Why Is My String Of Pearls Dying?

The string of Pearls or Senecio rowleyanus, is really an adorable succulent with plump, round, and green leaves that trail along the sides of the pot while growing. Sometimes, you will be surprised to see why is my String of Pearls dying, despite taking all care.

Let’s find out why your String of Pearls is striving or is not flourishing, and learn some simple, practical steps to look after your String of Pearls plant and revive it back to health.

Why Is My String Of Pearls Dying?

Well, Overwatering can be the main reason for a String of Pearls plants dying. More heat, excess sunlight, or insufficient light can also be the reason for a dying String of Pearls plants.

String of Pearls is an exquisite hanging succulent that flourishes in a warm and dry environment. They can be easily grown as an indoor houseplant and are also ideal succulents to grow outdoors, especially if you live in a warm place. But in areas where the temperature drops lower than 30°F, it’s best to grow the String of Pearls in a container, so they can be easily shifted indoors for protection.

String of Pearls is native to South Africa where it grows in sandy, well-draining soils on rock hills in bright, indirect light with infrequent rainfall.

Moisture is accumulated in the pearls to deal with arid conditions, when water is not available, they use the water collected in pearls, and thus, leaves shrivel.

Further, when the String of Pearls is placed in full sun, this intense heat and light make the plant lose more water and the String of Pearl plant dries up and can even die.

Common Problems With String Of Pearls Plant

Some most common problems with String of Pearls plant are:

  • Overwatering or Underwatering
  • Excess light or Insufficient light
  • Pests
  • Humidity
  • Too Heavy soil that remains wet.
  • Excess Fertilizer Or incorrect fertilizer 
  • Persistent sprinkling of water
  • Scorching sunlight
  • No adaptations for the darker, colder months
  • The pot is too large

Over-watered String Of Pearls

Overwatered String of Pearls develops root rot, pulpy leaves (balls), and pulpy stems making the plant weak and lead to the death of the plant. The roots of the plant need oxygen and the soil that is always moist robs them of this. Watering too frequently also leads to root rot as the roots are holding more moisture, thus it is important to let the soil dry between watering to prevent root rot.

Give it sufficient water, aiming for the base of the plant and not the crown. Avoid misting the plant. Also, more moisture in the soil makes the pearls brown or yellow and pulpy. The stem of the String of Pearls is too thin and cannot hold much water like other succulents. Water is stored in their little round leaves. When overwatered, these leaves absorb more water till they burst. so it is advisable to water cautiously.

String Of Pearls Shriveling 

An underwatered String of Pearls Plant appears shriveled and dried up due to drought stress and is easy to locate. Usually, it is easier to restore an under watering problem. 

String of Pearls shriveling can be easily cured by giving the plant sufficient water and it will brighten up immediately and look better. Increase watering if your String of Pearls still appear shriveled.

Watering too mildly or sometimes the soil may be sun-baked, thus forcing water off the surface and not letting water reach the roots properly. All these reasons are responsible for the String of Pearls shriveling.

How To Save My String of Pearls Plant?

To save a String of Pearls plant, it is important to imitate the conditions of plants native habitat with bright, indirect sunlight, watering adequately and letting the soil dry before watering again and using the cacti soil that is porous and well-draining to prevent root rot.

While growing String of Pearls, it is important to immerse the soil in water everytime you water rather than a little watering because it only wets the surface of the soil and the water does not penetrate the potting soil and fails to reach the roots leading to the dry conditions that cause shriveling up of leaves.

Although the String of Pearls can endure drought, they need a good immersion every 2 or 3 weeks.

As the potting soil dries out completely, they can force the water back and it flows off the surface of the soil and escapes through the drainage hole, not reaching the roots where it is needed.

To Revive Shriveled String of Pearls Plants

  • Place your String of Pearls plants in bright, but indirect sunlight rather than full sun. Give the soil an open handed soak so that excess water passes out of the base of the pot. This ensures the water has percolated through the soil so that the roots can absorb the moisture they need to avoid the leaves from drying up.
  • Water your String of Pearls about once every 2 weeks during the growth period especially in spring and summer and then water once every 3 or 4 weeks during winters to provide the right amount of moisture so that the leaves remain healthy and to prevent root rot.
  • String of Pearls must be watered thoroughly and then the soil must dry well before watering it again. If the soil is not imbibing water properly then keep the pot in a tub of water for a few minutes so that water can wet the soil properly.
  • To avoid the soil from forcing the water back that can create drought stress again, separate the String of Pearls from the pot and loosen the soil after soaking it in a tub to easily remove without harming the roots of the plant.
  •  Change the soil with specially formulated succulent and cacti soil that has a porous texture even when dry and effectively match the soil conditions in the String of Pearls native atmosphere.
  • To find out how often you should water a string of pearls plant in your area, water the soil properly and then check the soil moisture when it dries out.
  • For checking the soil moisture, feel the potting soil at the base of the pot through the drainage hole. If the soil is damp then don’t water till it is a bit dry. As you feel the soil is dry, this is the right time to water your String of Pearls plants.
  • By watering it in this way 2 to 3 times, the String of Pearls leaves begin to brighten up.

