String of Pearls is unique succulent with small, round green leaves on trailing vines. Easy to care for, this popular succulent is perfect for hanging baskets.
In this post, we’re going to give you a comprehensive guide to looking after your String of Pearls plant. How much light it needs, how and when to water, the best soil and the optimal temperature will all be covered. Plus, we’ll show you how to diagnose an unhealthy string of pearls plant and give you the steps you need to take to fix it.
String of Pearls Succulent
The String of Pearls plant has the scientific name of Senecio Rowleyanus. It is native to South Africa.
You may also see it referred to as Curio Rowleyanus. The senecio type covers over 1,250 plants. In recent times, a subset of senecios , including the String of Pearls plant, have been designated as curios. And so both the names senecio rowleyanus and curio rowleyanus are correct.
What Does A String of Pearls Plant Look Like?
The string of pearls plant has small, spherical, solid green leaves that grow on thin trailing vines. The leaves can vary in size but average 1/4 inch (6mm) in diameter – about the size of a green pea. It is sometimes called the String of Peas plant.
The stems are quite fragile and easily broken with too much handling.
How Big Does String Of Pearls Plant Grow?
The vines of String of Pearls can grow up to 3 feet (90cm) long.
It is a relatively fast-growing plant, adding up to 12 inches (30cm) a year. However, it is not a long-living plant and, even with optimal care, may only live for five years.
You can, however, take cuttings from an older plant and propagate them to grow a new plant, effectively extending the life of your string of pearls.
Does String of Pearls Flower?
The string of pearls plant does flower with delicate, white puffball flowers on long stalks.
Blooming in summer, the flowers give off a delicate cinnamon fragrance.
Image sources: Pinterest Joyus Garden
It is, however, difficult to get to flower, especially if kept indoors.
You need to provide it with just the right conditions, especially during its winter rest phase. Keep watering to a minimum but ensure it gets plenty of bright, indirect sunlight and keep it in a temperature range of 50 – 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 – 15 degrees Celsius).
What Is The Difference Between String Of Pearls And String Of Beads?
Before we go into the best ways to care for your string of pearls plant, we are going to show you a couple of closely related plants that are often confused for String of Pearls.
There are a number of types of string plants. The two most commonly confused with String of pearls are:
- String of beads – senecio herreianus
- String of tears – senecio citriformis
You will often see the names of these plants interchanged by plant sellers and in information sources.
Just like string of pearls, both these varieties make fantastic hanging plants.
String Of Beads
Senecio herreianus, String of Beads is visually very similar to String of Pearls. But the leaves are more oval in a string of beads, and there is more variety in shape and size than a string of pearls plant displays.
The beads are usually closer together than the leaves of a string of pearls.
The variegated String of Beads is known as String of Watermelons because of the slightly oval shape of leaves and variegation of color that can resemble the markings on the rind of a watermelon.
String Of Tears – Senecio Citriformis
Senecio citriformis, String of Tears has leaves that end at a point – more like a pea-pod than a pea – and grow in an outward direction from the stem.
Variegated String Of Pearls
Senecio rowleyanus variegata is the variegated type of String of pearls. It features green pea-like leaves that are streaked with cream.
If the plant is suffering some environmental stress – such as too much or too little light, water or heat, the beads can start to turn a pink or purple color.
Image source: Pinterest
The variegated version is also popular as a hanging plant.
How To Care For String Of Pearls
You will be pleased to hear that these plants aren’t difficult to care for. They like mild conditions without extremes of temperature, light or water. They are one of the most popular plants recommended for beginners.
String of pearls like bright, diffuse sunlight. It can tolerate direct morning sunlight but needs to be shaded from the harsher afternoon sun.
Too much direct sunlight and heat can result in a shriveled, unhealthy plant with yellowing leaves and sunburn spots.
Too little light can result in pale leaves, stunted growth and dropping leaves. The stems may even start to grow upwards as they search for more light.
If your string of pearls plant is in a spot that receives light from mainly one direction only, consider rotating your plant every few weeks so it grows evenly.
Also make sure it receives sufficient light to the top of the plant. If, for example, you’ve placed your string of pearls plant on a high shelf to cascade beautifully down, the top of the plant may not be exposed to much light at all. That can result in sparse growth and unhealthy-looking leaves at the crown of the plant. Try using a growlight above the plant or move the plant’s location to somewhere brighter for a while to give the top of the plant a chance to recover.
String of Pearls Plant Water Needs
Like most succulents, String of Pearls needs well-draining soil and does not need watering very often.
