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The String of Pearls (Curio rowleyanus), formerly Senecio rowleyanus, is a fascinating succulent with thin stems lined with small, almost spherical leaves.
The String of Pearls is an easy-to-grow succulent ideal for learning about plant propagation. Basic gardening skills allow you to grow several children from an existing plant. New plants can be produced by layering a vine or rooting cuttings in water or a rooting medium.
Table of Contents
- Before You Begin – String of Pearls Insights
- 3 Ways to Propagate String of Pearls Plants
- 1. Propagate String of Pearls by Seed
- 2. Propagate String of Pearls by Layering
- 3. Propagate String of Pearls Using Stem Cuttings
- a) Propagating String of Pearls in Soil
- b) Propagating String of Pearls in Water
- Frequently Asked Questions
- In Summary
Before You Begin – String of Pearls Insights
What’s in a Name?
The String of Pearls plant is a succulent with pea-sized, water-storing leaves. The species was recently relocated from the genus Senecio to the new genus Curio but is still erroneously referred to as Senecio rowleyanus by several bloggers and some horticultural traders.
This evergreen perennial belongs to the daisy family (Asteraceae) and is native to the dry plains of South Africa’s Eastern Cape. There is also a variegated String of Pearls variety with white stripes.
The variegated String of Pearl looks similar to the String of Watermelons (Curio herreianus), but the leaves are smaller and less elongated. Another similar plant is the String of Bananas (Curio radicans) with banana-shaped leaves.
How String of Pearls Propagate in Nature
In its natural habitat, the String Pearls plant grows along the ground in a vine-like fashion, establishing roots wherever the plant comes into contact with enough ground.
Propagation by seed is generally facilitated by wind blowing the badminton shuttlecock-like seeds into rock crevice that affords shade and good drainage.
Growing String of Pearls Outdoors
Outdoors, the String of Pearls plant prefers partial shade (less than six hours of direct sunlight) and soil that allows the roots to dry occasionally. String of Pearls do well in xeriscapic landscapes in USDA hardiness zones 9b and above.
Growing String of Pearls Indoors
All succulents need well-draining soil; a cactus mix is ideal, but several formulations work well. When watering your String of Pearls, keep the soil dry occasionally; this is quite the opposite of most houseplants.
When String of Pearl is grown indoors, it flourishes in areas with bright, indirect sunlight. String of Pearls works well in hanging baskets where the cascade can be two to three feet long.
The String of Pearls Plant is Winter Dormant
Several succulents are summer dormant, but the Sting of Pearls is not one of them. The String of Pearls (and String of Bananas (Curio radicans)) actively grow (and flower) in summer and are winter dormant.
The String of Pearls Plant Does Not Like Direct Sunlight
While the mature plant does better in low light, String of Pearl’s cuttings may need additional bright indirect light to stimulate root growth. You may want to invest in a grow light before you begin, but LED or fluorescent lights will provide enough light. Keep bright light cycles below six hours.
3 Ways to Propagate String of Pearls Plants
Stem cuttings are the easiest way to propagate String of Pearls. Layering works, but if plants are in a hanging basket, it means taking them down. There are several ways to root String of Pearl’s cuttings, all of which are easier if the main plant is healthy and in a growth phase.
1. Propagate String of Pearls by Seed
While most String of Pearls plants, even in their natural habitat, propagate by growing vines and establishing roots as the plant expands, they can also be sexually bred. Because the plant is so easy to propagate asexually, seeds are rarely commercially available.
String of Pearls has cinnamon-scented pom-pom-like flowers that produce seeds on the tip of a feathered arrangement. Like the dandelion, the wind is responsible for spreading natural seeds.
While root division is a viable way for plant propagation, The plant has a shallow root system not best suited for this method. If you want to give it a go, do so when you next repot. Before dividing the root ball, ensure the roots are healthy (white).
2. Propagate String of Pearls by Layering
String of Pearls is the best plant for novice gardeners new to propagation. In their natural habitat, String of Pearl stems form roots where they encounter a rooting medium, and this is their natural means of creating supply depots for water and nutrients as the plant expands.
Some plants, like the String of Pearls, naturally propagate by layering, making it easy for gardeners to use layering for intentioned propagation. Use a well-aerated rooting medium that provides constant moisture without compromising the oxygen supply.
Newly rooted sections can be separated from the parent plant to become self-sustained new plants. You can save time and effort by trailing the healthy stem of your String of Pearls over a small pot filled with potting soil and perlite mix.
