When it comes to propagating succulents it’s hard to find an easier plant to propagate than a string of pearls. Using healthy cuttings taken from a mature string of pearls plant has worked over and over for me. This is my step-by-step process I follow each time I propagate a string of pearls plant. I know it will work for you too.
Here’s how to propagate a string of pearls:
- Start with two-inch plant cuttings in good condition
- Give the plant cuttings several days to heal
- Add cactus potting mix
- Put the plant cuttings in the soil
- Wait for the roots to take hold
- Provide the right lighting
- Keep the soil somewhat moist
- Use fertilizer to enhance growth
Through this guide, you’ll discover how fun it is to grow your own full string of pearls plant through a small cutting. Although it will take patience and the right approach, the steps ahead will show you exactly what to do.
Let’s get started!
How to Propagate a String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)
The string of pearls or Senecio rowleyanus is a succulent with long vines that produce pea-like growths or nodes along its stems. The sheer multitude of these nodes makes each vine look like a pearl necklace, hence its name.
If your able to get a few healthy cuttings from a string of pearls plant either from a friend or a local plant store , you can grow your own plant from scratch. Per the intro, here are the steps you’ll want to follow.
Start with Plant Cuttings in Good Condition
A brown string of pearls vine is not a good option for propagation, so choose your cuttings carefully. The plant cutting you start with should contain terminal material.
When removing the vine from the rest of the plant, you shouldn’t slice into any of the pea-like nodes, but between them.
You’ll want to start with a healthy vine cutting that’s roughly 6 to 7 inches in length because you’re going to remove the nodes from the first 4 inches of the cutting. That 4 inch length is going to eventually be the side that you plant into the soil.
Ensure your cutting is left with at least two inches of nodes to absorb light and moisture and and help the stripped of bottom portion of your cutting take hold and start to grow it’s inition root system.
Much more so than anything else, the condition of the cutting should be as close to pristine as possible. If the vine your starting with looks damaged from overwatering, underwatering, or getting too much sun, then once again, the likelihood of it taking hold and growing into a string of pearls goes down significantly.
Give the Plant Cuttings a Few Days to Heal
Healing a plant cutting entails leaving it alone for at least 1 to 3 days before you continue the propagation steps.
I’ve seen some indoor gardeners wait up to three days before doing anything with a plant cutting and others who just jump right in headfirst into the propagation process.
Succulents might not need to heal for as long as other plant species, so if you can wait only 24 hours to get started, that should be okay.
If you live in a colder climate, then consider increasing the healing time to four or five days just as a precaution.
Buy or Make Cactus Potting Mix
You can easily make an appropriate mix by combining horticultural sand and compost in even measure. This would require you to have an active compost pile though, which not every indoor gardener does (even though you should!).
If it’s easier, you can always buy cactus or succulent mix at your favorite gardening supply store. This mix will be dry and airy enough for your string of pearls cutting to potentially succeed.
Making cactus mix is an option as well, in which you’d combine potting soil (five parts) with coir (one part) and pumice (two parts).
Put the Plant Cuttings in the Soil
If you have chopsticks handy (clean ones, of course), I suggest using them to poke holes into the cactus potting mix that are deep enough for the plant cuttings to develop roots. A pen with its cap on will work just as well, but as a reference, a toothpick will make holes that are too tiny.
If you have several cuttings, increase the size of the hole and you can put two cuttings per hole.
Before you insert the string of pearls cutting, you have to prep it. Take off any of the nodes or “pearls” around the bottom of the cutting. You can do this by hand or by using clean pruning shears.
Give the cuttings a few hours to dry out after you cut them. The callus that forms over the new end of the cutting will make it harder for bacteria to get in. Some indoor gardeners will also plunk their plant cutting in rooting hormone before they put it in the soil.
Rooting hormone can increase the speed and uniformity of plant growth while also strengthening the roots. Rooting hormone isn’t mandatory for propagating string of pearls since the plant will grow easily anyway, but it won’t hurt to use rooting hormone if you want to.
For more information on using rooting hormones and how to make your own you can read my articles: Rooting Hormones for Plants: The Essential Guide and 7 Ways to Make Your Own Natural Rooting Hormone.
When you insert the string of pearls cutting into the cactus mix, between three and four of its nodes should be in the soil.
To support the plant for the growth that’s to come, you can secure your plant cutting with a paperclip or floral pins.
Wait for the Roots to Take Hold
Now comes the most agonizing part: playing the waiting game. The string of pearl’s roots won’t grow overnight, not even close. This process takes months. You can’t really speed things up except maybe with rooting hormone.
Provide Adequate Lighting
You’re not standing idly by though during these months when the crucial growth occurs in your string of pearls. Instead, you should create optimal growing conditions for the plant cutting, and part of that is in its lighting.
In its growing state, the plant cutting needs bright, indirect sunlight. Indirect light is that which is filtered through a medium such as a curtain before it reaches your plant.
When it comes to String of Pearls cuttings and how much light they should get, avoid direct sun, as it will scorch the cuttings to a crisp.
Maintain Soil Moisture
The string of pearls is a succulent, and in each of its leaf nodes, the plant keeps water (and nutrients). Yet it can’t grow without further moisture, so get into a habit of keeping the cactus mix moist but not wet and certainly never soaking.
Soaking the soil and leaving it compacted and wet for days is a sure way to encourage root rot to ruin your propagation efforts.
