How to Care for String of Pearls Plants (Indoors)


How to grow string of pearls

To care for a string of pearls indoors, replicate the conditions of their native environment by locating the plant in bright indirect light, planting it in gritty potting soil, and watering every 2 weeks. Trim any leggy, bare vines back at any time of year.

With their unique appearance and quirky adaptations to their arid environment, String of Pearls plants are one of my favourite houseplants and my favourite thing about them? They are very easy to care for!

Here is a summary of How to Care for String of Pearls:

Growing Conditions:How to Care for String of Pearls:
Watering:Water once every 2 weeks in Spring and Summer and every 3 to 4 weeks in Fall and Winter.
Light:Locate in bright, indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight as this can scorch the pearls, and too much shade causes leggy, sparse growth.
Temperature:Comfortable at typical room temperature with 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C) being optimal for growth.
Repotting:Repot every 3 to 4 years.
Potting soil:Always use special gritty ‘succulent and cacti soil’, rather then normal houseplant potting soil.
Fertilizer:Fertilizer is not always necessary, but you can use a special succulent and cacti fertilizer once a month in the growing season.
Toxicity to pets.Mildly toxic to cats, dogs, and other pets if ingested.
Humidity:Can cope with a range of humidity, preferring low humidity. There is no need to mist the plant.
Propagation:Make cuttings in the Spring and propagate the vines in gritty soil.

About String of Pearls Plants (Curio rowleyanus, syn. Senecio rowleyanus)

String of pearls plants are succulents that are native to South Africa that thrive in rocky, shallow soils with infrequent rainfall.

The plant has specifically adapted to growing leaves in the shape of pearls as a way to store as much moisture as possible whilst reducing the surface area from which to lose moisture to transpiration to cope with arid conditions and dry soils.

String of pearls is one of my favourite houseplants because of their unique appearance, ability to cascade elegantly from their pots, and because they are one of the easiest houseplants to care for if you’re a beginner, tolerating a wide temperature range and low humidity whilst being able to thrive.

The more mature string of pearl plants produces sweetly fragranced white flowers in Winter (although I find that plant has to be in a very bright spot, or you need to use a grow light to promote flowering).

Water String of Pearls Once Every 2 Weeks

Water your string of pearls plants once every 2 weeks in the Spring and Summer months and once every 3 to 4 weeks in the Fall and Winter.

The soil must dry out completely between each bout of watering to avoid problems such as root rot.

I personally think the easiest way to tell whether your string of pearls needs water or not is to feel the soil at the bottom of the pot through the drainage hole in the base. If the soil still feels damp, then delay watering, but if the soil feels completely dry, then give it a good soak.

As string of pearls are drought-resistant plants, they are far more likely to die from overwatering than underwatering, so if you are in any doubt, give it a few more days before watering.

In my experience, I find the best way to water my string of pearls from the top rather than water from the bottom as the string of pearls actually has quite a shallow root system, therefore watering at the top allows the roots to access the moisture it needs.

(Related: Read my article on How to Water String of Pearls for tips on how to tell if you are underwatering or overwatering).

Strings of Pearls Plants Need Bright Indirect Light

string of pearls succulent
This is one of my string of pearl plants, which is located in the morning sun with shade in the midday and afternoon.

Locate your string of pearls plant in an area of bright indirect light rather than in full sun or shade. Direct sunlight scorches the leaves brown, whereas too much shade causes the vines to grow leggy with fewer leaves..

I personally grow my string of pearl plants in a room with a south-facing window so they get lots of bright light, but I set the plants back away from the window sill, away from scorching sunlight at midday.

If you are living in a northern latitude (such as New York) with shorter days in the Winter, then I find the best window for your string of pearls is a South-East facing window.

This allows the plant to benefit from the gentle morning sun and shade it from harsher light in the midday and afternoon which can cause the pearls to turn brown.

Important tip: I have found that moving the string of pearls plant in Winter to a brighter window sill prevents the vines from growing leggy.

I also recommend growing a string of pearls on a South-facing window sill if you have a sheer curtain to provide diffused light.

I spin the pot around 90 degrees monthly to ensure even growth.

What is the Best Temperature Range for a String of Pearls Plants?

String of pearl plants are very comfortable at room temperature, with 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C) being optimal for growth.

String of pearls plants can tolerate temperatures as cold as 50°F in the Winter but have a preferred temperature range of 55°F to 65°F in Winter.

Cold temperatures can damage the plant and cause the pearls to turn mushy, so if you grow a string of pearls outside during Summer, ensure that you take the plant indoors if the night temperature does dip below 50°F.

I have personally found that my string of pearls cope very well with heated rooms indoors and even tolerate the low humidity that comes with it.

The only note of caution that I would advise is to move it away from being directly next to a fireplace or radiator as this can dry out the potting soil very quickly.

If you live in a cold climate, then I recommend you move the string of pearls off a window sill at night, as I have found the microclimate next to the cold glass can cause the pearls to turn black.

Re-pot String of Pearls Every 3 or 4 years

String of pearls plants are relatively slow growing compared to most houseplants, therefore they only require repotting every 3 or 4 years.

Their root system tends to be shallow, so there is no need to plant it into a deep pot.

Re-pot your string of pearls into a pot that is around 2 inches larger in diameter than the previous pot—repotting into a large pot risks ‘over potting’, which can cause the soil to dry out too slowly.

In my opinion, the best planters for string of pearls plants are terracotta or clay pots as they are breathable and allow the soil to dry more evenly between bouts of watering, whereas plastic or ceramic pots retain more moisture which can cause root rot.

