String of Rubies: How to Grow and Care for Them

String of Rubies

If you like trailing succulents, you will absolutely love the string of rubies (Othonna capensis). Sometimes called the ‘string of pickles’ or ‘ruby necklace,’ this succulent is known for its reddish-purple stem and thin oval leaves. It is a member of the Asteraceae family and a close cousin of several succulents, including string of dolphins, string of bananas, and string of pearls. Are you ready to add String of Rubies to your collection? Here is everything you should know about growing and caring for it.

Common Characteristics

While it is closely related to many trailing succulents, the string of rubies stands out due to its oval leaves, which turn ruby-red when the plant is stressed. This bright color change explains the name. Other facts you should know about the string of rubies include:

  • Common names: String of rubies, string of pickles, ruby necklace
  • Botanical Name: Othonna capensis
  • Native Area: South Africa
  • Mature Size: 2 inches
  • Flower Color: Yellow
  • Bloom Time: Fall, summer, spring
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic to both humans and pets

Propagation

You can easily propagate the string of rubies through stem cuttings. Each cutting should have at least 2 to 3 nodes for proper propagation. While you can root your cuttings in either soil or water, you will get the best results by using soil because your cuttings face less risk of rotting. Here is how to go about it:

  • Fill a shallow pot or tray with succulent or cactus soil.
  • Place your cuttings on top of the soil.
  • Keep the soil moist – not waterlogged – until the cuttings produce growth and roots.

If you want to propagate your cuttings in water, remove the bottom leaves from them to expose the nodes and stem. Place the exposed end of the cutting in clean water, ensuring that at least 1 or 2 nodes are fully submerged in the water. You can place your setup in a glass container, which should allow you to monitor the root development of your cuttings. Remember to change the water every week. Once the roots have developed, transfer the stems to moist soil and keep the soil so for at least one week.

Potting and Repotting

Generally, the string of rubies does not require frequent repotting and will actually benefit from being slightly root-bound. You can repot every two to three years. However, make sure the new pot you use has a drainage hole and is only one size larger than the previous pot. A terracotta pot is also preferable because the material tends to absorb excess moisture from the soil and prevent overwatering.

Caring for Your String of Rubies

If you care for your String of Rubies properly, it will reward you with a beautiful display of delicate yellow flowers for most of the year. This succulent is very easy to grow and, being native to South Africa, loves to be in the sun. Its oval, bean-like leaves also make it drought resistant because they can store water for long periods. Here are the conditions you should provide your growing string of rubies:

Light

As mentioned, the string of rubies loves sunlight, so place it next to a south-facing window that gets at least six hours of bright, direct sunlight a day. If you are growing it outdoors, it will do well in partial shade to full sun conditions. Placing your string of rubies under direct sunlight will turn its leaves ruby red, which is a sight to behold. However, if you keep it under low light, the succulent will likely become leggy, and the leaves will turn back to green. You can use strong grow lights if your area is not sunny.

Temperature and Humidity

This succulent will grow well in warm temperatures so keep the levels well above 50° Fahrenheit (10°C) at all times. If your string of rubies is exposed to temperatures below this for a long time, they will suffer extreme stress. You should also avoid keeping the plant next to a drafty window in the winter if you are growing it indoors. Typical household humidity and temperature levels should do just fine.

Water

Strings of rubies do not require too frequent watering, and you should let your plant dry out completely between waterings. This is so you can prevent root rot which happens when succulents are overwatered. When watering, add water thoroughly, letting any excess moisture drain out of the pot. You should then allow the soil to dry out before your next watering.

Soil

The string or rubies will thrive in well-draining soil with an acidic pH of between 6.0 to 6.5. If you are up to it, you can create your own soil mix by adding sand, pumice, and perlite to regular potting soil. Alternatively, you can buy commercial succulent and cactus soil mixes.

Fertilizer

Like most succulents, this plant is not a heavy feeder, and you do not need to fertilize it regularly. You can support new growth by feeding it several times in the spring and summer as long as the fertilizer you use is low in nitrogen.

Pruning

Pruning your string or rubies involves removing dead stems and leaves to keep the succulent tidy. It is best to do it at the start of the growing season to promote growth, especially if the stems are straggly.

Common Pests and Diseases

Strings of rubies can fall prey to sap-sucking pests that affect other houseplants. This includes mealybugs which can significantly compromise the health of your plant. To mitigate the problem, inspect your succulent regularly so you can catch possible infestations in their early stages. If your string of rubies is already infested, treat it with insecticidal soap, neem oil, or rubbing alcohol.

Conclusion

Also called ruby necklace or string of pickles, the String of Rubies is a beautiful, easy to grow succulent that will light up your home or garden if grown under the right conditions. Its bean-shaped leaves allow it to adapt to drought conditions and give it the ruby red color it is named for when exposed to direct sunlight. String of rubies does not require watering too frequently as its fleshy stems and leaves store moisture. All you need to do is keep the soil moist and keep the plant in the sun.

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