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Is there a plant that’s more of a conversation starter than a string of pearls? Around the world, it’s known as a string of peas, a string of beads, or even a rosary plant. Some people might ask whether you’re growing alien life on your windowsill, but I think this weird and wonderful plant is a beautiful sight.
Whatever name you give it, this plant is a trailing succulent native to southwest Africa. A thriving plant will give you a glorious cascade of vines peppered with fleshy, spherical leaves. Here are all the caring tips you need to make sure your plant is happy and healthy.
|Scientific name||Senecio Rowleyanus|
|AKA||String of pearls, string of beads, rosary plant|
|Similar to||Burro’s tail, string of hearts, string of bananas|
|Native to||South-west Africa|
|Maximum size||Vines grow up to 5’ long|
|Watering requirements||Moderate (allow the top inch of soil to dry first)|
|Light requirements||Bright indirect light, tolerates moderate direct light|
|Preferred humidity||Low (do not mist!)|
|Preferred temperature||65 – 75F (18 – 24C)|
|Soil||Cacti and succulent mix|
|String of Pearls propagation method||Stem and leaf cuttings|
|Toxicity||Toxic to humans and pets|
|Vulnerable to||Resistant to pests, leaves liable to rot from|
The 6 Pro Tips for Caring String of Pearls
1. Do not overwater
String of pearls is a succulent and, as with all succulents, you’re most likely to damage it by messing up its watering regime. The most common mistake is overwatering.
While your plant should never be bone dry, you have to wait until the top inch of soil is dry before you give it a drink. When it’s time to water, give it a good soaking, but make sure it’s never left standing in water.
It’s tempting to water your succulents at the same time as the rest of your houseplants, but this is the easiest way to upset them. It is much better to drench them every week or two than to give them a daily dribble of water.
In the wild, succulents live through periods of drought and heavy rainfall. If you can recreate this experience through your watering regime, your plants will feel much more at home.
2. Find the right soil
The string of pearls will only thrive in well-draining soil. Many common complaints occur when the soil is heavy and the roots are left waterlogged. Instead of choosing a normal houseplant mix, find a soil specially tailored to succulents and cacti.
A succulent mix is a sandy soil. This means that water won’t collect in it and the air will be able to circulate the roots of your plants. You should use a special mix whether you’re growing this plant indoors or outdoors.
Many growers are even choosier with their soil to get the maximum growth from their succulents. You might want to try blending a succulent mix with coarse sand, pumice or perlite to keep the soil even lighter. The ideal ratio is 2 parts succulent mix to 1 part sand.
3. Use the right pot
Since good drainage is so important to this plant, it won’t come as a surprise that it prefers a pot with multiple holes. You should check its nursery pot as soon as you bring it home. If the holes are inadequate or blocked, consider repotting it straight away.
But this is just common sense. What you really need to know about the string of pearls plant is that it has a small root system and has no problem with being potbound. Don’t feel the need to size up immediately.
Choosing a small pot will also keep your plant happy by reducing the surface area of soil on which the pearls sit. If too many of the leaves rest on the soil, the air can’t circulate and they’re likely to rot. The same problem can occur if the pot you choose is too deep.
4. Choose the right spot
All succulents are fussy when it comes to light and this plant is no exception. It needs plenty of light to thrive, but the leaves can scorch if it spends too much time in the direct sun. The best option is to choose a south or west-facing window, but keep the plant about a foot away from the glass.
If your sills aren’t wide enough to accommodate this, you find yourself with a great excuse to invest in plant stand or hanging basket. These are both gorgeous ways of displaying a mature string of pearls.
Owners often forget to move their succulents to a brighter spot for the winter. Make sure you rethink the spot where you’ve placed your plant once the end of the growing season rolls around. This way, it can make the most of sunlight during the shorter days.
5. Trim it when it hits the ground
Left to their own devices, most vines will trail to 3 feet before they start to break. However, some owners report that their plants have reached a dramatic 5 feet in length.
Either way, if your string of pearls plant starts to brush your floor or patio, it’s time for a haircut. Otherwise, you’ll tread on it, it’ll snap, and the tips of the vines will waste energy by trying to root themselves to the ground.
There are lots of advantages to cutting the stems. The vines themselves will probably split where they were cut and continue to grow so you’ll get a much fuller-looking plant. You can also propagate cuttings from this plant easily as they’re so quick to root.
You might end up with a whole family of strings of pearls or some great gifts to pass on to your friends.
6. Encourage it to flower
The string of pearls is known for its leaves but, under the right conditions, it also blossoms beautifully. The flowers are small and white with fuzzy stamens which can range in color from orange to purple.
