The String of Pearls, its Latin name Senecio rowleyanus is a succulent has an undeserved reputation for being difficult to look after.  If you are a newcomer to caring for succulents, there are two main things to be taken into consideration for a successful ‘partnership’ with your String of Pearls:

  • The amount of sunlight the plant gets
  • The watering regime

To get both right, think of South Africa where the plants come from. The climate is sunny with much less rainfall than in the UK. The plant is naturally a ground hugging plant and is usually overhung by taller growing plants that hide it even when the sun is high.

I find they show the best growth in a partially sunny spot, like an east or west facing window, or a shelf next to a south facing window. They are adaptable and can manage other environments, but if you choose to keep them elsewhere I would suggest a few precautions to keep them healthy:

• If they are kept in a directly south-facing window, balcony or patio: I find watering more frequently helps to protect them from sunburn. Even though the intensity of sunlight is not as high as in South Africa, it can cause damage. You will find pictures of sunburn in the “What to do if my plant is not growing” section to help you identify the signs early so you can move the plant to a more protected position if you do spot it.

• If they are kept in a north facing window or far from a window:
Adding grow lights for a few hours in the morning and evening keeps the plants happy and healthy. Consider keeping the grow lights on for 12-14 hours in winter as days become shorter and darker, or else the plant may start looking sad and stop growing.

The right water management is the key to successfully growing String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus). Give them too little water and they’ll die, give them too much water and they’ll die even faster!

I follow an easy water management routine:
I use a mix of soil that drains fast and I water only when the pearls look dim, or if the pot feel light in weight. Please see my “What to do” section for pictures of plants with shiny pearls and dim pearls. A moisture meter can also help you with watering decisions.

Soil mix:
I experimented with different soil mixes. I tried ready-to-use succulent or cactus mixes from the local garden centre and high priced ‘special’ soils for succulents from the internet, just to name a few. My conclusion from these tests is that as long as the texture of the soil allows water to drain through it easily, the Senecio rowleyanus will do fine. For the past two years I’ve been using a home-made mix of soil that consists of 60% of not too rich compost and 40% of building sand or some fine gravel.

“What to do if my String of Pearls is not growing”


Sunburned String of Pearls Succulent Plant

The top pearls look white and the skin is dry.

Not much to worry about, it’s likely that the plant stayed on direct sunlight while being dry. The “burned” pearls are unlikely to recover but either moving the plant to a slightly shadier place or watering it more frequently is likely to limit any further damage.


Healthy String of Pearls Succulent Plant

Healthy looking String of Pearls, well-watered with shiny pearls

Nothing to worry about, enjoy your plant! 🙂


Thirsty String of Pearls Succulent Plant

The pearls look dim and the pot is really light. The plant now stopped growing and is in survival mode. Not to worry, succulents have adapted to survive long stretches without water, but this one will love to have a sip. This is the state plants usually arrive when posted by mail because succulents tend to take the transit better if kept dry and hibernating.

Fungal Infection

Fungal Infected String of Pearls Plant

Fungal infections appear on plants that are weak, often due to overwatering or when kept in low light or with bad ventilation. I find the plants recover quickly by using the following steps:
– Remove all damaged growth
– If the plant has been overwatered, repot into new soil mix
– Spray with standard garden fungicide
– Move to a position with strong but not direct light and good ventilation

If your issue is not listed in this String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) care guide, please send me the pictures of your plants and I can try to advise.

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