Senecio Rowleyanus aka String of Pearls/ String of Beads/ Pearl Necklace is a popular, evergreen hanging, trailing succulent with small, ball shaped leaves on strings that can grow a few meters long with every strand containing dozens, even hundreds of leaves if very long. It is an ideal hanging plant and because of its attractive appearance also very desirable. Many people like to try and grow more plants from cuttings which is a good propagation method with most succulents, but is it possible to propagate Senecio Rowleyanus from seeds or leaves?
It is most definitely possible but quite difficult to propagate Senecio Rowleyanus from seeds and we had very limited luck so far (1 germinated seed for approximately 10 seeds planted). The same applies to leaves. Most leaves die, but some will grow roots and eventually a branch will shoot out.
The good news is that propagating String of Pearls is quite easy and can be done very effectively from cuttings. But first let’s have a closer look at this popular hanging plant.
Senecio Rowleyanus is popular due to the pearl like leaves that are slightly see-through on the tip and bright green in colour. They grow on thin stalks which have a trailing habit and when given the chance, will fall over and hang, 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. Many smaller insects, including beneficial bugs such as the ladybug and howerfly (these prey on the dreaded aphids), like to feed on these 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 string 20cm or more and then cut the longest strings off, divide into 4 or more pieces and leave to dry for a day. The next day, we bunch the strings together and plant 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 from seed or leaf, you can give it a go. It’s a long but a fun project.
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 stalk 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 long time. Beware that most leaves just rot.
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, usually from China. 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. The images of the blue pearls are heavily photo-shopped.
Although we don’t have any problems growing this plant in greenhouses with 30% shade-cloth (it seems light shade-cloth creates and ideal environment), it appears String of Pearls can sometimes be a little difficult to care for. Many of our customers have had trouble growing Senecio Rowleyanus and report the plant rotting or the leaves falling off en-masse, especially when grown indoors.
It seems these plants prefer being outdoors in a bright shade and dislike too much sun, especially in the warmer months. They 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 happily cope with the 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. A good spot for these plants would be in a shaded part of the garden, veranda or balcony, under a tree.
It is possible to grow Senecio Rowleyanus indoors but the spot 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 them along.
It is best String of Pearls succulent is 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 Mealy Bugs 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 diarrhea.