The most exciting thing about the flowers, though, is their scent. They’re known to remind owners of carnations, vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves. In many ways, they’re the perfect flower for winter.
Flowers are never guaranteed but, if your plant is going to bloom, it should take off in the late winter months and put on a show for 6 – 8 weeks. You can encourage flowering by recreating the plant’s natural habitat.
The plant knows it’s time to flower when it experiences a marked difference between day and nighttime temperatures. If you’ve got blossoms on the brain, find a location where the plant can enjoy a cool night followed by warm sun during the daylight hours.
Step by Step Tutorial to Propagate String of Pearls
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Step 1: Trim
If you’ve got a healthy parent plant and a sharp pair of shears, it’s time to start taking cuttings. Start by washing your scissors and finding a vine that can afford to be 4 and 6 inches shorter.
Snip the vine as cleanly as possible and be gentle with your twig as you remove it from the plant. It can be very easy to knock the spherical leaves off this plant when you’re handling it.
Step 2: Prepare
As soon as you’ve taken your cutting, remove all the leaves from the bottom 2 inches of the stem. I say bottom, but it’ll root from whichever end you remove the leaves. The goal here is to create a minimum of 4 nodes to bury in the soil.
For the best chances of success, you should then wait before you plant. Over the next 1 – 3 days (depending on your climate) the scars where you cut the stem and removed the leaves will dry out and ‘heal’. When you give the stem time to heal, the chance of it getting an infection drastically reduces.
Step 3: Plant
Check one more time that the pot you are planning to use is small and has plenty of drainage holes, then fill it to the top with your cacti and succulent mix. It’s important not to leave too much space at the top of the pot. If the plant sits too low, the air can’t circulate the leaves and they may rot.
Make a hole in the soil with a chopstick and insert the bald end of your cutting into the soil. Making the hole in advance means that you won’t put too much pressure on the stem as you press it down. Use your finger to lightly fill the hole and use a floral pin to secure the stem to the soil.
Step 4: Choose the right spot
After you’ve planted your cutting, you need to find it a comfortable home. Remember that young plants are much more delicate than their parents, so your choice is really important.
All strings of pearls need plenty of light but, while the adult plants can tolerate several hours of direct sun, the leaves on your baby plant will scorch very easily. An east-facing window would be ideal, but you could also place it two feet away from a south or west-facing window.
Water your plants when the top portion of the soil dries out. While it’s good to give established plants a soaking when you water them, you should be more gentle with the babies so that you don’t disturb their new roots.
The Best Time to Propagate
As with most of your garden, the best time to propagate a string of pearls is in the spring or summer. You’ll notice a marked decrease in your succulents’ growth in the winter months. If the parent plant isn’t growing, the cutting is going to struggle too.
If you’re itching to try this technique, it can be frustrating to wait, but a plant propagated in the depths of winter will rarely thrive. Growth will be slow and frustrating, the plant will be vulnerable to heating and fluctuations in temperatures, and you won’t be able to judge how much water it needs.
If you really can’t be patient, consider using the time to shop for the supplies above or pick out some new decorative pots for your plants.
5 Essential Tools for Propagating
Before you start propagating your string of pearls, make sure you have the right equipment. Although it’s easy to grow these cuttings, you still need tools to protect them from infections, establish their roots, and maximize your chances of success.
Small pruning scissors
Even if you already have a decent pair of shears, bonsai scissors like these are a great investment.
What’s the advantage of using this product? Bonsai scissors have thin, sharp blades. They’re the perfect tool to use for trimming a string of pearls because they allow you to move between the plant’s trailing stems to take your cutting without damaging any of the other leaves.
These scissors are incredibly sharp. They let you make a quick, clean cut, which is far easier for both your parent plant and your little twig to recover from. Using these scissors will minimize the risk of your plant picking up a bacterial or fungal infection after you trim it.
Well draining nursery pots
This plant is a succulent so it needs excellent drainage. Without it, the roots of the plant can rot and the leaves can shrivel. Choosing these pots for your cuttings will give you far less to worry about.
Why should I choose this product? These pots have 6 drainage holes around the base. You would have to make an effort to leave your plants standing in water with these.
It’s important to remember that string of pearls has a very small root system and needs a small pot to match. 3 inches is the perfect size for your new plant’s first year.
These pots will also fit inside a coffee mug, which is a cute way to display your plants before they’re big enough for a larger pot.
If there’s one thing guaranteed to kill string of pearls, it’s the wrong soil. A regular house plant mix is simply too heavy. It needs soil specially blended for cacti and succulents like this one.
