How to Plant, Grow, and Care for String of Buttons

Crassula perforata, or string of buttons, is a versatile succulent that can be planted indoors or out. Rachel Garcia explains everything you need to know about growing this adorable plant.

Caring for string of buttons

Contents

Crassula perforata is an impressive-looking succulent that’s great for beginners. It comes in varying shades of green, blue, grey, and pink. The chunky, triangular leaves spiral around the stem, hence the common name string of buttons. Such a charming plant will elevate any space, including yours.

String of buttons is a versatile succulent. It’s commonly found in terrariums and rock gardens. Because of its sprawling nature, it also grows well as a ground cover and in hanging baskets. When planted outside, it attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

Hopefully, you’re considering growing Crassula perforata by now. So let’s learn all about the succulent that’s ‘cute as a button’.

Overview

This succulent comes in a variety of colors and shapes.
Plant Type Succulent
Family Crassulaceae
Genus Crassula
Species Crassula perforata
Exposure Partial sun
Height 12′-24′
Watering Requirements Low
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Succulent mix

What is String of Buttons?

Close up of a plant with long stems that have rows of small, button like leaves stacked on top of one another.
These are fast growing plants that blend into any garden terrain.

Crassula perforata, also called pagoda plant or necklace vine, is a fast grower. It shoots up and out in the spring and fall and goes dormant in the summer. The stems clump and grow over other plants. They will even grow through neighboring bushes. 

When matured, your string of buttons might surprise you with some flowers in the spring. These small, star-shaped beauties grow in clusters of yellow, white, or pink. To increase the chances of flowering, give your plant a slight night and day temperature difference. It also needs a colder but above-freezing winter temperature.

Because it’s native to South Africa, Crassula perforata needs a warm climate. If you live in USDA Zones 9-11, you’re one of the lucky ones who can grow this plant outside year-round. If you live in a colder area, it makes a great houseplant too.

Types of Crassula Perforata

Close up of several tall stems with layers of small triangular shaped leaves stacked on top of each other. Each leaf is a dark green with red edges.
With hundreds of species to choose from you are sure to find something to fit your garden and your style.

The Crassula genus has roughly 200 species. Many of these species share common names, such as string of buttons. Because of this, it can be tricky to track down exactly what you’re looking for. To help, here are two common varieties of the perforata species.

Crassula perforata ‘Variegata’

Close up of several tall stems with small, green striped leaves stacked on top of one another on each stem.
This variety is known for its unique stripes and different color variations.

The ‘Variegata’ variety displays a myriad of colors from green to yellow to pink. Some have rainbow-esque edges and others are striped.

Crassula perforata ssp. kougaensis

Top view and close up of several stems with stacked, plump, pointed leaves that fade from light reen to red around the edges.
This variety is known for its pink edges and speckled dots.

This subspecies is pretty standard-looking. The leaves feature vibrant, reddish-pink edges. They’re also speckled with pink or white dots.

Crassula perforata vs Crassula conjuncta

Long stem in a small planter with plump, triangle shaped leaves.
This variety is often mistaken for the Crassula conjuncta.

Crassula perforata is frequently confused with Crassula conjuncta, which has slightly different leaves. Their care is similar, but we will only refer to the C. perforata species in this article.

Planting

Hand holding a small potted plant with three small stems with stacked, plump triangle shaped leaves.
These succulents can tolerate indoor or outdoor climates.

These compact plants are typically grown in containers, either indoors or out. This allows those in colder climates to move the plant to a protected spot over winter. But if you live in a warmer USDA Zone (9 and above), you can plant them straight into the ground outdoors.

Choose a sunny position with well-draining soil. If you don’t have the right soil, amend with compost and sand before planting to improve drainage and soil structure. In containers, you can add perlite and sand to regular potting mix, or look for a specialized succulent and cacti potting mix.

Plant at the same depth the plant came in originally, as planting too deeply can lead to rot. Press down around the base to remove any air pockets and water after planting to settle the roots. Don’t overwater while your plant is establishing as they are prone to root rot.

How to Grow

Close up of a square, terracotta planter with a green succulent plant inside.
String of buttons is a low maintenance plant that is fairly easy to care for.

The string of buttons plant has typical succulent needs. Once you get the hang of it, this low-maintenance plant is fairly easy to care for.

Light

Close up of dozens of stems with layers of plump, round leaves stacking up each stem.
These plants will get more vibrant the more the are exposed to sunlight.

Your necklace vine needs four to six hours of direct sun per day.

