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Variegated String of Pearls Care

Today’s article is all about variegated string of pearls care. Senecio rowleyanus variegata is a cool trailing succulent with marbled bead-like leaves and a fuss-free care routine.

All about variegated string of pearls care

One of my more popular plant care guides is about string of pearls plant care, and I wrote it many, many years ago (but updated it recently). Today’s article is about a cultivar of that plant—the variegated cultivar, or senecio rowleyanus variegata.

Much like the all-green string of pearls, the variegated version hails from the arid regions of Southwest Africa. Its part of the Asteraceae family is a succulent. You might hear it referred to as a rosary vine, string of beads, string of peas, or bead plant.

In its natural habitat, the string of pearls succulent clings to rocky crevices and sandy terrains, adapting to arid conditions with limited water. It has evolved the ability to store water in its plump, spherical leaves.

Like other succulents, this period allows it to withstand periods of drought. So that helps make it a lower maintenance plant that doesn’t need frequent watering.

variegated string of pearls
Variegated string of pearls

Variegated string of pearls care overview

  • Variegated string of pearls (senecio rowleyanus variegata) is a succulent with marbled, bead-like leaves.
  • Cultivar of the string of pearls plant, native to arid regions of Southwest Africa.
  • Thrives in bright indirect light; can adapt to direct sunlight, but acclimate slowly to avoid burning the leaves.
  • Drought-tolerant, storing water in its leaves; requires a “soak and dry” watering method, meaning the soil should be allowed to dry out completely between waterings.
  • Prefers warm temperatures (up to the 80s and 90s Fahrenheit); does not tolerate cold or frost.
  • Does not require high humidity; excess moisture could lead to fungal issues.
  • Use well-draining cactus or succulent soil mixes with perlite and sand; slow grower that rarely needs repotting.
  • Propagate through stem cuttings directly in moist soil.
  • Toxic if ingested, causing gastrointestinal issues; keep away from pets and children.

Is variegated string of pearls rare?

No, I would not say that a variegated string of pearls is rare. But it isn’t exactly super common. It’s uncommon to find even a non-variegated string of pearls plant at a big box plant nursery—at least where I live in Maryland.

I often see both variegated and non-variegated plants at independent nurseries in my area, though. Make sure to check locally to avoid paying shipping and risking shipping damage. It’s a somewhat fragile plant.

But if you can’t find it locally, you can easily order a variegated string of pearls online. If it’s cold where you are, make sure to include a heat pack or the plant will definitely suffer.

What colors are variegated string of pearls?

The variegated type of string of pearls plants are mostly green with cream and pinkish hues. The mix of colors created a marbled-looking effect. Check out my article about Variegated String of Hearts Care for a similar plant.

variegated string of pearls
Variegated string of pearls
full string of pearls plant
Non-variegated string of pearls

How much light does a variegated string of pearls need?

This sun-kissed succulent thrives in bright indirect light. Put it in your sunniest window or a spot that gets filtered sun outdoors in the spring and summer. It can even withstand some direct sunlight.

But be careful. Direct, scorching sunlight can cause the beads to lose their luster, resulting in unsightly sunburns on the leaves. You’ll want to slowly acclimate the plant to direct sunlight.

And consider that the sun is not as harsh during some periods of the day. A few hours of direct morning sunlight should not be a problem. But once the afternoon sun starts heating things up, consider providing some shade.

Variegated string of pearls isn’t the biggest fan of medium or low light environments, though. If you aren’t giving your plant enough light, you’ll notice that the plant will get leggy. The stems will look scraggly and stretched out, and the leaves will be small and not as plump.

variegated string of pearls

How often should I water variegated string of pearls?

I mentioned in the intro that the variegated string of pearls plant stores water in its plump leaves. That means that it is able to withstand long periods between watering—something it has evolved to do thanks to the lack of water in its natural habitat.

So how often should you water it? The key here is moderation. Follow the principle of “soak and dry.” Give your plant a thorough drink, allowing water to penetrate the soil and reach the roots. 

Then let the soil dry out completely before the next watering session. As a general rule, you can water this beauty every two to three weeks during the spring and summer. Remember that overwatering can cause root rot, leaving your plant with a wilted, sad look and mushy leaves (see below).

As winter approaches, your plant will go into a semi-dormant state, and its water needs diminish. During this period, cut back on watering to about once a month. 

Forget the last time you watered your plant? Keep an eye on the leaves; they will tell you if your plant needs water. When plump and taut, your variegated string of pearls is content. When a little wrinkled or deflated, it’s time to water.

variegated string of pearls with mushy beads
Variegated string of pearls showing signs of overwatering with mushy leaves and wet soil

What is the best temperature?

