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Caring for Senecio Rowleyanus
Is your string of pearls plant dying? Do you need reliable information on string of pearls plant care? Not sure about how to propagate it? Well keep reading and you too can be successful in growing and propagating this elusive plant.
String of Pearls, or Senecio rowleyanus, is a hot topic of discussion about houseplant owners. People that attempt to grow these plants fall into two categories.
The first category includes those that can grow this plant with ease. In fact, some sources rate these plants as easy to grow.
The second category includes those that fail miserably even after several attempts. Other sources rate these plants as very difficult to grow. There seems to be no middle ground.
And on top of that, there seems to be a lot of inadequate information online about how to care for these plants.
I’m very active on Instagram with my @ohiotropics account where I give houseplant care advice on a daily basis. I lost count of the number of times that people have reached out to me and mentioned that they have tried to grow string of pearls, but have failed.
In fact, some people have murdered several of these plants in rapid succession over the course of only a few months! What makes taking care of these plants so elusive?
What String of Pearls Plants Need
String of pearls are succulent plants, and if you meet certain requirements, they CAN be very easy to grow! Unfortunately, most sources will not tell you exactly what you need to do, so that’s my job.
They need a quickly draining soil that dries out quickly
All potting mixes are not created equal. For most of my succulents I use a prepackaged potting mix formulated specifically for cacti and succulents.
While I believe many of these mixes work just fine for many succulents, if you added some coarse pumice, it would make it even better.
Don’t even think about growing string of pearls in anything but the most quickly draining potting mix that you can give it!
Recently, I’ve been experimenting with using pumice, which you can get on Amazon, and it is really fabulous. It will make the soil more chunky, more aerated, and very sharply draining.
Depending on the size of the pumice, experiment with 75% cactus/succulent soil blend , also available on Amazon, mixed with 25% pumice. You can even go 50/50.
Honestly, using the soil blend above with added pumice could make the difference between life or death for your pearls! If you haven’t tried it out, I’d strongly recommend doing so!
The goal is to create a potting mix that drains lightening fast and that dries out pretty quickly. String of pearls can easily rot if it stays wet for too long.
String of Pearls need a smaller pot size
Have you ever had a string of pearls that was doing well and then you repotting it into a much larger pot, and it quickly died afterwards? Your pot was probably too big.
String of pearls have a pretty small root system and they really don’t need large pots.
If you plant them into a pot that is much larger than what they were in before, you run the risk of the plant rotting.
When the pot size is too big for the root ball of the plant, your potting mix will stay wet for too long and the plant will start to rot. Especially if the potting mix is not well drained.
String of pearls should need repotting on a very infrequent basis. You shouldn’t even consider repotting it unless you see roots coming out of the drainage holes. Take a look at how small the pot is for my string of pearls below.
String of Pearls Need Careful Attention to Watering
Those of you that follow me on Instagram (@ohiotropics) know how I like to water my plants. I thoroughly soak all my plants when I water.
However, if many other things are not in line (such as not having the correct pot size, correct soil blend, AND the correct light), your soil will not dry out quickly enough.
This causes many people to think that since the soil doesn’t dry out quickly enough, that they should let the soil dry out completely and then only add very small amounts of water when they water. I take a different approach.
You WANT to thoroughly soak the potting mix because this will develop a deeper root system. If you water shallowly, you will develop shallow roots and this is bad news for the plant.
However, you’ll need to have a few things in line before you can use this method of watering for this plant.
In order for these plants to be healthy, you need the soil to be thoroughly moistened when watered, but you also need the soil to dry out pretty quickly in between watering.
You can achieve this by using the potting mix described above, using appropriately sized pot, and having the plant in the correct lighting. This will ensure that the potting mix will dry out quickly enough and not cause rotting.
Also, this plant should NEVER sit in water for any period of time. If water has drained out into its saucer, be sure to discard the excess water.
Other String of Pearls Considerations
String of pearls needs bright light in order to do its best. They absolutely should be right in front of a window.
Depending on where you live, you can successfully grow these plants in front of an East, West or South window. They should be getting at least a little direct sun for best results.
If you don’t have sufficient natural light indoors from your windows, I’ve had success with growing this plant right under a grow light. This is especially important in my drab wintertime! It could mean the difference between life or death!
See my grow light recommendations in the next section!
With enough light, you will be lucky enough to get flowers. Although they are not terribly showy, they smell wonderful!
And remember, higher light means that your plant’s soil will dry out in a reasonable time, which I’ve already described is very important for these plants.
If you live in or near a desert, you may avoid having the plants too close to a West or South window. Otherwise, these plants do like a few hours of direct sunlight in most cases.
Grow Lights for String of Pearls
Unfortunately, I don’t have any really sunny windows that these plants love. This becomes especially important in the winter when it’s dark! I solved the issue by installing a grow light.
It made the differences between life or death for my pearls!
I had wonderful success with the Sansi 70W Full Spectrum LED Grow Light that I purchased from Amazon. I hung it from the ceiling and my pearls hung about a foot below the light.
If you have had a hard time growing these plants indoors because you don’t have the bright light that these plants need to THRIVE, invest in a Sansi 70W Full Spectrum LED Grow Light. It made ALL the difference for me.
You will be surprised how easy these are to grow once you have bright enough light!
Best of all, the Sansi 70W Grow Light provides white light. Not the ugly purple light that many LED lights emit! You won’t regret it!
In the winter, with reduced light comes reduced growth. And with reduced growth comes the need to water much less frequently. Let your String of Pearls dry out much more in the winter.
Keep an eye on the plant though so that the pearls aren’t shriveling or drying out. You don’t want to take it too far to the other extreme and have the plant too dry.
String of pearls is very easy to propagate. You can either try water propagation, and pot them up into soil after they have rooted, or plant them directly into the soil.
Sometimes you will get lucky, and you can already see some aerial roots growing on your plant, such as in the photo below. I kept this plant outdoors during the summer.
For water propagation, remove a few pearls off of one end of each cutting, and place that part of the strand in a vase with water. It should easily root.
There are two different methods you can try for soil propagation. The first is just placing a couple inches of each strand into the soil mix. Take few pearls off of one end of the strand, and bury that part into the soil.
The other soil method is just to coil up each strand and leave it on the surface of the soil.
You may want to take a large staple or a paper clip to anchor down the strand so that there is proper contact with the soil. The soil should be kept relatively moist for the best rooting to occur.
I prefer water propagation because you can see the roots and you’ll know that it is growing. This is just personal preference however and either method will work.
If your string of pearls plant is on its last leg and you only have a few strands left, chances are that it will not make it in its current condition and will continue to decline. At that point, the pot will likely be way too big for the surviving strands.
It is just best to cut your losses and take cuttings of the remaining strands if your plant is kicking the bucket. BUT AT THIS POINT, YOU SHOULD LEARN FROM YOUR FAILURE and realize what you did wrong and try not to repeat it again.
Once the strands are rooted, be sure to place them in a very small pot to start with. Remember, you want the pot to be thoroughly moistened when you water, but you want it to dry out quickly!
In order to achieve this, use the proper potting mix described in this post, give your plant enough light, and use relatively small pots.
Still Struggling With String of Pearls?
If you are still struggling with String of Pearls, you should check out a similar alternative. String of Bananas plant looks similar except has banana shaped leaves and is MUCH less forgiving and easier to grow.
Hopefully you’ve learned something new in this post to help you grow String of Pearls once and for all!
Please do me a favor and share this post to social media because it will help me spread the Ohio Tropics houseplant care tips to the masses! Also, check out my shop on Amazon for all your houseplant care needs:
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