Always wait until the soil is completely dry before watering again. When you do water the plant, water thoroughly and allow any excess water to drain away. Use room temperature water and water in the morning to allow surface moisture from the leaves and top of the soil to evaporate before the cool of the evening. Moist leaves and soil can encourage fungal growth and rot, which you do not want.
If underwatered, the leaves will start to shrivel and the skin will pucker. They will lose their sheen and look lacklustre. They’ll become flat over time, losing all of their plumpness.
If overwatered, the leaves will turn yellow and translucent and may even get mushy and brown.
This is a summer dormant plant that also needs a winter rest period. You should reduce watering during summer and winter. However, if you live in an area with hot summers, you may still need to water your string of pearls frequently during summer to counteract the drying effect of the heat.
It can be tricky to get the watering of a string of pearls plant just right. Its thin stems can only work so fast to transport water from the plant’s root to the ends of the long vines. It’s a balancing act to provide the roots with enough water for long enough to get to the stem tips while ensuring the roots are not sitting in damp soil for prolonged periods. You will need to keep a careful eye on your string of pearls to learn its needs and adjust your watering frequency until you get it right.
The String of pearls plant prefers mild, warm temperatures. It does not thrive in extremes of cold or heat.
Its optimal temperature range is 65 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit (18 – 26 degrees Celsius).
It likes cooler temperatures of 50 – 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 – 15 degrees Celsius) during its winter rest period.
String of pearls is not cold-hardy and will not tolerate frost. Prolonged exposure to temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) can cause stunted growth.
If you live in a cold climate and want to grow your string of pearls plant outside during summer, plant it in a pot so it can be brought inside during winter.
String of pearls does not like humid conditions. Try to house it in an area of low humidity, less than 40% humidity.
Like most succulents, your string of pearls plant needs a well-draining soil that allows good air-circulation around the plant’s root.
Choose a succulent-specific potting mix and pot your plant in a container with drainage holes at the bottom.
You want to be able to water your plant thoroughly and allow any excess moisture to escape easily. Allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings.
String of pearls does not need much fertilizer. Consider giving it a dose of succulent-specific fertilizer once a month during the spring. Follow the instructions on the packaging carefully and even dilute to half-strength to avoid over-fertilization that can cause chemical burns to the plant’s roots.
Your string of pearls plant will benefit from occasional pruning to keep it healthy and looking its best.
Pruning this plant is relatively easy. Simply cut back the stems that have become too long or leggy. You can also trim off any dead or dying leaves or old flowers and flower stalks.
It’s important not to prune too much, however, as this can damage the plant. When in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and prune less rather than more.
As with all plants, be sure to use sharp, clean pruning shears.
Is String Of Pearls Toxic To Pets?
Senecio rowleyanus, string of pearls, is toxic to both humans, cats, dogs and other pets if ingested.
The plant can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you suspect your pet has eaten any part of this plant, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Even though the leaves may look like peas, String of Pearls is definitely not edible is not a plant that can be eaten.
The sap from the plant can cause a burning sensation or rash on the skin. If you come into contact with this plant, wash the area with soap and water as soon as possible.
Use gloves to handle your string of pearls and keep it out of the reach of pets and children.
Pests And Diseases
A healthy string of pearls plant is fairly resilient to pests but it can still suffer from a pest infestation from mealy bugs, aphids, scale insects or spider mites.
If you do spot any signs of a pest infestation, including small white, wooly bugs, tiny black or brown insects, webbing or a sticky coating, isolate your plant immediately from other plants and treat by physically removing the pests with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol or by spraying with neem oil or insecticial soap.
See our full guide on succulent pests and treatments for more details.
The biggest threat to your string of dolphins plant is root rot. This occurs when the plant’s roots are left to sit in damp soil for too long, reducing the oxygen available to the plant and providing ideal conditions for fungal and bacterial growth.
Avoid overwatering your plant, allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings and house your plant in well-draining succulent soil.
String of pearls can also can suffer from fungal infections, which tend to thrive in moist conditions. String of pearls can be particularly susceptible to surface fungal infections towards the base of the plant because of the dense foliage which impedes air circulation and moisture evaporation.
A fungal infection will result in brown or black spots on the leaves or stems of your plant. Cut away any affected parts of the plant and discard them immediately.
To prevent further fungal infections, water your plant early in the day to allow surface moisture to evaporate before nightfall and ensure your plant has good air circulation around it. Avoid placing your string of pearls in areas of strong drafts, however, as this can stress the plant and cause the leaves to fall off.
It is a good idea to repot your succulent plant every two to three years to provide it with fresh soil. You should also repot your plant when you notice that the plant is starting to look cramped and roots are starting to appear from the drainage holes.
