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String of Pearls Care

Learn all about string of pearls care, including how to help this gorgeous trailing succulent thrive in your houseplant collection!

How to care for string of pearls

Today we’re talking about one of the coolest succulents I’ve ever owned—the string of pearls! Maybe I say it’s the coolest succulent I’ve ever owned because I love trailing plants and easy succulents. And this one fits the bill for both of those.

The string of pearls plant (or Senecio rowleyanus, also referred to as a string of beads or string of peas plant) is a succulent with stunning strings of round, bead-like leaves. The leaves actually look a lot like green peas, but the long, skinny stems the leaves grow from make it look a bit like a pearl necklace. 

A string of pearls plant is easy to take care of if you give it the right growing conditions. With the right soil and light, your plant will happily trail to be multiple feet long. They are cute as small plants too.

trailing string of pearls plant with other succulents

String of pearls care overview

  • Native to arid regions of southwestern Africa; adapted to withstand neglect and dry conditions.
  • Enjoys bright, indirect sunlight, with a few hours of direct sunlight daily; can take full sun, but must be slowly acclimated.
  • Plant in a well-draining cactus or succulent potting mix; heavy soils can lead to root rot.
  • Water sparingly, letting the soil dry out almost completely first.
  • Tolerates a range of temperatures (55–85°F); protect from frost and avoid exposure to temperatures below 50°F.
  • Encourage pruning for a fuller appearance by cutting stems to promote new growth.
  • Fast grower in deal conditions; repot every 1-2 years.
  • Propagate best through stem cuttings in soil; propagation through division is more challenging given the plant’s fragile leaves and root system.
  • Promote blooming through cooler temperatures and reduced water during the winter.
printable graphic that summarizes the string of pearls care tips outlined in this post

Where is the this succulent from?

Senecio rowleyanus is a species of flowering plant in the Asteraceae family. It is native to the arid regions of southwestern Africa, specifically Namibia and South Africa. As with many other succulents, string of pearls has evolved to withstand neglect and dry conditions.

However, you don’t want to ignore it completely. In its natural environment, the climate is warm, sunny, and dry. But soaking downpours give the plant the moisture it needs to both feed its roots in the soil and store reserves in its plump little leaves.

small plump string of pearls plant

How do you care for string of pearls indoors?

So let’s jump into this plant’s care needs. You’ll likely be growing this plant indoors if you live in an area with all four season like I do. And caring for the plant indoors is simple—you just need to be the most mindful of your lighting conditions.

I think this is the most important step in your pearls care routine because often it is the biggest impediment to growing this plant indoors. Put your string of pearls in your absolute sunniest window.

String of pearls plants need bright light, but they don’t need bright light all day. As long as they receive a few hours a day of direct sunlight, they are fine with indirect light the rest of the day.

trailing string of pearls plant

Does string of pearls need direct sunlight?

Direct morning sun will not burn the plant. However, monitor your plant if you have a window that gets a ton of direct afternoon sun. Or if you’re putting your plant outdoors for the spring and summer.

I have burned a string of pearls plant by giving it too much direct sunlight outdoors. They must acclimate slowly to the intensity of outdoor sun, so start with direct morning sun only. Below is a pic of a string of pearls propagation that I slowly acclimated to the point of getting direct sun all afternoon and into the early evening.

Bright shade is also usually fine for this plant. I had another string of pearls growing under a covered porch that got only dappled sunlight all day, and it did great. If you don’t have a spot inside or outside that provides your plant with enough light, it’s okay to add a grow light in.

I recommend playing around with the settings and giving the plant some time to adjust to the new light conditions before increasing the light intensity or duration. (If you’re new to using artificial lighting with your plants, you can read more about How to Use Grow Lights for Houseplants.)

string of pearls plant hanging in a pot

What is the best soil choice?

Use a well-draining cactus or succulent potting mix. These soils differ from regular houseplant soil in that they facilitate drainage much faster through the addition of things like sand and perlite. I sometimes make my own soil at home using a mixture of 1/3 houseplant soil, 1/3 sand, and 1/3 perlite. Check out my tips about How to Make Succulent Soil for more.

If the soil in your pot is too heavy, it will retain too much water and likely lead to root rot. It can also encourage fungal growth and attract things like fungus gnats—no good. Even some houseplant soils can be too heavy for succulents, so always look for something designed for cacti or succulents.

Succulents are generally happiest when they have plenty of drainage via a drainage hole in the bottom of their pot. If the soil is well-draining but the water has nowhere to drain out, then that defeats the purpose 🙂

trailing string of pearls plant

Do string of pearls like shallow or deep pots?

This is also a good time to talk about pot size. String of pearls plants have shallow and very delicate root systems. This makes them good candidates for small planters or dish gardens. But I have planted string of pearls plants in traditional pots many times with success.

It depends on the size of the plant. When you purchase your plant, go with a pot size comparable to what the plant comes in. When you begin to notice roots growing out of the pot’s drainage holes—or when it has been a year or two of great growth—size the pot up an inch or so.

