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String of Pearls Plant Care and Propagation

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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 plant for sale

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

Light

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 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.

Winter

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.

Propagation

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.

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. 

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.

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:

OHIO TROPICS PLANT CARE STOREFRONT

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Nyy

Saturday 16th of November 2019

Just purchased my first String of Pearls and my first step when i got home was to look up its care here on your blog! Thank you!

Raffaele

Sunday 17th of November 2019

You're very welcome, and good luck!

Vanessa

Friday 4th of October 2019

Hi! Thank you for all the help! I was wondering, is it possible to use potting mix and add a lot of perlite? I don’t have cactus mix at the moment.

Also, I am trying to repot many strands of SOP that I bought but the roots seem short, and some of the pearls are going into the soil/being covered. How can I go about potting it better into the soil?

Thank you!!!

Raffaele

Friday 4th of October 2019

Hi Vanessa! Yes, that's perfectly fine! I do the same sometimes when I don't have any on hand. You want the cuttings to be secure in the soil. You can either bury some of the pearls, or even use large staples or bend some paperclips and use them to gently secure them into the soil. Honestly, you can even wrap the whole cutting on the surface of the soil and new vines will eventually grow. You'll want good contact with the soil though. Hope this helps!

Helen Bird

Tuesday 4th of June 2019

I have a new string of pearls that was wet when I bought it, 3 weeks ago, and has been watered since. I noticed recently that the attached dish kept being full of water, so I took a look at the roots.. the soil was like soup, I got rid of most of it, and replaced it with cactus soil. My concern is that the matt of roots was so wet, and still had that wet soil on it. It was dripping like a sponge. I didn’t know how far to go getting the soil off. I didn’t want to further damage the roots. It occurred to me to wash it off. What would you do? I just placed it on top of the new soil, but I’m afraid it will still be too wet.

[email protected]

Tuesday 4th of June 2019

Hi Helen! I think you did the right thing in trying to remove as much of the soil as possible. I wouldn't use most cactus soil mixes on their own. I would go ahead and mix in a good amount of pumice as well to the cactus soil mix. It will help to provide more oxygen to your soil and excellent drainage that are so critical to these plants. Good luck with your plant! Make sure that you're providing sufficient light though as well.

Connie Brekken

Monday 13th of May 2019

WONDERFUL information!! I am wondering if clay pots are bad for String of Pearls. I am obviously obsessed with these little cuties but I'm having a hard time keeping them going. I'm thinking it has to do with pot size and type of pot. I seem to be using the right type of soil and light. Any suggestions? Thank you so much!

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Monday 13th of May 2019

Hi Connie! Glad you enjoyed the blog post. Many people grow these successfully in clay pots. It may take some trial and error with your conditions to see what works for you. They are definitely not the easiest plants to take care of! Maybe change one thing at a time and see if it works.

Cori

Tuesday 16th of April 2019

I didn't have any cactus soil so i mixed rocks with potting soil and two of my little guys died of root rot. I now have some cactus soil and rocks, but the terrarium i want to transplant the pearls into is a hanging glass one, and so there are no drainage holes. I have some small rocks i am planning on putting at the very bottom of the terrarium and on top of the cactus soil. I read that you could try to acclimate them by slowly mixing dirt into their water until it is solid dirt, but the thought that comes to my mind is that with the wet soil theres a chance for root rot. What do you think?

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Tuesday 16th of April 2019

I'm afraid that will all make the situation worse. I would not introduce soil into the water. That will in fact make them rot more quickly. I would also avoid planting these into pots with no drainage holes. These plants are succulents and they need sharp drainage. I would either drill a hole in that pot, or find another one with a drainage hole. Also, adding rocks to the bottom is not a substitute for amending the potting mix. Even if you don't have any cactus mix, you need to incorporate some larger particles in the blend to improve the drainage. I find that even cactus mix is not good enough. You need to mix in pumice perlite, or even smaller rocks like you mentioned right into the potting mix. I would follow the recommendations I have in the blog post. I wish you the best of luck! I would definitely not do what you mentioned. That will speed up the death! :-) Make sure that you give your plants very bright light so place it directly in front of your brightest window. I would reread the blog post on the care and follow as much of it as you can. Best of luck Cori!