Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.
I am constantly discovering new succulents. One of my new favorites is String of Pearls also called String of Beads because it looks like a string of beads with its round leaves.
What is String of Pearls?
String of Pearls (Curio rowleyanus) is a succulent vine that is native to the arid areas of Southwest Africa. In it native habitat, it grows as a ground cover, creeping along the ground to minimize exposure to the high heat of that area. Outside of its native area, it is usually grown in a hanging pot so that its vines can drape over the edges of the container.
The leaves which are the size (1/4 inch in diameter) and color of peas, are the plants’ most interesting feature. Their round shape allows them to store water, an important feature in an arid environment while at the same time, minimizing the surface area that is exposed to the dryness of the desert air. It also reduces the amount of surface are that is exposed to the sun which reduces the leaves’ ability to photosynthesize.
To make up for that reduction of surface area for photosynthesis, each leaf has a dark green band that is a translucent structure called an epidermal window. This window allows sunlight inside of the leaf so that there is more area to photosynthesize. Ingenious, if you ask me.
The leaves grow on 2 – 3 foot stems which creep along the ground. Wherever they touch the soil, they grow roots, eventually forming dense mats. The plants like to grow where they are shaded by rocks or other plants.
String of pearls is a member of the daisy family. Not surprisingly, its flowers look like tiny daisies. They grow in a compound shape and are often referred to as “disco balls”. They are only ½ inch in diameter and white with red stamens and yellow anthers. The flowers have a scent that is similar to cinnamon. Bloom time is in the spring. The flowers last about a month.
The flowers are followed by numerous seeds, each on a parachute type structure that helps it to be dispersed by the wind.
Is String of Pearls Poisonous?
The sap of string of pearls is toxic so you should not grow it anywhere that it is accessible by children or pets. Ingestion of the plant can result in vomiting and diarrhea in humans. In animals, the symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, drooling and lethargy.
Always wear gloves when handling this plant. The sap can cause a rash from skin irritation.
How to Grow String of Pearls Outdoors
String of pearls is hardy in zones 9 – 12. In zones 9 and warmer, it can be grown outdoors year-round. You can grow it in the ground where it will form a mat or in a container where it will drape over the sides. It will need some shade. Try for a spot that only gets sun in the morning. Well drained soil is a must or this plant will develop root rot. Sandy soil is best. If grown in a container, use a potting soil formulated for cactus.
Because this is a desert plant, you don’t have to worry about watering it if it is growing in the ground. If you are growing it in a container, allow the soil to dry out between waterings. If the container is in a saucer, dump out any water in the saucer. Don’t let your plant sit in water.
You can fertilize twice a month in the spring and summer with a balanced fertilizer diluted to half strength. Do not fertilize during the fall and winter when the plants are resting.
How to Grow String of Pearls Indoors
North of zone 9, we grow string of Pearls indoors as a houseplant. It makes a good houseplant because it doesn’t require a lot of light and doesn’t mind the lack of humidity in our homes. You can grow the plant in a sunny south facing window or an east facing window where it will only get morning sun. Use a potting mix specifically for cactus to achieve the correct drainage that these plants need. Water sparingly and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Don’t forget to dump out the saucer after you water so that the plant is not sitting in water. If the soil stays wet, the plant will develop root rot.
Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer diluted to half strength twice a month during the growing season in the spring and summer. There is no need to fertilize during the fall and winter when the plants are resting.
How to Grow String of Pearls From Cuttings
Like most succulents, string of pearls is easy to grow from cuttings. Take a 4 inch cutting from the end of one of the stems. Strip the leaves from the bottom 2 inches. Then just place on moist soil or lightly cover with moist soil. Roots will grow from the places where you removed the leaves. Instead of watering, use a mister to keep the soil moist during the rooting process.
The reason why you want to use a mister is because when you use a watering can and pour water into the container, it will wash away the cutting that is just sitting on the soil. Using a mister allows you to add water without disturbing the cutting. It also prevents the soil from becoming saturated with water which would rot your cutting.
© 2020 Caren White
Caren White (author) on August 08, 2020:
What a lovely welcome to your home! Thanks for sharing.
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on August 07, 2020:
String of pearls is the cutest plant! I recently bought one but had not seen one since the 1970s when houseplants were all the rage. When the old one flowered back in the day, I had it hanging near a window near the front door to our apartment. So when you stepped in, you were engulfed by that lovely scent from just one or two flowers.
Caren White (author) on August 07, 2020:
Yes, asparagus ferns are deer resistant so deer won't eat them unless there is nothing else to eat.
Abby Slutsky from America on August 06, 2020:
This is an interesting article as usual. I am learning a lot about plants from you. I grow daisies because they are easy and deer resistant. Just wondering, since they are in the daisy family, are these deer resistant too?