String of Pearls is the common name given to a popular houseplant, with the botanical name Curio rowleyanus (formerly known as Senecio rowleyanus). It is easily identifiable by even houseplant novices due to its unique look.
What is String of Pearls?
String of pearls is a succulent native to parts of Africa. It has unusual spherical leaves and a string of beads appearance which gives it its common name ‘string of pearls’ or ‘string of beads’.
Though it is a groundcover plant in its native range, creating mats over the sandy soil, indoor cultivation often sees it grown in hanging baskets or raised planters, with its strings of ‘beads’ or ‘pearls’ spilling over the sides.
It is commonly grown as a houseplant year-round though it can potentially be grown outside in USDA zones 9-12.
Just remember when growing this plant that it is poisonous to both people and pets.
Where to Grow String of Pearls
Growing a string of pearls plant indoors successfully involves thinking carefully about the conditions that it needs to thrive and then making sure that you place your plant in a suitable location and position within your home.
The first and in some ways most important thing to think about is how much light the plant will get in a given position, and when.
These plants prefer a position in which they get direct sun in the morning when the light is less intense, then filtered, indirect light, or partial shade during the hottest part of the day.
For this reason, in the northern hemisphere, an east-facing window is a good position to consider when choosing a place for a string of pearls plant within your home.
Temperature & Humidity Requirements
These plants thrive in warm conditions and prefer temperatures to be consistently above 21 degrees Celsius through the growing season from spring to fall. During the winter, these plants will appreciate temperatures between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius and so it is best kept out of more heated rooms during this time.
These succulents like arid conditions and do not do well where humidity is too high. So keep them away from bathrooms, kitchen sinks, or other locations where humidity may be high to keep them happy.
Soil/ Growing Medium
As succulents, these plants need a free-draining potting mix or sandy, free-draining soil. A commercial cactus potting mix can be a good choice for your string of pearls plant, though you can also make your own free-draining mix using three parts peat-free potting mix to one part sharp sand or grit.
Planting String of Pearls
It is a good idea to plant a string of pearls plant into a pot or other container that is not only free-draining but also quick to dry out. Unglazed clay or terracotta pots can be a good choice. Remember, these plants look good in hanging containers, or in other containers where they can trail over the sides.
Caring for String of Pearls
Caring for a string of pearls plant is not too challenging. But there are certain important things to bear in mind.
If you care for your plants correctly, you should be able to keep them for several years. But remember that these plants are pretty short-lived and after a few years (usually 3-5) you will find it better to take cuttings to replace your plant rather than keep hold of the old one.
The amount of water that the string of pearls plant will need is relatively low. These are succulents, of course, and so can cope with some drought. So watering too little is usually better than watering too much when growing these plants.
However, though they can cope with some drought, they do prefer the medium to be just moist through the growing season. So in spring and summer through to fall, it is best to water to maintain moisture without creating waterlogged conditions.
If you see the spherical leaves flattening out, this is a good sign that more water is required.
In winter, less watering will be required. So you should water only sparsely through the winter months.
Always make sure drainage is good, and water deeply and well but make sure excess can drain away freely or root rot is likely to occur.
Feeding your string of pearls once a fortnight through the spring and summer can help keep it in tip-top health. Use an organic, balanced liquid plant feed that is diluted to around half the usual strength (like a dilute compost tea, for example).
In winter, when the plant is dormant, feed only sparingly, every 6 weeks or so, if you feed at all. While not essential this should help to keep your plant as healthy and happy as possible.
Pruning your string of pearls plant can help make it bushier and fuller, encouraging branching and discouraging legginess. Simply prune out any dead, damaged stems or ones that have lost a lot of leaves, and trim back any stems that have become too long.
Remember, you might take cuttings at the same time to propagate your plant. Make sure that you use sterilized secateurs or garden scissors for this job to prevent the spread of disease.
A string of pearls plant will not usually have too many problems and serious pest or disease problems are not common at all.
Most of the problems that arise when growing these plants arise because of an issue with the growing conditions or care – most commonly too much water or waterlogging, or too little.
Ideally, repot a string of pearls plant in the early spring. Select a pot or other container just a little larger than the current one and replant the specimen into some new growing medium.
Repot annually if required but remember these plants will lose vigor after a few years and it will then be best to take cuttings to make new plants to replace the original.