string of pearls

String of Pearls (Curio rowleyanus) Plant: How to Grow and Care

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For a plant enthusiast, it can be a challenge to bring greens into the house, especially if the indoor is not that spacious to begin with. 

Most of the appliances and furniture we have occupy the ground and the lower half of the house and as much as we enjoy upright and potted indoor plants, they will only take up more of the already limited space.

That is why a hanging plant is the best solution to this indoor gardener’s blues. They not only make use of the vertical space of the house but keep it tidy and healthy too. A perfect plant to grow fitting to this kind of situation is none other than the string of pearls!

What is a String of Pearls?

Senecio rowleyanus

String of Pearls or Rosary Pearls, scientifically known as Curio rowleyanus or Senecio rowleyanus, is actually a unique member of the Aster family. It was recently moved to this genus so some literature may still refer to it under the genus Senecio. 

Considered a succulent, it has string-like stems bearing pearl or pea-like green leaves (hence the common name) that form a thick mat when planted on ground or spills over its container when elevated or hung (1).

String of pearls is one of the toughest Curio species, being able to store moisture and withstand a relatively different environment indoors. It originated from the Eastern Cape in South Africa and was cultivated as a houseplant because of its hardiness and unusual but appealing foliage (2).

Does Senecio Rowleyanus Bloom?

String of pearls is grown for its leaves but it blooms rather insignificant flowers in summer. It produces tiny fragrant dandelion-like flowers that easily dry out which can look untidy so some gardeners prefer cutting them off as soon as they appear (3).

What is the Lifespan of String of Pearls?

A parent plant of rosary pearls can last for years, if given the right care. They will tend to lose vigor in 5 years, especially if kept on the same pot and soil for too long.

String of Beads are easily propagated by stem cuttings so the original plant can give rise to multiple new plants to continue growing them. This makes them one of the best plants for indoors.

How to Take Care of String of Pearls

Light and Water

The string of pearls plant is among the easiest curio species to grow but they have some tricky growth requirements indoors too. It grows under bushes and in rock crevices so it naturally prefers partial shade as the succulent leaves will scorch under bright intense sun (3).

Although highly drought-tolerant, it also needs regular watering but the soil needs to dry out in between or the stems will turn mushy or the leaves shriveled. A well-draining compost-rich, sandy soil is key to keeping the plant hydrated enough (4).

Temperature and Humidity

Good air circulation easily achieved by hanging is ideal for this plant. Be careful not to place them in too humid areas as this will cause the round leaves to drop. From time to time, it will need to be brought outdoors, hung by the patio.

String of pearls likes its climate mild and temperatures between 21-24 ̊C is preferred that’s why string of pearls are observed thriving in coastal areas (3). During winter, do not let the temperature drop below 13 ̊C to keep the plant healthy and maybe allow it to bloom.

Pests and Diseases

Being a succulent, the string of pearls is vulnerable to sucking insects like aphid and mealybug. They turn the leaves yellow and sooty and even cause premature leaf drop. But these attacks are very manageable, often eradicated by regular application of insecticidal soap. Make sure to watch out for early signs so as to avoid severe infestation that could lead to death of the plant.

Propagation and Maintenance

Rosary pearls is a popular spiller plant (1). As it grows, the string stems will drip down the pots for as long as 6 feet and upon closer inspection, small aerial roots will be observed. This allows the plant to be propagated by cuttings.

3-4 in stem cuttings are stripped of 3-4 leaves from the bottom. This part will be covered by soil and misted regularly until roots grow and establish. They can form thick mats mass as these stems will eventually elongate and can produce new roots. Foliar fertilizer should be applied on established plants twice a year, in early autumn and late spring (4).

Repotting this curio plant will help replenish the soil nutrients and keep the roots well aerated. A porous compost potting mix formulated for cacti and succulents is also ideal for this plant. Transplanting should be handled with care as the leaves can be delicate and will fall apart when roughly touched (2).

Best Cousin Plants of String of Pearls to Grow

1. String of Bananas or Fish Hooks (C. radicans)

Tougher than the String of pearls, this species can tolerate full sun half the time and likes it bright. As the name suggests, the tapering leaves look like minute green bananas but in brighter conditions, the leaves become thinner making them look like curved fish hooks instead.

2. String of Watermelons (C. herreanus)

This species is even more attractive with its green pointed bead leaves lined with purple stripes like tiny watermelons. Like the other curio plants, each leaf had a translucent segment that absorbs light for photosynthesis.

3. String of Tears (C. citriformis)

The teardrop-shaped leaves of this plant are soft and whimsical with the frosted appearance. In summer, tiny yellow flowers complement the velvety tears.

4. String of Dolphins (C. peregrinus)

A hybrid between C. articulates and C. rowleyanus, String of dolphins is also a spiller that showcases small curved leaves that look like dolphins jumping mid-air. This plant prefers dappled shade but will do well near a bright window.


Reference List

(1) Tuttle, C. “Succulents”. 2015. Penguin. P. 288.

(2) Kirton, M. “An Hour in the Garden”. 2006. Allen & Unwin. P. 191.

(3) Baldwin, D. “Succulents Simplified: Growing, Designing, and Crafting with 100 Easy-care Varieties”. 2013. Timber Press. P. 272.

(4) Martin, T. “The Indestructible Houseplant: 200 Beautiful Plants that Everyone can Grow”. 2015. Timber Press. P. 288.


Image by ChWeiss/depositphotos

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