Guest Author - Linda Genis
String of pearls - which I think looks more like a string of peas – is a unique trailing succulent best displayed in a hanging container. It stores water in it spherical leaves, not its thin string-like stems which can trail 2 -3 feet below the plant.
String of pearls( Senecio rowleyanus) is related to a similar plant - sting of bananas (Senecio radicans) , which also is named for the shape of its leaves. They are native to southwest Africa and well adapted to growing in an arid climate. They are frost-tender, which makes them houseplants in climates with cold winters. They should be placed where they can receive full sunlight but not be subject to drafts. All parts of the plant are toxic if eaten and should be kept away from children or pets.
In frost-free locations, they make attractive patio plants. They can be grown outdoors in USDA zones 9 – 12 if they are not subject to temperatures below 45° F. Although these plants are most attractive when hung above eye-level, string of bananas can also be used as a ground cover.
String of pearls and string of bananas should be grown in fast draining soil such as cactus mix. If you use regular potting soil, mix it with sand at a 3:1 ratio. These plants can do well with weekly watering, but the soil should not be allowed to dry out. Too much water can make them susceptible to fungus and mealybugs. A balanced fertilizer can be applied mid-summer. During winter the plants become dormant and watering should be reduced.
If you plant outgrows its pot and the roots become too crowded, it can be repotted in the spring. Some of the delicate stems may break off, but they can become new plants. Simply lay short sections of the stem on top of succulent potting mix, press the stem area into the mix and spray lightly with water. After a few weeks, roots will form and you’ll have a new plant.
When I purchased my string of pearls, I had never seen one blooming. I was quite delighted to see buds form as winter approached. The flowers – white balls with purple stamens topped with yellow stars - are held out from the string by upward curving stems. The flowers last for several days.