String of Pearls


Curio rowleyanus (Previously under the genus of Senecio)



Contents

  1. Top Tips
  2. Location, Water, Humidity & Fertilisation
  3. Common Issues
  4. Origins, Temperature, Propagation, Repotting & Toxicity.


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Top Tips & Info

  • Care Difficulty - Easy
  • A location that promotes a good level of light penetrating the soil's surface is mandatory for the prevention of rotten foliage.
  • String of Pearls (SoP) must endure periods of droughts in between waters - if you're stuck with when to water it, think of the ukhouseplants' phrase of 'drenches between droughts'.
  • Be mindful when watering, avoiding excess moisture to sit on the leaves above the soil to prevent rot. Either be careful when watering or irrigate using the bottom-up method to avoid such a catastrophe.
  • Fertilise every two or three months using either a 'Cactus' or 'Houseplant' labelled feed. 
  • Repot every three years during the spring, using a 'Cactus & Succulent' potting mix and the next sized pot. Be careful of breaking its delicate vines, but equally, can be propagated if separated from the plant.




Location & Light - 🔸🔸🔸

Perfecting the amount of light an SoP receives is crucial for a long-lasting specimen. During the spring and summer, be sure to provide a brightly lit spot away from any direct sunlight. Excessive exposure during this time will negatively affect the plant in the likes of sun-scorch and dehydration. Once the autumn kicks in, be sure to include an hour or two of direct light per day to get it through the dormancy period, lasting until the following spring.

Avoid shady locations or shelves if possible, as the lack of light hitting the soil's surface will only increase the risk of basal rot. If you're worried about its location being too dark, if a newspaper can be read while having your back towards the window, you're good to go.


Water - 🔸

Allow all of the soil to dry out in between waters, ensuring that the pot feels very light before another hydration. Although pouring water directly through the foliage is acceptable if situated in a sunny location, irrigate using the bottom-up method to be extra sure. Place the pot on a saucer of water (25% submerged) until thorough absorption to provide deep hydration. Wetting the foliage every time you come to hydrate the plant will allow excess moisture to settle, causing the leaves to yellow and rot away. Over-watering symptoms include rapidly yellowing or shrivelling leaves, mushy foliage and eventual plant death; scroll down to 'Common Issues' for more information. Under-watering symptoms include deflated leaves, little to no growth and gradual foliage decline. Be sure to study its environment; a position that offers too much sunlight will dry out the soil far too quickly and will eventually scorch the plant's leaves; move to a darker location.


Humidity -

This isn't a factor; however, a quick hose-down once a month will help with hydration of leaves, but will also help wash off excess dust and possible pests.


Fertilisation - 🔸

Fertilise every two months during the growing period and every three months in the autumn & winter to replicate its dormancy period. Although a 'Houseplant' fertiliser will still do the job, we'd recommend using a specific 'Cactus' labelled feed as it'll support the vital thirteen nutrients that this species will need to grow.




Common Issues with String of Pearls

Root rot is a common problem among specimens sat in too dark environments with prolonged soil moisture. Symptoms include rapidly wilting leaves, mouldy soil, stunted growth and a rotten brown base. Take the plant out of the pot and inspect health below the compost line. If the roots sport a yellow tinge, you're good to go, but those that are brown and mushy must be addressed immediately. More information about managing root rot can be found on this link.

A lack of leaves on the soil's top could be the product of excess moisture settling on the foliage. Although watering from the top is best, it's recommended to use the bottom-up method if you're a messy waterer. For specimens that have a bare head, improve growing conditions by using this method and increasing the light levels and air circulation. Take vine cuttings to promote a bushier appearance above the soil line - scroll down to 'Propagation' for more information. Finally, always remove yellowed or rotten debris from the soil as it could harbour both bacterial and fungal diseases, which will continue the plant's decline. 

Failed vine cuttings are a problem among gardeners, with damaged wounds or too small vines being the usual culprits. Although propagating SoP is relatively easy, people still find it hard to ace. Scroll down to 'Propagation' for more information.

Reddened leaves are the product of too much sunlight, most common during the height of summer. A pigmentation called 'Carotenoids' will alter the appearance of the foliage to counteract the harsh effects of the UV rays. Although this isn't a permanent look, and the specimen will still function adequately, it'll grow far better and quicker in a slightly shadier location with only a splash of direct sun. Still providing an hour or so of bright light will lessen the effect of environmental shock and potential death.



