String of Pearls, Senecio Rowleyanus – Details, Growing Tips

Senecio rowleyanus, String of Pearls, String of Beads, Rosary Plant, Bead Plant

String of Pearls, Senecio Rowleyanus – Looks beautiful in a hanging pot!

The String of Pearls, Senecio rowleyanus, is a very unique and colorful succulent that is a perfect houseplant.

Common Names

String of Pearls, String of Beads, Bead Plant, Rosary Plant, String of Peas, String of Marbles, Necklace Plant, Rosary Vine, Irish Beads, String o’ Pearls

Scientific Binomial Name

Senecio rowleyanus, Synonyms: Curio rowleyanus, Kleinia rowleyana

Description of String of Pearls, Senecio rowleyanus

The String of Pearls looks like a group of beaded necklaces as the stems dangle over the container.  The ¼ inch pea-shaped spherical leaves store water and help the plant through times of drought.  The bright green ball like leaves have a “window” on the side.  This epidermal window is a translucent tissue that is designed to allow light to reach the interior of the leaf.  There is a tiny point or “beak” at the bottom of each ball-like leaf.  The thin wiry trailing “strings” or vines will grow up to 3 feet long.

The String of Pearls, Senecio rowleyanus, may look delicate but it is actually a hardy plant that is easy to grow and maintain.

Some collectors consider the String of Pearls a novelty plant since it is so unusual looking.

I like the term “architecturally interesting” used by the University of Illinois Extension, Gardener’s Corner, “There are many architecturally interesting ones to choose from,” she says. “You can find a succulent plant to fit just about any location indoors, because they come in a wide range of forms and sizes. Some present best in hanging baskets such as string-of-pearls (Senecio rowleyanus).”

Mature Size:  Height = 1-3 feet; Spread = 1-3 feet

Lifespan:  With good growing conditions most Senecio rowleyanus will live for several years and some even longer.

Pot Size:  It is fine to use a shallow pot if you prefer since the String of Pearls does not have an extensive or deep root system.

Uses:  The String of Pearls succulent can be grown indoors or out.  The most popular way to grow a String of Pearls plant is in a hanging pot.  The strings will drape down several feet.  It is grown outdoors in containers placed on tables or other higher plant stands.  It might seem unusual to imagine but the String of Pearls is also used as a groundcover.  It will spread along the ground forming dense mats and naturally rooting itself along the way.

Growing naturally in the wild the String of Pearls will cascade down and in between rocks as well as other plants.  Landscapers take advantage of this by growing String of Pearls in xeriscape designs on and around large rocks.

Growing Conditions for String of Pearls, Senecio rowleyanus

Light:  The String of Pearls will do well in full sun to partial shade.  Indoor String of Pearls need at least a few hours of sunlight early in the day.  It will still do well with lower light conditions compared to most succulents.  Outdoors it seems to naturally prefer growing in shaded areas.  Especially in the summer it will need to be protected from afternoon sun.

Temperature:  Ideal temperature for the Senecio rowleyanus is 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 50-60 in the winter.  These plants will not tolerate frost so move them inside when necessary.

The String of Pearls are sensitive to quick higher or lower spikes in temperature so keep them away from drafty areas.

Humidity:  Unlike some other succulents the String of Pearls will tolerate high humidity.

Soil:  Any commercial pre-mixed cactus and succulent soil will be fine for the String of Pearls.  It is crucial that the soil is fast draining.  Some growers add a little extra sand to the soil.  It is not crucial to keeping a healthy plant, but they seem to prefer a soil pH of 6.6 to 7.5.

Growing Season:  Spring, Summer and Fall

Flowers:  White daisy-like flowers bloom in the summer and have the sweet aroma of cinnamon.  The clusters of trumpet shaped small flowers are only about ½ inch across and appear on 1-2-inch stalks.  Depending on the growing conditions some flowers are described as looking a little fuzzy or cottony.

You can encourage more flowering by keeping your plant about 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.

Hardiness Zones:  9 – 12

General Care for String of Pearls, Senecio rowleyanus

Water:  It is essential that like most succulents the String of Pearls is not overwatered and is grown in well-draining soil.  Unlike most other succulents, the String of Pearls soil should be kept slightly moist from the spring through the fall.  It is usually not necessary to water Senecio rowleyanus sooner than every three weeks.  String of Pearls will do just fine with periods of drought and should be watered much less in the winter.

Fertilizer:  Many growers do not fertilize the String of Pearls at all.  If your plant does need some extra help use a ½ diluted succulent fertilizer in the spring through fall months.  Fertilizing too much will only cause a leggy appearance of the stems with fewer of the pearl-like leaves.

General Care:  String of Pearls are usually fast growers.  Let them grow long or trim them back if you want it to be fuller.  Keep a watch on them outside because they will sometimes be invasive and choke out other nearby plants.

