STRINGS - PEARLS, BANANAS, DOLPHINS, FISH HOOKS & MORE
The family of strings are a wonderful, unusual group of succulent plants that everyone wants in their plant collections. They add a bit of quirkiness to your home and when they bloom, they scent the air with a whiff of deliciousness.
There are several cool plants in this fun group including:
STRINGS OF PEARLS - Senecio rowleyanus AKA Little Peas
STRINGS OF BANANAS - Senecio radicans
STRINGS OF DOLPHINS - Senecio peregrinus
STRINGS OF BEADS - Senecio herrianus
STRINGS OF FISH HOOKS - Senecio radicans "Fish Hooks"
STRINGS OF BUTTONS - Crassula perforata
RUBY NECKLACE - Othonna capensis AKA Little Pickle
STRINGS OF HEARTS - Ceropegia woodii AKA Rosary Vine
STRINGS OF TURTLES - Peperomia prostrata
STRINGS OF NICKELS - Dischidia nummularia
All string succulents display a number of similar characteristics such as pendant (downward) stems and fleshy green leaves. They make excellent specimens for indoor and outdoor hanging displays. They're also useful in vertical gardens and wall pockets.
These plants are generally alike when it comes to their care. However, they differ in appearance, stem and foliage development, form, texture, color, size and blooms. Some have an upright body whereas others have pendant stems. The stems are formed either by multiplying rows of leaves or forming a vine.
The biggest issue with the strings is new plant owners want to treat them like succulents and they die. The strings are a bit flaky and require some attention to look their best at all times. So lets look at some common care tips to keep your strings in tip-top shape year round:
First and foremost, it is important to know exactly where your plant is native to. By knowing the origin of your plant, you will have a better time remembering how to care for it. Most of the strings are native to the drier parts of southwest Africa. They thrive on lots of light and somewhat limited water.
Light - In their native environment, Strings creep along the ground and over rocks. Each leaf node has a tiny little root that helps anchor it into the soil. They are exposed to lots of light! For some like the Ruby Necklace, the heat and sun stresses them, turning their leaves from green to a lovely maroon color.
However, most String plant like bright indirect light, if they’re outdoor they like shaded area with some morning direct light or bright indirect light, if they’re indoor they like to be near the window with strong natural light. They don’t like direct sunlight, they will get burnt easily. Depending on how hot your area is, indoor Strings should be kept near South or West window or in hot, desert-like area, 5’ - 10’ away from South or West window to keep it from sunburnt. In darker, cooler months consider moving them to a brighter place.
Many of the varieties of Strings will get by with less light but this will result in slower or no growth. If your place doesn’t have enough light for them, then consider putting them 6 - 12 inches under fluorescent light fixture and give them 12- 16 hours of light per day. If you find large gaps in the leaves with lots of stem, your plants are getting too little light.
Temperature - String succulents should be kept at average indoor temperature of70° - 80° degrees Fahrenheit. During winter, keep the plant at cool temperature - around 55° – 60° degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t keep them in drafty areas, or areas with air conditioner and open window as cold air may causes the leaves to drop. String plants are not frost-tolerant so they’ll need to be moved indoor in the winter.
Water - The watering needs of Strings plant vary with the season. Unlike other succulents, Senecio plants do like water on a fairly frequent basis. In summer, maintain a consistent yet light level of moisture in the soil. Water whenever the soil surface dries out slightly, adding water until it dribbles from the drainage holes at the base of the planter. However, they will easily rot if given too much water or allowed to fester in damp very low light conditions. As a rule it's advisable to wait until the soil has dried out a bit rather than keeping it constantly moist.
Keep in mind of the size and type of container! Small pots and terracotta dry quicker! Here is where most people kill their strings! Yes, they are succulents by name only - they love a drink AS SOON AS they dry. Keep a regular eye on your strings and they will reward you with incredible great looks. In winter, water only when the soil is nearly dry throughout. A slight wilt won't harm an established string of pearls plant, but extended dryness will cause the bead-like foliage to flatten and drop prematurely. No matter the season, provide water if signs of stress occur to prevent permanent damage to the plant.
