The string of pearls is a fascinating hanging succulent with little balls that cascade downwards. They’re easy to grow indoors, but you can also grow them outdoors if you live in a hot climate. The best part is that finding cuttings for this succulent isn’t tricky in such areas, and caring for the plant is equally as easy.
In this post, I’ll show you exactly how (and where) you can grow a string of pearls plant outside in your garden.
String of Pearls Varieties
Spring of pearls is also known as the “string of beads” or rosary plant. A previous member of the Senecio rowleyanus genus, the plant doesn’t look like any other daisy relative. It’s more of an ornamental succulent and recently moved to the Curio genus.
Most sellers simply call the plant “string of pearls” over its botanical name, and there is only a slight variation between varieties. Some of the rounded green leaves may appear slightly more yellow, have yellow spots, or come with white stripes.
Caring for the plant is all about light, temperature, and water. Actually, if you live in a hot location, you may find it easier to grow the plant outside than as an indoor houseplant. The plant hates drafty windows and cold breezes, which makes it particularly easy to grow outdoors in a hot region.
How to Plant a String of Pearls Outdoors
You can grow string of pearls outdoors by starting it from the stem cuttings of an existing, mature plant. Alternatively, try transplanting a plant from your local garden nursery. The propagation process, like most succulents, is easy enough for beginners.
Be extremely careful when handling a String of Pearls plant, as the pearls fall away with a tiny, accidental brush. Repot or transplant this succulent in the spring or summer months.
The main thing to remember when transplanting is to make sure the root ball isn’t too low. The crown of the plant should sit no more than an inch under the container, or you may face root rot later.
If you have a mature String of Pearls plant or know someone who does, you can take cuttings from the stem and plant them. The cuttings must be over an inch long, and a 4-6 inch grow pot is ideal. Be careful when cutting the delicate foliage. Fiskars is an excellent cutting tool to help you carefully tackle this job.
To propagate this plant, prepare your soil mixture in the container and use chopsticks to create a one-inch-deep hole for every two cuttings of your plant. Strip off the top pearls. Then, place two cuttings into the hole with the stem end pointing soil-side down. At least 3-4 leaf nodes should be under the soil.
Use floral pins to help keep top-heavy cuttings in place until the roots take hold. Save the pins to reuse for transplanting the cuttings to a new container later too. Allow the roots to grow and develop themselves in the soil for a few weeks, only providing a gentle misting. After around 3-5 weeks, water the plant well.
You can also propagate this plant in water rather than soil. However, the process may take longer.
Ways to Plant
A native string of pearls plant grows as ground cover in rock gardens, but you can also plant them in hanging baskets. They thrive outdoors in large urns, planters, or hanging baskets. Expect your plant to grow at a slow to moderate rate until it easily extends over two feet long, so a large planter is ideal for long-term growth.
When to Plant
Plant cuttings or transplant a string of pearls in the summer or spring for the best results, as growth slows down way too much for winter transplants to thrive. If you live in a warmer climate, you can also plant them during the fall as long as the temperature remains up.
This plant is hardy in USDA zones 9-12.
When growing the string of pearls plant outdoors, provide bright, indirect sunlight. The plant prefers protection from the hot rays, otherwise, the leaves will burn. A covered patio with bright light is the perfect place to house your hanging basket.
If you live in a colder region and have an indoor spot with enough sunlight, you could also grow your plant outdoors in the summer and move it indoors for the winter.
Succulents require well-draining soil. A store-bought succulent or cactus mix works well with a little perlite and a handful of organic compost. Some gardeners also find great results from a sandy mix.
How to Care for a String of Pearls
With proper care, expect your plant to produce sweet, spicy-smelling white blooms throughout the winter. The flowers smell like clove or cinnamon, and they appear along the string of beads. The trick to this particular succulent lies in sunlight, water, and temperature. Get the elements right, and the stems will grow to 2-3 feet long.
Overall, succulents tend to be drought-tolerant and thrive in low-humidity locations.
The string of pearls requires more watering compared to other succulents. If your outdoor plant doesn’t receive natural rainwater (which most don’t), you may need to water it twice per week in the summer and around every ten days when the weather cools off. Reduce watering in the winter altogether.
Avoid overwatering this plant, however, or you may face root rot. Allow the soil to dry between waterings. The succulent should never feel bone dry for days, but make sure not to overwater them either.
If your plant receives too much rainwater, the stems and pearls may start to feel like mush. Consider placing the plant under a porch, where it can receive protection from the sun, rain, and wind.
Ideal temperatures remain above 70 degrees F from the spring to fall and 50 degrees F in the winter. Consistent indoor and outdoor temperatures of around 72 degrees F shows beneficial results.
This succulent can survive temperatures as low as 30 degrees F. If you live in a location where the winter only slightly dips into freezing temperatures, you might be able to cover the plant for the winter and leave it outside.
Any colder, however, and you won’t be able to grow the plant outdoors all year long. Intense heat may also negatively affect the plant. They survive in the desert but require added amounts of water and protection from direct sunlight in return.
Succulents don’t require much fertilizer. You can use fish emulsion, liquid kelp, or an inch-thick warm compost layer once per year in the early spring. A water-soluble 12-12-12 fertilizer diluted to half-strength also works well. Never fertilize in the winter, when the plant goes dormant, or more than every six weeks.
You may need to prune this long-growing plant every once per year to remove any dead stems before they negatively affect the overall health of the plant or to control the length. Taking cuttings from this succulent when the trails reach the ground to start another plant will also naturally prune back the growth. Just avoid pruning during the winter months.
After your prune or take cuttings from the plant for the first time, it may also start to branch a few times from the cutting point. Don’t worry, this is normal.
Common Problems to Growing a String of Pearls Outdoors
Although succulents are relatively sturdy, hardy plants that resist most pests and diseases well, they are susceptible to mealy bugs, aphids, and root rot. Insecticidal soap quickly takes care of pests. If root rot becomes an issue, water the plant less often and increase the amount of water drainage in your container or hanging planter. Overall, a string of pearls plant won’t require much care to avoid problems.
If you bring your plant indoors or have a pest issue, however, make sure to also gently hose down the foliage with water to remove any pests and eggs.
Best Companion Plants for String of Pearls
You can also plant other hanging shade plants with a string of pearls to help fill in container space. Companion plants benefit from each other, and they often appear stunning in the same hanging basket. The two best companion plants for a hanging basket include:
- String of Bananas
- String of Hearts
Not only do these two plants both love the shade, warm climates, and hanging baskets, they’re both also easy to propagate at home.
Pet Owners Beware
If you have pets or kids, don’t plant your string of pearls within their reach. This plant is highly toxic to both dogs and cats (which also makes it quite resistant to pests), and it’s harmful to children. Ingestion can cause diarrhea and vomiting, while touching the sap can irritate the skin.
Luckily, it’s also easy to hang the plant high enough to keep your pets and kids safe from them.
However, you might need to take extra caution if your pets or children have a terrible habit of invading your garden. You may want to prune back the growth more often. Keep this in mind if you grow this plant as ground cover as well.