Senecio rowleyanus Overwatered

String of Pearls Dying (10 common problems)

Is your beloved String of Pearls dying? In this article you will learn the common problems with String of Pearls plant and how to correct them. 

Senecio rowleyanus dying
Senecio rowleyanus dying

The String of Pearls plant is one of my favorite string succulents. It is no wonder why this beauty has become so popular. However, some find it a bit finicky to care for. Although, once you get a few care tips down you will be a String of Pearls growing pro.

If your String of Pearls plant is dying, sometimes it can be hard to figure out what is wrong. In fact, there are several issues that could potentially cause it to die. Overwatering, underwatering, too much sun, lack of sun, pests, root rot or improper soil can all potentially be the cause of String of Pearls Dying. 

Once you are able to diagnose the common problems with String of Pearls plant, you will be able to fix the issue. In this post we cover each problem and the solution. You will be on your way to growing a fuller String of Pearls in no time.

Common Problems with String of Pearls Plant 

First, let’s take a look at a few common problems with String of Pearls plants. Once you learn what is causing the problem and how to correct it, you will be on your way to growing a lush, fuller String of Pearls.

String of Pearls Dying
Senecio rowleyanus Overwatered

Overwatered String of pearls

Your String of Pearls dying may be caused from overwatering. More succulents actually die from overwatering than anything else. So, overwatering is definitely the biggest danger for your Pearls plants.

String of Pearls are succulents and hold water in their pearls. Indeed making them drought tolerant. Overwatering can lead to bacterial growth or rot.

String of Pearls Rotting

If the crown of your String of Pearls looks like it is rotting, then overwatering is most likely the culprit. Overwatering causes the soil to become soggy. In fact, succulents actually hate wet feet. 

Symptoms of overwatering could be yellow pearls, brown pearls, dark mushy pearls, or even mold growing on top of the soil. The mold typically will not hurt the plant. However, it is indicative of overwatering, poorly draining soil, or poor air flow.  If the soil is retaining too much moisture, then it will not be able to dry out fast enough, making it susceptible to disease, such as root rot.

Mold and bacteria may grow if the soil is too moist for several days. Eventually, mold and bacteria attack the roots of the String of Pearls. Thus, making your plant appear very unhealthy or looking like it is dying. 

String of pearls root rot

Overwatering is not something you do just one time. In fact, it is the result of multiple waterings too often. Succulents do not like to stay moist for too long and prefer dry periods followed by a heavy watering. Once the soil stays too wet for too long, root rot sets in. 

Eventually the stems and pearls will also rot and die. Additionally, root rot may also make your pearls appear mushy or moldy. In fact, this is a reaction from the roots being attacked by bacteria.

String of Pearls Dying
String of Pearls Overwatered

How to Fix an Overwatered String of Pearls

The best thing to do if it is a mild overwatering is to let your String of Pearls dry out. Give it plenty of bright light and immediately stop watering. Only water when the soil is completely dry and pearls start to slightly wrinkle. 

If the soil does not dry out in a day or two, or there are definite signs of rot, you will need to repot it and replace the soil completely. You might consider taking a few String of Pearls cuttings to propagate as a backup plan. 

See Related Article: Propagate String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)

Repotting String of Pearls

First, remove the String of Pearls plant from the soil. Allow the plant to dry out for three to five days or until the roots appear dry. This will kill the mold and bacteria.

Second, repot your String of Pearls in a clean pot with good drainage. Be sure to plant your String of Pearls near the top of your pot. In fact, no more than one inch (2.5 cm) from the top of the pot. Indeed, this ensures proper air circulation around your Senecio rowleyanus.

Third, add a well-aerated potting mix to prevent root rot. Wait until the pearls slightly wrinkle before watering again. 

Humid environments or plants that do not get a lot of light will need less water. Try to provide a bright location while nursing your overwatered plant back to health.

During spring and summer, I water about once every two weeks. Of course in winter, I reduce watering to about once a month. This may vary depending on your climate. I am in Southern California for reference.

Pro Tip: Before reusing an old pot, soak for 10 minutes in a solution of 1 part household bleach and 9 parts water. Then, rinse with dish soap and water.

