Native to the arid plains of Southwest Africa, the String of Pearls has become a favourite globally. Despite its exotic origins, it’s surprisingly low-maintenance, making it perfect for both seasoned horticulturists and green-thumbed novices alike.
To help you keep your String of Pearls happy and healthy, our care guide will go through everything from light requirements to propagation, ensuring your plant thrives for years to come.
Origins and Characteristics of the String of Pearls Plant
The String of Pearls is native to Southwest Africa but its botanical name, Senecio rowleyanus, pays homage to British botanist Gordon Douglas Rowley who brought it to the limelight.
The String of Pearls is a trailing houseplant with vines of vibrant green, bead-like leaves that drape down, giving it a distinctive appearance.
But wait, there’s more! They don’t only look great but are also a pro at purifying air. It’s no wonder these enchanting succulents are fast becoming a must-have in homes and offices alike.
- Tolerance: Thrives in dry, well-drained conditions. Not a fan of too much water.
- Light: Loves bright, indirect sunlight. Direct sun can cause sunburn.
- Temperature: Prefers moderate temperatures, around 70-75°F (21-24°C).
- Soil: Grows best in well-draining soil, like a cactus mix.
- Growth: With the right care, expect your String of Pearls to cascade several feet down.
- Bloom: Occasionally, you might be surprised with tiny, white flowers.
Why String of Pearls is a Must-Have for Your Home
One of the best things about the String of Pearls plant is its low-maintenance nature. Perfect for those of us with busy schedules or without the greenest of thumbs, this plant doesn’t demand much attention, yet it continues to flourish.
Did you know that the String of Pearls plant is a natural air purifier? That’s right, it removes toxins from the air, promoting a healthier living environment.
With its unique cascading stems and pearl-like leaves, the String of Pearls plant is an instant attention-grabber and will stand out in every room!
Boosts Mood and Reduces Stress
Studies have shown that being around plants can help reduce stress and anxiety so while this isn’t a benefit specifically for the String of Pearls, it is an added bonus for every plant!
The Best Lighting for a String of Pearls
Your String of Pearls adores bright but indirect sunlight. This means it shouldn’t be getting too many direct sun rays hitting the pearls. East or North facing windows are the most ideal for your String of Pearls. Be it a windowsill, a shelf, or a hanging basket, make it a spot drenched in gentle light.
Lighting in Different Seasons
As the seasons change, so should your lighting strategy. In the summer, your plant enjoys morning sunlight but prefers to chill in the shade during the scorching afternoon. When winter arrives, keep it in a well-lit area as daylight hours diminish. You can get away with your plant receiving a bit more direct sunlight during autumn and winter as the weaker sun won’t burn your plant as quickly.
Can they survive in low light?
In the absence of adequate sunlight, don’t fret, as a fluorescent grow light can serve as a decent understudy, ensuring your String of Pearls continues to glow even during darker days. Consistent low light will start to have an impact though and you may find your plant is growing slower, smaller and is losing leaves.
Watering your String of Pearls
When it comes to watering your String of Pearls, the golden rule is ‘Less is More’. This plant is a succulent, which means it stores water in its stems and leaves. It’s important to give it a good drink but then it can go for quite a while without needing another.
On average, watering once every two weeks during the warmer months and once a month during winter should be enough. But remember, this isn’t a set-in-stone rule and we don’t believe in keeping rigid watering routines as there are so many ever-changing factors that impact how much water your plant needs. Look out for signs that your plant is thirsty – if those pearls start to look a bit shrivelled, it’s time for water.
Give your String of Pearls a good soak, letting water drain through the pot’s holes, then let it dry out completely before watering again. This helps prevent water from stagnating at the bottom of the pot, which can lead to root rot pretty quickly.
Consider the Climate
The climate you live in will also affect how often you need to water. If you live somewhere hot and dry, your String of Pearls may need watering more often. If you’re in a cooler, more humid environment, it might need less. Adjust your watering habits accordingly.
Choosing the Ideal Soil for your String of Pearls
Loam-based soil is best for your String of Pearls. This well-drained, nutrient-rich soil allows the plant to drain excess water while storing the necessary moisture and nutrients it needs to thrive.
A mix of sand or perlite with the loam-based soil provides that extra drainage and prevents your plant from getting its roots too wet.
A sprinkle of organic compost on top acts as a slow-release fertiliser, providing a steady stream of nutrients over time. While this is an optional addition, it can go a long way to keeping your plant healthy.