In the new small container, lightly cover a few pearls in the center of the pot with the soil mix to speed up the propagation process. You can further speed up the process by removing two or three leaves off the stem section on the parent plant side (close to where the others are buried).
Give the newly ‘planted’ String of Pearls a couple of weeks to root before severing the link to the parent plant. You have just propagated a new little String of Pearls plant to share, and it’s already in the pot and potting mix it will live in.
3. Propagate String of Pearls Using Stem Cuttings
Before taking a stem cutting, select a healthy, robust plant as a stem donor. Cuttings replicate the genetic material of the parent plants, so a healthy plant produces healthy children.
While a String of Pearls doesn’t need pruning, some may benefit the plant. Pruning generally increases foliar density and helps manage etiolation (legginess), and increased light levels must accompany pruning to manage etiolation.
Use a 4-inch (10 cm) stem tip cutting to propagate String of Pearls. Remove three to four leaves from the end closest to the cut and set the cutting on a moist potting mix or in water. That’s the super abbreviated version but read on.
How to Root Stem Cuttings
The String of Pearl has shallow, fast-growing roots. By replicating this root system across sections of the stem, the plant prevents having, as a manner of speech, all its eggs in one basket, spreading the risks.
We’re going to use this natural tendency to propagate String of Pearls.
By propagating String of Pearls stem cuttings in a shallow clay pot (with drainage holes) filled with a well-draining potting mix, you can skip transplanting the plant, which disturbs the new roots and increases the risk of failure.
Still, it’s possible to facilitate String of Pearls’ propagation using water to stimulate root growth. Although the above method is safer, we cover water propagation as an option. Water propagation allows gardeners (and children) to witness the miracle of root development.
a) Propagating String of Pearls in Soil
Pot and Growing Medium Choices
String of Pearls, like other succulents, is low-maintenance and will thrive in bright, indirect light, well-drained soil, and infrequent watering. Overwatering causes fungal infections, the most common cause of indoor succulent deaths.
Grow in a very well-draining soil mix, such as cactus mix or add inert materials, such as small sharp sand, poultry grit, perlite or pumice, to the potting medium at a 50/50 ratio. A shallow container reduces the size of the root ball and the risk of root rot.
Use clay containers that allow better permeability and water evaporation through the sides, allowing the soil to dry out more quickly. Allow the potting medium to dry out completely between waterings, providing more water in summer than in winter when the plant is not actively growing.
Propagate String of Pearls Cuttings in Their Destination Pot
Your success rate at propagating String of Pearls will significantly improve if you root stem cuttings in the soil and container the plant will live in.
Lightly cover the stripped stem cuttings and three adjacent nodes with vermiculite to stimulate root growth. Leave the remaining leaves exposed for them to access light, stimulating photosynthesis and triggering root growth to supply water needed for the process.
Keeping the soil lightly moist during this stage is essential without overwatering it. Roots grow in only a few days and mature in a few weeks.
Look out for new growth, a sign that all the systems in the new plant are working and that the new roots are doing their job. A few hours of direct sun will help, but watch out for scorching. Grow lights are a better option (LED lights work well and are cheaper to buy and run).
When soil propagation is done in the pot where the plant will live for the next two years (when it will require repotting), you must keep the indirect light up and incrementally reduce watering.
As the new growth increases, wait for the leaves to show signs of dehydration before watering.
b) Propagating String of Pearls in Water
Roots will start growing in only a few days by immersing stem cuttings in the water and with enough leaves exposed to light. Photosynthesis needs both water and light (and carbon dioxide, but there’s plenty of that).
When the leaves get light, they need water, stimulating root growth. Roots also need oxygen, so ensure you regularly provide fresh water, avoiding tap water that may have fluoride or chlorine.
If you don’t have spring water, or your String of Pearls propagation exercise doesn’t warrant buying spring water, leave some tap water in an open container for a few hours to allow the chemicals to dissipate.
Once the water rooting is about an inch long (after a few weeks), transplant your newly propagated String of Pearls into the soil. Create a pencil-thick hole in the soil and gently stick the roots in. Lightly press the surrounding soil to ensure good root/soil contact.
Taking multiple cuttings for water propagation and transplanting only the strongest performers is always advisable.
Frequently Asked Questions
Propagating a healthy plant makes all the difference in the propagation process. Pearls grow fast and efficiently, and propagating them is an excellent way to introduce gardeners to propagation methods.
Your biggest challenge is having enough pots to contain all the new plants 🙂
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