Senecio Rowleyanus ‘String of Pearls’ and Senecio Radicans ‘String of Bananas’ are two very similar plants in not only how they look, but also in their growing habits, care and propagation. Both are native to South Africa where they grow on the ground along with other vegetation as ground cover. In their native habitat, they creep on the ground and grow vine-like. In cultivation, they are extremely popular plants for hanging baskets or trailing arrangements.
The major difference between the two plants is the way their leaves are shaped. Senecio Rowleyanus ‘String of Pearls’ have pea-shaped, round leaves; whereas Senecio Radicans ‘String of Bananas’ have banana-shaped, curved leaves. I find String of Banana plants hardier than String of Pearls and more forgiving. If you are a beginner, you may want to try your luck with a String of Bananas first.
Senecio Rowleyanus ‘String of Pearls’
Senecio Radicans ‘String of Bananas’
Propagating methods for both of these plants are exactly the same. I have propagated both plants by using three easy methods. All three methods use stem cuttings. When you cut a strand from these plants, the stem will split into two, three, or more stems and continue growing. The plant roots anywhere along the stem.
This picture shows a strand that has split into three and you can see roots growing along the stems.
How to Propagate String of Pearls and String of Bananas Using Stem Cuttings:
First thing you need to do is to choose a strand to cut. It is better to cut from long, mature stems. Another reason why it is good to pick mature stems is oftentimes these stems would already have roots growing along the stems, which makes them easier to propagate.
Choose the ones with leaves that are plump and firm, not dehydrated, shriveled or mushy. It is better to take a few stem cuttings to propagate just in case you lose one or two in the process.
Unlike other succulent plants, String of Pearls and String of Bananas’ stems are thin so you do not have to wait that long for the stems to dry. Where I live, the climate is very dry so I just let it sit for a couple of hours and that’s usually good enough. If you live in a more humid climate, you can give it about a day or two to dry and that should be sufficient. The reason you want to wait for the cut stems to dry is you want the cut to seal and heal before you proceed with propagation to keep fungus or bacteria out.
Optional: Stick the cuttings in rooting hormone. I tend to skip this part. Others like to stick their cuttings in rooting hormone to speed up the rooting process and to help prevent fungus and bacterial growth.
After obtaining your stem cuttings, there are three easy ways to propagate these plants.
First Method – Stick Cuttings in Soil:
Step 1: Stick the cuttings in soil. Cut at least two inches or more from the bottom the plant. Take the cuttings and stick the ends in soil. You may remove a few of the pearls or beads from the stem to them longer and easier to stick in the soil. Use the same end that you cut off to stick in the soil for it to root faster.
Step 2: Use a well draining potting mix. I like to use a combination of cactus mix and perlite (1:1 solution). You can also add coarse sand to this mixture (1:1:1 solution) for added drainage.
Step 3: Wait for the plant to root and new growth to develop. Around 2 weeks later, you will notice roots starting to shoot out. After another 2 weeks or so, you may notice new growth developing from the top of the plant.
Step 4: Keep away from direct sunlight to prevent sunburn while propagating and rooting the cuttings.
Step 5: Mist the soil every few days or when the soil feels dry. Once rooted and more established, stop misting and switch to regular watering. You can decrease the frequency of watering to about once a week or less, depending on the humidity in your area.
Stick the ends in soil like this
I’m propagating these stems that have broken off after a windy, stormy night.
Second Method – Lay on Soil:
Step 1: Lay the cuttings flat on the soil, letting the stem touch the soil. The plant will shoot out roots from anywhere it touches the soil. This way you can start out with a fuller top and eventually have the plants trail. Use a well draining potting mix. I like to use cactus soil combined with perlite (1:1 solution). You can also add coarse sand to the solution to add drainage (1:1:1).
Step 2: If the stem already has roots growing on it, try to place the stem so that the roots are digging in the soil. You may need to use something to hold the stems in place. I like using paper clips cut in half. I use them to hold the stems down so the roots also stay down.
Step 3: Mist the soil every few days or when the soil feels dry. Once rooted and more established, stop misting and switch to watering the plant. You can decrease the frequency of watering to about once a week or less, depending on the humidity in your area.
Step 4: New roots will emerge in around two weeks. If you use stem cuttings that already have roots growing, it will take faster for the plant to be established in the new potting mix.
Step 5: Keep away from direct sunlight to prevent sunburn.
Lay the stem cuttings flat on the soil like this. Try to stick the existing roots into the soil.
You can actually use both methods of propagation mentioned above at the same time, especially if you have a larger or wider pot. That way you start out with a full top and a trailing plant all at once.
Here’s a fun project that I recently finished using both methods. I wanted a full top so I layed some stem cuttings on soil. But I also wanted some of the strands trailing so I stuck some of the stems in the soil. This way I have a fuller looking finish with trailing stems.
I love upcycling materials that are no longer in use. This was such a fun project using my kids’ old Elmo potty chair. I had my husband poke some holes in the bottom of the yellow cup and I used it as a planter. I filled it with cactus mix and perlite.
The ‘flush’ still works and my kids get a kick out of flushing mama’s plant down the toilet. And just in case you’re wondering, yes, it has been cleaned and sanitized.
Third Method – Water Propagation:
Step 1: Water propagation. Take the cuttings and stick the very tip in water. It does not seem to matter much what kind of water to use. I like to use purified water.
Step 2: You will start noticing new roots growing in water in about 2-3 weeks.
Step 3: After about 4 weeks or when you see a lot of new roots, you can transplant to a well draining potting mix. I recommend using a cactus mix combined with perlite, about 1:1 solution.
Step 4: Mist the soil every few days or when it feels dry. Stop misting and switch to regular watering once the plant is more established. Decrease the frequency of watering to no more than once a week, less in humid areas. You will know if plant is established once you see new growth growing from the top of the plant.
Step 5: Keep away from direct sunlight to prevent sunburn.
String of Pearls rooting in water
String of Bananas propagating in water
The only thing I have not really attempted to propagate is through the little round leaves or banana shaped leaves. I’ve heard of some people that have propagated these plants through leaves. It is no doubt that the whole process will take a lot longer than propagating from stem cuttings. Be prepared to wait for a much longer time if you want to propagate these plants through leaves. It will take a lot more time and patience for sure but anything is possible.
What I do is I stick the little round leaves back in the pot whenever I find any of them lose. Whether they root or not I am not quite sure. The little banana leaves are not as fragile and do not fall off as much or as easily so I have never really had to stick them back in the pot.
These are the three easy methods of propagating String of Pearls and String of Bananas plants. I’ve been on a propagating frenzy lately. My String of Bananas plant has been growing like crazy and I have all these long trailing stems screaming to be propagated. So I have been taking cuttings and propagating them in different pots and containers.
Here’s my latest propagation project where I have both String of Pearls and String of Bananas planted in this hanging basket. As you can see, I used the second method of laying the stems flat on the soil. They may not look that great yet, but soon they will be trailing down this hanging basket.
Try these methods out. I’ve been propagating my String of Pearls and String of Bananas this way and have them growing in multiple pots all over my yard. Soon you will have a few of them everywhere.
These are some of my String of Pearls and String of Bananas that I have propagated and grown in different pots over time. What are you waiting for? Get propagating so you can spread these beauties around!
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