Leaves of String of Pearls Turning Brown or Yellow with Dying Appearance

When the leaves of the String of Pearls become brown or yellow with a pulpy texture, it is due to the stress caused by watering the plant frequently or the soil that holds excess moisture. This can result in root rot thus leading to the death of the plant.

As we know, String of Pearls grows in sandy soil that is porous and drains quickly on hillsides in native Southern Africa.

If the String of Pearls is grown in ordinary potting soil, then it will hold the moisture near the roots which will make the leaves turn brown or yellow and mushy. 

Also soil becomes too damp for a String of Pearls plant if the pots are without drainage holes and we sometimes use saucers and trays that don’t let the water release from the base of the pot.

Reviving String of Pearls Plants with Leaves Turning Brown or Yellow

  • Cut back the watering. Allow the soil to dry out between turns of watering to recreate the moisture cycle that the String of Pearls is adjusted to in its native area.
  • Tools like moisture meters and hygrometers can be used to check the soil moisture and humidity in the air.
  • If the leaves are turning only a little bit brown or yellow then the plant will recover only by allowing the soil to dry out between watering.
  • If the potting soil remains damp for a long time then replace the soil with special succulent and cacti soil that is porous and well draining to keep your String of Pearls healthy green. Also the pot should have drainage holes at the base to release excess water.
  • Regularly empty saucers or trays used to prevent water spilling so that the soil at the bottom of the pot dries out properly.
  • In winters the String of Pearls becomes dormant needing a few hours and low intensity of sunlight. In winters, the string of pearls has more risk of root rot as water requirement is reduced due to lack of growth.
  • So, water only once every 3 or 4 weeks during winters to avoid your String of Pearls turning brown or yellow and mushy.
  • If your String of Pearls shows no signs of recovery, then it may be due to root rot, then propagate the healthy parts of the plant to make a new plant.
  • String of Pearls can be  easily  propagated from cutting of the stems and you can grow many plants if you take healthy cuttings.

String of Pearls Turning Brown due to Lack of Light or Sun Burn

Usually, String of pearls plants flourish in bright, indirect light. If they are exposed to intense full sun then the leaves can turn brown.

When we shift a String of Pearls from a shaded area to more sunlight, then the leaves turn brown and shrivel.

But keeping the String of Pearls in shade without any bright indirect light will make the plant leggy having longer stems. The stems grow longer searching for bright light, giving a leggy appearance to the Strings of Pearls and the leaves or pearls near the base of the plant turn brown and die. This happens as the String of Pearls divert the energy to the new leaves thus letting the older leaves to die.

Reviving SunBurnt String of Pearls Plants

  • The key to reviving a sun burnt or leggy String of Pearls is to find an area of bright indirect light in your home to imitate the shaded but bright areas where the String of Pearls grow in their native environment.
  • It is often impossible to revive the scorched brown leaves in appearance, so cut the affected section of the plant for healthy growth.
  • If most part of the plant is scorched brown then propagate any healthy sections of growth to save the plant.
  • If the leaves are shriveled due to excess heat of the sun, then soak the soil with water.
  • The string of pearls in shade develops leggy growth if it looks untidy, then cut that growth and the plant will recover.
  • Keep your string of pearls in bright indirect light to revive it.

How To Take Care Of String Of Pearls?

Let’s find out how to take care of Strings of Pearls:

1. Light

 String of Pearls plants need at least 6 to 8 hours of bright, indirect sunlight every day either you keep them indoors or outdoors. Also, you have to place your outdoor plant in a partially shaded area, where it receives plenty of natural light. In dark, cold months, move them to a brighter spot.

If your place doesn’t have sufficient light, then put them under a fluorescent light fixture for about 12- 16 hours per day.

2. Temperature

String of Pearls succulent flourishes best at average indoor temperature of 70°F – 80°F. During winters, the temperature should be around 55°F – 60°F.  Since String of pearls aren’t frost-tolerant, so move them indoors in winter.


