This houseplant is renowned for its quirky appearance and long, lush green vines. You can recognize its unique cascading stems anywhere which is why it’s become a popular patio decoration across the world.
If you’re eager to grow your very own string of pearls plant then you’ve come to the right place. Throughout this article, we’ll explore its key characteristics, care requirements, environmental conditions, as well as how to grow one and revive it.
The houseplant was formerly known as Senecio rowleyanus, however, today its botanical name is Curio rowleyanus. It has a few other nicknames too, such as; rosary string of beads, string of beads, and rosary succulent.
The plant gets its common names from its appearance. The string of pearls has long stems with round, pearl-like ‘leaves’ attached to them. These ‘pearls’ look just like little green peas.
It is a member of the Asteraceae family and just like the panda plant, it is a succulent too. Similar to most succulents, it is slightly drought tolerant and thrives in a warm, dry region. You can find this houseplant in its native region; southwest Africa.
Fun fact: Its scientific name is derived from the botanist who specialized in succulents and cacti; Gordon Douglas Rowley.
There are approximately over 1,000 different species of Curio and each variation has uniquely shaped leaves and colors. We’ll discuss six of the most popular ones below.
- Curio radicans: The houseplant has a fuller look with banana-shaped leaves and is often called a ‘string of bananas’ or ‘string of fish hooks’.
- Curio peregrinus: This type is commonly referred to as the ‘string of dolphins’ as its green leaves resemble that of a dolphin.
- Curio herreanuss: The purple striped houseplant has tiny watermelon-shaped leaves which is why it is called the ‘string of watermelons’.
- Curio kleiniiformis: It is known as the ‘spearhead’ as its foliage is rather pointy like a sharp spear. You can identify this plant by its leaves and stems as they are a unique greeny-blue color.
- Curio citriformus: It has upward growing stems with teardrop-shaped leaves that are accompanied by tiny white flowers.
- Curio jacobsenii: This variation has stunning purple stems and leaves that transform into a pinky color when exposed to bright sunlight.
How Big Do They Get?
The mature size is greatly dependent on the care the plant receives and the amount of sunshine it gets. You expect a healthy houseplant to sprout stems between 1 to 3 feet (30.5 – 91cm) long. The entire string of pearls usually grows around 1 to 2 feet (30.5 – 61cm) tall.
How Fast Do They Grow?
The rosary succulent is regarded as a fast-growing houseplant. In a year, its stems can grow an extra 5 to 15 inches (12 – 38cm).
How Long Do They Live?
This succulent isn’t known for its long lifespan and has a relatively short one compared to others. When cared for well, it can live for around 5 years.
The houseplant’s alkaloids are poisonous. It can have a few negative side effects when parts of the plant are ingested or one comes into contact with its sap.
Below, we’ll go through the variety of effects that the sap may have on cats, dogs, and people.
Are They Toxic to Cats and Dogs?
Curio rowleyanus is toxic to both cats and dogs. We’ve compiled a list of signs that indicate your pet may have ingested the succulent or come into contact with its sap.
When a cat or dog has ingested the plant it may experience:
- Abdominal pain
- Oral irritation
- Weight loss
- Liver failure
When your pet has come into contact with the sap it may face:
- Red rash
- Contact dermatitis
- Redness of the skin
You need to contact your vet if you think that your pet has eaten the plant or touched its sap.
Are They Poisonous to Humans?
The houseplant is mildly toxic to people and the effects tend to wear off fairly quickly. You may experience nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea if you have ingested the plant. The sap can also cause skin dermatitis as when cutting the houseplant some sap may drop on your skin which causes a red rash.
If you are concerned or the symptoms persist then seek professional medical advice as soon as possible.
String of Pearls Care
The Curio rowleyanus isn’t particularly fussy when it comes to care and it’s easy to grow indoors, however, there are one or two things that you need to keep in mind if you want it to thrive.
Below, we will guide you through the best way to care for the string of pearls plant.
How Often to Water It
The rosary succulent thrives in lightly moist soil during spring and summer, however, as winter approaches the plant loves a drier potting mixture.
A general rule of thumb is that you should water it once every 1 to 2 weeks during its active growing seasons, and around once a month during autumn and winter.
Just like the orchid cactus, you can reduce the number of times you water the houseplant during the cooler months. This will prevent root rot and any damage from overwatering.
A great way to find out whether your plant is thirsty is by checking the top inch (2.5cm) of the soil. If the soil is dry then you can water it, whereas, if it’s slightly moist then your plant is doing just fine.
