Many indoor gardeners struggle with growing a String Of Pearls plant. Here are 10 reasons why you may be having problems with this hanging succulent and what you can do to fix the problems.
String Of Pearls, you’re downright fabulous growing both as a houseplant and in a container in the garden. I’ve grown them indoors and outdoors in different climate zones and find them easy to grow if the conditions/care is to their liking.
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.
I learned the botanical name as Senecio rowleyanus but you may see it called Curio rowleyanus. Besides String Of Pearls, another common name is String Of Beads.
Commons Problems with String of Pearls Plant Care
The most common signs that a String Of Pearls isn’t doing well are: stems and pearls are thinning out, pearls are shriveling, pearls are turning yellow, and the stems are dying.
One of our most popular blog posts (it’s an old one!) 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.
String Of Pearls Issues Indoors Video Guide
1. The soil is too heavy
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 the plants they’re growing and that may be the mix yours came in. Or, perhaps you’ve used potting soil when repotting yours. Both could be too heavy and stay wet for too long or a String Of Pearls plant.
When I repot my String Of Pearls, I use this Succulent Soil & Cactus Mix Recipe. It’s good and chunky allowing the water to easily drain out. All my succulents both indoors and out love it.
it’s important that the pot has drainage holes so the excess water can readily flow out. If you don’t, this can lead to overwatering and eventually root rot.
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 that I’ve used in the past that is a gritty, fast-draining mix. It won’t need anything added to 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.
RELATED: I’ve done this general Guide to Repotting Plants geared for beginning gardeners which you’ll find helpful.
2. 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 and cactus but I’ve never tried those. So, you have choices!
I live in the sunny Arizona desert so I now feed my succulents 3 times a year (besides the compost). When I live on the coast of California, it was 1-2 times a year.
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 as I do.
RELATED: Here’s my updated routine for Fertilizing Indoor Plants.
3. Frequent misting
Save misting for the air plants – they need it when growing in our dry home environments. Your String Of Pearls don’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.
4. Your plant is in hot, direct sun
Keep your plant out of south or west windows. Especially in the summer months, the glass 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). Very bright, indirect light is their sweet spot.
As an example, here in the Arizona desert with lots of strong sun, a String Of Pearls plant would have to be 7-10′ away from south or west windows (even an east window in the hotter months). Mine is hanging in a large, north-facing window with great light but no direct sunlight.
5. No adjustment for the darker, cooler months
This is true of all houseplants as they rest a bit at this time. In winter, 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 months will probably be best. How warm you keep your house is also a factor.
HEAD’S UP: Here’s a Guide To Winter Houseplant Care which you might find useful.
6. It’s planted in a pot that’s too big
Pot size matters. A String of Pearls plant doesn’t have a big root system. Repotting 1 into a small pot is better than a big pot. For this reason, I repot mine every 5-7 years or so sometimes just to freshen the potting mix.
Planting one in a pot that’s too big can cause the soil to stay wet which leads to root rot. The majority of the slender stems at the crown resting on the wet mix will cause both them and the bead-like leaves to “mush out”.
These last 4 reasons are what I believe to be the most important:
7. Not enough light
When growing outdoors, they need filtered light or bright shade. A String Of Pearls plant indoors needs strong natural light. A medium to high light exposure with no direct, hot sun is what they need to grow successfully.
Not enough light + too much water = bye-bye sweet hanging succulent.
By the way, I’ve found that a String Of Pearls houseplant is not a low light plant. It grows best in bright light.
HEAD’S UP: This guide as to How Much Sun Do Succulents Need will help you out.
8. 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 of the plant is only 1/2 – 1″ below the top of the pot. If planted too deep, along with too much water, also = bye-bye.
9. 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 of watering 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.
I’ll tell you how often I water my 6″ String Of Pearls here in Tucson. In summer it’s once a week and in winter every 2 weeks. Remember, I’m in a sunny climate with warm or hot temps for a good part of the year. Adjust for your climate.
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 slender stems don’t hold as much water as other succulents do.
Here are a couple of common signs you’re watering too much or too little. Too much water: the pearls are brown and/or mushy. Also, the beads could shrivel. Too little water: the pearls and stems are dry. Also, the pearls shrivel. The shriveled pearls can be confusing because this happens in both cases.
10. The plant was set 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. 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.
Want to learn more about How to Care for Succulents Indoors? Check out these guides!
- How to Choose Succulents and Pots
- Small Pots for Succulents
- How to Water Indoor Succulents
- 6 Most Important Succulent Care Tips
- Indoor Succulent Care Basics
- Hanging Planters for Succulents
- 13 Common Succulent Problems and How to Avoid Them
- How to Propagate Succulents
- Succulent Soil Mix
- 21 Indoor Succulent Planters
- How to Repot Succulents
- How To Prune Succulents
- How To Plant Succulents In Small Pots
- Planting Succulents In A Shallow Succulent Planter
- How to Plant and Water Succulents in Pots Without Drain Holes
- How To Make & Take Care Of An Indoor Succulent Garden
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
- Repotting String Of Pearls: The Soil Mix To Use & The Steps To Take
String Of Pearls definitely has character and seems to be loved here, there, and everywhere. If you’re looking to grow a String of Pearls plant indoors, 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 & again in January of 2022.
Looking for More on Succulent Houseplants?
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- 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.
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