String of pearls is a succulent plant that can be a great addition to any home. Its unique appearance makes it memorable, it’s easy to grow indoors or outdoors, and it doesn’t require much maintenance.
Native to Africa, the string of pearls plant grows best when it’s warm and dry. However, it can thrive in most conditions with the proper care.
We explain all about growing string of pearls in this guide. You’ll learn how to propagate string of pearls, the best way to care for the plant, the issues you’re most likely to face, and more.
An Introduction to String of Pearls
Some say that the string of pearls is an odd-looking plant. It’s certainly distinctive, which is perhaps why it’s such a popular houseplant.
When growing in its native Africa, string of pearls plants typically form a ground cover by sprawling over rocky terrain. In the home, it looks best in a hanging basket or in a planter on a shelf. Its trailing stems will spill over the sides of containers, complete with small pea-shaped leaves, to create a real focal point.
String of pearls plants are fast-growing, and the tendrils can grow to over a meter (three feet) in length. It produces small, white flowers that smell a little like cinnamon.
Be aware that all parts of the string of pearls plant are toxic to humans and animals. Try to keep children and animals away.
String of Pearls Plant Overview
- Botanical/Scientific Name: Curio rowleyanus (previously Senecio rowleyanus)
- Other Common Names: string of peas, string of beads
- Family: Asteraceae
- Genus: Curio
- Other Classifications: Flowering Plant, Succulent, Vine, Indoor, Perennial
Growing String of Pearls at Home
Although string of pearls can be grown both indoors and outdoors, they are far more popular as a houseplant. We recommend planting in the warmer months, but any time of year is fine.
You can buy established string of pearls plants from most nurseries and garden centers, and they’re also available online. Alternatively, you can buy seeds or cuttings to propagate new string of pearls plants. If you already have a string of pearls plant, you can take your own cuttings for propagation.
Requirements and Optimal Conditions for Growing String of Pearls
- Soil: Most potting soil is fine, sandy soil is optimal.
- Sunlight: Combination of direct and indirect sunlight.
- Water: You should water string of pearls every 7-14 days, depending on the time of year.
- Temperature: 18-24 degrees Celsius (65-75 degrees Fahrenheit) is preferable from spring to fall. Cooler is fine during the winter.
- Growing Season: Spring to summer.
When you’re planting string of pearls in containers, make sure they have drainage holes. When planting them in the ground, try to find a space where the soil drains well.
Propagating String of Pearls
We recommend propagating string of pearls from cuttings if you can. Here’s a step-by-step guide to what you need to do.
- Cut several pieces of stem from just below a leaf node. Aim for 10-15 centimeters (4-6 inches) in length.
- Remove any leaves and leave the cuttings for a day or two. This will help them heal and dry.
- To increase your chances of success, dip the end of your cuttings in some rooting hormone.
- Fill a container with soil and make a hole in the middle. Insert the stems into the hole and gently pack the soil around them.
- Move the container into a warm location with bright, indirect light.
- Water as required to keep the soil moist but not wet.
Care Tips for String of Pearls
Once you have started growing a string of pearls plant, it’s important to keep it healthy. This is not an especially hard task, but some care is required.
Here is our best advice to ensure that your string of pearls plants thrive.
- String of pearls can tolerate some direct sunlight, but too much sun can burn the leaves. The plant needs protection during the hottest hours of the day.
- Avoid placing these plants in draughty areas.
- Always handle string of pearls with care as they are pretty delicate.
- String of pearls require regular watering while they’re young, but less once they’re established. Ideally, you should wait until the soil is dry.
- Ensure there’s plenty of drainage, as string of pearls hate soggy soil.
- Don’t put your plants in the kitchen, bathroom, or any other room with high humidity.
- Make sure there’s plenty of room for your plant to sprawl.
- Prune your plant periodically to remove dead stems or beads.
Fertilizing String of Pearls
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when fertilizing string of pearls plants. Firstly, we recommend using a fertilizer that is specifically designed for succulents or cacti. Regular garden fertilizers can burn the leaves or cause other damage.