If you use a pot that is too big, the soil to roots ratio will be off. This will lead to the soil retaining too much moisture for the plant—even if you are using well-draining soil.

Here’s a tip for planting things in deep pots if they have shallow root systems. Sometimes you might have a deeper pot that you want to use. You can put a smaller nursery pot upside down in the base of that larger pot to take up some space. Then, fill in dirt around it and plant your string of pearls 🙂

string of pearls hanging in a pot

How often should I water string of pearls?

Much like its succulent brothers and sisters, string of pearls plants do not need frequent watering. They can retain moisture in their leaves quite well, so they only need a good watering 1–2 times a month. You can reduce this to once a month in the winter when they aren’t actively growing.

Always keep in mind, though, that the frequency of your watering requirements depends heavily on how well-draining your soil is, what the temperature and humidity are, how much light your plant is getting…so it’s usually just safe to say that you should wait until your plant’s soil dries out completely before watering it again.

Watering your string of pearls too frequently can lead to root rot. On the other hand, if you wait too long to water, you might notice some wilting or flattening/shriveling of the leaves. This can usually be reversed with a good watering if the plant hasn’t been suffering for too long.

trailing string of pearls plant

Is it better to bottom water string of pearls?

It’s usually best to bottom water plants that have delicate foliage—or ones with a lot of nooks and crannies that can allow water to pool. For example, string of hearts plants, hoya rope plants, and—yes—string of pearls plants. Watering from the bottom prevents any pooling on leaves, which can lead to fungal growth.

If you’re new to bottom watering, see my article about How to Bottom Water Plants. Some people find it to be a simple way to water their plants, but I find it throws off my entire watering routine. So you don’t have to do it.

I also like to hose down foliage when I water plants to make sure I am cleaning off dust and debris from leaves and stems. This is a great pest management best practice. So I can speak from personal experience when I say that it’s fine to water your string of pearls plants from the top.

However, I do recommend watering them in the morning. This way, the water will evaporate relatively quickly, avoiding the potential for pooling water. if you begin to notice issues and suspect they are from traditional watering, give bottom watering a go and see if it helps!

trailing string of pearls plant

What does an overwatered string of pearls look like?

If you suspect you’ve overwatered your string of pearls, there are a number of things you can look out for. Here are a few of the big ones.

  • Yellowing or wilting leaves: Overwatering can cause the leaves to turn yellow or wilt because the roots are not getting enough oxygen.
  • Soft, mushy stems: Overwatering can cause the stems of the plant to become soft and mushy.
  • Bad smell: Overwatering can cause the soil to become waterlogged, which can lead to the growth of bacteria and fungi. Sometimes these can smell funky.
  • Fungus gnats moving in: Fungus gnats lay eggs in the top inch or so of soil, and they love wet soil. If you have gnats, you may be giving them the consistently wet environment they like.

If you think your string of pearls plant is overwatered, the first thing you should do is stop watering it and allow the soil to dry out completely. If the plant has already developed root rot, you will need to remove the plant from the soil, trim off the affected roots, and repot the plant in fresh soil.

trailing string of pearls plant

Temperature & humidity requirements

String of pearls plants do well in average conditions. They also generally tolerates a range of comfortable indoor room temperatures and then some—from 55 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

It can live outdoors in the summer, but keep an eye on how it’s doing and move it if necessary. If it is super hot outside, the plant will need more water. If you’re going through an abnormal heat snap, consider moving the plant into the shade during peak sun.

While string of pearls tolerates heat, it does not like the cold. Don’t leave it outdoors once temperatures start dropping down into the low 50s. It will begin dropping leaves. It is also not frost tolerant at all.

How do I make my string of pearls fuller?

As your string of pearls plant grows, you may notice that the leaves become smaller. You may also notice some areas of the stem that are bare because they’ve dropped leaves. This can lead to a scraggly, leggy looking plant that overall may look a bit healthy.

Do make your plant fuller, grab your scissors! I love pruning my plants to promote new, healthy growth, and it also has the benefit of encouraging fullness in the plant. That’s because, when you trim a stem, new growth will sprout from just above the cut point. And it will grow a bit off to the side.

This encourages a fuller look because the stems are not all growing straight down. You’ll need to continue providing optimal care conditions to ensure new growth is full and healthy, though. Plenty of light!

string of pearls plant on a shelf

For more, check out Echeveria Care Indoors, my Burro’s Tail Care Guide, and my tips about How to Care for the Pickle Plant Succulent!

How long do string of pearls live?

However, if your plant is looking sad and pruning isn’t helping…your plant may be nearing the end of its life. These aren’t plants that live on for decades like some other plants that can be passed down in families. They generally live for several years until they begin slowly dying off.

But have no fear! You can help your plant live on by taking healthy cuttings and propagating them. I view these propagations as a new generation of the plant. It might not be the exact same plant, but it’s a baby of the plant. So with regularly propagation, your plant can live on basically indefinitely.

trailing string of pearls plant

Can you grow string of pearls from cuttings?

