String of pearls plant, also known as string of beads, necklace plant, and by its botanical name, Senecio rowleyanus, is one of the most striking succulents out there. This drought-tolerant plant gets its name from the appearance of its leaves, which look like little pearl-sized peas strung along thin stems.
With its trailing growth habit, string of pearls is a natural for hanging baskets and macrame hangers where its stems can grow long and jungle-like. The plant blooms with tiny white flowers, typically in the fall and winter. After blooming, the flowers leave behind seed heads attached to thin white fibers.
However, senecios aren’t limited to the orb-leaved string of pearls. Another variety, string of bananas (Senecio radicans), gets its name from the smile-shaped leaves that grow along its stems. Care is similar to string of pearls.
String of dolphins (Senecio peregrinus) is a cross between string of pearls plant and another succulent known as candle plant (Senecio articulatus). Each leaf of this comparatively rare variety has a tiny “fin” poking out of each arc-shaped leaf, just like a dolphin leaping through the waves. Care for string of dolphins is also similar to string of pearls, but it may need a little more water than its relative and will lose its dolphin-like shape if fertilized.
Best Growing Conditions for Your String of Pearls Plant
Despite the fact that it’s native to the deserts of southwest Africa, string of pearls prefers bright, indirect light rather than full sun. Display it in a north-facing or east-facing window, or a few feet away from a window with a southern or western exposure and out of the sun’s rays. Too much direct sunlight can cause sunburn on your plant’s leaves.
While string of pearls isn’t a heat-loving succulent, it does prefer temperatures on the warm end of the spectrum, especially during its spring and summer growing season. It’s a good idea to keep the plant away from hot or cold drafts, as fluctuations in temperature can cause leaves to drop.
Each string of pearls stem can grow to at least three feet long at maturity. Make the most of their elegant trailing habit by positioning the plant on a high shelf or hanging it from the ceiling.
If you plan to bring your string of pearls outdoors during the summer months, be sure to keep it inside until night temperatures are consistently above 70 degrees. In the winter, the plant can withstand night temperatures no lower than the 40-degree range.
How to Care for Your String of Pearls Plant
Plant your string of pearls in a sandy, well-draining soil mix formulated for cacti or succulents. You can also make your own cactus mix by combining one part coarse sand with one part perlite and two parts standard potting soil.
Avoid using a self-watering pot or pot with a built-in saucer for this plant, as those types of containers can hold in too much water. A ceramic pot with drainage holes in the bottom or, better yet, a terra cotta container that allows moisture to evaporate from the sides of the pot, is ideal for your string of pearls. Plus, the orange clay color of the terra cotta really helps the strings of pale green leaves to pop.
During the growing season, allow your string of pearls to dry out a bit before watering again. Overwatering will cause your string of pearls to rot, so it’s better to err on the side of too little rather than too much water. In the fall and winter, when the plant goes dormant, water very sparingly—only when you see the pea-like leaves start to shrivel and wrinkle.
Fertilize your string of pearls every month during the growing season, using a houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength. While the plant is dormant, cut back to feedings only once every three months.
If your plant’s leaves become shriveled, that can be a sign of both underwatering and overwatering. If the soil feels moist and you’ve been watering frequently, cut back watering to no more than once every two weeks, and check to make sure that at least the top inch of soil has dried out before watering again.
How to Propagate Your String of Pearls Plant
Growing a new string of pearls couldn’t be easier. All you need to propagate this succulent are a healthy, mature mother plant, a four-inch plant pot, well-draining succulent soil or cactus mix, a set of garden shears or scissors, a pencil or chopstick, and floral pins (if you don’t have these, a bent paper clip or bobby pin can work, too).
Step 1: Using clean, sharp shears or scissors, take cuttings from the mother plant, making the cut just below a leaf node (the spot where the leaf meets the stem). Make sure that each cutting is at least six inches long.
Step 2: Set the cuttings aside on a plate or tray and allow the cut ends of the stems to heal and callus over for one to three days.
Step 3: When the cuttings are ready, remove the three or four leaves closest to the cut end of each stem.
Step 4: Fill the container with succulent soil mix. Using the pencil or chopstick, poke a hole a few inches deep into the soil for each cutting you’ve taken from the mother plant. Planting several cuttings in one pot will result in a fuller-looking plant than simply planting a single cutting in the container.
Step 4: Plant one cutting in each hole, stripped stem end first. Make sure that the three or four leaf nodes at the end of the stem are beneath the soil. These are where the roots will emerge. Secure the stems in place with floral pins, if you like. This will help the cuttings stay in place.
Step 5: Place the cuttings in a warm place with bright, indirect light. After a few days, water the cuttings well. During this time, keep the soil evenly moist: water just enough to keep the soil from drying out without getting soggy.
Step 6: After four to six weeks, give the cuttings a gentle tug to see if they’ve rooted. If not, simply put them back in the soil and give them more time. A surefire sign that the cuttings have rooted is new growth growing from the stems. Once they’ve rooted, care for your new string of pearls as usual.