Yes, the string of pearls, or Curio rowleyanus, is a succulent. It belongs to the Asteraceae family and is native to Africa.
It is a popular vining succulent houseplant that gets its name from the pea-shaped leaves on its trailing stems.
This plant is easy to propagate using stem cuttings, which you will have to do fairly often if you want to keep growing it, because it does not have the longest lifespan for a plant.
In this article, we will discuss more about this beautiful plant and its proper cultural care. So, if you want to add one of these to your collection and are keen to learn more about them, just keep on reading.
What is a string of pearls?
The string of pearls is a flowering plant that is often grown in a hanging basket to allow its vines to cascade over the edge and toward the floor. It has a unique look thanks to its tiny, orb-shaped leaves.
In its native Africa, the plant typically grows as a ground cover in desert-like environments.
It can be planted any time of the year, but it is best to do so during the warmer months.
It produces white flowers in the spring that smell a lot like cinnamon.
This plant is toxic to both humans and animals, so make sure to keep it out of reach of your children and pets.
Is a string of pearls a succulent?
Yes, a string of pearls is a succulent. It has leaves that are able to absorb and retain water for the plant to use in the event of a drought.
This plant is native to some of the most arid regions of Africa, which means it is adept at surviving in conditions with very little water.
It can also tolerate heat better than most houseplants, thanks to its native habitat.
This plant is a great choice for novice gardeners or plant collectors that are looking for a low-maintenance, easy-to-grow plant.
String of pearls care
The string of pearls likes to be under bright, indirect light. It can tolerate direct light, but not for more than four hours a day. If the plant is under direct light for too long, it can get sun damaged and the leaves will turn brown and crispy.
If you are growing this plant outdoors, keep it under the shade of a large tree, near the side of the house, or on your patio or porch.
If you think your plant is getting too much light, transfer it to a shadier spot immediately and, if the soil in the pot looks dry, water it thoroughly.
Do not deprive the plant of light, either. A plant that gets insufficient light will have pale leaves that may drop off. Its growth may also become stunted.
If you think your plant is not getting enough light, move it to a sunnier spot.
You can place an indoor string of pearls next to a north- or east-facing window. If the only window available in your home lets in too much light, you can still place your plant next to it, but you might have to place a sheer curtain over the window to diffuse the light.
If you live in a place where natural sunlight is scarce, you can also use a grow light to help the plant out. Place it under a fluorescent light for 12 to 16 hours a day.
Because the string of pearls is a succulent, it does not need to be watered as often as most regular houseplants. Its leaves can store water that the plant will use if the soil dries out.
The biggest mistake most people make when growing a string of pearls is overwatering it. Overwatering can come about from giving the plant too much water every time you water it, watering it more often than necessary, using soil or a pot that is poorly-draining, or not adjusting your watering habits to changes in the weather, season or climate.
An overwatered string of pearls will have yellowing, droopy leaves that feel soft and mushy to the touch. This is because the plant has absorbed excess water from the soil, to the point that its overloaded cells have burst.
A serious consequence of overwatering is root rot. This is a condition caused by prolonged exposure of the roots to soggy soil, so that they eventually drown and die. The dead roots will then become susceptible to opportunistic pathogens such as fungi and bacteria in the soil, which can make the rot spread even more aggressively to the rest of the plant. Soon enough, the entire plant will succumb and you may not be able to save it.
If you think your plant is overwatered, stop watering it immediately and place it in a sunny spot to help the soil dry out faster.
If you suspect root rot, you will need to remove the plant from its pot to confirm this. Wash off as much soil from the roots as you can, and be gentle because the roots are fragile and can be easily damaged.
Inspect all of the roots and look for sections that have turned brown or black. These roots are rotten and will have to be removed. Use a sterile knife or pair of scissors to cut off the rotten roots until only the healthy, white roots remain.
Lay the plant on a dry surface to let the roots air-dry for several hours.
Fill a new pot almost to the top with well-draining succulent soil. Place the plant in the middle of the pot and cover the roots with more soil.
Water the plant thoroughly before placing it back in a spot where it can get bright, indirect light.
Just because the string of pearls is a succulent that does not need to be watered often, that does not mean you can just neglect to water it any time you want.
An underwatered string of pearls will have flat, dry-looking leaves. If you notice this, and if the soil in the pot is bone dry, the plant might be underwatered and will need to be watered as soon as possible. Soak all of the soil with water until you can see excess water flowing out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
The best way to prevent both overwatering and underwatering is by developing good watering habits. To know whether the plant needs to be watered, touch the top two inches of soil in the pot. If the soil is dry, water the plant, but if it is still damp, wait one or two days before checking again.