What’s special about this product? This soil is a great choice for both jungle succulents and desert succulents like your string of pearls. Firstly, it’s organic and pH balanced, so you can feel confident that you’re not exposing your baby plants to any harsh chemicals.
What’s more, it’s got almost 600 5 star reviews from gardeners with happy plants. Some even report seeing rare blossoms on their cacti and succulents after switching to this soil.
One of these boxes is more than enough to propagate a whole family of string of pearls. You’ll probably even have enough left over to upgrade your parent plant.
The succulent mix is a good soil to use as a base, but many experienced growers swear by adding pumice.
Why do I need this product? When you mix pumice into your succulent soil, it becomes even lighter. The gritty texture creates large pockets that allow air to reach the roots.
One of the biggest threats to a baby string of pearls is overwatering. It’s one of those plants which you can kill by caring too much. The roots and leaves are delicate and, if they get too much moisture, they’ll shrivel and rot away.
When you increase drainage by adding pumice to the soil, you make it much harder to give your plants too much to drink, and your chances of healthy plant babies increases. A single bag of pumice is also a great investment, as most growers recommend mixing 25% pumice with 75% cacti and succulent mix.
Professionals use floral pins to secure their plants. You may never have thought to use them before, but they’ll give you a definite advantage when you come to propagate a trailing succulent.
How do I use them? You can use floral pins to anchor the stem to the compost. Their shape is perfect because it lets you pin the stem without damaging the fragile leaves.
Pins are particularly useful if the vine you’re propagating is long. If you don’t secure the cutting, the weight of the fleshy leaves can start to pull it out of the loose soil. This makes it much harder for the new roots to hold on.
Using a floral pin to keep your little twig in place will maximize your chance of a healthy plant by protecting the roots from strain at their most vulnerable time.
What should I do if the pearls shrivel?
Shriveled pearls are especially common in young plants and are almost always linked to a problem with watering. Unfortunately, they can occur whether you’re over or underwatering your plant and it’s sometimes hard to tell which is which.
The best way to solve this problem is to scrutinize your watering habits. Never water your string of pearls before the top inch of soil has dried out. If you’re struggling to tell when this is, try probing the soil with a kebab skewer to find out what’s going on under the surface.
Remember that if you water your plant once a week in the summer, it probably only needs to be watered every 2 – 3 weeks in the cooler months.
How fast does the string of pearls plant grow?
The string of pearls shares a lot of characteristics with other succulents like burro’s tail. They take root very quickly and easily but they grow slowly in comparison to other trailing or climbing plants.
In the summer you’ll notice a marked increase in growth, but your 90-inch vines won’t emerge over a single season. It’s more realistic to expect 1 – 1.5 inches of new growth per month
Don’t be tempted to fertilize your plant to increase its growth. At the most, it needs to be fed once in the spring and once in the middle of summer. Too much fertilizer is sure to burn the roots.
Can I plant the string of pearls outside?
Yes! Many owners would even say it’s easier to grow it outside than as a houseplant. If you live in a frost-free area, this plant can thrive in the garden. Outside, rain can emulate this plant’s natural habitat far more easily than your watering-can.
Of course, if you’re keeping the plant outside, you’ll have to protect it from extreme conditions. The morning sun is generally safe, but make sure it’s in a spot where it can be shaded when the sun is at its highest. Strong afternoon sunlight is surprisingly quick to scorch the leaves.
And as much as it loves warmth, if you experience a summer drought, your plant will need a helping hand to stop it from drying out.
Can I root the cuttings in water?
Absolutely. This plant is so keen to root that it doesn’t mind. You still need to prepare as you would for planting out in soil by removing the lower leaves and allowing it to heal. Once you’ve done this, it will take off in water just as easily as in soil.
Rooting the plant in a vase of water is reassuring because you get to watch the roots emerging. If you root your plant in soil, it’s tempting to tug on the stem to check whether it’s rooted. The plant will not thank you for this.
Is it better to propagate in water or a mix?
While it’s easy to propagate your string of pearls in water, it isn’t necessary. You give yourself an extra job to do and the twig gets another shock when you pluck it from the water and plant it.
My advice is to make your life easier and go straight to a succulent mix. There are no advantages for the plant in starting in water and, with a plant that is so easy to root, you’ll know soon enough whether you’ve been successful.
How long do they take to root?
This plant forms roots very quickly. I’ve even seen it root by accident just from sitting on the surface of the soil. If you start propagating in the growing season, you should have roots within two weeks and brand new pearls two weeks after that.
Just remember that your plant’s first roots will be very shallow. You may start to notice some new leaves, but that doesn’t mean that it’s time to remove the floral pins. Wait until the roots are well established before you risk letting the new vines bear their weight.