The String of Pearls plant is a unique vining succulent. Easily recognized by its small pea-shaped leaves which grow over the long elegant stems. Resembling a string of pearls, albeit a green one, this distinctive appearance has made the String of Pearls a popular houseplant choice. For a particularly attractive effect, the leaf covered stems or vines can be allowed to spill over the sides of hanging baskets and pots.
If you want to learn more about these attractive specimens our how to grow a String of Pearls plant is designed to take you through everything you need to know from planting and propagation to overwintering.
Curio rowleyanus is a distinctive, vining succulent.
What is a String of Pearls Plant?
The String of Pearls plant is a robust, quick growing succulent. In favorable conditions it can grow between 5 and 15 inches every year.
Commonly grown as a hanging succulent, which allows its leafy vines to drape attractively downwards, in its native habitat of the East African desert the String of Pearls plant spreads along the rocky ground providing flowering ground cover.
Away from its native habitat, String of Pearls is a popular houseplant, providing a unique focal point. An easy to grow specimen, the name String of Pearls refers to the leafy stems that spill over the sides of pots and planters. These can resemble a string of pearls. In favorable conditions, flowers may also form, however this is rare for specimens cultivated as houseplants.
Not the longest lasting succulent, the string of pearls plant has an average lifespan of 5 years. Luckily it is easy to propagate from stem cuttings, meaning that you can continue to grow the succulents for as long as you wish, or expand your collection.
Part of the Asteraceae family, the String of Pearls plant is also known by its botanical name, Curio rowleyanus. It was previously known as Senecio rowleyanus. These succulents are also known as String of Beads or the Rosary Vine.
Warning, String of Pearls is mildly toxic if ingested. Keep them away from any curious pets and children.
What is the Difference Between String of Pearls and String of Tears?
String of Pearls (Curio rowleyanus) and String of Tears (Curio citriformis) are closely related succulents. Originating in the same part of the world, these two succulents are also fairly similar in appearance. This means that they are often confused for each other. However, there are some clear differences.
String of Pearls plant leaves are pea-shaped while the leaves of String of Tears are more raindrop in shape. The vines of String of Tears rarely exceed 1 ft in length. Mature vines can reach up to 3 ft.
Another similar looking specimen is Curio raicans or String of Bananas. Fuller in appearance than String of Pearls, Curio radicans also has less of a trailing habit. Curio radicans foliage is shaped like small, green bananas.
Finally, Curio herranus, also known as String of Watermelon, is a trailing specimen with small melon shaped leaves. These are often decorated with purple stripes.
Where to Grow
The String of Pearls plant does best in a full or partial sun position and well draining soil. They are hardy in USDA Zones 9 to 12.
As long as Curio rowleyanus receives lots of light and a regular dose of fertilizer it is a pleasingly robust plant. More resilient than other types of succulent, in the right conditions Curio rowleyanus displays a vigorous growth habit.
The vining growth habit means this is a popular hanging basket plant.
The main requirement to consider when choosing a position for your String of Pearls plant is light. Ideally Curio rowleyanus specimens should be allowed to enjoy a combination of direct and indirect light, amounting to 6 to 8 hours a day.
A position which gets lots of direct, morning light and then indirect light during the afternoon allows the succulents to bask in the soft morning light while also protecting them from the harsher afternoon sun. Curio rowleyanus is tolerant of partial light. This makes it a good low-light plant choice for indoor gardens.
The soil should be well draining and light. Any succulent or cactus specific soil is acceptable. Alternatively, you can use a well draining, sandy potting soil. To make your own soil mix, combine potting soil and sharp sand at a ratio of 3 to 1.
Ensuring that your soil is light and well draining is one of the most important parts of caring for succulents. If the soil is too wet or slow to drain the succulents develop root rot.
Plant in a terracotta or clay pot. These encourage excess moisture to quickly drain from the potting medium. The pot should have plenty of drainage holes in its bottom.
String of Pearls plant thrives in conditions where temperatures are consistently over 70 ℉ from spring until fall. During the winter months the temperature surrounding the succulents can be allowed to fall to 50 to 60 ℉.
Unlike some types of succulents, Curio rowleyanus doesn’t require high humidity levels. This means that you should not place them in rooms that do have naturally high humidity levels such as kitchens and bathrooms. Unlike air plants and other humidity loving specimens, there is also no need to regularly mist these succulents.