You can successfully grow a string of pearls in plastic or glazed pots if you closely monitor soil moisture levels, but if you have trouble with succulent plants, then I strongly recommend porous clay or terracotta pots, as I have found this is a very effective way to mitigate root rot.

Always plant a string of pearls in a pot with a drainage hole in the base.

‘Succulent and Cacti’ soil is the best soil for String of Pearls Plants

soil for string of pearls plants
Gritty ‘Succulent and Cacti Soil’ for growing String of pearl plants.

As string of pearl plants grow in gritty soils in their native environment, it is important to recreate these conditions with the potting soil.

I personally use a pre-made succulent and cacti gritty soil mix when I repot my string of pearls and other succulents.

It is important to avoid repotting in normal potting soil as this is too dense and retains too much water for the string of pearls root system to tolerate, resulting in root rot and a dying plant.

The added grit in the soil promotes good drainage and allows oxygen to circulate around the roots for effective root respiration.

Use Fertilizer Every Month During the Growing Season

Fertilizer for succulents
This is the fertilizer that I personally use for my string of pearl plants.

String of pearls are adapted to growing in low-nutrient soils and, therefore, do not require much fertilizer. I have personally seen great results when using fertilizer with my string of pearls creating larger leaves and increasing the rate of growth.

Use a special succulent and cacti fertilizer in the Spring and Summer once every month this provides your plant with all the nutrients it needs at the right concentration.

I would caution against using any general houseplant fertilizer as it is formulated to a concentration for larger leaf house plants such as Monstera rather than your string of pearls plant.

Only use the fertilizer in the Spring and Summer rather than fall and Winter.

How to Make String of Pearls Fuller

A common problem that I see when growing a string of pearl plants is that the pearls may look small or the pearls get more sparse along the vines. Sometimes, the pearls at the base of the plant nearest the soil also die back, giving the plant a less desirable appearance.

This happened to my first string of pearls plant.

To counteract this effect, I have several steps to make your string of pearls look fuller which worked for me:

  • Spin the plant 90 degrees every time you water. This ensures that all areas of your pearl are exposed to the strongest source of light for a period during the growing season. More sunlight means more energy to sustain each pearl preventing the vines from being sparse.
  • Use a grow light in Winter to supplement the sunlight. If you live in a northern latitude with fewer hours of daylight, then a grow light can provide the pearls with the extra energy they need at the darker times of year to keep the plant growing and the pearls large.
  • Use a succulent and cacti fertilizer. This step is more important if you have a larger, more mature string of pearls plant as the roots may exhaust the potting medium of nutrients, and the fertilizer can meet the nutrient requirements of the plant to boost growth and keep the pearls large and full.
  • Move your plant to a brighter window. While a string of pearls can scorch in harsh sunlight, they do need bright light to grow with abundant pearls that appear full. When I lived in New York, I even moved my string of pearls to a window with some direct morning sunlight In the Fall and Winter, and the plant thrived.
  • Prune the longer vines of your string of pearls if they have become leggy. A string of pearl plants tolerates pruning very well at any time of year. The cuttings can be used for propagation to grow another plant very easily, which is something I do every year.

Overwatering can also cause some of the pearls to die back, so I would check whether the soil dries out before watering and adjust your watering schedule accordingly. If you are in any doubt, delay watering by a day or so.

Are String of Pearls Toxic to Cats and Dogs?

I have researched this thoroughly, and it appears that string of pearls plants are mildly toxic to cats, dogs and other pets so I would emphasize the importance of keeping it out of reach of pets. I would bear in mind string of pearls is only mildly toxic, but, of course, take our pet to the vet if you suspect your pet has consumed any of the plants.

(Research from the Department of Animal Protection and Welfare and Veterinary Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Hygiene and Ecology, University of Veterinary Sciences Brno, Palackeho tr. 1946/1, 61242 Brno, Czech Republic).

If you want to learn more about which succulents are toxic to pets and which are safe, read this article from ASPCA.

Do String of Pearls Like to be Misted?

String of pearls grow in dry regions of South Africa and can cope with a lack of rainfall, and low humidity, and arid climates.

Therefore, it is not necessary to mist your string of pearls, and it could even promote the conditions for root rot.

String of pearls can cope very well in environments with dry air, and I have even seen these plants grow in offices with air conditioning and dry air from indoor heating, and they have thrived.

How do I Propagate a String of Pearls Plant?

I experimented with the different ways of propagating string of pearls, and the easiest method that I personally prefer is to propagate from cuttings:

  • Take a cutting of at least 4 inches and remove 2 or three leaves (pearls) from one end of the vine. The leaf nodes from the removed pearls can change their function from growing leaves to growing roots.
  • Fill a pot with succulent and cacti soil and make a hole in the soil with a pencil to create space for the cutting. Place the bare end of the vine into the hole in the soil and firm the soil around the vine to keep it in place. The buried end of the vine should start to grow roots after 2 weeks.
  • Mist the surface of the soil for the first 3 or 4 weeks, making sure that the surface does not dry out completely.

In my experience, the string of pearls vine should have rooted within the first 3 weeks, at which point you should water it every week during its first Spring and Summer to help establish the roots and then every 2 or 3 weeks in the Winter.

Whilst you can technically propagate at any time of year I personally recommend propagating in the Spring or early Summer as the success rate tends to be much higher.

I always try to propagate at least 3 vines at one time (you can propagate a lot at the same time, which is what I typically do), as sometimes the vines do not successfully root.

If you have any problems with your string of pearls plant, read my article How to Revive a Dying String of Pearls Plant.

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