String of Pearls Dying
String of Pearls Underwatered

Underwatered String of Pearls

Senecio rowleyanus can tolerate drought for a short period. Underwatering is a less frequent problem than overwatering. However, if String of Pearls stays completely dry for too long, the pearls will suffer. Specifically, drying out, shriveled or wilted leaves, turning brown, growing leggy, or pearls completely falling off the stem. 

String of pearls plants can also dry up if the potting mix contains peat. It can repel water when it dries. Therefore, preventing moisture from actually reaching the roots. Underwatering and watering too lightly can also cause String of Pearls to have a dried up, shriveled appearance.

Once an underwatered String of Pearls beads turn brown or purple, you have definitely waited too long to water. The entire stem will most likely wither and be the cause of your String of Pearls dying. 

String of pearls underwatered?

If you are watering less than once a month AND you notice your pearls are shriveling, then they are underwatering your Senecio rowleyanus. The good news is, if caught early it can easily be reversed. Just give your string of pearls a good drink of water and it should perk up.

Although, it is best to water when they start to slightly wrinkle. 

Underwatered String of Pearls
Underwatered String of Pearls

Fix an underwatered Senecio rowleyanus

First, place your pot of string of Pearls in a larger bowl or tray. Next, fill the larger container with water. Finally, leave your Pearls plant for 15 minutes or more, allowing your String of Pearls to soak up all the water it needs. Your pearls should plump up 1-2 days after watering.

Increase watering to once every two weeks in spring and summer. Additionally, make sure you are thoroughly soaking the plant or bottom watering. In fact, you really want water to be able to fully soak the roots.

As mentioned earlier, only water again when the soil is dry to the touch AND pearls slightly start to pucker. Also, you may want to purchase a moisture meter. It is an inexpensive tool that takes the guesswork out of watering.

Overwatered vs Underwatered String of Pearls
Overwatered vs Underwatered String of Pearls

Remember, an overwatered pearl will be squishy and transparent. On the other hand, an underwatered pearl will be pointy, dull or shriveled. 

Your String of Pearls will thrive in bright, indirect light. Although, they also love direct, morning sun. If your Senecio rowleyanus plant does not get enough light then it could be the cause of your String of Pearls dying. String of Pearls will grow happy and healthy with 6-8 hours of bright light. 

Also, most succulents need bright light to produce their beautiful colors. Thus, if String of Pearls do not get enough sunlight then they may grow pale and lack color. Low lighting conditions may also cause pearls to turn a yellowish color. 

Furthermore, lack of sunlight can cause your String of Pearls to become elongated. Meaning the spaces in between each pearl are wider than normal. Therefore, causing it to look less compact and stringy. 

See Related Article: How to make String of Pearls fuller here.

Without sunlight, Senecio rowleyanus may simply stop growing. Or, grow very slow. So, if your plant’s growth seems stunted and it is lacking sunlight, move it to a brighter location. If you lack sufficient lighting, consider placing it under a grow light to give it a boost.

String of Pearls Direct Sunlight

Your string of pearls can tolerate direct sunlight in the morning which is mild. However, intense afternoon sunlight may be too harsh for your Pearls plant. Thus, causing sunburn, brown leaves, yellow leaves, or worse, the death of your plant. Additionally, pearls will lose more water and may become dehydrated.

String of Pearls sunburn
Sunburned String of Pearls

String of Pearls sunburn

I can’t tell you how many times I meant to leave my String of Pearls in direct sun for a few mins and forgot about them! Ugh! Welp, you can guess what happened next. My String of Pearls sunburn resulted in a sad, bald looking plant.

Placing String of Pearls in intense direct sun without acclimation, not only sunburns the pearls but also damages the trailing stems. Therefore, the pearls on the damaged sunburned stems will not get any nutrients or water. Resulting in crispy, thin pearls that will usually die.

If the leaves are not fully burnt, then you can leave them. They can still photosynthesize. However, if the look of the burned pearls bothers you, you can carefully remove them.

If your plant is located outdoors, consider using a shade cloth. If indoors, you may need to add a sheer curtain to soften direct sunlight. Carefully remove any dead or brown leaves and/or stems.

See Related Article: Sunburned Succulent Care (Save your Dying Plants)

Sunburned String of Pearls
Sunburned String of Pearls

String of Pearls turning white?

Are your String of Pearls turning white? This is a good indication they are getting sunburned. The pearls are literally burning and causing them to turn white. Once fully white, the chlorophyll cells have died. 

