How to care for string of pearls | Senecio rowleyanus

If you’re looking for a funky trailing houseplant, keep reading. Learn how to care for string of pearls, a vining succulent houseplant with pea-shaped leaves that works perfectly in a nice hanging planter.

Let’s go into everything you need to know about string of pearls care and growing this succulent indoors!

Name(s) (common, scientific) String of pearls, string of beads, Senecio rowleyanus, Curio rowleyanus
Difficulty level Intermediate
Recommended lighting Bright/high
Water When completely dry
Substrate Gritty succulent soil

String of pearls natural habitat

Senecio rowleyanus is naturally found in southwest Africa, where it occurs in dry habitats.

The species grows in a creeping manner between rocks and other plants, benefiting from the shade. It has the ability to root wherever it touches the soil, allowing it to cover entire surfaces.

Did you know? Although it is still referred to as such almost everywhere, the correct scientific name for the string of pearls is actually no longer Senecio rowleyanus. It was classified in the genus Curio, meaning its official name is now Curio rowleyanus.

Close-up view of succulent leaves of Senecio rowleyanus, a houseplant also known as string of pearls.

How to care for string of pearls: Light & temperature

Light

Although the string of pearls tries to stay out of the sun as much as possible in its harsh natural habitat, it’s a bit of a different situation in the home. Because the light is always weaker indoors, the species will really appreciate being in the brightest, sunniest spot you can give it.

If you’d like to grow your string of pearls outdoors, make sure to shade it somewhat. The harsh afternoon sun can be a bit much!

Did you know? If you look closely, you’ll see translucent slits on the side of your string of pearls’ leaves. This is called fenestration and was long thought to aid in photosynthesis, although research has suggested that it may also be related to temperature regulation.

Egbert & Martin, 2002

Temperature

This is a tender species that’s used to pretty high temperatures. That being said, it should be fine as long as you protect it from frost and stop watering if temperatures get low.

Don’t let things drop below 10 °C if you don’t want your string of pearls to go into dormancy.

String of pearls houseplant (Senecio rowleyanus), a trailing succulent in a coconut planter.

How to repot string of pearls

Soil

One of the most crucial aspects of keeping this somewhat challenging succulent alive and thriving is choosing the right soil. As you can imagine, the species hasn’t exactly evolved to be able to deal with long periods of moisture. It needs to be planted in a very well-draining soil type to prevent rot.

Your best bet is a gritty succulent soil mixture. You can easily mix this yourself by combining 50% potting soil with 50% perlite, pumice or crushed volcanic rock.

A mixture like this allows excess water to pass through easily rather than retaining it.

Potting

A gritty, well-draining soil mixture is useless if the container you’re using for your string of pearls doesn’t have a drainage hole. If the planter you’re eyeing lacks one, you might want to consider drilling one yourself to prevent water from getting stuck.

Because the string of pearls can grow very long vines, it’s a gorgeous choice for a hanging planter. Terracotta is ideal, as its porous walls allow for water evaporation.

String of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus), a popular succulent houseplant.

String of pearls watering

On to what’s probably the most challenging part of how to care for string of pearls: this succulent is really sensitive to both over- and underwatering. Overwater your string of pearls and its round leaves will burst and rot. Underwater it, and it’ll turn into a shrivelled and stringy mess.

So how do you make sure neither of these two things happen? If you’ve got the lighting and the soil nailed, that should make it a little easier.

When it comes to watering succulents, you’ll always want to let the soil dry out entirely before watering again. Just don’t wait too long once it has. In the summer months, this can mean you’ll end up watering your string of pearls more often than you think!

Wintertime is a different story. Your string of pearls won’t be actively growing and doesn’t need nearly as much water.

Tip: Those round leaves can tell you a lot about what your string of pearls wants from you. If they’re flat and wrinkled, you might have waited too long between waterings. If the leaves seem to have burst or are showing signs of blackening, you definitely overdid it.

How fast does a string of pearls grow?

It can be a bit difficult to nail string of pearls care indoors, but once you have, you’ll likely see it take off. A well cared for string of pearls can be a pretty vigorous grower! The vines can become more than a meter (3.3 ft) long.

Keep in mind that your succulent won’t do much growing in winter. It also won’t grow properly if light is lacking, producing stringy vines with tiny beads rather than big, plump leaves.

String of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus), a popular succulent houseplant.

How to care for string of pearls: Fertilizer

Like most other succulents, the string of pearls is not a heavy feeder. You can fertilize a couple of times during the growing season using a diluted liquid succulent fertilizer.

During the winter months, or if you just repotted your string of pearls, there’s no need to apply any fertilizer.

String of pearls propagation

Succulent propagation is a fun affair and it’s no different with this species! String of pearls propagation is super easy and can be done in water or soil. You can use healthy parts of the vines to multiply yours.

To propagate a string of pearls, just cut finger-length bits off the mother plant’s vines. You can pot these up in individual planters or place them back with your original plant to give it a fuller look. They root quickly and should continue growing in no time.

Buying string of pearls

The string of pearls is a popular succulent that you should be able to find in most plant stores and garden centers.

You can also buy a string of pearls online!

Tip: Keep in mind that there are some lookalikes out there. The string of tears (Senecio herreianus) and string of bananas (Senecio radicans) both look similar, and it doesn’t help that there are endless common names for them out there (string of beans, string of bananas, string of watermelons… and more). Good thing their care is similar!

Is string of pearls toxic to cats and dogs?

Although it’s unlikely to kill anyone, the string of pearls is considered toxic to pets and humans. The sap can cause skin irritation. Ingestion is apparently unpleasant, resulting in irritation of the mouth as well as possible vomiting, diarrhea and general malaise.

All in all, your best bet is to keep the string of pearls away from anyone who might try to take a bite out of it. Especially cats, who are likely to find those stringy vines absolutely irresistible!


If you have any more questions about how to care for string of pearls or want to share your own experiences with this fun hanging houseplant, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! 🌱

Egbert, K. J., & Martin, C. E. (2002). The influence of leaf windows on the utilization and absorption of radiant energy in seven desert succulents. Photosynthetica40(1), 35-39.

2 thoughts on “How to care for string of pearls | Senecio rowleyanus”

  1. I have been growing string of pearls since the last 3-4 months and it’s winter here. The pearls appear too small or I should say, tiny.
    What could be the reason?

    Reply

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