Pests and Diseases:  It is rare but watch for aphids and mealybugs.

Pruning:  Pruning is generally a matter of preference and will also depend on the type of pot and location.  It will not harm the plant to let the vines grow very long or to regularly cut them shorter.  Regularly trim off any dead stems or ones that have lost most of their leaves.  You may prune a Senecio rowleyanus at any time of the year.

Propagation:  Propagation of the String of Pearls is easy and is almost always successful.  Simply pinch off about 3-5 inches of a healthy vine which is actually a stem.  Next, simply cover your stem with a light layer of good succulent soil.  The roots will grow from each section that leaves are attached to on the vine.  It really is that simple to propagate String of Pearls succulent plants.

It is also possible to collect and grow String of Pearls from seed.  When seed pods appear on the plant allow them to thoroughly dry out before removing them.  Open the pods and collect the dry seeds inside.

Repotting:  Many suggest repotting the String of Pearls every year, but others do it every other or even every third year.  After repotting it for several years it may not look as full and healthy.  If that happens it is best to just start a new one by propagating a stem cutting.

Enjoy the following video of a beautiful String of Pearls.

This video has some close-ups of a healthy String of Pearls.

[Transcription]  The String of Pearls needs bright light so place it by a window.  It needs several hours of direct sunlight each day.  The growing season is during the spring and summer so in these months do not allow the soil to completely dry between watering.  The soil should remain just slightly moist.  You will probably be watering every week or every two weeks then during the winter water only when the soil is dry which will probably be about once a month.

The pearls can also be a good indicator when the plant needs water.  When you see them start to shrivel it is time to water.  You do also have to be careful not to overwater as this will harm the plant.

Use a cactus and succulent potting mix and a pot with a drainage hole.  When you water soak the soil fully until you see water coming through the drainage hole then be sure to always get rid of the excess water and dry off the pot so it is not sitting in any water.

Fertilize your plant every few weeks during the spring and summer.  The String of Pearls does well in warmer temperatures during the growing season and slightly cooler temperatures in the winter. [End of transcript]

Any of this transcribed video that may conflict with our content please use our article as the better source.

Signs of Stress and Poor Health

If some of the leaves begin to look flat rather than round your String of Pearls needs water.  Still be cautious not to overwater or it will rot.

If the leaves start to shrivel it may be a sign you need to water it more or it could be that the plant has become rootbound.

Medicinal and Other Uses

None

Cautions

The String of Pearls is mildly toxic and should not be consumed at all.  Keep this plant away from children and pets.

Native Distribution

Southwestern Africa

Cultivars

The String of Pearls is not a patented plant and there are no direct cultivars.  You may, however, find some with slight variegation such as tiny yellow dots on the round leaves.  Another one has some slight cream and pink color on the leaves.

Other Tips and Comments

The University of Connecticut provides some very specific statistics for the Senecio rowleyanus.  That web page also has a great close-up image showing the translucent epidermal window on the leaves.

Some additional information from the UCC Biology Department website includes:

“Senecio – old Latin name – from senex meaning old man, and is said to be an allusion to the hairy fruits produced by the members of the genus Senecio.

The Gooseberry and String of Beads are closely related members of the Sunflower family (Asteraceae).  While they do not look anything like most members of this family (they grow as trailing vines with odd leaves), their small flowers are very similar in structure to sunflowers and asters.  This indicates a close evolutionary relationship, and plant taxonomists have grouped them into the Asteraceae.

Native to the drier regions of southwest Africa, these species are leafy succulents, in that they store large amounts of water in their leaves (as opposed to stems as do the cacti) and can withstand long periods of drought.  Gooseberry leaves are football shaped and about 3/8 inch long. String of Beads leaves are spherical and about ¼ inch in diameter. The unique shapes of the fleshy leaves greatly reduce the surface area exposed to the hot and dry environment, so they lose a bare minimum of the precious water extracted from the soil.  The reduced surface area, however, limits the amount of the sun’s energy the plants can absorb for photosynthesis.  Nature’s way of compensating for this limited external surface area is to have a “window” or slit of transparent tissue in each leaf that allows light to enter and be absorbed by the photosynthetic cells lining the inside.  Therefore, light absorption occurs on the outer surface as well as the inner surface.  This allows the plant to produce a sufficient amount of food by photosynthesis while conserving its water.  The central core of each leaf is composed of clear, non-pigmented water storage cells.

These species are excellent examples of how plants can adapt to become perfectly suited to thrive in even the harshest of environments.”

Summary:  The String of Pearls or String of Beads is a fast growing easy to maintain succulent that will look good in any home or outdoor landscape.  The Senecio rowleyanus is also easy to successfully propagate.

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