Isn’t this just the cutest plant? And what a sweet name, string of pearls. Though, honestly, I think it looks more like a string of peas or the plastic beads we used to snap together to make necklaces as a child. It never goes by string of peas, though it sometimes is called string of beads, or even rosary plant (which is also fun — imagine saying a Hail Mary on each of the pearls!). Whatever common name you go by, its botanical name is Senecio rowleyanus, and it’s a trailing succulent.
It’s often said that string of pearls is super easy to care for as a houseplant, but I wouldn’t go that far. I think sometimes people call plants “easy to care for” if they don’t require much attention. But some of us have the opposite problem — we find it easy to give our plants too much water, light, fertilizing, and fussing. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, here’s all you need to know to take perfect care of your string of pearls plant:
Your string of pearls will be happy near a brightly lit window, though not in direct sun (which may cause it to burn). Near a south or west window, but not right up against it, is a good bet. A pearl plant can also thrive under a fluorescent light fixture that’s six to 12 inches overhead, as long as you leave it on for about 12 to 16 hours each day.
To keep leaves from dropping, avoid drafts; don’t sit a pearl plant near the air conditioner or open window when the weather outside is cool. You can put the plant outside in the summer, but keep it in the shade. And remember to bring it indoors when the temps start to dip.
Note: The plant can be toxic if eaten, so keep it out of reach of children and pets. Make sure that any pearls that fall won’t be picked up by your little ones, either.
The best temp for a pearl plant is between 70 and 80 degrees F. To encourage blooming in the summer, move the plant to a cooler spot for the winter — say, where the temp is about 55 to 60 F.
The bloom is a fascinating collection of little white flowers that reportedly smell like cinnamon! (I haven’t had one bloom yet, so I can’t vouch for the scent, but I’m following the directions religiously this winter and hoping for one next summer!)
The pearl plant is a succulent, so it needs light, well-drained, sandy soil. If you don’t have a succulent mix, you can easily make one by combining 1 part sand and 3 parts potting soil. (Some growers make their own succulent mix that includes pumice, peat, and/or vermiculite, too.)
The pot doesn’t need to be very deep, because the plant has shallow roots, but do make sure it has a drainage hole. Place the plant so that the pearls sit level or nearly level with the top of the pot rather than below it. They’ll get better aeration this way and will be less likely to rot on top of damp soil.
As I’ve mentioned with other succulents, the most important thing to remember is not to overwater it! The pearl plant stores water in those little pearls. Once every two weeks is usually enough, depending on your pot. ( A terra cotta pot, which doesn’t hold water as long as plastic one, might be okay with a weekly watering, for example.) Make sure the soil is dry about half an inch down before you give the plant more water. In the winter months, you can cut back watering to every three or four weeks. (In tandem with the lower temps, this also will encourage a summer blooming. Fingers crossed.)
A pearl plant that’s watered correctly will have nice, full pearls. Shriveled pearls means it needs more water, and droopy, dark pearls may mean it’s getting too much water.
Go easy on the plant food. Don’t use any in the fall and winter. In the spring and summer, you can give your pearl plant a diluted (to about half) dosage every month.
This couldn’t be easier. Just snip off any stems and pearls that have died or stems that have no pearls on them. This will encourage fuller growth.
It’s super easy to propagate a string of pearls. Simply snip off a cutting that’s a few inches long and lay it down (horizontally) on top of some potting soil. Tap it gently into the soil. Water, and soon the cutting will sprout roots into the soil. (When growing outdoors naturally — which it does in some environments — the plant sends its tendrils along the ground, where it creeps, establishing roots along the way.)
BTW, there are tons of very affordable, wonderful prints of string of pearls available on Etsy. If you (like me) love the plant, you might enjoy one of these. Here are just a few. (Look on Etsy for “string of pearl artwork” for more.)
Do you have — or have you had — a string of pearls plant? Do you find them challenging?
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