Any kind of succulent soil mix will work for the string of pearls. Sandy, well-draining succulent soil is ideal of course, but if you only have regular potting soil, you can still use it as long as you add components that will make it well-draining, such as coarse sand, perlite or pumice.
Remember that this plant is very sensitive to overwatering and root rot, so the right potting mix is important.
The pot that you use should also have sufficient drainage holes at the bottom so that any excess water can easily flow out, thus decreasing the chances of overwatering and root rot.
Temperature and humidity requirements
Because of its natural habitat, the string of pearls likes warmer temperatures. Keep it in temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit from spring to fall. During the winter, keep the temperature between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Do not let the plant stay outdoors in temperatures below 50 degrees, because it does not do well in cold temperatures.
The plant’s native regions in Africa are dry and arid, so this means it does not like humidity. Refrain from keeping it in humid rooms such as the kitchen or bathroom, as too much humidity around this plant can encourage the growth of unwanted fungi.
The string of pearls grows actively during the spring and summer, so this is when it should be fertilized. Fertilization is best done when the plant is actually using the nutrients and minerals that you put into the soil.
If you fertilize the plant in the winter when it is dormant, this can lead to a buildup of mineral salts in the soil and cause toxicity. This can damage the roots and can even kill the plant from root burn.
If you do feed your plant, give it a water-soluble fertilizer, made specifically for succulents, every two weeks during the spring and summer.
Pruning the string of pearls
Pruning your string of pearls is only necessary if you want to remove dead leaves or stems that are affecting its aesthetic. You can also remove stems that have lost most, if not all, of their leaves. If the vines on the plant are getting too long for your liking, you can cut them back and use those cuttings to propagate the plant.
Pruning the plant also helps keep it looking full and bushy.
Propagating a string of pearls
The easiest way to propagate a string of pearls is using stem cuttings.
This plant does not have a long lifespan, so if you want to continue growing it for as long as possible, you will have to propagate it constantly.
Propagation is best done during the spring, summer or fall.
Select some stems from the parent plant and cut them off using sterile scissors.
Make sure each cutting is four to five inches long and includes at least one node. The node is where the new roots will sprout from.
Remove any leaves near the base of the cuttings and leave the cuttings out in a warm, dry room with good air circulation so that the cut ends form a callus.
Prepare new pots with succulent soil, make a hole in the center of each using a chopstick, and insert each cutting at least an inch deep into a hole.
There should be no leaves buried in the soil or even touching it. If this happens, those leaves will rot and this can affect the growth of the cutting.
Place the pots in a spot where they can get bright, indirect light, and water the cuttings when the top inch of soil becomes dry. Take care not to overwater them.
After a few weeks, check for root growth by gently pulling on the cutting. If there is resistance, that means the roots have established well and you can now care for the plant the same way you would a regular plant.
The most common pests observed on the string of pearls are ants, mealybugs, gnats, whiteflies, mites and aphids.
These pests will typically attack a string of pearls that is already quite unhealthy.
If the plant is overwatered, getting insufficient light or too much humidity, or is overcrowded, it could be weakened and vulnerable to infestations. You will therefore need to address these underlying issues as well as the infestation itself.
You can get rid of the pests by applying neem oil or insecticidal soap to the affected areas of the plant.
Make sure to keep the plant quarantined in a different room of the house while you treat it, so that the pests cannot spread to your healthy plants. Repeat any pest control method every three days until you are sure that there are no more pests remaining.
It is best to check your plant for signs of pests every time you water it so that you can catch any infestation in its early stages.
Yes, the string of pearls is a succulent that is native to the desert-like regions of Africa. It has distinct pea-shaped leaves that grow on a vine that can be up to 15 feet long.
The plant’s fleshy leaves can absorb and retain plenty of water for use in the event of a drought, or if the soil in the plant’s pot has dried out completely.
This plant is more tolerant of heat than most houseplants, and is resilient enough to be kept both indoors and outdoors. Just make sure that you bring it indoors when the frost starts.
It is low-maintenance and easy to grow, but it does have a short lifespan. If you want to keep having it around, you will have to learn how to propagate it, and the easiest way to do this is using stem cuttings.
Image: istockphoto.com / Tatiana Buzmakova