This makes it hard for the plant to produce food anymore. Additionally, since the plant will not use water anymore, it will start rotting. Unfortunately, once your String of Pearls turn white they will never revert back to green.

Leave the pearls or you can remove them. It doesn’t matter either way. But, your string of pearls will continue to grow just fine. As long as you move your Senecio rowleyanus to a location with less intense sun as you see white pearls.

If you see white fuzz on your String of Pearls then you most likely have a mealybug problem. You need to eradicate this evil pest ASAP. Learn how to do so in our post How to get rid of mealybugs and save your plants

String of Pearls turning purple

Senecio rowleyanus produces strands of beautiful green beads. However, the beads on String of Pearls will turn purple if the plant is stressed. Usually, the Pearls plant produces a pigment called anthocyanin in response to environmental stressors. For example: intense sun, underwatering, overwatering, extreme temperatures, or pests and diseases.

Once you find the reason causing your purple String of Pearls, be sure to correct it by following the tips previously mentioned. Otherwise, you may risk your String of Pearls dying.

String of Pearls thrive in a warm and dry environment. They are happy in temperatures between 70-80°F (21-26°C). And in winter, they can survive in temperatures between 50-70°F (10-21°C). 

Senecio rowleyanus do not do well in cold weather as they are not frost tolerant. They hate cold drafts which damage their stems and cause leaf drop. Always bring your Pearls plant indoors in cooler winter months as they can’t survive freezing temperatures. A dry warm area is best for String of Pearls to thrive.

Underwatered String of Pearls
Underwatered String of Pearls

String of Pearls prefers lower humidity. The average humidity in your home is probably 30-50%. This is just right for String of Pearls plants. In fact, high humidity can cause the soil to retain too much water. 

Too much moisture will eventually lead to root rot or even death for your String of Pearls. Switch out your soil for a well-draining mix and use a terra cotta pot for better drainage.

How to make string of pearls fuller
String of Pearls (senecio rowleyanus)

Fertilize Your String of Pearls

String of Pearls plant is not a heavy feeder. Although, a well-balanced fertilizer can encourage new growth. However do not over fertilize, as this can kill your plant. 

Overfertilizing can lead to root damage, making the plant weak. Additionally, an overfertilized String of Pearls may have signs of etiolation, stunted growth and brown leaves.

Feed your Pearls plant during spring and summer which is their active growing season. Always apply fertilizer while watering or right after. Never apply fertilizer to a very dry plant. 

Additionally, only fertilize the soil. Definitely avoid the pearls or stems. Water left on the pearls or stems can act like a magnifying glass and amplify the sun. Therefore, only apply the fertilizer directly to the soil.

Succulents, including String of Pearls, need well-draining soil to thrive. Heavy, dense soil may be the cause of your String of Pearls dying. This heavy soil stays wet for too long and does not allow the soil to fully dry out.

Typically the soil that comes in your String of Pearls pot from the nursery is poor quality and too dense for succulents. I always swap out nursery soil with a Cactus and Succulent soil mix. Additionally, I always amend the soil with pumice or perlite for even better drainage. 

When I use a standard potting mix, I add coarse sand in addition to the pumice or perlite. This helps with air circulation and allows the soil to fully drain excess moisture. In fact, I also add a light layer of worm compost on the top soil. Succulents absolutely love it!

Fungus Gnats on String of Pearls

Another sign your soil is not properly draining is the presence of fungus gnats. These small, dark bugs fly around the soil and lay eggs on the soil surface. If there is a large infestation, it can lead to stunted growth or root damage. 

How to Get Rid of Fungus Gnats

Replace soil with sterile well draining potting mix, or let your soil dry more between waterings. Additionally, you can spray an insecticidal soap or neem oil directly on the soil. Yellow sticky traps for fungus gnats or simply vacuuming up the little buggers may also help.

Another option is to use Diatomaceous earth which can be used in the soil itself to kill anything that comes in contact with it. It is like little shards of glass that bugs have to crawl through to get to the top of the soil. Although, it does not hurt humans or the plant.

In addition to fungus gnats, there are other pests that may be the cause of your String of Pearls dying. Senecio rowleyanus is more vulnerable to pest infestations when in unfavorable growing conditions. These sap-sucking pests drain nutrients from your String of Pearls plant.

