How to grow and care for String of Pearls Plant

Houseplant, String of Pearls Plant

Botanical name: Senecio rowleyanus
Synonmy: Curio rowleyanus
Family: Asteraceae

String of Pearls Plant is a unique houseplant which bears pendant thread-like stems on which spherical green leaves grow. It resembles a neck-lace of pearls and hence the common name. String of Pearls 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. This 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 Pearls Plant was named after the British Botanist, Gordon Douglas Rowley who specialized in Cactaceae and succulents. Other related plants are Senecio radicans (String of Bananas), whose foliage is banana-shaped; 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.

How to Grow String of Pearls Plant

Light

String of Pearls Plant prefers bright light with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants

Water

Water String of Pearls Plant moderately during the growing season and allow the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings. Reduce watering during the cold period to maintain the soil barely moist. Avoid waterlogging as it can lead to rotting. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

Temperature

Average warmth between 20-270C during the growing season is ideal for String of Pearls Plant. Learn more on temperature for houseplants.

Humidity

Average room humidity is ideal for String of Pearls Plant. It has no need for high humidity. Ensure good air circulation for String of Pearls Plant to prevent fungal diseases.

Feeding

Feed String of Pearls 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 dormancy stage. Find out more on how to feed houseplants.

Repotting

String of Pearls 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.

Pruning

Pruning String of Pearls Plant involves removal of any dead beads or stems to keep it neat and tidy.

How to Propagate String of Pearls Plant

String of Pearls Plant can be propagated at the beginning of the growing season from stem cuttings.

Propagating String of Pearls Plant from stem cuttings
Take 3-5 in. of String of Pearls Plant stem cuttings. Allow the cuttings to dry for about 7 days. Press them into moist free-draining soil until the leaves (beads) are almost covered by the soil. Place in a warm place and maintain the soil moist until they are rooted. Allow substancial growth before transplanting the new plant.

Common Problems in Growing String of Pearls Plant

  • Sudden leaf loss
  • Watering String of Pearls 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 Pearls Plant is underwatering. Water String of Pearls Plant moderately and allow the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out but never allow the soil ball to dry out completely.

  • Elongated stems and misshappen
  • Elongated stems and misshappen in String of Pearls 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 Pearls 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.

  • Brown dry spots
  • Brown dry spots in String of Pearls Plant are due to underwatering; water String of Pearls 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.

  • Leaves wilted and discolored
  • Overwatering during the cold period is the cause of wilted and discolored leaves in String of Pearls 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 Pearls 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.

  • Brown, soft leaf spots
  • Brown, soft leaf spots in String of Pearls Plant are an indication of Leaf spot disease. Avoid wetting the leaves and improve air circulation.

  • Diseases
  • Common diseases in String of Pearls Plant are Powdery Mildew and Leaf Spot.

  • Pests
  • Common pests in String of Pearls Plant are Mealy Bugs, Scale Insects and Spider Mites.

Toxicity

The foliage of String of Pearls Plants (Senecio rowleyanus) 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 Pearls Plant from the reach of children and pets.

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