When watering the string of pearls, it is important to wait until the water begins to drip through the holes at the bottom of the container.
It is known by many gardeners that succulents are sensitive to overwatering, and this one is no different. Growing a string of pearls in well-draining soil and a good container is imperative for its survival.
Soggy soil will cause the plant to become infected and suffer from root rot, so it needs a pot with a few drainage holes underneath it.
This plant has particularly thin roots, which means that too much moisture and a lack of oxygen can damage them.
How to Prune It
Pruning the rosary succulent will not only improve its health, encourage new growth, and maintain a lush plant, but it can also promote bushier and fuller growth.
There’s nothing worse than leggy and unhealthy-looking stems, so it’s important to trim your plant regularly to maintain its appearance and prevent further damage. You can prune it during the spring or summertime before it is dormant during the wintertime.
Before we begin explaining how to prune the plant, you must sterilize your tools. This will protect the houseplant from bacteria that may be on your pruners after cutting another plant.
Follow the steps below:
- Snip the stem at the base of the plant.
- Water the plant if the soil is slightly dry and place it back in its original home.
- It is a great idea to keep any healthy stems. You can propagate these and multiply your houseplant collection.
How and When to Repot It
A Curio rowleyanus requires transplanting every 2 years. You may need to repot it sooner if you notice that it is outgrowing its container and becoming rootbound.
Ideally, you should repot it during the spring or summertime to allow its delicate root system to settle before winter.
Another important consideration is that you want to pick a pot that isn’t too deep or too wide as the roots are fairly shallow. An overly-large pot will lead to root rot.
Here’s a quick guide to repotting the plant:
- Slide the plant out of its container and handle it with care.
- Fill the new container with fresh soil and place the plant in the center of the pot.
- Make sure to plant it at the same depth that it was in its previous container.
- Pat down the soil and place it back in a sunny position.
Curio rowleyanus loves full sunshine, just like the Asiatic lily. It can tolerate partial shade too but it does best in bright light.
During the morning you should position it in direct sunshine as the sun rays aren’t too harsh, but it should be moved into indirect sunlight during the afternoon.
If you live in a particularly warm area, the sun rays may become way too harsh during the summertime. You will need to monitor your plant and determine whether it requires some filtered sunlight.
A prosperous string of pearls should be soaking in bright light for around 6 to 8 hours a day.
The rosary succulent flourishes in sandy soil. It requires an aerated, well-draining, and light potting mix to avoid saturated conditions.
You can grow it in some commercial cacti or succulent potting mix and you could even add in a handful of sharp sand for the perfect soil. The most important aspect is that it has to allow for great drainage and mustn’t retain too much moisture.
You can mix in some other ingredients to enhance the potting mix’s drainage, such as perlite, compost, or loam.
The houseplant requires a light feeding during the spring and summer months. Typically, you should feed it once every 2 weeks with a liquid, water-soluble fertilizer that has been diluted to half its strength.
During the cooler winter months, it only needs to be fed once every 6 weeks as it isn’t actively growing. You can also fertilize it once a month with fish emulsion if you prefer.
When feeding your houseplant it is important to not overdo it. Fertilizer burn can cause damage to its roots, which can be detrimental to the plant’s health.
Best Pot Size and Type
Curio rowleyanus not only thrive in terracotta and clay pots but they look great in them too. The porous material encourages drainage as the moisture can easily evaporate through it.
You can also plant it in a hanging basket, which makes for a stunning decorative piece as the long vines hang over the edge.
The container you choose mustn’t be too wide. The houseplant prefers one that is roughly 2 inches (5cm) wider than the width of its rootball.
This succulent can withstand a varying temperature range during the winter and summer. The optimal temperature during the summer is between 70 and 80°F (21 – 26°C), which is suitable for the polka dot plant too.
When winter approaches, the plant can survive in temperatures ranging from 50 to 60°F (10 – 15.5°C).
Do They Like Humidity?
A rosary succulent isn’t too picky when it comes to humidity and can thrive in most household humidity levels. It doesn’t require any extra effort to maintain consistent humidity levels and actually prefers a rather dry environment.
It is best to avoid placing it in a bathroom or humid area as it prefers a relative humidity level no higher than 40 percent.
Outdoors vs. Indoors
This houseplant can be grown outdoors year-round in certain conditions. It thrives in USDA hardiness zones of 9 to 12.
If you decide to place it outside then make sure that you reside in a warm, dry, and sunny region. Additionally, you should keep in mind that the plant may be exposed to more sunshine so it’s best to plant it in filtered sunlight.