Humidity - Succulent String plants are adapted to dry arid conditions so there is no need to increase humidity in a standard home or office. In fact you may actually find problems occur if the humidity levels are unnaturally high for whatever reason, as this can encourage damp resulting in rotting and the strings on your String of Pearls plant falling apart and rolling away!
Soil - String plants, like any succulent need well-draining soil to thrive. Choose the right pot. Terracotta or unglazed ceramic pots are the two most popular choices thanks to their extraordinary drainage. String plants have very shallow roots so they don’t need a deep pot. The pot needs to be big enough to let the plant fill to the brim. But if the pot is too big for the plant then the soil will stay wet for too long and the leaves resting on that wet soil will get rot. To prevent roots from becoming water logged use a well draining aerated potting soil mix. I like to use a 50/50 mix of potting soil and sand.
Fertilizer - As with most succulents, String Plants feed lightly and rarely requires supplemental fertilizer. A fertilizer designed for Cacti and Succulents is ideal, but you can always use a normal houseplant feed. Just make sure you dilute it to about half of the recommend amount listed in the instructions. Once every two months or so during the growing seasons will be enough to keep your Senecio healthy and thriving.
Flowering - If the growing conditions are right, the Strings may produce small fragrant flowers. Strings bloom tiny white or yellow flowers with scent like cinnamon. To encourage spring flowers, cut back on watering and keep the plant in a consistent temperature of 60 degree during winter. Cool and dry condition during winter often promote blooming during summer. The blooming period will last around 1 month.
Re-pot - String plants like to be root-bound in small pots so don't rush to move them to larger containers. Be sure any pot you use has drip holes in the bottom. If you need to repot, only go to the next sized pot. Large pots retain too much water and will drown this plant.
Maintenance - The Strings appreciate a regular hair cut to keep full and beautiful. Prune off any dead, damaged or otherwise undesirable stem growth at the base. Also, snip off the tiny, cinnamon-scented flowers after they fade.
Pests - Scale and mealy Bugs can be a problem. Check frequently for pests by examining the backs of the leaves and new growth. If a String Plant becomes infected, spray with 91% Isopropyl Alcohol mixed with water (2 parts Alcohol, 1 part water) or an insecticidal soap at 1/2 the recommended strength.
Propagation - All String Plants can be propagated quite easily through their stems or even their leaves. It's quicker to grow plants from the stems, which still have a few leaves attached. Simply press the stem into the growing medium far enough in to enable it to stay put and then just keep warm and the soil just moist and they should root fast.
If you're using just the leaves you should let the exposed end dry for a day and then pot up in the same way. As mentioned this way of doing it takes more time, but you should still have new growth forming within a matter of weeks.
Potential Problems - Few pests or other problems bother String Plants, but most decline as they age and as their soil is exhausted. Repotting will help prolong their life, as will rooting new plants from the old. Repot younger plants each spring into a draining pot filled with sandy, cactus-formula potting soil. Older plants with very dense, fragile growth should be repotted biannually. Rooting new string of pearls plants from older, declining specimens is a simple means of prolonging their life.
Special Notes - These plants are mildly toxic to people and most pets including cats and dogs. Although the problems caused by ingesting the plant or getting sap on the skin are likely to be minor, care should still be taken to keep them away from curious pets or children especially as the unusual shape of the leaves can be inviting.
Here are a few of the String Plants:
STRING OF DOLPHIN - Senecio peregrinus
Senecio Peregrinus, or also known as String of Dolphin or Dolphin plant, is the kind of succulent that would make you fall in love with instantly! It’s a rare animal-like variety that develops a beautiful curvy leaves which perfectly resemble a pod of little jumping Dolphins. It is a cross-pollination of Senecio Rowleyanus (String of Pearls) and Senecio Articulatus (Hot Dog Cactus), which can grow up to 15 cm (6 inches) tall.
Its very important that your Dolphin gets very bright light. If it does not get adequate light, the leaves will revert back to Senecio Articulatus with wider leaves. Don't fret if this happens, just move it to a brighter location and they should return back into tiny little dolphins again.
STRING OF BANANA - Senecio Radicans
String of Banana’ are native to South Africa where they grow on the ground along with other vegetations as ground cover. These are fast growing succulents with stems that can reach 3ft (90cm) long.
