa, where it grows among the craggy florae. This has made the plant adaptable to many conditions.
Growing a hardy string of buttons plant is not complicated. It makes a great indoor plant and works in a container garden in some warmer North American zones. It will even do well as a terrarium plant.
A key requirement for their survival, however, is good drainage. The only thing that will really kill this versatile plant is overwatering.
In its native habitat in South Africa, Crassula perforata has adapted to meet the demands of living in both harsh full sun and the shadows cast by tall rocks and bushes that grow alongside the diminutive trailing succulent.
It will handle almost any lighting condition in an indoor setting but will suffer if left without enough light. Evidence of this deficiency will be the loss of coloration of the plant’s foliage.
For best results, string of buttons should receive plenty of indirect sunlight.
The perfect soil for string of buttons would be a mix that mimics the soil found in its native habitat. A well-draining medium of sand, pumice, and bark would fit this description. A ready-made cactus mix would be ideal and there are many good choices available at your nursery or garden supply store.
An easy way to avoid overwatering a succulent like string of buttons is the soak-and-dry method. Simply soak the soil, drenching it until water runs out of the bottom of the pot and the soil is fully moist. Do not let the water touch the leaves while you're watering. The leaves of succulents store water, but they do not need watering.
You don't have to water Crassula perforata often. Only water again when the soil is fully dry and not before. Following this cycle will help keep the plant from being overwatered.
Temperature and Humidity
String of buttons makes an excellent container plant but should be protected from frost or temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
The weather conditions in South Africa have prepared Crassula perforata for some elevated temperatures, though more frequent watering may be needed in these instances.
String of buttons normally grows in areas with poor, infertile soil. It is not used to having nutrient-rich soil. Fertilizer should not be needed. If you are looking to give the plant a bit of a boost, using a houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength will work.
Types of String of Buttons
Here are the three popular varieties of Crassula perforata:
- Crassula perforata ssp. Kougaensis is a basic type of succulent with reddish or pinkish edges on each leaf.
- Crassula perforata variegata is another common type of this succulent that develops rainbow-like colors on the edges of each leaf.
- Crassula perforata 'Ivory Towers' has much larger leaves and more distinct coloration at the margins.
You can prune Crassula perforata since it can grow out of shape and in all directions, taking on the appearance of thick, wavy spiral noodles (a desirable trait, though, if you want your plant to cascade over a hanging pot). Use sterile gardening scissors to prune the wayward stems and get the plant back in shape. To prune, look for stems that are too long, bent, weakened, or old. You can also break off any old or damaged leaves to clean up the plant.
Propagating String of Buttons
Like most other succulents, string of buttons is easy to propagate from the offshoots that grow from the mother plant, which are often referred to as pups. It is not recommended to propagate from the leaves, as most of the leaves won't survive. Take these steps to propagate from cuttings:
- Look for several decent-sized pups to cut from the mother plant using a sharp and sterile knife.
- Take the bottom leaves off the stems. You can gently loosen the leaves and slide them off the stem.
- Let the stems dry for a day before planting the cuttings. This gives the exposed end of the cutting a chance to develop a callous to hold in water, which will make it more likely to root successfully.
- Fill a clay pot with a well-draining potting mix formulated for cacti and succulents.
- Place the bottom of the cutting into the soil, along with any emerging roots.
- Keep the pot in a spot with bright light and water it once a week or when the soil is dry.
- The cuttings should be rooted in a few weeks.
Potting and Repotting String of Buttons
Though it may sprawl, string of buttons is not a huge plant and it can live happily for its entire life in a 10-inch or 3-gallon pot. It's not recommended to frequently repot succulents since they don't like the disruption, but it may be necessary to fix root damage. Repot in warmer months for best results. Gently take the plant out of its pot and tap away the dirt to inspect the roots for damage. If the roots are wet, let the plant dry out for a day or two on a paper towel in a bright spot that does not have harsh light. Repot in a clay pot of a similar or slightly larger size than the original pot using dry potting mix formulated for cacti and succulents. Do not water for a few days to give the roots a chance to settle in.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
String of buttons does not attract many pests with the exception of scale, spider mites, and mealybugs, all of which can be effectively eliminated with neem oil indoors or outdoors. Fungal disease and root rot may develop from overwatering.
Common Problems With String of Buttons
There are rarely problems with this easy-going succulent. You may find a couple of issues that are easy to remedy.
Leaves Turning Brown
Your plant may be getting too much sunlight and causing sunburn. Move the plant to an area that receives less direct light.
Leaves Turning Mushy
You may be overwatering your plant. The stem may feel mushy, too. Try reviving the plant by removing the dead leaves and soft stems, and then let the plant dry out before giving it any further water.
If you are underwatering your succulent, the leaves may shrivel. The leaves are not retaining or storing water, which is making them dry up. Water immediately to see improvement.
Is string of buttons and string of turtles the same succulent?
These two succulents have similar names, but they are different plants. String of turtles has much smaller oval leaves than the square and triangular leaves of the string of buttons plant.
Can string of buttons be used for a hanging plant?
String of buttons looks lovely in a hanging planter. Avoid pruning for a while and let the stems sprawl and cascade over the sides.
What are good companion plants for string of buttons?
Although succulents look great grouped together, you have other options for companion plants, especially if you've planted your string of buttons outdoors as ground cover. Depending on your zone, try various daisies, silvery green foliage like artemisia, and blue fescue grass.
Succulents 101. West Virginia University Extension.
String of Buttons (Crassula perforata). The National Gardening Association.
Insect Pests of Cacti and Succulents Grown as House Plants. Missouri Botanical Gardens.