What is a String of Beads?

N. Phipps
N. Phipps
Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

The daisy family, which includes the Senecio genus, has always been well-known for its diversity. In fact, there are numerous plant varieties that look nothing like daisies at all. One of these is the string of beads (Senecio rowleyanus), also known as string of pearls. This unusual plant is actually a succulent with fleshy green, pea-sized leaves that resemble beads or pearls that are strung on a necklace.

String of beads obviously got its common name from this uncanny appearance. However, the species was named after British author and succulent plant specialist, Gordon Rowley. Like other succulent plants, it is drought-tolerant, surviving without water for extended periods. In its native habitat, this succulent is well adapted to both hot and dry conditions.

The interesting looking plant comes from Southwest Africa. However, string of beads is commonly grown all over as a houseplant. Placed in hanging baskets, the “stringed beads” will sprawl or trail over the edges. It is considered to be a relatively easy plant to grow due to its water-storing capabilities. The slow-growing plant requires little care of maintenance.

When growing string of beads plant, it needs to be given bright light or direct sunlight and well-draining soil that is suitable for succulent plants. While average indoor temperatures are deemed adequate for active growth, it requires temperatures of around 50-55 degrees F (approximately 10-15 degrees C) during its dormancy period, though it can tolerate 45 degrees F (around 7 degrees C). As it is a succulent plant, care should be taken not to overwater it. It should be allowed to dry out between watering. Too much water will result in rotting or lead to fungal infections.

The adventitious roots, roots that come from the stem of plants, of the string of beads plant make it easy to propagate. In fact, stem or leaf cuttings can be taken in spring or summer or anytime during routine pruning maintenance. Placed directly on moist soil, roots will begin forming at the nodes. However, as with most succulent plants, it helps to let the cut end dry out some first. The plant can also be propagated by seed in spring.

It should be noted that on rare occasions, the plant will produce unusual looking flowers. This generally happens in fall or winter in its native habitat. These flowers are small, fluffy, and off white in color. They are also lightly scented with a cinnamon-like aroma. String of beads is also considered toxic, so care should be taken when growing it around children or pets.

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