String of Pearls (Senecio Rowleyanus) is a beautiful house plant with delicate leaves shaped like peas/ pearl strings around ¼ inch in diameter (hence named string of pearls). This plant belongs to the genus Senecio which contains around 1250 species and it is one of the species with a large number of flowering plants. It is known by various names such as Rosary Plant, String of Beads, Bead Plant, String of Peas, String of Marbles, Necklace Plant, Roasary Vine, Irish Beads etc. It is a very fast-growing succulent.
I was searching for some beautiful houseplants about 6-7 months ago when I came across this stunning photograph of String of Pearls plant in a hanging basket. The beauty of this pearl plant left me awestruck and that is when I decided to buy one. I searched for String of Pearls plant in many local nurseries but could not find it in a single shop. I finally ordered it through Amazon and here I had my first String of Pearls Plant!
But wait, my happiness did not last very long because I made some fundamental mistakes and my pearls shrivelled and died in about 15 days. That is when I started researching about how to take proper care of this beautiful plant. And guess what! I ordered 2 plants in December 2019 (this time I found one cheaper online store) and they are happily growing ever after! Even producing flowers. Isn’t it amazing! So what changes I made in its routine care? Let us find out.
The name String of Pearls is often used interchangeably with similar looking String of Beads (Senecio Herreianus) which is a plant belonging to the same genus. However String of Beads is more compact and has different sized leaves looking like peas/grapes/water drops ( slightly elongated).
These succulents can grow up to 2-3 ft in length. They are normally used as ornamental plants and grown in hanging baskets to showcase the long beautiful trailing strings of pearls. They can form dense mat like look when allowed to grow naturally on ground under good growing conditions. Hence they are used by landscapers for decorative purposes.
The spherical shape of the leaves is an adaptation to scarce resource availability (water) and therefore to survive, they store water inside the leaves. The spherical leaves have a translucent light green shaded window (as shown in the picture on the left) on one side which allows light to reach the inside of the leaves. Hence light absorption occurs on the outer as well as inner surface of the leaves to prepare sufficient food for the plant.
Optimum Temperature to Grow String of Pearls
This delicate plant does not like extremely high temperatures. The ideal temperature to grow the pearls is around 21°C -23°C (70°F – 73°F). If you live in US, they will thrive well in US Hardiness Zones 9-12. On the other hand, they cannot tolerate freezing temperatures or frost and should be kept inside where there is a bright spot to keep the soil slightly warm.
They grow vigorously from February to October which is their growth season. Do not keep them in areas which receive sudden air blasts or gusts of cold/hot air as the delicate pearls may drop off the string. They can also tolerate high humid climates.
String of Pearls should be grown in bright light. They thrive well in 4-6 hrs of morning/evening sunlight. You may keep them near a window which receives filtered sunlight. However, they should not be kept in complete shade or afternoon sun in summers.
You can consider keeping them near South or West facing window. If you live in hot climate, keep them 5’-10’ away from the window to avoid sunburns. If you do not have any spot with bright light in your home, you can put them 5’-7’ below the fluorescent light for an optimal growth.
Best Soil Type/Potting Mix
One needs to take extreme care while selecting the soil / potting mix for this plant. Succulents in general need a well draining soil since they have shallow root system. Roots of succulents are prone to rotting very quickly if there is water stagnation in the soil. One of the main reasons why my first String of Pearls plant died is because I used normal garden soil instead of a succulent mix. Normal garden soil has a tendency to retain water for a longer period than required by this plant. Hence it is not suitable for succulents in general.
If you wish to get your hands on a good succulent mix quickly, you can buy from Amazon. You can also prepare your own succulent mix at home.
To prepare the potting mix for succulents at home, you should mix:
- River sand ( and not beach sand as it has many mixed salts harmful for the plants) – 35%
- Compost – 35%
- Perlite – 15%
- Cocopeat (soaked in water)- 15%
- Fungicide (1-2 tsp)
River sand facilitates good drainage and also helps in holding the root structure of the plant. Succulents do not require a lot of nutrients , hence old compost will solve the purpose. However, make sure the compost is well decomposed. Perlite is a very light material with low density and high water absorption and hence it prevents roots from getting clogged with water over time while maintaining aeration in the soil. Cocopeat will help in water retention to keep the soil slightly moist at the same time helping in soil drainage. Succulents are generally prone to fungus attacks and hence it is always good to proactively protect the plants from such attacks by mixing fungicide in the potting mix.
Flowering in String of Pearls Plant
This delicate plant produces cottony compound trumpet shaped white flowers in winter and spring season. The blooms last for a month. Each flower is bunch of tinier flowers with long red coloured spikes (stamens) at the circumference of the flower and a yellow cap (Anthers) at the tip of the spike. The Anthers are followed by seed heads. The flowers have a very faint cinnamon like scent.
