If you are a fan of trailing succulents, the string of rubies (Othonna capensis) is one that you have to add to your collection. Also fondly nicknamed “ruby necklace” or “string of pickles”, this succulent is characterized by thin oval-shaped leaves and a reddish-purple stem. As a part of the Asteraceae family, the string of rubies is most closely related to the Senecio genus which includes popular trailing succulents like the string of pearls, string of bananas, string of dolphins, and more.
However, the string of rubies has a unique characteristic that sets it apart from other trailing succulents. True to its name, its bean-shaped leaves turn a bright ruby red when the plant is under stress.
|Botanical Name||Othonna capensis|
|Common Name||String of rubies, ruby necklace, string of pickles|
|Mature Size||2 inches tall|
|Sun Exposure||Direct sun|
|Soil Type||Well-draining, cactus/succulent soil|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer, fall|
|Native Area||South Africa|
String of Rubies Care
The string of rubies is an easy-to-grow succulent that sports delicate yellow flowers for the majority of the year when it is properly cared for. Native to South Africa, this sun-loving succulent is known for being drought-tolerant thanks to its bean-shaped leaves that can hold water for an extended period of time. Place your string of rubies in a bright location and water it every couple of weeks and it will thrive.
A bright, sunny, south-facing window that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight is the ideal environment for a string of rubies. When grown outdoors, a string of rubies does best in full sun to partial shade conditions. This means that when this succulent is grown indoors it should be given as much light as possible.
True to its name, when a string of rubies is grown in direct sun, the leaves will turn ruby red. However, when grown in low light conditions, the leaves will revert to green and the plant is more likely to become leggy.
If you do not have an area that receives enough sunlight for your string of rubies, it will also do well under strong grow lights.
The string of rubies succulent requires well-draining, acidic soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. Commercially available cactus and succulent soil mixes can be used for a string of rubies, or you can make your own soil mix by amending regular potting soil with plenty of perlite, sand, and/or pumice to provide drainage.
Let your string of rubies dry out thoroughly between waterings. As with most succulents, the string of rubies is easily susceptible to root rot if overwatered and is considered drought-tolerant. Let the soil dry out and then water your string of rubies thoroughly, allowing any excess water to drain out of the pot.
Temperature and Humidity
The string of rubies is not a cold weather succulent and does best in warmer temperatures. Never let your string of rubies sit in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) for extended periods of time.
When grown indoors, a string of rubies does well in typical household temperature and humidity levels. Avoid placing your string of rubies next to cold or drafty windows during extreme winter temperatures.
As with most succulents, the string of rubies is not a heavy feeder and does not require regular fertilization. However, to support new growth, the string of rubies can be fertilized a couple of times throughout the spring and summer months. Use a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen for best results.
Potting and Repotting String of Rubies
These trailing succulents don’t typically require frequent repotting and don’t mind being slightly rootbound. Repotting every two to three years should be adequate.
When you are choosing a pot for your string of rubies, ensure that the pot has a drainage hole to provide adequate drainage, and only go up one pot size when you repot.
Although string of rubies can do well in any pot, terracotta varieties are usually a great choice for succulents. This material absorbs any excess water in the soil and this makes it harder to overwater the plant.
Propagating String of Rubies
String of rubies can be easily propagated by stem cuttings. When taking cuttings, ensure that at least 2-3 nodes are present on each stem. String of rubies cuttings can be rooted in soil and in water, although the success rate is usually higher with soil than with water because they are less likely to rot.
To propagate using soil, fill a tray or shallow pot with cactus/succulent soil and lay the stem cuttings on the top of the soil. Until roots have established and new growth can be seen, keep the soil moist (but not waterlogged) to help encourage rooting.
If you wish to try propagating string of rubies in water rather than soil, take the stem cuttings and remove the bottom leaves to expose the stem and the nodes and then place the end of the stem in water. Ensure that at least 1-2 nodes are submerged in water. Using glass containers such as small jars, vases, or thrifted glass containers will help you to keep an eye on the root development. The water should be changed weekly. Once roots have established in water, transfer the cuttings to soil and keep the soil moist for the first week or two so that the roots don’t go into shock.
Watch out for common sap-sucking houseplant pests such as mealybugs and scale on your string of rubies. Regularly inspecting the succulent and catching any pests early is the best way to prevent more serious infestations. Treat affected plants with rubbing alcohol, neem oil, or insecticidal soap to get rid of unwanted pests.