Variegated String of Pearls

Variegated String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus variegata)

The Variegated String of Pearls is a wish-list succulent for many collectors. Although, it can be a bit tricky to care for. This post will cover Variegated String of Pearls care tips.

Curio rowleyanus variegata, is formerly known as Senecio rowleyanus variegata. And commonly referred to as the Variegated String of Pearls. Indeed a stunning succulent with trailing stems and pearl-like leaves. Pearls are swirled in green, cream, and sometimes even pink or purple with the right amount of water and sun stress.

As with most variegated plants, Senecio rowleyanus variegata grows slower than the non-variegated version. In fact, this is because they lack some of the chlorophyll that an all green leaf possesses. With sufficient sunlight the variegation stays constant and some pearls may even be solid cream. 

The thin, string-like stems trail elegantly, cascading up to 3 feet (90 cm) long and are easily propagated. Indeed, this trailing succulent is perfect in hanging baskets or training from a shelf. In frost free climates (zone 10+), it also thrives outdoors as a ground cover. Personally, I think it is even more beautiful than actual pearls.

Variegated String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus variegata)
Variegated String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus variegata)

Scientific Name:

Senecio rowleyanus Variegata or Curio rowleyanus Variegata

Also known as:

Curio rowleyanus f. Variegata, Senecio Rowleyanus F. Variegata, Senecio rowleyanus variegata, Senecio rowleyanus f. Variegatus, Curio rowleyanus f. Variegatus, Variegated String of Beads, Variegated Pearls Plant

Senecio rowleyanus variegata can be grown inside in a bright airy room, or outside with some afternoon shade. This air purifying plant is the perfect way to improve indoor air quality at home or the office. Actually cleaning toxins from the air wherever it is placed. 

Variegated String of Pearls Care is generally the same as it is for the non-variegated Pearls plant. However, they tend to be more sensitive to light. Indeed because the variegated parts lack the chlorophyll to process it.

Senecio rowleyanus variegata tends to like bright, indirect light. Although, it can handle some mild early morning sun. In summer, be careful as some mornings might even be too hot for Variegated String of Pearls. Keep an eye on them depending on your climate. 

Afternoon intense heat may be too much for your Variegated Pearls Plant. They can actually sunburn just like humans. Thus, causing scarring to pearls and the stems. In fact, they will literally shrivel up and die if exposed to intense sunlight for too long.

See Related Article: Sunburned Succulent Care

Variegated plants typically need more sun than solid green plants because they don’t have as much chlorophyll to absorb light. If your Variegated String of Pearls does not get sufficient light, its growth may slow or drop pearls. A grow light may be needed in fall or winter to provide adequate light. Also, make sure your grow light is six or more inches (15 cm) away from your plant to avoid burns.

If your pearls are burned just a little bit you will be fine leaving them. However if they are badly burned they will eventually shrivel up and die. Carefully remove any dead or dying pearls. 

See Related Article: String of Pearls Dying (10 common problems)

Variegated String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus variegata)
Pink Variegated String of Pearls

Variegated String of Pearls Pink?

Are your Variegated String of Pearls Pink? With the perfect combination of sun stress and less water, you may notice your variegated pearls blushing with hints of pink.

Also, new growth goes pink when they are thirsty and have enough light. Additionally, new pink growth typically means the pearl will be white and completely lack chlorophyll. 

New growth can often have pink coloring, especially if it’s cold. Although, it generally goes away as it develops. Make sure you don’t give it too much direct sun/light, as variegation lacks protection. Mine prefer bright, indirect light, especially during the summer. Though they can usually handle partial, morning sun during the winter when the sun is weaker.

Variegated String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus variegata)
Purple Variegated String of Pearls

String of Pearls Purple

My Variegated String of Pearls have new growths that come in purple. Usually new purple growth means that pearl will eventually turn green or a mottled green/white variegation. I have never had any luck keeping them purple, but definitely wish they would.

Each pearl has a transparent line called an epidermal window. These “windows” allow light to enter, effectively increasing the area available for photosynthesis. When the Variegated String of Pearls is actively conserving water, the epidermal windows close. This means that it is safe to give them water.

Therefore, wait until your pearls look thirsty before you water. Not shriveled, but part of the lines down the sides (epidermal windows) will look more closed. I only water when at least 25% of the pearls pucker along their windows or they start to look more oblong than spherical. 

These plants love water, but only, and I mean ONLY when they’ve been allowed to dry out between waterings. A slight wrinkling of the leaves indicates the plant is ready for water.

Variegated String of Pearls hate sitting in wet soil and will turn into mush if they are left for prolonged periods of time. The biggest thing is appropriate soil and making sure you wait until it’s actually thirsty before you water.

I typically water about once every two weeks, and even less in winter. Variegated String of Pearls are succulents. Therefore, they hold water in their pearls and are drought tolerant. When I water a Variegated String of Pearls, I generally bottom water. 

How to Bottom Water Plants 

First, fill a larger container with water up to at least 3/4 the height of the pot. Second, set your pot in the water and allow water to be pulled up through the drainage hole by capillary action. Third, allow it to sit for 15+ minutes or until the surface soil is moist. Finally, remove the pot and allow the water to drain out.