Vine propagation of String of Pearls.



Origins

Curio rowleyanus originates from the Cape provinces in South Africa, forming thick mats across the rhizosphere of larger trees and nearby rocks. The species was first described by Hermann Jacobsen as Senecio rowleyanus in 1968, before being relocated into newly constructed, Curio, by Paul V. Heath thirty years later. Senecio can be translated to 'old man', referring to the fruits' hairy appearance, whereas Curio refers to the curiosity of many species' appearance across the genus. You may have noticed some bands around the pearls; these are in fact 'epidermal windows' that allow light into the centre, increasing the leaf's surface area and photosynthetic rates, while reducing the risk of water loss.


The Distribution of Curio rowleyanus. 


Temperature

15° - 26°C   (59° - 78°F)
H1a (Hardiness Zone 13) - Must be grown indoors or under glass all year round. Never allow temperatures to dip below 15℃  (59℉)  or permanent damage may occur in the likes of flower loss, stunted growth and blackened or yellowed leaves.


Spread

Up to 80cm in length with its width solely relying on the diameter of the pot. The ultimate height will take between 3 - 5 years to achieve, but can live over twenty years or more in the right care.


Pruning & Maintenance

Remove yellow or dying leaves, and plant debris to encourage better-growing conditions. While pruning, always use clean utensils or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases. Never cut through yellowed tissue as this may cause further damage in the likes of diseases or bacterial infections. Remember to make clean incisions as too-damaged wounds may shock the plant, causing weakened growth and a decline in health.


Removing the older leaves and submerging the cutting's bare half is a great way to increase rooting speeds. Be sure to keep the foliage above the soil line to avoid the risk of rot. Coil the vines to reduce the rate of water loss via transpiration.


Propagation

Vine Cuttings (Moderate) - Choose the healthiest stems located at the vine terminals; these should be damage-free and wholly plump. Cut off at least five inches and remove the older half of the leaves for the reduction of transpiration (moisture loss). Use a well-draining potting mix, preferably 'Cactus & Succulent' compost, and coil the vine in a circular shape, pinning it down with a paper clip. Cover the older half in half an inch of soil (the area where you removed the leaves) to promote quicker root development. Try not to cover the actual foliage with soil as this will harm its light-capturing efficiency, along with higher rates of rotting. Place the potted cuttings into a transparent bag and mist the soil and foliage once a week to maintain high humidity. Situate it in a bright, indirect setting with temperatures above 18°C (64°F). Be sure to pierce a few holes in the bag and actively remove any yellow or rotten debris to present a healthier environment. As the roots will develop first, remove the bag and treat it as an adult specimen once there are signs of new foliar development.


Flowers

Small, trumpet-shaped white flowers will develop along the vine during spring to early summer, once the plant has matured. The quality of its blooms largely relies on the quality of the dormancy period served in the previous autumn and winter. To replicate its dormancy period:

  1. Reduce temperatures down to around 15°C (59°F) from late autumn until early spring, with little watering.
  2. Allow all of the soil to dry out for around a fortnight in between irrigation thoroughly.
  3. Provide a few hours of off-peak direct sunlight with little fertilisation throughout this period to ensure a good dormancy. 


Repotting 

Repot every three years in the spring, using a 'Cactus & Succulent' labelled potting mix and the next sized pot with adequate drainage. SoP are far better potbound for several years due to the heightened risk of root rot and repotting-issues (like transplant shock), so only repot if you feel it's wholly necessary - restricted root growth will also increase the chance of blooms, too.

Hydrate the plant 24hrs before tinkering with the roots to prevent the risk of transplant shock. For those situated in a darker location, introduce an extra amount of perlite and grit into the deeper portion of the pot to downplay over-watering risks. Click on this link for a detailed step-by-step guide on transplantation, or via this link to learn about repotting with root rot.


Pests & Diseases

Keep an eye out for mealybugsaphidsscalewhiteflyblackfly & root mealybugs that'll locate themselves in the cubbyholes and undersides of the leaves, except for the latter in soil. Common diseases associated with SoP are root rot, botrytis & southern blight - click here to learn more about these issues.


Toxicity

This plant is classified as poisonous, so if small sections are eaten, vomiting, nausea, and a loss of appetite may occur. Consumption of large quantities must be dealt with quickly; acquire medical assistance for further information.




Retail Locations

Some garden centres will stock this species from time to time, for around the same price as online specimens.



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