The String of Pearls plant, also known as Senecio rowleyanus, is a popular trailing succulent with round, bead-like leaves. While it is an easy-to-care-for plant, there are a few common problems that will need your attention.
Root rot, insect pests, etiolation, shriveling, and leaf dropping are some of the main challenges to deal with in growing the String of Pearls plant. Most of these problems arise when the plant is not receiving the right conditions for growth.
To save the plant from dying or getting severely damaged, you need to identify the underlying problem early enough and fix it as needed. If your String of Pearls plant is showing some signs of distress, don’t worry as this article has explanations for that.
Common problems with String of Pearls plant
The following are common problems that can affect the health and vigor of your String of Pearls succulent.
Root rot is one of the most common issues with the String of Pearls plant. This problem is majorly caused by overwatering. It can be identified by mushy brown roots but the plant will show other signs of distress including shriveling and leaf discoloration.
The String of Pearls is native to arid regions and is adapted to store water in its succulent leaves. Overwatering can lead to excess moisture in the soil which can limit air flow around the roots. This commonly results in root rot and other fungal diseases.
How to fix
Root rot is a serious condition that can easily kill the plant. It’s best to prevent it as there is no effective treatment for root rot. Cutting off the damaged roots and repotting the succulent in fresh soil is the only thing that can save your plant.
It’s important to allow the soil to dry out between waterings and only water when the top inch of the soil feels dry. Additionally, ensure the succulent is grown in well-draining soil and in a pot with drainage holes. I recommend you use unglazed terracotta clay pots.
While the String of Pearls doesn’t like to be overwatered, underwatering can also cause problems. If the String of Pearls plant doesn’t receive enough water, the leaves may shrivel and become limp. Prolonged dehydration may kill the plant but you can easily save the plant.
The plant can also shrivel and look wrinkled when overexposed to direct sunlight. This can be attributed to excessive water loss and heat stress.
How to fix
If your succulent is underwatered, find a balance and provide regular but moderate watering. Start by misting the shriveling string of pearls plant then increase the watering intervals until your plant is recovered.
Additionally, inspect the plant for other problems. Overexposure to direct sunlight, heat, and damage to the roots can as well make your succulent shrivel. Keep the plant in a warm place but with bright indirect light. If the roots are brittle or damaged then cut them off and repot the succulent.
The string of Pearls plants thrives in bright, indirect light. If they don’t receive enough light, they may become leggy, with elongated stems. Sunlight is very essential for photosynthesis and when in little amounts the plant may also not produce enough sugars for survival.
Too much direct sunlight is also a problem for the string of pearls succulents. It can scorch the plant causing it to wilt, drop leaves and even lose excess water. If the leaves are turning yellow, it can be a problem of both lighting and nutrition.
How to fix
Place your string of pearls plant in a place where it can receive bright, filtered sunlight for 6 to 8 hours a day. An east-facing window can be an ideal spot for healthy morning hours of sunlight. If you place it near a south facing, be sure to diffuse the light with sheer curtains.
If the light in your room is not sufficient, supplement it with artificial grow lights. And if you are growing the string of pearls plant outdoors then protect it from the elements. You may hang the basket on the porch, the roof of your patio, or under a tree.
Further, make it a routine to rotate the plant once a fortnight so that all the sides can receive even lighting.
Yellow or brown pearls
The problem of leaf discoloration in String of Pearls plants can be a sign of overwatering, underwatering, or too much sunlight. If the pearls are yellow, it is likely that the succulent is not getting enough sunlight.
Overfertilizing can also cause the discoloration of leaves. Too much nitrogen can also promote excessive foliage which can also be overwhelming to the plant. Leaf fertilizer burns have no specific treatment.
How to fix
Good drainage is crucial for the String of Pearls plant. If the potting mix retains too much moisture, it can lead to root rot. Ensure that the plant is potted in well-draining soil and use a pot with drainage holes to allow excess water to escape.
You can remove the discolored pearls as you revive the plant. If you suspect overfertilization as the cause of yellow or brown leaves then water thoroughly to leach the soil. Fertilize your succulent just once per month during spring and summer with a balanced houseplant fertilizer.
The String of Pearls plant may drop its leaves due to overwatering, underwatering, or a sudden change in temperature. While it’s normal for older leaves to naturally turn yellow and fall off, it can be an indication of a problem if it’s happening rapidly.
How to fix
Make sure your plant is grown in a warm place with temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The plant should also be watered regularly when the soil is dry. This plant doesn’t like humid conditions so make sure the air is on a relatively drier side.
While the String of Pearls plant is generally resistant to insect pests, it can occasionally be infested by common houseplant pests such as mealybugs, spider mites, scales aphids, and fungus gnats. Pests suck sap from the succulent and this can affect the plant’s health and vigor.
How to fix
Regularly inspect the plant for any signs of pests, such as webbing, white fuzz on stems, tiny crawling insects in the potting mix, or sticky residue on the leaves. Treat any infestations promptly using neem oil or insecticidal soap.
Tips for caring for String of Pearl plants
In a nutshell, here are tips on how to keep your String of Pearls succulent healthy and vibrant.
- Use cactus or succulent mix when potting or repotting the String of Pearls plant. Standard potting soil is too heavy and can hold water longer than needed and cause root rot.
- Place your plant in a location with bright, indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight can scorch the leaves.
- Water your plant when the top layer of the soil is completely dry. Overwatering can cause root rot and fungal problems.
- Fertilize your plant once a month during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer diluted to half strength.
- Repot the succulent every 2 to 3 years into a pot size larger than the current one and with drainage holes at the bottom. Use fresh succulent mix for good drainage.
- Use stem cuttings when propagation String of Pearls plant. The method is easy and takes a shorter time to get more plants that you can gift out or add to your collection.
- The string of pearls succulent prefers warm temperatures of around 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit during spring and summer and cooler temperatures of around 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the fall and winter months.
The String of Pearls plant is a unique succulent both in appearance and care. It’s common for these plants to show distress when not receiving the right conditions. Observing the plant closely and adjusting its care based on its response will help you address and prevent most of the problems.
My name is Diane M Lewik, and I am the founder of this website. I am a degree holder in plant biology from the University of California – Berkeley. Over years, I have cultivated a vast collection of succulents and I have learned a great deal about how to grow and care for these unique plants.