Senecio Rowleyanus also known as Curio Rowleyanus, String of Pearls, String of Beads and Pearl Necklace is a popular, evergreen trailing succulent with small, ball shaped leaves. It originates in southwest parts of Africa. The strings can grow a few meters long with every strand containing dozens, even hundreds of leaves, if very long.
String of Pearls has become very popular in recent years as it is an ideal hanging plant that looks fantastic in all sorts of novelty and hanging pots.
As many of you succulent lovers will know, a large number of succulents can be propagated from leaves and seeds. But is this the case with String of Pearls?
Senecio Rowleyanus can be propagated from seed and leaf, but it is very difficult and not recommended. Most leaves die and only a couple of seeds tend to germinate.
The good news is, String of Pearls can be easily propagated from cuttings. If you're only interested about propagating methods, scroll down to Propagation.
Senecio Rowleyanus grows pearl like leaves with a slightly see-through tip. They are bright green in colour and grow on thin stalks which have a trailing habit.
When planted at the edge of the pot or a hanging basket the strings will spill over, creating a waterfall of green pearls. A full hanging basket with lots of strings is quite a spectacular sight.
The strings can reach a few meters, though, the size of the plant will largely depend on how much space the roots have. As with many other plants, bigger the pot, bigger the plant. If planted in the ground the strings will just keep trailing indefinitely sending roots along the way in any available dirt.
String of Pearls grows pretty much all year round, slowing a little in the cooler months. Flowers appear on small stalks and are white sometimes developing a bit of a pink tinge. The petals curl backwards and each individual flower head contains many smaller flowers with pistils creating a tiny swirl.
Smaller insects, including beneficial bugs such as the ladybug and howerfly (these prey on the dreaded aphids), like to feed on Senecio flowers.
Senecio Rowleyanus is very easy to propagate by cuttings and a single plant can provide plenty of strings in a short period of time.
The method our small nursery uses is to leave the plant grow to a nice big size with multiple strings 20cm or more and then cut the longest strings off.
They can be divided into 4 or more pieces and left to dry for a day. The strings are then bunched together and planted in pot of succulent potting mix. Roots usually appear in about 3 weeks in the growing season and new shoots will start appearing after approximately a month.
If you’d like to try your hand at propagating String of Pearls from seed or leaf, you can give it a go but it is best not to expect success.
In our experience, leaves do not propagate very well, but it is not impossible. They will grow a root system first and then shoot out a new branch. The little branch will need to be planted into the potting mix and watered every so often. Growing a whole new String of Pearls plant just from a leaf also takes a very long time. Beware that most leaves just rot.
Unlike with other succulents, Senecio Rowleyanus leaf will need to be planted, otherwise it will dry up. Only the small stalk that connects the leaf with the main vine needs to be in the potting mix.
To be able to propagate from seed the flower heads need to be pollinated. We noticed that pollinated flower heads open right up into a big fluffy ball ready to be carried by the wind. The ones that are not viable still look fluffy, but do not open up.
When we tried to plant the seeds from unopened heads, they never germinated. The fluffy ones had much better germination rate. The seeds can be planted straight into succulent potting mix and should not be allowed to dry up.
If you don’t have time to water every day, put a plastic bag over the pot/tray and tie in a knot/ This will keep the potting mix wet for longer. Germination period of Senecio Rowleyanus can be anything between a few weeks to 2-3 months. The seeds germinate quicker in spring/summer.
If you’re buying Senecio Rowleyanus seeds, we recommend to get them from a reputable seed shop. Also, I’ve seen ads on trading sites advertising for Blue String of Pearls. Please do not waste your money- there is no such thing as blue Senecio Rowleyanus. The only blue-ish hanging succulent out there is String of Fishooks and Senecio Blue Falls. The images of the blue pearls are heavily photo-shopped.
Position & Care
Senecio Rowleyanus is a shade lover and does not like being exposed to full sun, but needs plenty of light. A bright or filtered light is a must for this plant to grow well.
The pearls at our nursery grow in greenhouses with 30% shade-cloth overhead. But a shaded, but bright veranda/ under a tree or covered balcony will also be a good spot.
These plants prefer being outdoors in a bright shade and dislike too much sun, especially in the warmer months. Senecio Rowleyanus will cope with some morning sun and even a little more in the cold months but in summer the sun can burn the delicate branches and leaves. If the plants are in shade, they will live through heat of above 40C (104F).
Senecio Rowleyanus is not frost tolerant but will deal with temperatures just above 0C (32F). Because they contain so much water frost will quite literally freeze them inside.
It is possible to grow Senecio Rowleyanus indoors but the area will need to be very bright and close to a window. A little sun shining through the window will not hurt the pearls. They also like airy spots, so opening the window often will help.
String of Pearls should be planted in a pot with a drainage hole as it can rot if left sitting in stagnant water. Outdoors, they shouldn’t mind the rain, even if it rains for extended periods, but the potting mix will need to be well draining and of good quality.
Indoors, water when the potting mix is dry to the touch or on average once every week. They are more sensitive to water indoors because the potting mix does not dry out at the same rate as outdoors and there is no breeze.
Unfortunately there are many pests that will feed on Senecio Rowleyanus. Both aphids and mealybugs are known to frequent this plant. Mealy bugs can attack the leaves and roots.
Snails, Slugs, Caterpillars and Grasshoppers have all been spotted feeding on our plants too.
Although we have never seen, but heard reports of birds feeding on String of Pearls too. In Australia, Possums will eat this plant to the ground, if given a chance.
Senecio Rowleyanus is listed as toxic to humans and pets if ingested, though only mild irritations have been reported.
If eaten, it may cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
Where Can I Get It
String of Pearl is quite a common plant and can be bought in garden centres and online nurseries. Our nursery sells both regular and the variegated version in Australia.