There are many reasons to grow succulents around your home

Story and Photography by Brittany May

Succulents are a great way to begin gardening, teaching children to garden, or building the confidence of a person who doesn’t exactly have a “green thumb.” Succulents seem to thrive when you ignore them. They require very little care after planting. In fact, making sure the pot has good drainage, and that the soil has extra pumice and horticultural sand to promote drainage is as difficult as it gets. Thoroughly watering your succulents once every week or two is usually enough. 

Succulents are available in a variety of textures and colors.

If you have ever looked at the little succulent section of the garden center, you have seen the myriad of colors, textures, and sizes that are available. You can have so much fun learning to mix and match all of your favorites to create the most unique vignettes. Don’t be afraid! Be willing to make some mistakes, and you will have so much fun! Of course, you will find a favorite that you just love to grow!

String of Pearls
If you are ready to start growing succulents now, I would suggest beginning with the lovely variety known as string of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus). This simple little plant adds so much whimsy to any area of the garden, porch, or windowsill. And, if you don’t have a green thumb, this is an excellent plant to start with. They even bloom an adorable little white flower with colored stamens. 

String of pearls about to bloom.

Many years ago, I had several pots of these odd little plants, but for one reason or another, I no longer had them. I stumbled across this lovely planter at a local garden shop, and of course, the beautiful string of pearls was sitting right next to it. So, I had to start growing then once again, and yes, I have missed them. 

This lovely little plant is great for anyone. It is compact and so simple to grow that it makes a perfect addition to a small apartment! Whether you place it on your windowsill, or plant a hanging basket. It will add a touch of green and life to any spot! You can also trim this plant very easily to maintain a size and shape that is perfect for your area.

String of pearls is easy to maintain, and actually doesn’t appreciate too much attention. If it is over 45 F, leave it outside in the direct sunlight. This plant thrives in warm temperatures, but also needs a period of dormancy. However, once it dips below 45 F at night, bring it indoors and set it near a window where it will still receive around six hours of light a day. Avoid placing next to a heating source, or air vent. 

If you purchased your plant from a garden center and it is in a plastic pot with gardening soil, the first thing you will want to do is re-pot it immediately. The plastic pot will hold moisture. Choosing an unglazed terra-cotta pot is a much better choice, as it will allow moisture to escape. Just like the other succulents, string of pearls prefers well-soil. Adding pumice and sand to normal potting soil will work, or you can find soil that has been pre-mixed for succulents.

When watering, it is best to drench it very well, then forget about it for a week or two. Too much water, and you will likely have a problem with root rot.

Trimming and pruning the stems are good for the plant. Take any stem that seems to be dropping pearls and cut it back. This will promote healthy new growth. 

I love putting them in containers like this or hanging baskets so the tendrils can grow long. Your new plant will start off very small, but with a little care, the tendrils can easily reach 2-3 feet long. The pearls themselves actually hold water for the plant, and you can tell when it is getting too dry because the pearls (leaves) will begin to shrivel.

String of pearls in chicken planter.

Another neat thing about this plant is the fact that you can easily create more! When everyone starts begging for a cutting, or you just want more plants, you can simply trim off a 5-6-inch piece, remove the pearls from 1-2 inches of the stem, and push it into the soil. In just a of couple weeks, new roots will begin to form. Be careful, this can be very addictive, and may lead to obsessive string of pearl propagating

Once again, string of pearls does not like attention. You can fertilize it in the spring, maybe once. Never fertilize it  in the winter during its dormant time. There are speciality fertilizers created for succulents, or something simple like worm castings would be perfectly fine.

The downside to this plant is that it is toxic. Because of this, it may not be the ideal indoor plant if you have young children or pets. The pearls, if ingested, can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and the liquid inside the pearls can irritate the skin. For these reasons, special care should be taken if this is going to be an indoor plant.

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