Choosing the Perfect Pot for Your String of Pearls
Choosing the perfect pot for your String of Pearls needs to balance aesthetics, practicality, and the unique needs of this succulent.
The Material Matters
It might surprise you, but the pot’s material can significantly impact your String of Pearls’ health as it means water absorption and evaporation can vary significantly. Generally, terracotta pots are the go-to choice. Being porous, they allow excess moisture to escape, keeping your plant’s roots delightfully dry.
Size Does Matter
When it comes to pot size, your String of Pearls prefers to be very slightly rootbound, so opt for a pot that’s just slightly larger than the root ball. This prevents water from lingering in the soil, a surefire recipe for root rot.
Don’t Forget Drainage
A pot with one or more drainage holes is vital to prevent waterlogged soil. They will allow any excess water to flow out into the saucer or planter.
Temperature Requirements for Your String of Pearls
String of Pearls plants prefer a warm environment and really don’t like cold drafts. Typically, they thrive in temperatures between 70-75°F (21-24°C). While they can handle a little chill, temperatures below 60°F (15°C) are a no-no. They are also sensitive to sudden temperature changes. So, avoid placing them near drafts, air conditioning vents or heaters.
Fertilizing Your String of Pearls Plant
When to Fertilise:
- Spring: This is the ideal time to start feeding your String of Pearls and they’ll appreciate the extra nutrients to help them burst back into life. Make sure the winter weather is behind you before starting.
- Summer: Continue the feed through summer, as this is when your plant is doing most of its growing.
What to Use:
Look for a water-soluble, well balanced fertiliser. The magic numbers you’re after are 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium). Remember, you don’t want to overdo it – a half-strength solution every month should suffice to avoid over-fertilization (this can cause yellow leaves and leaf drop so dilute the fertilizer more than recommended to avoid this).
How to Apply:
- First, water your plant well. Hydrating the soil before fertilising helps to prevent root burn.
- Next, add the fertiliser to your watering can and mix until dissolved.
- Now, simply water your plant as usual, ensuring the fertiliser solution reaches the roots.Remember, your String of Pearls doesn’t need a heavy feed. Stick to this routine and you’ll have a happy, healthy plant.
Pruning your String of Pearls Plant
The mention of the word pruning is often met with a lot of nervousness. But with String of Pearls, it’s actually a really easy and important step in their care routine. Pruning can not only help to remove old and leggy growth, but it can also help to stimulate growth hormones found in the vines to create a fuller plant.
- First, identify the strands that have become too long or started to look ‘leggy’. You also want to spot any that are turning yellow, brown or are crisping up.
- Next, with a clean, sharp tool, snip off these strands just above a leaf node.
- If you are pruning growth that is simply too long, but otherwise healthy, you can propagate these vines!
Propagating Your String of Pearls
Propagating your plant can be a great way to create a fuller plant or new plants altogether. And if you’ve already got enough houseplants, then gifting cuttings to friends and family can be a really nice idea.
Before you get started there are a few things to note. Ensure you are propagating in spring or summer for the best results. You also only want to propagate healthy parts of your plant.
Here’s a brief step-by-step of how to propagate your String of Pearls:
- Take the cuttings you’ve pruned (see above), and set them aside for a few days to callus over.
- Next, place the callused cuttings in well-draining soil, ensuring the leaf nodes are in contact with the soil.
- Water sparingly until you start to notice new growth. And voila, you’ve just created a new String of Pearls plant! You can either pop it right back into your mother plant or you can leave it to be a whole new plant.
Common Pests and Diseases that Affect String of Pearls Plant
Although rare, it can happen from time to time that your String of Pearls starts to suffer from pests or disease. The key thing here is treating the issue early so make sure to check on your plants regularly. Below is a list of the most common pests and diseases:
These little white bugs, fondly referred to as fluffy cotton balls, are the usual suspects. Not only do they suck the life juice out of your plant, but they also leave behind a nasty, sticky residue called honeydew. A mealybug infestation will grow quickly so act fast to get these under control.
Aphids, also known as plant lice, are tiny insects that come in various colours. They love to feast on new growth, causing the leaves to curl and become discoloured.
Spider mites create a fine, silky web on the plant and cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop.
Root rot is caused by overwatering, leading to a soggy soil environment which is the perfect breeding ground for fungi. Pay attention to your watering routine to keep root rot at bay.