In its native habitat, the variegated string of pearls grows in a desert climate and enjoys the heat. As a true sun worshiper, it flourishes in temperatures that rise into the 80s and even 90s Fahrenheit during the day.

Any temperatures below about 50 degrees (at night) will likely lead to signs of suffering. This plant enjoys somewhat chilly nights, but it isn’t cold or frost hardy. The plant will die if temperatures get too low—especially if they remain low during the day.

Like this? Check out my article about 10 of the Best Succulents to Start Your Obsession!

Should you mist a string of pearls?

Generally succulents don’t need a lot of humidity. They are from hot, dry climates. So you might be wondering if you need to mist a variegated string of pearls.

Well, first of all—misting is fun. I like doing it for many of my plants. But it doesn’t do much to raise ambient humidity levels longer than a few seconds. 

So the question is really whether string of pearls plants like higher humidity leves or not. The answer is no. In fact, higher humidity levels and more moisture in the air might lead to fungal issues on the plant.

That said, I have had succulents—including string of pearls plants—outdoors in the super humid Maryland environment. And it absolutely thrives. So, don’t overthink it.

variegated string of pearls

How fast do variegated string of pearls grow?

Variegated plants in general grow a bit slower than their non-variegated counterparts. That’s because the lighter parts lack chlorophyll, which is an essential part of the photosynthesis process. So variegated string of pearls grows pretty slowly.

That means you don’t have to repot the plant very often. Your plant will likely be in a smaller pot when you get it, and I wouldn’t repot it until the roots begin growing out of the pot’s drainage holes. It will probably take several years before you need to size the pot up.

When you do need to repot the plant, make sure to use fresh soil and size the pot up only about an inch. You don’t want to have too much soil.

variegated string of pearls

What is the best soil?

Variegated string of pearls plants actually do really well in poor soils. So don’t overthink it. Just make sure it has adequate drainage. Any cactus or succulent soil will do just fine because they come pre-mixed with perlite and sand.

The perlite and sand help prevent the soil from retaining too much water. They also help the water flow through the soil and out of the pot’s drainage holes, ensuring the roots aren’t totally waterlogged.

Is variegated string of pearls toxic?

Variegated string of pearls contains compounds that can be toxic when ingested. Ingesting any part of the plant could lead to mild to moderate gastrointestinal upset, including symptoms like drooling, vomiting, or diarrhea. 

In more severe cases, excessive consumption could lead to more serious issues, so it’s best to keep this succulent away from pets. While not as harmful to people as it is to pets, the variegated string of pearls can still cause mild stomach upset if ingested. 

So it’s best to keep it away from kids as well. But it’s perfectly safe to have in your home and to handle! Just look at it—don’t eat it.

plants on a patio table

How do I make my plant fuller?

You may lose some leaves here and there, which can lead to stringy-looking plants. Or, if you have your plant in lower-light environments and it gets leggy, it might also look a bit sad.

You can make your string of pearls plant look fuller and lush by pruning it. Pruning plants can be scary—I know. But sometimes cutting your stems down is the best way forward.

The plant will then sprout new growth from just above the cut area, eventually leading to a fuller look. You can also root the cuttings and put them back into the pot, adding more stems that can also contribute to a fuller look.

How do you propagate a this plant?

And speaking of rooting new cuttings, it’s pretty easy to propagate a variegated string of pearls cutting, too! You can either put them in new pots or pop them back into your plant’s pot. Keep in mind it’s a longer process, though.

First select a healthy, well-established strand from your plant. Ensure it’s at least a few inches long with a few sets of leaves. You can remove the bottom few leaves to expose the growth points.

After you’ve taken your cutting, set it aside in a warm, dry spot for about a day or two to allow the cut end to callus over. This callus formation helps prevent rotting when the cutting is planted.

Once the cut end has formed a callus, it’s time to plant your cutting in fresh, well-draining succulent soil. You can plant it directly in the soil or place it on top and allow it to root itself.

Place your potted cutting in a warm and bright location, but avoid direct sunlight, as it could stress the cutting. Keep the soil lightly moist but not overly wet to encourage root development.

Within a few weeks to a couple of months, you should start to see the roots establishing themselves. The new shoots will emerge, and your baby variegated string of pearls will be on its way to becoming its own plant.

Does a variegated string of pearls plant flower?

Yes! They produce small white flowers. If you don’t like the look of the flowers, you can simply pick them off. They have a light scent as well.

flowering string of pearls

In conclusion…

I hope you’re feeling more confident about nurturing your own variegated string of pearls. Whether you’re a seasoned green thumb or a budding plant enthusiast, variegated pearls will make a great addition to your collection!

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Brittany Goldwyn
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