Easy Care Plant Nightmares

By Teo Spengler | August 26, 2022
Image by Jessica Ruscello
by Teo Spengler
August 26, 2022

Not every person has the magic touch with every plant. That’s why I often advise friends and neighbors to select easy care plants when they are trying something new. Sadly though, plants labeled “easy care” do not come with any type of guarantee. 

Every gardener, no matter how experienced, has a tale to tell about an easy care plant that turned into mush and broken dreams. My own particular bete noire was the string of pearls plant.

String of Pearls Plant

The string of pearls is one cool succulent. I fell in love with this unique plant when I took some clothes to a dry cleaner and saw three hanging baskets in the shop window, trailing stems cascading from each. The stems are laden with tiny, green, pearl-shaped leaves, and they spill over the sides of the baskets with grace and allure.

I looked them up on the internet and found that they were called string of pearls plants, currently known botanically as Curio rowleyanus, but perhaps better known by their former botanical name, Senecio rowleyanus. The articles – and there were many – assured me that these plants were easy to grow and even easier to propagate from cuttings.

Easy to Propagate

I decided to try easy to propagate first. When I went to pick up my dry cleaning, I asked the owner if I could have a cutting from one of the plants. He was happy to clip me off a few 6 inch (15 cm.) stems that I took home and placed in water.

Just put them in water, the articles said. I waited, checking them every few days. In about a week, there was activity, some white threads appearing along the stems. As time passed, however, it became clear that these were not roots, but mold. The entire stems finally rotted, and everybody got thrown away.

Easy Care Plant

I gave up trying to propagate one of these vining succulents with their green-pea leaves. Instead, I took myself out to my favorite garden store to buy a potted string of pearls. Forget the cuttings and the hanging basket. I placed the pot on a sunny windowsill to enjoy it.

The plant looked great for a few weeks, then started crisping. The last little peas on each stalk turned a suspicious shade of golden, then they turned brown and dried. I shrugged, clipped them off, and waited some more. The dryness creeped up the stems, touching pea leaf after pea leaf.

I reviewed the plant’s cultural care. Sandy, well-drained soil. Check. Ample direct sun every morning with indirect the rest of the day. Check. Regularly moist soil. Check. Warm temperatures. Heck, it was in the house! It lasted a few more months, slowly going downhill, until I finally gave it away to let someone else watch it die. I saw it about a month ago. It is filling a hanging basket and cascading down for several feet (1 m.).

So, what happened? As an experienced houseplant writer and garden expert, I came to the only conclusion possible: The plant just didn’t like me. 

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