String of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus, sometimes sold as Curio rowleyanus) is a sought-after hanging succulent house plant. Its trailing stems have pea-like leaves that look like beads – hence its common name. In spring, the plant may produce small white, cinnamon-scented flowers.
In the wild, in west Africa, string of pearls sprawls over gravelly, rocky terrain. In the home, it looks lovely hanging from a shelf or planter – it’s fast growing and the tendrils can reach 1m long. It’s a good choice for beginner or lazy indoor gardeners – the ‘beads’ store water, so the plant can cope with a bit of neglect and only needs watering every couple of weeks.
All parts of the plant are mildly toxic if ingested, so keep away from children and pets.
How to grow string of pearls
Grow your string of pearls plant in a spot that gets plenty of bright, indirect light. It’s best to underwater than overwater your plant, as it stores water in its leaves. Water only when the top few centimetres of compost are dry, ideally by placing the plant in a saucer or dish for half an hour or so – this prevents the plant’s crown getting soggy. Feed with a weak plant feed in the growing season and repot every few years, in spring.
More on growing string of pearls:
String of pearls: jump links
- Planting string of pearls
- Caring for string of pearls
- Propagating string of pearls
- Growing string of pearls: problem-solving
- Buying string of pearls
Where to grow string of pearls
Grow your string of pearls in a bright spot that is out of direct sunshine for most of the day. It will tolerate temperatures as low as 10°C in but to encourage flowers in spring, keep it at a temperature of between 13-16°C in winter. Avoid draughty spots.
How to plant string of pearls
Plant in a pot that’s only slightly larger than the rootball. Plant into cactus compost, or in a 3:1 mix of soil-based compost and sharp sand. If placing in a hanging planter, handle with care – the leaves can easily fall off.
Caring for string of pearls
String of pearls are delicate plants, so handle with care – it’s easy to knock the leaves off.
Water thoroughly once the top 2-3cm of compost have become dry (stick your finger in to check). Ideally, water from below, by placing the plant in a shallow dish and allowing it to soak up water – this means that the ‘pearls’ at the top of the plant won’t get wet or remain sitting in soggy compost. Allow any excess to drain away. Water very sparingly in winter.
Feed with a half-strength liquid feed once per month in spring, summer and autumn. Do not mist your plant.
Prune any straggly ends to keep the plant looking neat.
Strings of pearls have shallow root systems, so they need repotting only every few years, in spring.
How to propagate string of pearls
String of pearls is easy to propagate from cuttings in spring or summer.
Cut off a healthy 10cm length from the end of a tendril (if you’re giving your plant a trim you can use the trimmings) and let the end heal over for a couple of days.
Fill a pot with cactus compost or compost mixed with sharp sand, and moisten so that it is damp but not soggy.
Either curl the tendril on top of the compost, pinning it down lightly so that it comes into contact with the soil, or remove some of the lower leaves and insert the bare stem into the compost.
Place the cuttings in a bright spot and mist the surface of the soil every few days to stop it drying out.
Growing string of pearls: problem solving
This is due to lack of water.
The plant is probably too cold.
Yellow, brown or mushy leaves (‘pearls’) or brown or black stems
This is due to overwatering – either the soil is too wet or the plant has been watered too much. The stems of string of pearls are very thin and prone to rot. Allow the compost to dry out thoroughly and remove any damaged parts of the plant.
Advice on buying string of pearls
- Check that you have the right spot for a string of pearls – it likes a light, bright spot and its tendrils will reach 1m
- String of pearls can be hard to track down. If you’ve ordered your plant online, unpack it very carefully as the beads fall off easily
Where to buy string of pearls online