As people look to add more green into their lives, succulents and cacti are often a popular choice. These low maintenance plants are the perfect choice for beginners and experts alike. The string of pearls plant is a succulent that’s getting increasing attention due to its striking appearance and easy care requirements.
The string of pearls plant is fairly easy to care for. Its basic requirements include needing at least six hours of sun, water once per week, and the correct soil mixture to encourage drainage. Other requirements include a warm environment, mid-level humidity, and a hanging container.
It’s also a common choice because it can be housed indoors or outdoors, is easily propagated, and doesn’t have may pest problems. Let’s go over all of the information you’ll need to know before growing your own string of pearls.
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String of Pearls Plant: Basic Care
The string of pearls plant (Curio rowleyanus, formerly Senecio rowleyanus) is one of the easier succulents to care for. Here’s a basic rundown of the care requirements:
|At least six hours; avoid direct sunlight/ full exposure
|72 degrees Fahrenheit/ ~22 degrees Celsius
|Soak thoroughly once per week; let dry completely between waterings
|Preferably around 40% – 50%
|Succulent-specific potting mix; must include sand, pumice, or perlite
|Any type, hanging preferred; drainage strongly recommended
When properly taken care of, your string of pearls should look like small peas attached to trailing vines. It should be a lush green color and, during the summer, bloom small, white or cream flowers that may be brush-like in appearance.
Below, we’ll go into more detail about each requirement and what you’ll need to do to care for your plant.
Sunlight and Temperature Requirements
Like most succulents and cacti, the string of pearls appreciates ample light. For optimum growth, you’ll need to ensure your plant receives at least six full hours of light.
Keep in mind, the string of pearls prefers partial shade or indirect light. You can acclimate your plant to full exposure or direct sun, but doing so prematurely can scorch its stems and leaves.
This means that you can’t keep it inside for most of the year and just sit it out on your porch when it’s warm. If you want to transition it outside during the spring and summer, start by placing it in a shaded area and gradually expose it to direct light.
If you’re worried that your string of pearls isn’t getting enough light, considering supplementing it with an artificial grow light. These are available online and in some retail stores and nurseries. Alternatively, you can just buy plant grow bulbs and screw them into a lamp you already have around the house.
Full spectrum LED lights are preferable, since these last longer and will not put off heat that could potentially harm a person or plant. Some models also offer automatic timers and Red-Green-Blue color level adjustments so that you can better control your plant’s growth.
You can also invest in a fluorescent light. But while these may be more powerful and effective initially (depending on the wattage), they’ll grow weaker over time and will need to be replaced more often than LEDs.
Depending on your needs, there is a wide variety of lights and bulbs available in varying wattage levels and sizes. There are also lights and bulbs for every budget, whether you’re looking to spend under $20 or want to shell out for a more professional setup.
Proper Temperature Requirements for String of Pearls
Besides the light itself, you’ll also need to keep an eye on the temperature. String of pearls prefers warm climates that are at least 72 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly 22 degrees Celsius).
This isn’t a problem indoors during the colder months (when you have the heat on) or outdoors during the warmer months (depending on the climate where you live). But when you have the A/C blasting inside or the temperatures start dipping outdoors, your succulent can suffer.
Make sure you’re housing your string of pearls in a mild, warmer area that won’t be affected by sudden or often temperature changes. Add a heating element near your plant, if necessary.
Alternatively, if you can control the temperature of one room or area outside (such as a greenhouse), keep it around 70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
If you house your plant inside, avoid placing it in drafty areas where it may be inadvertently affected by cool air.
Watering and Humidity Requirements
While succulents are renown for needing almost no water, the string of pearls plant takes this one step farther. Its round leaves (i.e., its ‘pearls’) reduce exposure to sun and result in slower evaporation, making it particularly drought tolerant even for a succulent.
As a result, you should be careful not to overwater this plant. If you give it too much water at once or water it too often, it won’t be able to thrive. Similarly, not providing drainage and forcing the roots to sit in waterlogged soil for extended periods of time will cause it to die.
The best initial schedule is to thoroughly soak your string of pearls once per week. Wait until you see water coming from the drainage holes or, if your container has no drainage, water it until the first two inches of soil are soaked.