String of Pearls go into dormancy in winters.They do not flower easily. To stimulate flowering, keep the soil dry for longer periods of time during winter season. The ideal temperature for blooming is around 10°C -13 °C (50°F-55 °F). Also ensure that your soil is well aerated (See section Best Pot Material to learn how to keep your soil aerated).
Repotting & Pruning String of Pearls Plant
String of Pearls do not need to be re-potted very often. Re-potting once in 2-3 years is sufficient (if they become root bound). They also do not need to be pruned very often and are low maintenance plants. If your plant is thinning at the top or you want to level the trailing string at the bottom of the plant, you may prune the plant to give it a fuller appearance.
Watch this video to see how to repot the pearls string without damaging the plant.
Propagation of String of Pearls Plant
As with other succulents, it is very easy to propagate string of pearls plant from the cuttings. These are trailing plants so they grow in length but not in width very quickly. So you may want to propagate them to create a nice looking fuller hanging plant. There are two methods of propagation from cuttings:
Method 1: Select a 6-7 inch string from a healthy plant and prune it. Put the entire string horizontally inside the container on top of the succulent soil. Gently press it so that the nodes (spaces in between 2 consecutive pearls) are slightly covered with soil. Do not bury the cutting deep inside the soil. Also make sure to remove the pearls which are getting buried inside the soil as they will start to rot and may result in fungi attack. Spray with water gently.
Method 2: Take a 6-7 inch cutting from a healthy plant, remove 4-5 pearls from the side of the string where the cut was made and burry it 1 inch deep into the soil. Spray with water gently.
You can also grow String of Pearls plant from seed. After the seed pods develop, allow them to dry completely before detaching them from the plant. Once fully dry, open the seeds pods and remove the seeds. When growing from seeds, remember seeds require moist and warm conditions to germinate. Burry the seeds ½ inch inside the soil, mist the soil and keep the container in a dark and warm area. Once they germinate, gradually transfer them in bright light allowing them time to adapt to new environment.
Pearls plant is slightly toxic in nature. Keep it away from the reach of children and pets.
Plant Life Span
This is a perennial plant (vine) and can thrive for several years before dying.
Best Pot Material
Pearl string plant has very shallow root system and hence should be planted in shallow containers which allow faster drainage and drying of soil.
I had bought 2 plants at the same time from the same shop. I planted one in an earthen clay pot and another in a coco coir hanging basket. And can you guess the results?
The one planted in coco coir basket produced some 7-8 flowers (see the picture below) while the other one produced none. Why? Because coco coir basket is very porous and hence allows abundant soil aeration while also facilitating dry spells in between watering as it drains the water immediately leaving the soil only slightly moist. It dries very quickly. While the earthen clay pot does not let the soil dry as fast as coco coir basket. Here is a picture of both the plants:
Potted in Coco-Coir Hanging Basket. Filled with Flowers.
String of Pearls plant should be fertilized once a month during their growth season (February to October). You can use the cactus feed available commercially in market, diluted in water to fertilize. You can also use old compost or worm compost regularly to feed the plant.
You do not need to apply fertilizer in winter months. Do not over fertilize the plant as this will lead to root burn and eventually in the death of the plant. Over fertilizing may also result in a leggy plant with fewer number of pearls.
String of Pearls plant is very tolerant to extremely low temperatures however they should be saved from frost. You can keep your plant outdoors in winter as the temperatures are not very high during the daytime.
Pearl string plants do not like very high temperatures and should be kept indoors in summers during the daytime.
Watering/ Irrigating String of Pearls Plant
Watering or irrigation routine is one of the most important aspects in caring for this plant. Most of the home gardeners have a tendency to water the plants every alternate day or every day even if their plant is not thirsty. Change your habit! Because you will kill your lovely plant immediately.
Overwatered soil is the biggest enemy of this plant. Since String of Pearls plant is a succulent, it retains water in its leaves to survive (remember its native is Southwest African region). So it is always good to leave the soil completely dry rather than overwater it. This will eliminate the risk of root rot as these plants are very drought tolerant and can survive for long periods without water.
You should water your plant once in 7-10 days in summers and once a month in winters as a rule of thumb (as per North Indian climate). However, watering routine should be adjusted as per the climate of the region where you live.
Do not mist the plant. It is best to water them from the bottom rather from the top.
Diseases & Pest Control
Succulents are in general prone to fungi attacks and therefore it is good to treat your succulent mix with fungicide proactively.
Aphids (tiny black spot like bugs) and Mealy Bugs (white cottony bugs) are another common problems with succulents and they normally appear underneath the leaves. If you see ants crawling onto your plant, it is a sign that your plant is under attack by aphids and mealy bugs.
You can use neem oil spray (organic) sparingly on the plant to save your plants from these bugs. You may also use chemical insecticides commercially available in the market.
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