The plant prefers being kept indoors as it cannot withstand the cold and it loves a dry environment. You have to move it inside if temperatures reach 30°F (-1°C).
Do They Flower?
Unfortunately, Curio rowleyanus’ do not typically bloom when grown indoors.
Outdoor houseplants typically flower in the summertime. It produces small, daisy-like flowers with red stamens and yellow anthers. The blooms send out a sweet, cinnamon-like scent, and will only last for around 4 weeks before they begin to die.
You can encourage blooming by keeping the plant at 60°F (15.5°C) and allowing the soil to dry out during the winter by cutting back on the number of times you water it.
How to Grow It
You can grow a string of pearls by following multiple methods of propagation or planting its seeds. It is ideal to grow a new plant during the spring or summertime as the plant is unlikely to sprout new growth in winter.
Always clean your shears and other tools used to prevent passing on any bacteria or disease from another plant.
How to Propagate String of Pearls
The rosary succulent’s cuttings can be propagated in either soil or water. Both of these methods are highly successful and you should notice new root growth in a few weeks’ time.
Propagating Cuttings in Soil
When planting a healthy cutting in soil, it’s important to use a fresh potting mixture. A well-draining and loamy soil are the best as it encourages new growth and lessens the chances of fungal infection.
Check out the guide below:
- Trim off a healthy stem and make sure to cut it below the leaf node. You should try to snip a 4 to 5 inch (10 – 12.7cm) long stem for optimum results.
- Place the cutting in a warm, dry room for 24 hours and allow the cut area to callous over.
- Take out a new container and place some soil in it.
- Take your stem cutting and plant the cut area an inch (2.5cm) deep.
- Find a sunny home for the cutting and water it in 3 days’ time.
- Once new root growth has sprouted, you can care for as you would a mature string of pearls.
When propagating a stem cutting in water, the process is very similar to rooting it in soil. The only difference is that you will place the cutting in a glass of water and repot it in soil later on. We’ll explain the steps below.
- Cut a 4 to 5 inch (10 – 12.7cm) long stem and allow the cut area to callous over.
- You must remove any leaves at the bottom of the stem as we don’t want them to become submerged in the water.
- Fill a glass jar with some distilled water and place the cutting in it.
- You may be required to fill the jar with new water every 2 or 3 days.
- New root growth will emerge after 3 weeks or so. Once this occurs, you can repot it in soil.
Growing a Curio rowleyanus from seeds isn’t usually successful. You need to use seeds from a pollinated flower head in order for germination to occur and it can be a slow process. A seed may germinate anytime between 1 to 3 months.
If you’re eager to plant its seeds then take a look at the guide below:
- Fill a shallow tray with a cacti potting mixture.
- Sprinkle the seeds evenly across the soil and spritz them with tepid water.
- Cover the tray with a clear plastic bag to maintain a warm and moist environment.
- Make sure that the soil is consistently moist and that the seeds sit in bright sunlight.
- You can remove the plastic bag after new growth emerges.
- Once it produces a few leaves, you can repot the seedlings in their own containers.
Why May the Plant Be Dying?
This is quite a hardy and fuss-free houseplant, but if it’s neglected for a long period of time then it may run into a few problems here and there.
In this section, we’re going to discuss what may be causing a change in your plant’s appearance and health as well as the necessary steps to reviving it.
The ‘pearls’ will become a browny-green color when the plant is underwatered. A thirsty plant needs a good watering, so check the soil, and if it’s dry then water the houseplant deeply.
Your plant is more susceptible to suffering from a lack of moisture during the summer and when it is placed in full sunshine.
A rosary succulent’s foliage may begin to shrivel and wilt if its soil is too dry or temperatures are too low.
These two issues are easy to resolve. You will need to water your plant more frequently or find a warm and sunny spot for it.
Just like with most houseplants, overwatering will lead to root rot. When the plant’s soil is saturated and soggy, the roots become damaged. The leaves may become squishy and soft, while the roots turn into a black-brown color.
The best way to remedy the problem is by cutting off the unhealthy growth and repotting it in some dry soil. You should allow the plant a week to recover before watering it again.
Lack of ‘Pearls’
The Curio rowleyanus may stop growing new ‘pearls’ when it is placed in a shady position. A lack of sunlight can cause the leaves to drop too.
Look around your home to find a bright area for your plant so that it can absorb tons of sunshine.
The string of pearls adds some fun to your houseplant collection and it’s super easy to care for. All you need to do is water it properly and make sure it stays in bright light. If you follow the few care requirements, you’ll be able to see lush, green ‘pearls’ year-round.