They can store water in their stems and in the plump, banana shaped leaves. These plants are not frost tolerant and need protection from freezing temperatures and also intense heat. They have green leaves that are shaped like mini green bananas, which gives them their common name.
STRING OF FISH HOOKS - Senecio radicans "Fish Hooks"
This trailing succulent is easy to care for member of the Senecio family that has cute fish hook like leaves! It is often confused for String of Bananas because they both share the botanical name Senecio Radicans. Fish hooks have some distinct characteristics that separates it from Bananas. First they have a much thicker, succulent leaf that appears to be a bluish grey. They grow longer, quicker and fill out nicely. And finally, Fish Hooks are a little more drought tolerant than Bananas.
‘Grey Fishhooks Senecio’ is a trailing succulent and is easy to grow and care for and does well both indoor and outdoor. This is the perfect plant if you are looking for a low maintenance hanging basket!
These look amazing at maturity with their trailing stems!
STRING OF BUTTONS - Crassula perforata
String of Buttons is one of the best-loved stacked Crassula species with alternating, triangular leaves of pale green. It is native to South Africa where it grows among rocks and in the crevices of cliffsides and blooms from midsummer to fall. When grown in full sun, the edges can take on a rosy pink hue. It branches freely, growing up to 10.0" tall in cultivation for a nice spilling effect in arrangements. Alternatively, it is easy to keep compact by pruning and replanting.
RUBY NECKLACE - Othonna capensis AKA Little Pickle
Othonna Capensis 'Ruby Necklace' is a beautiful, fast-growing and trailing succulent plant, which grows up to 12 inches (30.5 cm) tall and 24 inches (61 cm) wide. It has long, narrow bean-shaped leaves, that grow on purple to rich ruby red stems. The beans have beautiful colors of green, purple or deep red, the more light they receive the more red they become. The elegant shape and beautiful red color of these bean-shaped leaves look like gem pendants on a necklace, giving it the name 'Ruby Necklace'.
Small daisy-like flowers, yellow in color, can appear all year round, on reddish tall stems above the plant. The plant naturally grows in South Africa where the porous soil gives them well drainage. So you'll also need the same type of well drainage soil for it to grow well.
STRING OF HEARTS - Ceropegia woodii
String of Hearts Plant is a trailing succulent-like plant native to South Africa. The delicate heart-shaped foliage and slender vines can reach up to 12' long in its natural environment. They like heat and bright light but they don’t tolerate direct sunlight. They can be placed indoor in South or West facing window with a lot of light and if outdoor, they can be in bright shade area. One of the easier ways to see if they get sufficient light is to see the color of the leaf and the gaps between leaves: String of Hearts leaves will be wider apart and lighter in color with less marbling if the plant needs more light.
The String of Hearts plant has a succulent-like nature, so they prefer periods of drought between waterings. When the soil is dry 2/3 of the way down in the pot, then the plant is ready for a drink. In the winter months it’s best to allow the soil to dry completely through the pot as these plants go into a dormancy, even indoors. They are sensitive to root rot and overwatering, so when in doubt let it drought.
Rotate your plant periodically to ensure even growth on all sides and dust the leaves often so the plant can photosynthesize efficiently.
STRING OF TURTLES - Peperomia prostrata
String of turtles are native to Brazil. The String of Turtles plant is a succulent. This means that it naturally absorbs water and then stores it in its stems and leaves. While this is an effective survival tool during periods when water is scarce, it is also a double-edged sword for gardeners caring for this plant. The Peperomia Prostata is skilled at balancing its water intake carefully when growing out in nature. It is more difficult when the plant is living in your container and you are controlling the amount of water it has access to. The most common causes of death for these plants are over-watering and under-watering.
Fear not because it isn’t a challenge to avoid harming your plant with too much love. All you have to do is pay attention and follow some simple guidelines. As a rule of thumb, remember that it is always better to under-water than to over-water.
Peperomia Prostata is a small tropical plant that is accustomed to growing in low light environments. If it receives too little light, it will grow fewer leaves, occasionally drop its leaves, and exhibit a drab color. The best light for your plant is morning light or filtered light, and it also enjoys twelve or more hours of artificial light every day. These plants can also grow under a grow light. If you wish to place your plant near a window, it is best to put it near a north- or east-facing window because it prefers to avoid bright sunshine.