Wear gloves to protect yourself from the plant’s sap and handle your plant carefully to avoid breaking the fragile stems.
To repot, gently remove the plant from its current pot and loosen any compacted roots. Place the plant in its new pot and fill in around it with fresh potting mix.
Use a well-draining potting mix and a container that is only slightly larger than the current one.
Water well and place in a bright location out of direct sunlight. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
How Do I Propagate A String Of Pearls Plant?
The easiest and most effective way to propagate a string of pearls plant is stem cuttings.
Select a healthy stem with several plump, healthy leaves. Using a sterile sharp knife or shears, cut a 4-6 inch (10-15 cm) piece off the tip of the stem.
Remove the lower leaves so that only the top leaves remain.
Dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone powder or gel. This will help the cutting to root more quickly. Allow the cut end to dry out and callous over for a couple of days.
Fill a small pot with well-draining potting mix and plant the stem cutting about 1 inch (2.5 cm) deep. Water the soil lightly and place the pot in a bright, indirect light location.
Keep the soil moist but not wet and in about 4-6 weeks, you should see new growth appearing on the cutting.
Once this happens, you can transplant the cutting into a larger pot and care for it as you would a mature string of pearls plant.
Alternatively, you can place your cut stem, with the lower leaves removed, in a glass of distilled water. Roots should grow and be visible through the water. Once the roots are a few inches long, plant the pot in soil following the instructions above.
Should I Place My String Of Pearls Inside Or Outside?
String of pearls is a perfect indoor plant as its preferred temperature and humidity needs are similar to those of a normal home. You do, however, need to ensure it receives sufficient bright, indirect light. You could use a growlight if you do not have a bright enough indoor space.
String of pearls will also thrive outdoors if you live in a suitable climate. It will need to be shaded from the direct afternoon sun and must not stay too damp.
If you live in an area that has cold temperatures over winter, make sure you bring your string of pearls indoors before temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).
Why Is My String Of Pearls Dying
Is your string of pearls turning brown or yellow? Are the pearls turning mushy? Are the pearls deflated and flat?
The two most common reasons for a dying string of pearls plant are overwatering and too much sun.
A string of pearls that is overwatered will have leaves that are turning yellow or brown. They could go semi-translucent and have a mushy feel.
A string of pearls that has been exposed to too much direct sun will turn brown and crispy.
Other reasons for a less than healthy string of pearls are underwatering, not enough light and pests and diseases.
An underwatered string of pearls will have deflated leaves with puckered skin.
Watering can be tricky to get right with a string of pearls because the thin stems restrict that rate at which water can flow from the roots to the pearls. Keep a careful eye on your plant and water deeply as soon as the soil has dried out. Always use a well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes.
Pests, mold or root rot can be treated as described in the sections above.
Insufficient light will result in pale pearls, stretched-out, leggy growth or stems that turn upwards. Move your plant to a brighter location but out of direct sun.
If you don’t think you plant will survive despite your best efforts but there are still some healthy strings, take a cutting from one of those healthy string and propagate a new plant. Try to understand why the original plant was struggling to ensure you don’t replicate the same problems with your new plant.
Why Are The Pearls Falling Off My String Of Pearls Plant?
The pearls may fall off your string of pearls plant for these main reasons:
- rough handling – the string of pearls plant is delicate and too much handling of the plant may knock leaves off.
- too breezy – a strong breeze, a draft from an open window or strong airflow from an airconditioning unit can cause pearls to break off and fall
- underwatering – the leaves may dry and break off from the stem
- overwatering – the leaves become soft and mushy and fall from the weakened stem
- low temperatures – cold temperatures can shock the plant resulting in dropped pearls
- generally unhealthy – a plant that is generally unhealthy due to the wrong light, temperature, pests or soil conditions will have a tendency to drop its leaves
Identifying the problem and correcting it should restore your plant to health. You may wish to prune any stems that are missing too many pearls and are looking a little straggly.
Why Is My String Of Pearls Sticky?
Pests, such as aphids and mealybugs secrete a sticky substance called honeydew and a shiny, sticky coating on leaves could indicate a pest infestation.
If there are no signs of pests, the stickiness is most likely due to the string of pearls’ clever natural secretions, which help the plant adhere to the rocks and cliff faces it encounters in its native environment.
To sum up, string of pearls are an easy plant to take care of, and we’d recommend them for those who are just getting started out in their plant-parent journey.
For other types of string plants and trailing plants, such as String of Bananas or String of Nickels, see our article on Hanging Succulents and Cacti.