The more sun it gets, the more vibrant its color will be. However, direct sun and high heat can easily burn the leaves. Choose a spot that gets shade in the afternoons but is otherwise sunny. Another option is planting it where there is filtered or indirect light. If you’re growing this succulent indoors, choose a south-facing window.

Crassula perforata is sensitive to sudden light changes. When making any adjustments, always do so gradually so your plant can acclimate properly.

Water

Close up of bright green, small, plump leaves stacked on top of each other on their stems with water puddled and dripping off each leaf.
Because these plants store water in their leaves, they will thrive on little water.

It’s important not to overwater succulents, and Crassula perforata is no exception.

They don’t need lots of water because they store water in their leaves. Too much will make the succulent soft and mushy. On the other hand, if you underwater, the plant will droop and the leaves will shrivel.

Water this plant only when the soil is completely dry. If you’re not sure, don’t water it. Any kind of succulent is much better off being underwatered than overwatered.

Soil

Rows of small, black, pots filled with dirt and small plants with one stem in each container. Each plant has small, plump leaves stacked up each of their stems.
These plants are susceptible to root rot so be sure to plant them in well-draining soil.

Well-draining soil is an absolute must for Crassula perforata. If its roots are sitting in water, they can easily start to rot.

Store-bought cactus and succulent soil drains well. You can also mix perlite and sand into potting soil. Remember to periodically check that the soil is draining well. If it’s holding too much water, mix in more sand.

Necklace vine isn’t picky about pH levels, but grows best in slightly acidic soils.

Temperature & Humidity

Close up of a green plant with small, plum leaves stacked up its stem.
When temperatures drop below freezing, it’s time to move your Sting of Button plant inside.

Temperatures below freezing are usually too cold for Crassula perforata. If you’re growing indoors because of this, keep the temperature around 65-70°F (18-21°C) during the summer. In the winter, this plant prefers temperatures around 50°F (10°C).

String of buttons doesn’t like high humidity. To keep it happy, only water it at the roots and keep it in a well-ventilated space.

Fertilizing

Close up of a bright green shovel scooping a pile of small, white pebbles.
Adding fertilizer isn’t necessary but can help your String of Button to bloom.

Fertilizer isn’t required but will help with growth and flowering. If you choose to, use a half-strength liquid fertilizer once per month during the growing season. If your Crassula perforata is young, use a low-nitrogen fertilizer. Mature plants are fine with a balanced fertilizer.

Controlled-release succulent fertilizer is a good alternative to liquid. This should be applied only once at the beginning of the growing season.

Maintenance

Close up of a woman's hands holding a small plant and a pair of small shears, getting ready to trim the plants stems.
You can keep your plant trimmed back or transplant it into a bigger pot when it starts to outgrow its current container.

String of buttons can be pruned for cosmetic reasons. When the flowers die, they leave behind long, woody stems that are easy to remove. You can also prune back the plant if it’s getting too large for your taste.

When pruning, make clean cuts with sterile clippers. Keep the area dry so it won’t grow bacteria while healing.

Repot your string of buttons when it outgrows its container. This succulent grows a few inches each year, so choose your pot size accordingly.

It’s recommended to repot in warm weather at the start of spring. This will ensure it has lots of space when the growing season starts.

If you find any rotting roots while repotting, trim them off and let the cuts dry before planting. Change the soil to one that drains better.

Propagation

There are several ways to propagate succulents.

Crassula perforata can be propagated from cuttings, division, and offsets.

Propagation from Cuttings

Close up of a small plant in a small white pot, with several long stems that have small, plump leaves stacked  down each stem.
Propagating your String of Button can be as simple as sticking a freshly cut stem right into a pot of soil.

For stem cuttings, cut off the top inch or more of a healthy plant, then remove the bottom leaves so at least half an inch of the stem is bare.

For leaf cuttings, gently remove the leaves without leaving any part on the stem. Because necklace vine leaves grow in sets of two, you can gently twist them on the stem so they break off in one piece. Let the wounds on your cuttings dry out for a day or two. Once they’re ready, it’s time to plant.

Plant your cuttings in well-draining soil. Stem cuttings can simply be inserted in the soil. Leaf cuttings can be laid on top. Mist the cuttings with water and keep them out of direct sunlight until they’re rooted. Rooting hormone is optional but helpful. 

Once your cuttings are settled in, gradually increase the light they receive. Water them normally at least once a week until the plants are matured.