Caring for a String of Pearls Plant
Like many types of succulents, as long as you get a few basic care requirements right Curio rowleyanus specimens are easy to care for and happily thrive in a range of conditions and places.
When to Water
Knowing when to water your chosen specimen is one of the most difficult parts of succulent care. The most important thing is not to overwater your String of Pearls plant.
Aim to keep the soil lightly moist during the spring and summer growing season. If you are unsure when to water, keep an eye on the leaves. The spherical leaves of Curio rowleyanus start to flatten when the succulent requires more water. You can also use a soil moisture sensor to gauge when to water the String of Pearls plant.
On average, a String of Pearls plant requires water once every 7 to 14 days. In warmer climates, particularly if you are growing the specimens outdoors, they may require a drink of water as often as once a week. The amount and frequency with which you need to water outdoor specimens also depends on the temperature and rainfall levels.
In general you should wait until the top half inch of soil is dry before watering.
Most Curio rowleyanus specimens are grown in pots. As our guide to watering succulents explains, when it comes to watering pot growing succulents, adopting the soak and dry method is best. This means soaking the soil thoroughly, until excess water starts to trickle out of the drainage holes and then allowing the soil to dry out before watering again.
During the winter months, growth slows and these specimens become dormant. During this period you can reduce the amount of water that you apply.
How to Fertilize
A regular dose of fertilizer boosts healthy growth.
Fertilization is particularly important during the growing season, the spring and summer months. A regular dose of fertilizer helps Curio rowleyanus to sustain its growth and spread. During the growing season apply a dose of fertilizer biweekly. These specimens can be safely fed a balanced water soluble or liquid fertilizer diluted to half its strength.
During the winter months, when Curio rowleyanus is dormant, fertilize the succulent once every 6 weeks.
Pruning Curio Rowleyanus
Regularly pruning helps to keep the String of Pearls plant looking neat and tidy. It also prevents the trailing vines from outgrowing their position and smothering other succulents in your collection, Finally, regular pruning also encourages the Curio rowleyanus to become fuller and more bushy.
Prune away dead or damaged leaves and stems as soon as you notice them. You can also prune away any stems that have lost all their leaves.
Always use clean or sterilized scissors when pruning. This prevents the accidental transfer of disease or infestation between specimens.
Best done in the spring, specimens that are overly long or leggy can be trimmed and the cuttings rooted to produce new specimens.
Overwintering and Flowering
In USDA Zones 8 and lower, if your Curio rowleyanus specimen is growing outside in a pot, bring it inside in the fall to overwinter. These specimens won’t survive outside in the winter months. You can return the String of Pearls plant to its outside position in the spring once the last frost date has passed and temperatures have started to warm up.
If you want flowers to form, Curio rowleyanus requires exposure to temperatures just above freezing, 35 to 45 ℉. This is best done during the winter months when they are dormant. To do this, place the pot in an unheated room that gets at least 6 hours of light every day. Water sparingly, no more than once a month during the dormant period.
At the start of spring, resume fertilizing the overwintering specimens twice a week. At this point you can also move the pots to a bright window sill.
The flowers of Curio rowleyanus typically emerge in the summer. The flowers are small, daisy-like blooms. Measuring half an inch in size, or sometimes a little bigger, the blooms often produce long red stamens and bright yellow anthers. Whilst they may not be the showiest flowers, they are visually attractive. When fully open, the flowers emit a sweet, spicy cinnamon-like scent.
How to Propagate
The easiest way to propagate Curio rowleyanus is by rooting stem cuttings. This also helps to prolong the lifespan of the plant. You can also grow Curio rowleyanus from seed. However this method is more time consuming and is prone to failure.
Propagation is best done in the spring or summer months. In warmer climates you can also propagate in early fall. Do not propagate your specimens during the winter months. At this time of year they are entering a period of dormancy and won’t set out new roots.
Rooting stems cuttings is not an immediate process. On average it takes around 3 to 4 weeks to root the cuttings. However, in some cases, it can take a few months.
To take stem cuttings, use sharp, clean scissors to cut away a 4 to 5 inch long section of stem from your Curio rowleyanus specimen. Always take cuttings from healthy, problem free stems.
Make your cutting just below the leaf node. After taking the cutting, remove the lowest two leaves.
