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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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Helen

Tuesday 19th of May 2020

Hi Raffaele, A few days ago I finally found (very hard to find) & bought a variegated SOP. Not only was it extremely dried out, but I also think it’s in the wrong mix, & in a pot that’s too big for it’s small size. So my Question is, should I repot it into a smaller pot with proper mix asap or wait til spring, as I live in Australia coming into winter?

Regards Helen

Raffaele

Tuesday 26th of May 2020

Hi Helen, that's a great question. If you feel that your plant is in danger, you can do it now and place it in bright light. Spring is the best time to repot, but if you start to see your plant suffer, go ahead and do it now and place it in a nice, bright window. Hope this helps!

Cassie

Saturday 25th of April 2020

When doing soil propagation, how often and how do you recommend watering? Bottom watering? Soak it like you would a mature plant? Thank you!

Alysia

Monday 11th of May 2020

Would it be alright to just mist with water during propagation? I moistened the soil before I laid out my peas. My biggest fear with succulents, 100%, is overwatering, so I have taken to watering maybe once every two months with misting a few times a week in between. I never understood why people say that jade and succulents are "easy". I have had some very unhappy little plants, but I have always suspected it was light conditions in my home, and not soil or watering. I don't have many windows, and I have even hung light fixtures with grow bulbs for more "sunlight". In the summer, when I move them outside, they really take off.

Raffaele

Saturday 25th of April 2020

When soil propagating, you should aim to have a consistently moist soil. Not wet...but moist. I would not bottom water. You want it moist where the cuttings are. It helps to mix in a lot of perlite into the soil that you're using for soil propagation. You can even do half and half! Keeping humidity high also helps a lot. You can use a take-out container that has a clear plastic dome, for example.

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.

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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.