Propagation from Offsets

Close up of a clear jar with a tall, skinny stem with small, plump leaves stacked up the stem.
Offsets are easy to remove and replant in any container with well-draining soil.

This method follows the same procedure as cuttings. Offsets are rosettes on long, thin stems that the plant sends out above ground. Cut them off an inch below the rosette.

Propagation by Divison

Close up, overview shot of a bright green plant in a garden with several long stems that have small, plump, triangle shaped leaves stacked up each stem.
When your String of Button gets too big or overcrowded, dividing up the stems at the root is a great way to thin it out and create more plants.

If your string of buttons is getting too large, you can literally split it in two.

Gently remove it from the soil and dust off the roots. You’ll see that this plant is a clump of many stems and roots. Break the plant in two with your hands or a sterile knife.

Replant in dry soil and don’t water for a few days. If the wounds don’t dry out, they can rot or get infected when watered.

Common Problems

Three green succulent plants in pots, sitting in front of a large, bright window.
Proper care and knowledge can help keep your Crassula perforata flourishing and healthy.

Crassula perforata has its share of problems just like every other plant. That’s why preparedness and a sharp eye are vital for keeping your succulent happy and healthy.

Etiolation

Close up of a plant with four tall, skinny stems with small, plum leaves stacked up the stem with spaced in between each leaf.
Tall, leggy stems is a sign your String of Button needs more sun.

Because succulents are valued for their plump and compact leaves, stretching can mess with their look. If your plant is starting to stretch, gradually move it to a sunnier spot. If the plant is already stretched more than you like, you can prune back the long stems.

Brown Spots

Close up of a bright green plant with several stems that have small, plump, triangle shaped leaves stacked up each stem.
Too much direct sun can cause sunburn spots on your String of Buttons.

In the summer, you may find brown spots on the leaves. This is usually sunburn caused by too much heat and direct light.

If you adjust the plant’s location right away, the damage will likely be external only. Crassula perforata should be moved gradually so it can adjust to the light difference.

Drooping

Small orange pot with a green plants that has stems trailing over the sides of the pot. Plant has small, light green, plump leaves stacked down each stem.
Drooping or mushy leaves can be a sign that you’re either over or under watering your plant.

Shriveled leaves and a drooping plant are symptoms of underwatering. Mushy, brown, or translucent leaves usually mean you overwatered. Adjust your watering and soil as needed.

Pests

Close up of tiny green bugs crawling all over a bright green stem.
Insect pests include aphids, vine weevil and mealybugs. You may find these on your string of buttons plant.

Aphids are tiny pests in a variety of colors. You’ll usually find them on the underside of leaves. The honeydew they secrete can grow also black mold and attract ants.

If there’s a large number of aphids in one spot, you can simply prune the leaf. Insecticidal soap will also control them also.

Crassula perforata is also susceptible to vine weevil, a flightless black beetle. These pests are nocturnal, but the damage is clear during the day. You’ll see c-shaped holes and wilted, yellow leaves.

Sprinkle diatomaceous earth at the base of the plant to prevent them. Because vine weevil is fairly resistant to sprays, remove them manually at night.

Mealybugs are another pest to watch out for. These small, white bugs drain the sap from plants. Remove them with insecticidal soap. You can also attack them individually with a cotton swab dipped in 70% rubbing alcohol.

Diseases

Close up of a potted plant with dozens of stems with layers of plump, round leaves stacking up each stem.
Rot starts at the root when the plant is being overwatered – a common occurrence with succulents.

Root rot is the most common threat to string of buttons. It usually starts at the roots when the succulent is overwatered. You may also see it in the stem and leaves. Rotted sections will turn brown or black and mushy.

Remove root rot by cutting off the infected sections. Let the wounds callous over before replanting in new, well-draining soil. After replanting, don’t water for a few days so it can recover.

If your pagoda plant’s roots are too rotted to save, take a cutting from the top to propagate. Then you’ll get a fresh start with this succulent.

FAQs

Can you save an overwatered succulent?

If you catch it early, you can! Repot the succulent in new and completely dry soil. Remember to brush off the old, moist soil from the roots first. Don’t give the plant any water for a few days or until it recovers.

Why are the leaves falling off my succulent?

Old leaves at the bottom of the succulent fall off naturally. If newer green leaves are dropping, you’ve probably overwatered.

Final Thoughts

The adorable string of buttons is a great addition to indoor and outdoor gardens. Avoid the common problems and you should have no trouble keeping these succulents happy.

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