Allow the cut stem to dry out for a few days on a windowsill or somewhere where it won’t be disturbed. Once a callus has formed over the cut area, you can pot the cutting on.
Plant the cuttings in 4 to 6 inch sized pots filled with fresh succulent soil such as Hoffman Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil. Moisten the soil before planting the cutting. Plant the cuttings at least an inch deep. When planted, all the leaves should sit above the soil line.
Place the cuttings undercover in a light spot. Allow the cuttings to sit in their pots for a few days before watering the soil. From this point on, you can regularly water the cuttings.
After a month, reduce the amount of water you give the developing specimens. Water only when the top of soil feels dry.
After 6 months, if you are still in the growing season, apply a light dose of succulent appropriate food or a balanced houseplant fertilizer, such as Espoma Organic Indoor Plant Food diluted to half its strength. Do not feed during the dormant winter period, instead wait until the succulents have resumed growing in the spring before feeding.
With the right care the cuttings, in time, send out new stems and fill in.
Growing from Seed
You can either purchase seeds or harvest them yourself. Seeds only develop if the flowers are pollinated. Even then not all the seeds are viable. The only real way to find out if the seeds are viable is to sow them.
Sow the seeds in pots or trays filled with moist, well draining potting soil. Place the trays or pots in a propagator. A propagator with humidity vents enables you to better control the temperature and humidity level around developing succulents.
Regularly check the soil, it should not be allowed to dry out. If your soil starts to dry out, mist it evenly with a Plant Mister Spray Bottle. Do not use a watering can. Too strong a flow of water can disturb the soil and drown the small seeds.
It can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months for seeds to germinate. The process is often quicker in the warmer temperatures of late spring and summer.
Following germination allow the seedlings to grow on, caring for them as you would a larger specimen.
How to Plant and Repot
The best time to repot Curio rowleyanus is in early spring, just as they wake from their winter dormancy. It is often recommended that newly purchased specimens should be repotted as soon after purchase as possible. This is because, while in the garden store or plant nursery, they can be left to sit in nutrient poor soil or pots that are too small.
Plant or repot into a terracotta or unglazed ceramic pot with ample drainage holes. Pots made from these materials are often preferred over plastic pots because they enable excess moisture to more quickly drain from the soil. For more on choosing a suitable succulent pot, check out our guide to the best succulent pots.
If you are repotting, the pot should be the next size up, roughly 2 to 3 inches wider and deeper, from the pot the plant is currently using.
Add a layer of succulent soil to the bottom of the pot. Well draining potting soil can also be used, but be careful not to overwater or waterlog the soil.
Carefully remove Curio rowleyanus from its pot. Try not to damage or overly disturb the roots as you do this. Gently brush the soil away from the root ball.
Center the succulent on the fresh soil bed. It should sit at roughly the same level as in its previous pot.
When you are happy with the position, fill in the gaps around the root ball with more fresh soil. Leave a 1 inch gap between the top of the soil and the pot lip.
The String of Pearls plant should be repotted every year. Eventually these specimens start to die back. When this happens it is better to propagate a new specimen than to carry on repotting and trying to rejuvenate an older specimen.
Common Pests and Problems
If correctly cared for, Curio rowleyanus is a healthy, robust if not particularly long lived specimen. Generally problem free specimens, correctly cared for specimens that are growing undercover are particularly low maintenance.
Aphids, gnats, whiteflies, mites, mealybugs and ants are all common pests. While infestations can occur, they only become truly problematic on unhealthy specimens. If left untreated, infestations can cause the foliage to yellow or gray.
Should an infestation develop, reduce the amount of water you are giving the String of Pearls plant and move it to a well-ventilated area. Mist the foliage with a neem oil solution or apply a homemade insecticidal soap to the affected leaves.
Shriveling leaves are a sign of either too much or too little water. If the soil is soggy, allow it to dry out before moderately watering again. You may also need to repot the plant into dry, fresh soil.
Mushy stems and leaves turning purple are signs of root rot. At this stage it is difficult to save the struggling succulent. Instead, take a healthy cutting or cuttings and pot on in fresh soil.
Leaves or beads falling from the plant can be a sign that it is too cold. Try moving the specimen to a warmer spot.
Elegant and distinctive, the String of Pearls plant is one of the most attractive succulents. Pleasingly easy to care for the delicate, leafy tendrils add quirky charm and interest to any room or succulent collection.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.