So let’s jump into propagation, then. Because you can grow string of pearls from cuttings. I have a whole article about How to Propagate String of Pearls From Cuttings. But I will provide an overview and some pics here, too.

String of pearls can be easily grown through rooting cuttings in water or rooting cuttings into moist soil. They will begin to root quickly and sprout new growth. While you can propagate string of pearls through division of an existing plant, I don’t recommend it. The plant’s leaves can be fragile and separating the shallow, fragile roots could shock it a bit. 

Here are a few pics of some string of pearls props I’ve done. I’ve rooted them in water and transferred them to soil, but honestly, this plant is a great candidate for skipping water rooting and going directly to soil.

To propagate it, you’ll want to snip a healthy stem from a plant that has maybe 6 to 10 leaves. Remove the bottom 2-4 leaves very gently to expose the growth points. Then bury those exposed growth points in soil. Keep the soil moist for a few weeks; then back off watering the plant so it doesn’t rot.

If you want to root in water first so you can watch the roots grow, just use a shallow dish and make sure the expose growth points on the bottom of your cutting remain submerged at all times. You can also choose to root several short cuttings at once and plant them together, which will help to encourage a full new plant.

string of pearls cuttings
small string of pearls plant propagation
roots on string of pearls cuttings in water
Pearls cuttings rooting in a shallow dish

Does this plant flower?

String of pearls plants can bloom! If you keep your string of pearls in cooler temperatures during its winter resting season and cut back on water a hair, it may help to promote blooming in the spring.

You can achieve cooler temperatures by keeping the string of pearls on a windowsill and away from heat registers; even if the window is closed, it’s still likely one of the cooler spots in your home.

Of you can just do your normal care routine, and you’ll likely be rewarded with some blooms at some point. I don’t do anything special, but my plants have bloomed for me! The flowers don’t really have a scent, and they aren’t traditionally pretty. But they are cool looking, aren’t they?

flowering string of pearls

Do string of pearls grow fast?

Yes, string of pearls plants do grow pretty fast! With the caveat that they must be in ideal care conditions to reach their full potential, of course. The plant can grow several inches to over a foot each year.

They can grow to be 2–3 feet long and still look beautiful and healthy! I have seen pictures of pearls that are even longer than this, but both were from growers who live in grow zones where they can keep their plants hanging outdoors all year long.

Below is an example of growth during one growing season. This plant began as a propagation with several cuttings (first pic) that did not even trail over the side of the pot in the spring. By the end of the year, it looked like the second pic!

small string of pearls propagation
trailing string of pearls plant

Are there any problematic pests?

String of pearls plants are not especially vulnerable to pests. However, they are vulnerable to minor pests that you often find in houseplants: fungus gnats, mealybugs, and aphids.

  • Fungus gnats: Fungus gnats won’t necessarilly hurt the plant, but they can be a sign of overwatering, which can hurt the plant. Read about what causes fungus gnats and getting rid of them here.
  • Mealybugs: Mealybugs are small, white insects that feed on the sap of plants. They can cause damage to the leaves and stems of string of pearls plants, and they can also produce a sticky, sugary substance called honeydew, which can attract ants. Read about mealybugs here.
  • Aphids: Aphids are small, pear-shaped insects that feed on the sap of plants. They can cause damage to the leaves and stems of string of pearls plants, and they can also spread diseases.

You can prevent many pest infections by controlling infections in nearby plants that are more vulnerable to houseplant pests. You can also use a store-bought insecticide spray designed for houseplants. They usually do the trick!

trailing string of pearls plant

Why do I keep killing my string of pearls?

There could be a number of reasons why you are having trouble keeping your string of pearls alive. Here are the top things you can consider when trying to diagnose the cause of your plant’s demise:

  • Overwatering: String of pearls plants are susceptible to root rot, which can be caused by overwatering. Be sure to allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings, and do not let the plant sit in standing water.
  • Underwatering: String of pearls plants also need a certain amount of moisture to thrive. If the plant is not getting enough water, it can wilt and eventually die. Look for signs of puckering, wrinkled leaves.
  • Soil: They also like well-draining soil. Use something specifically designed for cacti or succulents.
  • Lack of light: String of pearls plants need bright, indirect light to thrive, but they should not be placed in direct sunlight without proper acclimation, as this can cause the leaves to become bleached or scorched.

If you are unsure of the cause of death in your string of pearls plant, you may want to try taking a cutting and rooting it to see if the problem is with the plant itself or with the growing conditions. This can help you determine what is causing the plant to die and how to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Is this a toxic plant?

According to the ASPCA, string of pearls is toxic to animals. Ingesting the plant can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and a loss of appetite. It is not listed as toxic to humans by the ASPCA or other sources. However, it is always a good idea to keep all plants out of reach of children and pets just to be safe.

In conclusion…

The string of pearls plant is an appealing addition to any succulent or trailing plant collection. It thrives indoors with proper care. Ensuring you give your plant plenty of light, well-draining soil, and infrequent watering are key elements in maintaining a healthy and vibrant string of pearls. Happy planting!

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