Then, before you water it one week later, check to see if the topsoil is dry. If it’s still damp, wait another week; if it’s completely dry, water it again according to the same method.
This will help you gauge how often you need to water your plant and how much water to give it each time.
Despite their arid origins, string of pearls also appreciate humidity. Typically, the average humidity in a home is fine. But if you have a dehumidifier in your home or live in a dry region, try to keep at least 40% humidity levels around your succulent.
You can increase humidity levels by placing a dish of water near the plant, grouping plants and succulents together, and misting around the plant (but not directly on or near the roots).
Soil, Potting, and Fertilization Requirements
String of pearl plants have fairly straightforward requirements when it comes to soil, potting, and fertilization. Though you have some wiggle room, here are the ideal conditions for your succulent:
- Soil – A succulent-specific mix with regular potting mix and sand, pumice, or perlite
- Potting – A hanging container with ample drainage; fill completely with soil
- Fertilization – Light feedings during spring and summer
String pearl plants and succulents need soil that promotes aeration and drainage. This means that regular potting soil (and soil from your backyard) are a no-go.
Look for cactus and succulent-specific potting soil. This will have sand, pumice, or perlite mixed in. Alternatively, you can buy regular potting soil and manually mix at least one of these ingredients in.
When it comes to potting, containers with drainage are always preferable. Succulents need water, but they don’t like sitting in soaking wet soil. Without drainage, the excess water can’t escape and may cause root rot or mold.
Any pot with a drainage hole will work, but terra cotta pots are particularly great for beginners.
To prevent soil from washing away, you can add a layer of mesh between the drainage holes and the potting mix.
If you don’t have a container with drainage, be sure to watch how much you water your string of pearl plant. Test the top two inches of the soil to make sure they’re dry before watering again.
A common misconception is that you can add a layer of rocks or pebbles to the bottom of your container to trap excess water. This isn’t true; the soil will hold the water and continue to waterlog the roots instead of draining into the rock layer.
Instead of adding rocks, mix activated charcoal into the bottom inch of your potting soil. This will absorb any overflow.
It’s also better if your container offers the string of pearls room to grow. The nature of this plant means that vertical space is more important than shelf space or horizontal room. Hanging containers are a great way to make sure your string of pearls is able to stretch and trail comfortably.
Generally, succulents don’t need much fertilizer, and string pearl plants aren’t an exception. But to encourage growth, you can lightly fertilize during the spring and summer seasons.
Be careful not to overfertilize. Besides attracting pests like mealybugs, this can cause your succulent to grow too fast and become weak.
Outdoor vs. Indoor: Which Is Best for String of Pearls?
String of pearl plants can be kept indoors or outdoors. It’s native to southwest Africa and so can obviously grow outside, but has also been kept with great success as a houseplant. It can therefore be kept inside or outside (or a mixture of both).
However, there are advantages and disadvantages to both settings. These mainly revolve around the succulent’s care requirements, such as the light, temperature, and watering schedule.
Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of keeping string of pearls inside versus outside:
Can track waterings
Easier to protect from pests
|Easier to meet light requirements
Easier to meet temperature/ heat requirements (dependent on climate)
Benefit from pollinators
|Harder to meet light requirements
Harder to meet temperature/ heat requirements (dependent on climate)
Reduced chance for pollination
|Subject to weather conditions
Potential for overwatering due to rain
Harder to protect from pests
Your home is a controlled space; you can control how much light your string of pearls receives, the temperature of the room it’s housed in, and how often and how much water it receives. Even if you don’t have many windows or don’t receive much natural sunlight, you can buy artificial lights help your plant thrive.
But many succulents appreciate the natural light and warm temperatures of the outdoors, though it can be harder to control how much water they get unless the plants are housed in a covered area. These ideal conditions, coupled with the presence of pollinators, also mean your string of pearls is more likely to bloom.
Here are some other considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether to keep your string of pearls inside or outside:
- Sun Exposure – Do you have a space where the plant will receive indirect sun or partial shade for at least six hours?
- Room To Grow – Do you have a space where the plant’s stems will have room to grow and trail?
- Protection – Do you have a space where the plant will be protected, such as from pets, children, wildlife, inclement weather, etc.?