Even though I bottom water my plants, I will also occasionally water from the top. I do this so water can run from the top of the plant and then out of the bottom of the pot. Thus flushing out any salts in the soil. 

However, if you water from the top, this lets beads of water sit on the pearls. Make sure water on the leaves has dried before putting them back in the sun. The water on the pearls acts as a magnifier and it will fry them in the sun.

Choosing the right soil goes hand in hand with correct watering techniques for String of Pearls. Specifically knowing when to water and which soil to use are vital to making your Variegated String of Pearls thrive.

The best soil for Variegated String of Pearls is a well-draining and well-aerated soil mix. They need excellent drainage to thrive. Therefore, I always swap out the cheap nursery soil that succulents come in with a Cactus and Succulent soil mix. Additionally, I also add pumice or perlite for even better additional drainage. 

If using regular potting soil, I highly recommend adding coarse sand in addition to the pumice or perlite. Allowing for better aeration and helping the soil to drain excess water.

Plant Variegated String of Pearls in a terracotta pot. Seriously, if there’s one thing that will help your Pearls plant thrive, it’s that. In fact, you save yourself the guesswork because the terracotta help with excess moisture allows all of the soil to dry out. String of Pearls plants are succulents so it’s better to err on the side of too little water than too much. 

I am a “leave your plants in the nursery pot” type of person, unless the plant is a succulent. They will survive in plastic pots, but really thrive in terra cotta pots. 

Their roots are thin and shallow, therefore a smaller pot is ideal. In fact, Variegated String of Pearls generally prefer when their roots are slightly root bound. However, if your Pearls plant outgrows its container it’s best to re-pot in spring or summer. 

Always plant the crown of the plant at the top of the pot or slightly lower. No deeper than 1 inch (2.5 cm) below the top of the pot. In fact, this will help with aeration.

Inspect the roots while repotting to check for any signs of rot. Definitely trim any wet and slimy, black or dark brown roots with clean pruning shears. Hold off on watering for a few days so any wounds can heal.

Your Variegated String of Pearls loves a dry and warm environment. The optimal temperature range is between 70-80°F (21-26°C). At night keep temperatures above 40°F (4.4°C). They do not like cold weather and need protection from frost.

Also, in winter, they prefer temperatures between 50-70°F (10-21°C). Senecio rowleyanus variegata hates cold drafts which can cause leaf drop and damage their stems. Be sure to bring plants indoors in cooler winter months as they can’t survive freezing temperatures.

The average humidity in homes is around 30-50% and just right for Variegated String of Pearls. In fact, humidity that is too high can cause the soil to retain too much water. Thus, leading to root rot or even death for your Variegated Pearls plant.

Variegated String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus variegata)
Variegated String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus variegata)

Variegated String of Pearls does not need a lot of fertilizer. However, a well-balanced fertilizer can help with overall health and encourage new growth. Feed your Variegated Pearls plant during spring and summer, which is their active growing season. 

Be sure to apply fertilizer while watering or right after watering. Never apply fertilizer to a very dry Pearls Plant. Besides this can cause the fertilizer to be misplaced and ineffective. Whereas, fertilizer will be absorbed by the roots when there is sufficient moisture in the soil.

Do not to over fertilize your Variegated String of Pearls. Especially because this can lead to root damage, etiolation, stunted growth, brown leaves, and make the plant weak. Additionally, only fertilize the soil, avoiding the stems and pearls. 

In addition to fertilizer, I always add a light layer of worm castings on the top of the soil. It really does wonders for succulents.

White daisy-like flowers bloom on Variegated String of Pearls in summer. Additionally, these dainty flowers have a sweet cinnamon smell. Blooms will last for about a month, but remove them as soon as they die so as to not attract unwanted pests.

To encourage your Variegated Spring of Pearls to flower, they will need some colder temperatures (max of 60°F/16°C) in late autumn and winter.  Along with cooler temps, the soil needs to completely dry out before watering.

Variegated String of Pearls propagates easiest via clippings. Cuttings can be trasfered to water or soil. In fact, you can simply clip a cutting and lay it on the soil to root.

Be sure to let the ends callous over before inserting it into the soil. Visit our complete guide on how to Propagate String of Pearls (senecio rowleyanus) here.

If your Variegated String of Pearls is growing long or leggy, you might have to prune it back. Also, trim off any yellowing, damaged or dead vines. Definitely use sharp pruning shears when doing so.

String of Pearls vs Variegated String of Pearls
String of Pearls vs Variegated String of Pearls

The leaves of the Variegated String of Pearls lack some chlorophyll which results in slower growth when compared to the solid green String of Pearls. Additionally, the variegated version is more sensitive to light. However, besides growth, light sensitivity, and color everything else is pretty much the same.

Furthermore both String of Pearls varieties have pom pom like blooms that smell like cinnamon and both are air purifying plants.

In closing

I hope you learned more about Variegated String of Pearls care. This stunning trailing succulent will be sure to brighten up your home or office. Follow our tips listed above to grow a happy and healthy Variegated String of Pearls

Growing the Senecio rowleyanus Variegata can be tricky, but this beauty is definitely worth it. Thanks so much for reading and as always, happy planting!

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