Rather than use a watering can, fill a spray bottle with water and lightly mist the plant when you can feel the top of the soil begin to dry out.
Use Fertilizer to Enhance String of Pearls Growth
By the six-month mark, your string of pearls should be growing healthily into its own full-fledged plant. You couldn’t be prouder! When its growing season begins in the spring, feed the plant its first dose of fertilizer.
Use all-purpose fertilizer with an equal mix of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. The package will say 10-10-10 or 12-12-12. Dilute the mixture with water until it’s at half-strength. Please read the instructions that came with your fertilizer for exactly how many gallons of water are required for dilution.
Apply the fertilizer every other week until the active growing season ends.
In case you’ve applied too much fertilizer and need help slavaging your plant I’d recommend reading: How to Fix Using Too Much Miracle-Gro on Your Plants
How to Care for Your Newly Grown String of Pearls Plant
It took some time, but after propagating your string of pearls with cuttings, your string of pearls has grown into a plant. Some of its care requirements are going to change now that it’s more mature, so I want to take this section to discuss how to keep your string of pearls happy and healthy!
7 Tips for Caring for your String of Pearls
- Watering a String of Pearls
- Best Lighting for a String of Pearls
- Type of Potting Soil for a String of Pearls
- Type of Pot for a String of Pearls
- Ideal Temperature for a String of Pearls
- The Best Type of Fertilizer for a String of Pearls
- How to Prune a String of Pearls
Watering a String of Pearls
You were only lightly misting the string of pearls before. Now that it’s not a fragile cutting, feel free to use your watering can.
A mature string of pearls can withstand long periods without hydration, up to two weeks at a time in the slow growing season.
I don’t recommend following a watering schedule for this houseplant or any other. Plants have watering needs that wax and wane by the season.
If you live in a hotter climate, then you might water your plant more often than someone who doesn’t.
The most reliable means of determining when it’s time to water a plant is through the fingertip test. Wash your hands, dry them thoroughly, and plunk a clean finger into your string of pearls’ soil. If the first inch is dry and certainly if two inches are dry, then it’s time to water the plant.
The string of pearls is sensitive to too much water, so I can’t stress the importance of the fingertip test enough. Overwatering houseplants can lead to root rot, a disease that kills the root system.
Compared to other plants, the string of pearls doesn’t have the biggest root system. If those roots die, there might not be enough healthy ones left to sustain the plant. It would be a real shame to lose your string to pearls to a common mistake like overwatering after all the effort you put into propagation!
Best Lighting for a String of Pearls
The bright, indirect light you provided for the string of pearls when it was just a cutting will continue to suffice. A few hours of direct light in the morning when the sun is not as strong won’t hurt this plant, but be sure to pull your string of pearls from its sunny window perch by the afternoon or the brightness of the sunlight could burn it.
The best spot for a string of pearls is by an easterly or southerly-facing window. If you live in an arid, hot climate, move your houseplant at least five feet away from the window, as even the morning sun can be too harsh for the plant.
Best Type of Soil for a String of Pearls
Although lots of its care routine changed between its days as a plant cutting to now, the string of pearls doesn’t need different potting soil. Continue to use a homemade or store-bought cactus mix.
Type of Pot to Use for String of Pearls
If you’ve read my other plant care series articles, then you’d recall that some types of pots can retain water longer and others will absorb the water. Knowing what you do about the string of pearls’ sensitivity to water, you want porous pot materials that will leech water relatively fast.
If you find that the plant’s water is being absorbed too fast, then switch to glazed ceramic or terracotta, both of which are a little more nonporous thanks to the layer of glaze.
The pot should always have adequate drainage holes. Make sure that you don’t buy a pot that’s too big for the string of pearls too. You’ll overwhelm the moderately-sized root system of the plant and growth can slow or cease.
Ideal Temperature for String of Pearls
To make your string of pearls happiest, keep the temperatures between 70- and 80-degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, it’s okay if the temp range is around 55 to 60 degrees, but no colder than that.
I’ll remind you again that the string of pearls is a succulent, so it’s used to dry, hot conditions. It has no tolerance for frost; one good freeze could kill this plant. Check your home or office for areas of cold drafts as well such as an old window, vents, or a window air conditioning unit.
What about the humidity requirements for the string of pearls? An average relative humidity of around 50 percent will do just fine.
Best Fertilizer for String of Pearls
If you used a water-soluble liquid fertilizer for your string of pearls when it was only a cutting, there’s no need to switch to anything else. You still want to dilute the fertilizer to half-strength before applying, and you certainly do want to change the application frequency.
When the active growing season begins next spring, use fertilizer monthly. Some indoor gardeners fertilize their string of pearls every two weeks, but unless your plant is struggling, I’d caution you against being too heavy-handed so you don’t accidentally kill your plant!
Pruning String of Pearls
You can’t believe you’re to the point where your string of pearls is so big that you need to prune it, but you’ve made it! The pruning shears you used a long time ago when removing some of the nodes on your plant cutting will come in handy here.
You’re looking for wayward nodes or stems; anything else should stay on your plant. I always suggest trimming less than more. You can go back later and prune further, but you can’t put detached plant parts back on your string of pearls.
Consider keeping some of your pruned pieces for even more propagating later on. Don’t forget to disinfect your pruning shears again when you’re done!
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