Like most succulents, string of pearls don’t need a lot of fertilizer and too much can actually be harmful. How often you fertilize the plants depends on the season and the type of fertilizer you are using.
- Liquid fertilizer. Use once every two weeks from spring to fall and once every six weeks during the winter.
- Slow-release fertilizer. Use once a month from spring to fall and once every six weeks during the winter.
We advise watering just before fertilizing to help the soil absorb the fertilizer.
Repotting String of Pearls
String of pearls plants don’t need regular repotting. Once every two to three years is enough, and the best time is in the early spring.
The size of the new pot should be one bigger than the old one. Again, it’s important to use a container with drainage holes.
When you have one, add the soil mix to the bottom. Remove the root ball from the old pot and put it on the new bed. Add more soil to cover the root ball and start watering right away.
Be careful with the beads when repotting string of pearls. They can fall off quite easily, affecting the plant’s appearance and health.
Common String of Pearls Problems
String of pearls care might be relatively easy, but you could still run into some problems. Here are the most common ones.
- Wilting leaves
- Yellowing leaves
- Brown or black stems
- Shriveled beads
- Beads falling off
The first three issues are all symptoms of root rot. Root rot is a common problem with string of pearls and is almost always caused by overwatering or poorly-draining soil. You can avoid it simply by watering and planting as per our advice.
A lack of water is the usual cause of shriveled beads, and the problem should go away if you try watering a little more. Falling beads are likely due to the plant being too cold, so moving it to a warmer location should fix the issue.
Healthy string of pearls plants should be relatively unaffected by pests. However, unhealthy plants can be victim to many insects, including mealybugs, spider mites, and aphids. Insecticidal soap or neem oil will help to control these pests.
String of Pearls FAQ
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about string of pearls.
What is the string of pearls plant used for?
Primarily for its looks! String of pearls plants are popular for their unique appearance, especially when in hanging baskets or planters. Curio Rowleyanus is not edible and doesn’t have any medical benefits.
Is string of pearls a succulent?
Yes, string of pearls is classed as succulent, and it’s actually one of the most popular succulents for growing indoors.
How long do string of pearls plant live?
A string of pearls plant can live for up to five years with the right care.
Is string of pearls toxic for pets?
Yes, string of pearls plants can cause vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea if ingested. That applies to both animals and humans, so don’t try eating it yourself! Contact your vet if you believe that your cat or dog might’ve taken a bite of your string of pearls.
Where can I buy a string of pearls plant?
String of pearls plants are widely available online and at most garden centers. They are typically sold in 4-inch pots or 6-inch hanging baskets. You can also purchase seeds or cuttings to grow your own.
Is string of pearls plant care hard?
No, string of pearls is relatively easy to care for. The most important thing to remember is that the plant doesn’t like soggy soil. Make sure you use pots with drainage holes and don’t overwater.
Can you grow string of pearls outdoors?
Yes, you can plant string of pearls outdoors. Make sure you pick a spot that gets several hours of bright but indirect sunlight, and that has well-draining soil.
Can you grow string of pearls indoors?
Yes, most people grow string of pearls indoors. The plant does well with typical house temperature and humidity, as long as it gets enough indirect sunlight and you don’t overwater it.
Plants Similar to String of Pearls
There’s no plant quite like the string of pearls. Its distinctive set of characteristics, especially its pea-shaped leaves, make it unique.
However, several plants share some similarities with string of pearls. For example, the following are some other string plants that hang.
- String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii). As the name suggests, the leaves look like hearts.
- String of Dolphins (Senecio peregrinus). One of our personal favorites. As close it most people will get to having a pet dolphin at home!!
- String of Watermelon (Senecio Herreianus). Probably the plant most like string of pearls.
- String of Bananas (Curio radicans). Banana-shaped leaves and small but beautiful flowers.
- String of Tears (Senecio citriformis) – Grows round, tear-shaped foliage.
For some other suggestions you might like, these articles are worth a look.