Encyclopedia of Houseplants

How to Grow and Care for String of Pearls

updated Jun 6, 2020
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Credit: Emma Fiala

Not to throw shade at other succulents, but the string of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) succulent is a show-stopper. With its overflowing vines and bubbly pearl-like leaves, it’s an eye catcher that looks beautiful trailing across a desk or bookshelf or even hanging in a sunny window, where the vines can trail down for interest. Although these plants look delicate, they’re part of the succulent family—a generally easy-to-care-for group of plants. This one in particular is a sure winner for a special space by your window. Read on for tips for growing and caring for this special plant.

About string of pearls

String of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) is a vining, flowering succulent native to southwest Africa. Its round leaves, which look like little peas, store water; this makes the plant drought-tolerant and happy hanging in a window of your home. It can also thrive outdoors in an area with light shade.

Its sister plant, String of Beads (Senecio herreianus) requires similar care. String of Pearls has round leaves, while String of Beads has teardrop-shaped leaves.

Unfortunately, this plant is toxic to cats and dogs, and can even cause mild skin irritation for humans, so keep it a place that’s safely away from you and your furry friends.

Credit: Emma Fiala

How to care for string of pearls

If kept indoors, string of pearls prefer bright, indirect light—perhaps by a south-facing window or an area of your home that gets a good amount of sunlight. If they are kept outdoors, they prefer to be in a lightly shaded area in warmer months and brought indoors during the winter.

As with most plants, keep your string of pearls away from air conditioners or other drafty areas. If its leaves start dropping, this might be a sign of chill.

In the spring and summer months, string of pearls can take a light fertilizing once per month, but over-fertilizing can kill your plant. Discontinue this routine in the fall and winter, when plants are less focused toward growth.

For your watering schedule, since they are drought tolerant, string of pearls prefer to dry out their soil in between each watering. To be sure you’re not overwatering, stick your index finger in the soil and check to see if the top half-inch is dry; only then should you proceed to water it. The little pearl-like leaves hold water and if they are getting the right amount, they’ll stay juicy and bulb-like. Change in shape may indicate over- or under-watering.

Its soil needs to be well-draining, so we suggest using either a succulent potting soil or mixing your own with three parts potting soil and one part sand.

The container for your string of pearls is also important. It needs to offer good drainage—terra cotta is great for this—but the pot also needs to be the right size for the vines to naturally overflow from the brim. Your plant should be almost level with the top of the pot (and definitely not more than 1 inch below the edge of the pot) so that the vines don’t have to reach up before flowing down. You want to make it easy on them!

Once you have your height correct, you also want to make sure there’s not too much room between the center of the plant and the overflow—you want your vines trailing out, not sitting on soil in the pot.

Credit: decoplus/Shutterstock

How to propagate string of pearls

String of pearls are relatively easy to propagate and have a similar process to other succulents. Carefully trim off a piece of the vine that’s around four inches long. Lay it on your potting soil and gently press the cutting into the soil, and roots will grow out from there. It may take several months for the roots to grow out, so during this time, leave it in a bright, indirect light location and mist the cutting a few times a week. After a few weeks, only water when the top of the soil is dry.

How to get your string of pearls to bloom

Getting your string of pearls to bloom takes patience, planning, and the right conditions. It has a blooming period of about a month in the summer, but to get it to tap into that period is up to how it was cared for during the winter months.

So during those cooler months, cut back on the watering and try to keep it at a consistent 60 degree Fahrenheit temperature. That cooler and drier atmosphere in the winter will help the tiny white flowers pop up during the summer.

Potential problems with string of pearls

If your pearl-like leaves start looking a little shriveled, they could be reacting to their water levels—you’re either overwatering or underwatering. Remember to water when the top part of the soil is dry; string of pearls plants also enjoy misting their little beads every so often. Younger plants often need more water than older plants.

Another cause of shriveling could be too much sunlight exposure. Although they are a great hanging window plant, if they are getting too much sunlight, they might shrivel or start to look scorched, so try shifting them to another location.

If their leaves start dropping, they could be reacting to a drafty location, so take note to keep their temperature consistent. So hang up your show-stopping string of pearls and let it look over your other succulent collection, giving them all something to aspire to.