Being native to dry areas, String of Pearls doesn’t need a lot of humidity, so dry air is best for it. 

4. Soil & Pot

Pearl plants need gritty, well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes. Terracotta and unglazed ceramic pots are the two best choices for this plant. Size of the pot should be according to the plant as if the pot is too big, then the soil will remain wet for a long time and the pearls will rot. String of Pearls have very shallow roots so they don’t require a deep pot.

Make sure that the crowns of the pearls are at the same level with the top of the pot or 0.5 – 1 inch lower than the top otherwise oxygenation will decrease along with wet soil and the crowns and stems of the plant will rot easily.

Take any succulent soil but sandy soil is best with 3 part potting soil and 1 part sand.

5. Water

String of Pearls are sensitive to overwatering, so give them just enough water once every two weeks. Make sure you don’t overwater by checking if the soil is half an inch (1.2cm) dry before the next watering. During winters, cut back watering to once in a month.

6. Fertilizer

Succulents like String of Pearls don’t need a lot of fertilizers as excess fertilizer can even kill Pearls plants. During growth, fertilize once every 2 or 4 weeks in spring and mid-summer and no fertilization in fall and winter. Moreover, the fertilizer should be diluted.

To Make String Of Pearls Bloom

String of Pearls bloom with small white flowers with a cinnamon like fragrance. To encourage flowering, cut back on watering and the temperature should be consistently 60°F during winters. Cool and dry conditions in winters enhance the chances of blooming in summers. The blooming period will be 1 month long.

Propagation of String Of Pearls

Propagation of String of Pearls is easy as they have very shallow roots and grow new roots easily. The best way is to use cuttings. Take healthy 3-4 inch long cuttings, just place the cuttings down on the soil and press down slightly, roots will slowly grow out of the cuttings. Or another way is to pluck some leaves off the cutting, then put the stem in the soil covering the growth nodes (where the leaves grow) with soil, then the roots will grow. Mist this rooted cutting gently to keep it moist till the new plant starts growing.

Pruning And Repotting the String Of Pearls

1. Repotting

Strings of Pearls are delicate plants with shallow root systems, so you don’t need to repot your plant every now and then, till it is growing well. But as soon as your String of Pearls becomes too large for its pot or it is not growing well, or the plant  becomes rootbound, then it’s time to transplant it to a bigger pot about 10% bigger in diameter as the height of the plant.

String of Pearls are very delicate, so handle them gently when you repot them and ensure the soil is dry and do it as the growing season starts in Spring. Steps to repot your String of Pearls:

  1. Cautiously, bring or fold the trailing stems up towards the center of the plant.
  2. If your String of Pearls is in a hanging basket, remove the clips and hooks used for hanging first, to avoid hurting the beads and any hindrance due to these clips and hooks.
  3. Gently keep one hand on top of the plant and turn over the pot for the plant to come out. Lightly squeeze or tap the bottom of the pot to loosen the soil. You can  cut the pot and tear it open if the plant doesn’t come out. Following this, you will be able to remove your String of Pearls from the pot without damaging its fragile beads.
  4. Make your cactus or succulent soil mix. You can also add perlite or coarse sand for better drainage and pack it firmly around the side of the new pot to keep space in the center to put your String of Pearls.
  5. Place your String of Pearls in the pot carefully, then put some soil around the plant and fill in all the open spaces.
  6. Once done, now place your newly potted plant in a bright area to get indirect sunlight. Also, a few beads will fall off from your String of Pearls while doing all, place them back in the pot hoping that they’ll root and grow into a new plant.

2. Pruning

 Pruning is important as part of a String of Pearls care, especially when they become leggy or softened due to lack of sunlight and to maintain the size of the plant or to brighten them up.

To prune, trim off any dead stems and pearls or parts that are leggy, along with any stems that have lost many of their beads with a pair of clean, sharp scissors. If you have snipped off any healthy pieces grown too long, propagate them and grow as a new String of Pearls.

Is your String Of Pearls toxic?

String of Pearls is a magnificent succulent plant but they contain a sap that is toxic for humans and pets both. For humans, eating any part of the plant can cause rash, itching, inflammation, pain, severe skin irritation, dermatitis and moderate gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. 

For animals, eating any part of this plant can really be harmful, causing lethargy, drooling, painful skin and itching leading to distress.

So make sure to keep your String of Pearls in a place away from your pets and children and always wear gloves while handling your String of Pearls plant.


Nikita is a Succulent lover. She really enjoys planting and nourishing them. She loves to share information about various Succulents on this blog to aware people more about these awesome plants.

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