- Cold Weather – Do you have a space where the plant will be safe from cold temperatures, such as from winter weather or strong A/C flow?
You don’t necessarily have to have a yard to keep your succulents outside; a balcony, patio, and wide window ledge are just three examples of other options that still provide you with outside access.
But the deciding factor should always be what works best for you. If you don’t have access to an outdoor space, then keeping your succulent inside is the better option. Conversely, if you don’t get much light inside but have a nice outdoor space, then keeping your succulent outside is preferable.
Whether you keep your string of pearls indoors or out, remember to keep it out of reach of children and pets. When consumed, this succulent can be toxic— it’s better to be safe than sorry, so hanging planters or containers are strongly recommended.
How To Propagate String Of Pearls
String of pearls naturally grow one of two ways: vertically and horizontally. Vertically, you’ll see growth as the stems of your succulent grow and create longer trails.
But string of pearls is naturally a creeper, which is how it grows horizontally as well. Its stems spread across the ground and send out shoots, which create ground cover and a more expansive root system. Once established, these shoots create their own stems and tendrils, which produce more leaves and shoots, and so on and so forth.
If you provide a wide enough container or plant your succulent directly in the ground, you may see this natural growth when the string of pearls is established enough.
But if you want to directly propagate it yourself, there’s a different method:
- Cut – Cut off roughly two inches from one of the trailing stems. The stem should be green and have no visible damage (such as withered or brown areas). Cut between the leaves (‘pearls’).
- Plant – Plant in a container with good drainage filled with a succulent-specific potting mix. Insert part of the cutting into the soil (after removing the leaves) or coil the cutting and lay it on top of the soil, pressing it gently to establish contact.
- Water – Moisten the soil during the initial planting and mist it every 3 – 4 days after that. Monitor the ends of the cutting to make sure you’re not underwatering (which will cause shriveling) or overwatering (which will cause brown spots and rot).
- Rest – It can take weeks or even months for a cutting to take root and start growing in earnest. During this time, keep your cutting in a bright, warm place. Make sure it doesn’t receive too much direct light.
Only propagate during spring or summer when your string of pearls is strong and healthy and make sure your tool is sharp— using a dull instrument can damage both the cutting and the parent plant.
Before your string of pearls will spread naturally or thrive enough for you to manually propagate it, it will first need to become established.
Following the care requirements laid out in this article is a great start. The right soil and container will provide a strong foundation for growth, while receiving the correct amount of sun and water (and fertilizer during the warm months) will encourage growth.
You can also help your succulent grow through regular pruning. Though this may seem contradictory (cutting parts off seems like the opposite of growth), pruning actually creates a healthier plant. It prevents the string of pearls from diverting resources, such as water, to areas that are already dying off.
Take a pair of sharp scissors or shears and trim dying pieces. Stems and leaves that are brown, shriveled, or simply not growing should all be removed promptly.
Common Care Issues with String of Pearls Plants
If your string of pearl plant isn’t doing so well, don’t be discouraged! Many people find that succulents are pickier in terms of care than they originally thought. But with a few simple fixes, your string plant will bounce back in no time.
Here are some common care issues that owners should look out for if they have a string of pearls plant:
- Gnats and Pests – These are more common for indoor plants, but can affect all succulents. To get rid of these, treat with an anti-pest spray or 70% isopropyl alcohol solution. Going forward, make sure not to overwater or overfertilize.
- Container Size – A container that’s too large will hold water and cause the succulent’s roots to rot. Because string of pearls have narrow, delicate stems, they are especially prone to this issue.
- Planting Depth – String of pearls have shallow root systems that spread out rather than down. Planting your succulent more than an inch into the soil will prevent aeration and cause it to hold too much water (which causes fungal growth and rot, respectively).
- Overwatering – This plant stores water in its leaves (‘pearls’) instead of stems. So if you overwater it, the pearls will literally swell and burst. If they have a shriveled and mushy appearance, cut back on the water.
If you’re lucky, you’ll never have any of these issues. But if one does appear, it’s nothing to worry about. You can easily solve the issue by trying out the solutions above.
