Botanical name: Senecio radicans
Synonmy: Curio radicans
String of Bananas Plant also called String of Fishhooks is a unique houseplant which bears pendant thread-like stems on which are tiny leaves shaped like small green bananas. String of Bananas is a creeping, perennial, succulent vine native to the drier parts of Southwest Africa. In its natural habitat, it grows as a trailer, with stems trailing on the ground, rooting where they touch and forming dense mats. It prefers the shaded conditions growing under other plants and rocks. The odd shaped leaves is an adaptation to arid conditions and allows for the storage of water while exposing minimum surface area to the dry desert air which greatly reduces water loss. The fleshy leaves and stems store water, which allows the plant to go for a considerably long period without being watered. Each leaf bears a translucent window that runs the length of the leaf which allows light to reach into interior of the leaf where photosynthesis takes place.
String of Bananas Plant is closely related to Senecio hallianus, which is very similar to String of Bananas but its foliage is blue-green; Senecio rowleyanus (String of Pearls), whose leaves are spherical; Senecio herreanus (String of Beads), whose foliage is oval-shaped; Senecio peregrinus (String of Dolphins), whose foliage looks like jumping Dolphins and Senecio citriformis (String of Tears), whose foliage is lemon-shaped. The cascading thread-like stems and the odd-shaped foliage make these plants perfect for a hanging basket, table top or a shelf.
String of Bananas Plant prefers bright light with at least 6 hours of morning or late afternoon sunlight per day. It can also grow under artificial light. Inadequate lighting will result in a leggy plant and the banana-like leaves will be sparsely spaced. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants
Water String of Bananas Plant moderately during the growing season and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Significantly reduce watering during the cold season to maintain the soil barely moist. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole and the soil is free-draining to avoid waterlogging as it can lead to rotting. Learn more on how to water houseplants.
Average warmth between 20-270C during the growing season is ideal for String of Bananas Plant. Keep the plant away from draughts; it does not like sudden changes in the temperature. Learn more on temperature for houseplants.
Average room humidity is ideal for String of Bananas Plant. It has no need for high humidity. Ensure good air circulation for String of Bananas Plant to prevent fungal diseases.
Feed String of Bananas Plant monthly during the growing season with a succulents fertilizer. This plant is not a heavy feeder so be careful when feeding. Withhold feeding in the cold season as growth is minimal. Find out more on how to feed houseplants.
String of Bananas has a small root system so frequent repotting is not necessary. Repot the plant at the beginning of the growing season only when it becomes crowded in its current pot. Use a pot 1 size larger and one that has a drainage hole to prevent waterlogging as it can lead to rotting. Use a shallow pot and be careful not to bury the stems to prevent rotting The best soil should be loose, free-draining and rich in organic matter. Take care to avoid damaging the delicate stems.
Pruning String of Bananas Plant involves removal of any dead leaves (bananas) and stems to keep it neat and tidy. Trim the stems if they become too long or straggly.
String of Bananas Plant can be propagated at the beginning of the growing season from stem cuttings.
Propagating String of Bananas Plant from stem cuttings
Take 3-5 in. of String of Bananas Plant stem cuttings. Allow the cuttings to dry (callous) for about 7 days. Press the cut end into moist free-draining soil or lay the string on top of the soil and slightly press the leaves into the soil. Place in a warm place and maintain the soil moist until they are rooted. Allow substancial growth before transplanting the new plant.
Watering String of Bananas Plant with very cold water is one cause of sudden leaf loss. Use water at room temperature to avoid shocking this tropical plant. The other cause of sudden leaf loss in String of Bananas Plant is underwatering. Water String of Bananas Plant moderately and allow the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out but never allow the soil ball to dry out completely.
Brown dry spots in String of Bananas Plant are due to underwatering; water String of Bananas Plant moderately during the hot season while allowing the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings. Do not allow the soil to dry out completely.
Overwatering during the cold period is the cause of wilted and discolored leaves in String of Bananas Plant. Reduce watering in the cold season and maintain the soil barely moist.Rot at base followed by stem collapse
Rotting plant base and stems collapse in String of Bananas is an indication of basal stem rot disease which is brought about by overwet conditions. Avoid overwatering during the cold season. Use the upper stem to propagate new plants and discard the infected parts.
Elongated stems and misshappen in String of Bananas plant during the cold season is due to too much water; water less and maintain the soil barely moist. If it happens during the hot period, the cause is too little light; String of Bananas Plant prefers bright light with some direct sunlight. Too little light will cause the plant to grow weak, elongated stems in an attempt to reach the light source.
The foliage of String of Bananas Plant (Senecio radicans) is toxic to humans and pets. If ingested, it can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. Contact with the sap may cause skin irritation or skin rash in sensitive skin; always wear gloves when handling. Keep String of Bananas Plant from the reach of children and pets.