The variegated string of pearls, also known as Curio rowleyanus, is some of the most beautiful epiphytes found in nature, but they can be challenging to grow and care for properly. Fortunately, you can take several simple steps to ensure your string of pearls thrives over the years.
Growing this tropical plant outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 8b to 11 should be done in warm climates where temperatures average between 70-95 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer, with minimal frost during the winter months.
This article will cover all the essential details for growing and caring for variegated pearls.
What is a Variegated String of Pearls?
Variegated String of Pearls is a variety of succulents with leaves that have more than one color. It is a perennial favorite due to its bead-like leaves cascading several feet. Like a dazzling pearl necklace, its little green bubbles with white variegation bloom across a thin stem.
The variegation is usually found in the leaves, stems, or flowers. The most common colors are green with white stripes or pink with white stripes. It’s also called a string of pearls because the variegation resembles the varied colors in pearls. To grow this succulent, you will need the following:
- A pot
- An organic potting soil
- Some cactus mix (optional)
- Rocks for drainage at the bottom of your pot
- A watering can
- A sunny spot where your plant will receive morning sun and afternoon shade
However, you must avoid overwatering your string of pearls if you want them to last a long time.
Types of Variegated String of Pearls
The string of pearls is closely linked to numerous other plants with variously shaped leaves resembling teardrops, bananas, or watermelons with stripes. Different variations of the string of pearl include:
- ‘Curio radicans’: This cultivar has tendrils with banana-shaped leaves and is fuller and less trailing than a string of pearls. It is also known as a string of fish hooks or a string of bananas.
- ‘Curio herreanus’: This trailing plant, often known as a string of pearls or string of watermelon, has small melon-shaped leaves with purple striping.
- ‘Curio citriformus’: This cultivar has trailing, and erect stems with little white flowers and plump, teardrop leaves that bloom from winter to late summer.
Propagating a Variegated String of Pearls
A string of pearls is not difficult to propagate, but it does require a little more care than some other houseplants. It is best propagated from stem cuttings, which should be taken in early spring before the plant starts growing too much. You can do this by using rooting hormone, which you can purchase at your local garden center or home improvement store.
The plant may take 3-4 weeks to develop roots. Planting seeds is another option, albeit it is usually less productive. Here’s how to propagate a variegated pearl string from cuttings:
- You’ll need a 4-6 inch pot, sterilized scissors or pruning snips, and moist soil or cactus to propagate a string of pearls plant. You should also make sure that the pot has suitable drainage holes. Clay pots and terracotta are ideal because they absorb moisture.
- Cut several 4-5 inch stems slightly under a leaf node. Take out the final two leaves. Before planting, leave the stems out for 1-2 days.
- Fill the pot with well-draining soil and cut a hole in the center for the stems. You can use succulent soil mix, cactus, or sand mixed with perlite or pumice.
- Insert the cut ends at least an inch deep into the hole. All of the leaves should be above ground. Pack the earth around the stems and wait a few days before thoroughly watering.
- If used indoors, position it in a bright spot. If you’re going to leave the plant outside, make sure it gets partial sunlight. When the soil dries out, be sure to water it again.
Caring for Variegated String of Pearls
Using a string of pearls as an indoor plant can be tricky, as it thrives in indirect sunlight and humid conditions. However, a string of pearls with a variegated leaf pattern will be just as beautiful and unique as the typical green or white pearls but with significantly easier maintenance.
If you provide the right conditions, your variegated string of pearls will thrive without special care! Here’s how to care for a variegated string of pearls:
A variegated string of pearls is often confused with two other plants: African violets, which are grown primarily in greenhouses, and wax begonias, which grow best in the shade. But the variegated string of pearls needs well-draining soil rich in organic matter. You can plant an established string of pearls directly into the ground. However, new plants should be grown indoors before being transplanted outside after their danger from frost has passed.
A variegated string of pearl trees needs sunlight, so they are typically grown in areas where they have at least five hours per day. While a variegated string of pearls is not a high-light plant, they need light, so they should not be kept in total darkness. You can supplement natural light by using artificial light during the winter months or using fluorescent grow lights.
A string of pearls likes it best when it’s watered once every few days. Like most plants, the soil should be moist but not soggy. Too much water will cause roots to rot, while too little will prevent them from taking hold. To determine whether or not your plant needs water, stick your finger into it and feel for moisture. It doesn’t need water if you feel the moisture on your finger when removing it from the soil.
A string of pearls can be fertilized monthly with a diluted liquid fertilizer. Be sure to follow the instructions on the fertilizer container, as it may vary depending on the type. There are no special requirements for feeding a variegated string of pearls, but some people like to add compost or a slow-release fertilizer into the potting soil before planting their string of pearls in it.
Variegated pearl strings are fragile plants with thin root systems. This implies that you don’t have to repot this plant yearly if it’s still growing properly in its present container. However, if you realize that the plant has gotten root bound or that your string of pearls has grown too big for its pot, it’s time to transplant it to a larger pot.
Here’s how to repot your variegated string of pearls correctly:
Step 1: Gently fold the dangling stems to the plant’s central top.
Step 2: If you planted your String of Pearls in a suspended basket, remove the hanging hooks and clips, so they don’t get in the way of repotting the plant.
Step 3: Gently flip the pot over to allow the plant to slide out or press the bottom to help release the dirt. You could also try cutting the pot open. You can then remove your String of Pearls from the container without breaking any fragile beads.
Step 4: Mix your succulent soil or cactus. To improve drainage, you can add coarse sand or perlite.
Step 5: Carefully insert the String of Pearls in the container, then add more dirt around the plant, filling in any gaps. Once finished, place your freshly potted plant in a bright spot away from direct sunlight.
Variegated strings of pearls are easy plants to grow, but they do have some problems. One common problem is that they sometimes rot in the pot. This can happen because a variegated string of pearls needs soil with excellent drainage. Other problems that usually affect the variegated string of pearls include:
1. Leggy or Sparse Growth
Leggy growth indicates that the plant is not receiving adequate light. You should initially clip it off to encourage new growth if you detect it. You should also relocate the plant to a brighter location. Overwatering the plant causes sparse growth. Adjust the irrigation if you notice scant growth. Only water the plant when the soil is dried.
2. Underwatering: Shriveling Pearl String
If the plant is submerged, the leaves will seem dry and shriveled. This is easily remedied by giving the plant enough water. A younger strand of pearls requires more water than an older one. Water thoroughly, letting water drain entirely through the drainage hole.
3. Overwatering: Mushy or Yellow Leaves
If the leaves are yellow or the soil is damp, the plant has been overwatered, and the leaves will become yellow and rupture, giving the plant a mushy appearance. The reason for this is a lack of drainage, and Overwatering is often difficult to correct and necessitates repotting the plant.
4. Aphids or Mealybugs
Aphids and mealybugs are little insects that feed on the nectar of plants. Mealybugs, in particular, create white web-like material on the leaves. The mealybug also emits honeydew, a sweet substance that stimulates mold development, increasing the plant’s susceptibility to bacterial infection.
Aphids and mealybugs can both cause stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and plant death. Isolate your plant as soon as you notice an infestation to prevent mealybugs or aphids from spreading. You can also spray insecticidal soaps on your variegated string of pearls.
A variegated string of pearls is an easy plant to take care of, but some tricks make it thrive:
- Keep the soil damp but not wet, and ensure the pot has drainage holes.
- Keep in indirect sunlight or partial shade in areas with high humidity, like bathrooms or kitchens.
- Give it an occasional misting, which will help maintain humidity levels without overwatering the plant.