General Care Tips for Succulents and Cacti
For the most part, succulents and cacti are some of the easiest plants to keep (that’s what makes them so popular, after all). But like any other living thing, they do have some basic care requirements that need to be met.
If you’re still struggling with your string of pearls plant, here are some tips and tricks that might help you revive it:
- Provide Plenty of Light… – It might seem like a no brainer, but succulents need lots of light. And even when we think they’re getting that, they might not be. String of pearls need at least six full hours of sunlight.
- …But Not Too Much Light – Even though your string of pearls needs light, be careful about the type of light you provide. Directly sunlight or full sun exposure can scorch them and be more harmful than helpful. May sure to provide at least partial shade.
- Rotate At Least Weekly – You should also rotate your plant at least once per week to make sure it’s getting even light all around. If your string of pearls is only growing on one side, that’s a sign it’s not getting enough sunlight.
- Adjust Water Per Season – Adjust how often and how much you water your plant according to the season. Water more during the spring and summer, but less during the fall and winter. And, of course, wait for the soil to dry between waterings.
- Adjust Water For Pots – If your string of pearls is potted in a container with drainage, soak the soil until you see water emerge. But if there’s no drainage, water the soil less. Don’t ever mist your plant instead of watering; this causes weak roots and mold.
- Clean Leaves and Stems – Plants housed indoors will inevitably gather dust, just like plants outside may pick up pollen. Make sure to regularly and gently clean your string of pearls with a damp cloth or soft-bristle brush, such as a makeup brush or paintbrush.
Just like air plants, succulents are often misrepresented as needing next to no care— a sort of ‘buy them and forget about them’ type of plant. But in reality, they have some basic requirements that will need to be met before they can really thrive.
Varieties of String Succulents
Though string of pearl plants are one of the most popular string succulents, they’re by no means the only variety available. String plants share the same basic features, but can vary in appearance and care requirements depending on which type you have.
If your string of pearl plant doesn’t look like what we’ve described, check out these other varieties to see if you have a different string succulent. Alternatively, keep reading if you’re interested in other string varieties in addition to your string of pearls.
Here are five other popular string succulents:
- String of Buttons/ Necklace Vine (Crassula perforata) – This string plant grows vertically and features triangular, grey-green leaves with red edging. During the spring, it blooms star-shaped white or pale yellow flowers.
- String of Bananas/ String of Fishhooks (Curio radicans) – Like the string of pearls, this plant grows vines. But instead of peas, it features glossy, banana-shaped leaves. During late winter or early spring, it blooms white flowers that smell like cinnamon.
- String of Hearts/ Rosary Vine (Ceropegia linearis/ woodii) – The trailing stems of this plant feature small, heart-shaped leaves that are either dark green or light green/ grey, depending on how much light it gets. Flowers appear in late summer or early fall.
- String of Tears (Curio citriformis) – This slow-growing succulent features trailing but erect stems with tear-drop shaped leaves. Leaves are green with transparent stripes and flowers are a cream or yellow color that appear in late summer or winter.
- String of Turtles (Peperomia prostrata) – Also slow-growing, this plant has hanging stems with delicate, rounded leaves. Leaves are dark green or purple with white veining, resembling that of a turtle shell. Flowers are small and cream-colored.
These string succulents are all beautiful statements plants that are comparatively easy to grow and propagate. Whether you’re building a vertical garden or designing a hanging display, any one (or more) of these varieties would made a wonderful choice.
String of buttons, string of bananas, and string of hearts are all hardy and make great choices for any beginners or recovering black thumbs.
Growing A Healthy (And Happy) String of Pearls Plant
As succulents and cacti grow more popular for both beginner gardeners and advanced growers alike, the string of pearls plant has received an increasing amount of attention— and for good reason.
String of pearls are hardy, easy to grow, and aesthetically striking. As long as they receive roughly six hours of light per day and are watered once per week (or as needed), they’ll thrive.
Planting them in the correct container, keeping them in a warm place, and maintaining humidity levels will also ensure your succulent thrives. They’re also versatile in terms of where you can keep them and aren’t prone to pest issues.
Whether you’re looking to gift a burgeoning gardener with a new plant or want to add some green to your own living space, the string of pearls plant is a succulent that fits in every home.