Too much of a good thing can be harmful, and this is true for sunlight too. Excessive direct sunlight can lead to light burn, causing the leaves to turn yellow or white. Your String of Pearls loves a good sunbath, but remember, it prefers indirect rays.
How often should I water my String of Pearls plant?
The watering regimen for a String of Pearls plant differs from other houseplants. It doesn’t require frequent watering. They like to be watered deeply but infrequently:
- Summer: The plant requires watering once a week or biweekly, as it’s a succulent and thrives in dry conditions.
- Winter: The plant needs less water, once a month is enough.
What kind of soil is best for a String of Pearls plant?
A succulent or cactus mix, blended with a touch of coarse sand or pumice is best.
- Succulent or cactus mix: This has excellent drainage, recreating the quick-drying soil conditions of your String of Pearls’ homeland.
- Coarse sand or pumice: These add an extra layer of drainage, ensuring those precious pearl-like leaves aren’t sat in water.
How much sunlight does a String of Pearls plant need?
Partial, indirect sunlight is the best for this succulent. 3-4 hours a day, preferably in the morning when the rays are less harsh, should do the trick. Too much direct sunlight might leave the plant with a sunburn, turning its lovely green into an unattractive brown.
- East or West facing windows are ideal locations for your String of Pearls.
- During the hotter months, it’s best to protect the plant from the afternoon sun which can be too intense.
- If natural light is limited, grow lights can be a fantastic alternative. Just remember, moderation is key.
What temperature range is ideal for a String of Pearls plant?
The sweet spot is between 15°C and 25°C, so unless you’re living inside a greenhouse, indoor conditions should be perfect. It’s also important to know that these are not frost fans, and anything below 10°C could cause harm. So, do keep them away from draughty windows and doors during the winter months.
Can a String of Pearls plant be grown indoors?
The answer is a resounding yes! Your home can indeed provide a comfortable environment for this enchanting plant.
The String of Pearls thrives indoors with a few basic requirements. It yearns for bright, indirect light and well-draining soil to flourish.
How fast does a String of Pearls plant grow?
The String of Pearls is a slow-growing houseplant, growing an average of 2 to 3 inches per month under optimum conditions.
What do we mean by ‘optimum conditions’? Well, let’s break it down:
- Bright Light: These plants love a sunny spot but need protection from the midday sun.
- Well-Draining Soil: They prefer a cactus or succulent mix that drains quickly.
- Watering: Water thoroughly, but let the soil dry out between waterings.
Is the String of Pearls toxic to pets or children?
The String of Pearls is toxic if ingested. Our beloved pets, or even children, could experience a nasty bout of nausea, vomiting, or skin irritation if they taste this succulent.
If you suspect your pet or child has ingested any part of this plant, seek medical attention immediately.
Is the String of Pearls easy to care for?
The String of Pearls plants is one of those where once you have found a good spot and nailed a decent routine, they become super easy to care for. They don’t respond to the slightest change like some other houseplants do but we still don’t always recommend them as a beginner houseplant as they do have special requirements when it comes to light, water, humidity etc.
Common Problems with your String of Pearls
Here are some common issues that you might run into. It’s important to diagnose any issues early to give your plant the best chance of bouncing back. This is why we strongly recommend giving your plant a monthly check-up so you can spot any issues at their early stages.
Why is my String of Pearls shrivelled?
Shrivelling leaves on your String of Pearls is usually an indication of improper watering. Check the moisture in the soil and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
My String of Pearls is scarring
Scarring on your pearl leaves is most often caused by too much direct sunlight which is burning the leaves. Try and move your plant into a spot with indirect sunshine.
Why is my String of Pearls losing leaves?
If your String of Pearls plant is losing leaves, it can be a sign of the temperature being too low or it being in a drafty spot in your home. Try to move your String of Pearls to a warmer spot to see if the pearls stop dropping.
Why is my String of Pearls turning yellow?
If you notice yellow leaves on your String of Pearls, this is probably a sign of overwatering. Too much moisture in the soil leads to root rot. Replace the soil immediately if you think you may have overwatered your String of Pearls.
Why are white spots on my String of Pearls?
If you notice white spots or patches on your String of Pearls plant, this can often indicate pests. Remove the infected parts of the plant and wash the soil through completely to remove the pests.
And there we have it, your complete guide to String of Pearls care. This little gem may seem delicate, but with the right conditions and care, they can become fairly easy to care for. The main things to remember are to water sparingly, provide ample sunlight, and avoid temperature extremes. These simple steps are the secret sauce to keeping your String of Pearls happy and healthy.