String Of Pearls, you’re downright fabulous growing both as a houseplant and in a container in the garden. I’ve grown them in both situations so can we be honest here? Growing them outdoors is much easier, for me anyway. I want to share with you why growing a String of Pearls plant indoors can be a bit tricky so hopefully, this will help you to keep yours looking as beautiful as those strands around Audrey Hepburn’s neck in Breakfast At Tiffany’s.
The most common signs that a String Of Pearls isn’t doing well are: the stems and pearls are thinning out, pearls are shriveling, stems are disappearing, and the stems are dying. One of our most popular blog posts is on String Of Pearls so I get a lot of questions regarding this plant dying or not doing well. This hanging succulent can be hard to find and expensive in some areas so I want to dive in a bit further into this topic.
Why String Of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) can be tricky as a houseplant:
10 Reasons Why You May be Having Problems Growing String Of Pearls Plant Indoors:
The soil is too heavy which makes it stay too wet.
Succulents need their soil mix to have excellent drainage and be well aerated. Some growers use the same soil mix straight across the board for all their plants and that maybe the mix yours came in. Or, perhaps you’ve used potting soil when repotting yours. It’s too heavy for a String Of Pearls plant.
When I repot my String Of Pearls, I use this DIY recipe soil & cactus mix. It’s good and chunky allowing the water to easily drain out. All my succulents love it!
If you’re using a store-bought succulent & cactus mix like this one, you might consider adding some pumice or perlite to further up the ante on the aeration and lightness factor. Here’s a good option which is a gritty, fast-draining mix that won’t need anything added into it.
I give most of my houseplants and succulents a light application of worm compost topped with a light layer of compost over that every spring. Easy does it – a 1/4″ layer of each for a 6″ String Of Pearls will be plenty. Read about my worm compost/compost feeding right here.
HEAD’S UP: I’ve done this general guide to repotting plants geared for beginning gardeners which you’ll find helpful.
Too much fertilizer (too often; too heavy on the ratio) or the wrong fertilizer.
This can cause fertilizer burn which leads to root damage. I’ve found that succulents don’t need a lot of feeding – just once in the spring and perhaps a repeat application if necessary in the mid-summer.
I feed mine indoors with the usual: a 1/2″ layer of worm compost topped with a 1/4″ layer of compost in the early spring.
I’ll mention worm compost again because it’s my favorite amendment. I use it sparingly as it’s quite rich. I’m currently using one made by a local company here in Tucson but I’ve also used Worm Gold Plus and Wiggle Worm.
The compost I use is also local and organic. Give Dr. Earth’s a try if you can’t find anywhere you live. Both worm compost and compost enrich the soil naturally and slowly so the roots stay healthy and the plants grow stronger. Happy roots, happy String Of Pearls!
If you have any liquid kelp or fish emulsion, these work fine too. I’m now using Max Sea and interchangeably with Eleanor’s VF-11 for all my houseplants a couple of times throughout the season. There are fertilizers formulated for succulents & cactus but I’ve never tried those. So, you have choices!
Whatever you use, easy does it as succulents don’t require much or frequent feeding. For succulents such as a String Of Pearls, consider using the fertilizer or food at half the recommended strength.
Save misting for the air plants – they need it when growing in our dry home environments. Your String Of Pearls doesn’t as they’re native to the drier parts of southwest Africa and can handle lower humidity levels. Frequent misting of this plant especially at the crown is likely to lead to rot.
A String Of Pearls plant hangs in an east window where it receives bright light but is not touching the glass.
Your plant is in hot, direct sun.
Keep your plant out of south or west windows. Especially in the summer months the glass gets heats up which will cause a String Of Pearls to sunburn. It can be in the room with high light exposures but just make sure it’s 5-10′ away from the window (how far depends on your climate).
As an example, I live in the Arizona desert with lots of strong sun so my String Of Pearls would have to be 10′ away from south or west windows (even an east window in the hotter months).
No adjustment for the darker, cooler months.
This is true of all houseplants as they rest at this time. You may have to move your String Of Pearls to a brighter location in your home. Also, be sure to back off on the watering frequency at this time.
If you water your plant every 7-14 days in the summer, then every 14-21 days in the winter will be best. How warm you keep your house will also be a factor.
HEAD’S UP: Here’s a guide to winter houseplant care which you might find useful.
It’s planted in a pot that’s too big.
A String of Pearls plant doesn’t have a big root system. Planting one in a pot that’s too big can cause the mix to stay wet which leads to root rot. The majority of the stems at the crown resting on the wet mix will cause both them and the pearls to “mush out”.
Pots of pearls at the nursery. You can see how the crowns of plants are sitting almost level with the tops of the pots.
These last 4 reasons are what I believe to be the most important:
Not enough light.
When growing outdoors, they need filtered light or bright shade. A String Of Pearls plant indoors need strong natural light – a medium to high light exposure to grow successfully.
Not enough light + too much water = bye bye sweet hanging succulent.
HEAD’S UP: This guide answering questions as to how much sun do succulents need might help you out.
Planted too deep inside the pot.
I’ve seen this many times where the crown of the plant has sunken down 1″ or more. This can cause the crown and stems to rot out because they stay too wet when aeration is decreased. Those thin stems rot out in no time.
It’s best if the crown is only 1/2-1″ below the top of the pot. If planted too deep, along with too much water, also = bye-bye.
Too much water.
This happens much more commonly than not watering enough. What I mean by this is watering too often. The roots of a plant need oxygen too and a mix kept consistently moist deprives them of this.
Simply put, ease up on the frequency if yours is looking sad and mushy. You want the plant to go nearly or completely dry before watering again.
It’s hard for me to tell you often to water your String Of Pearls plant indoors because there are many variables that come into play. Here are a few: the pot size, type of soil it’s planted in, the location where it’s growing, and your home’s environment.
You don’t want to keep the plant wet but on the other hand, you don’t want the soil mix to be dry for days. Those thin stems don’t hold as much water as other succulents do.
The plant was wet when you bought it.
If your String Of Pearls plant was soaked when you bought it (many big box stores and nurseries water their plants every day), it may never have gotten the chance to dry out. My friend lost a Pothos because of this.
Most pots have at least 1 drainage hole, so check to make sure yours does otherwise the water won’t flow out. I plant my succulents in pots with multiple drain holes so water building up won’t be an issue.
Every now and then, a drain hole gets blocked. You can open it back up with a chopstick, toothpick, knitting needle, etc.
If the soil isn’t drying out, you may have to repot your String Of Pearls plant into a more appropriate succulent and cactus mix.
A young, healthy String Of Pearls. The top pearls are plentiful & plump & the plant is starting to trail.
- Tips for growing a String Of Pearls outdoors
- The sweetly, spicy scented flowers of the String Of Pearls
- Propagating a String Of Pearls plant
A String Of Pearls plant definitely has character and seems to be loved here, there and everywhere. I hope this helps keep yours healthy, happy, and looking good!
Note: This post was originally published on March 13, 2018. It was updated in July of 2020.
Looking for More on Succulent Houseplants?
- 7 Hanging Succulents To Love
- How To Grow String Of Hearts
- Propagating a String Of Bananas Plant Is Fast & Easy
- Tips For Growing a String Of Bananas Houseplant
Read more about succulents here.
You can find more houseplant info in my simple and easy to digest houseplant care guide: Keep Your Houseplants Alive.
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