Minor infestations can weaken the plant. However, heavy infestations can kill your plant. Always inspect your plant at each watering. Additionally, check for pests if you see white webbing, sticky pearls, yellowing leaves, or sooty leaves. 

Specifically, mealybugs, aphids, scale, or whitefly, may be responsible. Therefore, inspect your String of Pearls regularly to detect and control pests. A small pest infestation is much easier to get rid of than a heavy infestation. Consequently, these evil critters can affect the growth of String of Pearls.  

Sticky String of Pearls 

A healthy String of Pearls can have a bit of stickiness to their stems. This helps them climb and anchor to porous surfaces in their natural habitat. However, sticky String of Pearls can be a sign of pests. The stickiness is residue left behind by the pests after they have sucked the sap out of your plant.

String of Pearls with Mealybugs
String of Pearls with Mealybugs

Mealybugs on String of Pearls

A sign of evil mealybugs will be the presence of a cottony white waxy material that they secrete. If you see ants all over your succulents or the soil, this may be another indication of a pest issue. 

Mealybugs suck sap from plants. As a result, they produce a sticky substance known as honeydew. In fact, ants are attracted to the sweet honeydew that is produced by pests. 

When honeydew is left on its own, it can cause fungal diseases such as sooty mold. Honeydew is a sign that the mealybugs have been feeding for several days.

At the first sign of mealybugs, isolate your String of Pearls from any other plants. They can and do spread to nearby plants. 

Mealybugs are similar to aphids in that they cause plant damage and may attract ants. 

Mealybug Control Home Remedy

For a minor infestation you can use a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol directly onto the mealybugs. Be sure to reapply every couple of days until no bugs can be seen and the white cottony webbing is gone. 

Another option is to spray a mixture of 1 part water, 1 part 50% isopropyl alcohol (also called rubbing alcohol), and 2-3 drops of Dawn dish soap. Spray generously and keep out of full sun for a day or so. If left in full sun, the solution may cause leaf burn.

Mealybug Infestation on String of Pearls
Mealybug Infestation on String of Pearls

How to get rid of Mealybugs on String of Pearls (Heavy Infestation)

However, if you have a severe mealybug infestation then you should immediately spray insecticidal soap directly on to the plant. It kills the bugs on contact. Mealybugs will immediately turn from white to brown or black upon contact. Re-apply every few days until there are no signs of pests.  

Neem oil is a safe insecticide that can be applied directly to active infestations. In fact, it contains multiple different compounds that disturb the growth hormone levels of various insects, including mealybugs. It doesn’t kill them right away like nerve toxins would. But, it will absolutely kill them within days or a few weeks depending on the stage of their life.

First, mix neem oil, 5% water, and a few drops of Dawn dish soap. Next, spray directly onto your String of Pearls. Then, re-apply every few days, until there are no signs of pests.

Aphids on String of Pearls
Aphids on String of Pearls

String of Pearls Aphids

Aphids are tiny, obnoxious, pests that will drain the life out of your String of Pearls. Thus, making it discolored, wilted, and eventually it could be the cause of your String of Pearls dying. Additionally, aphids secrete honeydew that attracts ants. Sometimes aphids are a sign that your plant may be missing something from their nutrition as they target stressed out plants. 

How to Get Rid of Aphids on String of Pearls 

Just like mealybugs, aphids can also be eradicated by insecticidal soap or neem oil. Follow the same mealybugs instructions above for getting rid of aphids. You can also use beneficial predatory insects, such as ladybugs or lacewings.

What Are Whiteflies?

Whiteflies are soft-bodied, winged insects. In fact, they are actually close relatives of  mealybugs and aphids. However, even though they are called “flies”, they are not actually not a fly at all. Although, they do have wings and are capable of flying.

Just like mealybug and aphids, whiteflies suck up plant juices and produce sticky honeydew. Ants are attracted to Whitefly honeydew as well.

A large infestation of Whiteflies may cause your String of Pearls to become weak. Additionally, leaves may turn a light yellow, leaves may wilt, growth may be slowed, and ultimately pearls may shrivel and fall off your plant. Furthermore, the plant may get so weak that it will be unable to carry out photosynthesis. 

An insecticidal soap is a great way to get rid of Whiteflies. Don’t forget to spray the undersides of leaves, as well. Repeat a few times as needed.

Check out our complete Pest eradication post here.

String of Pearls Dying
Mold on String of Pearls

Did you know that fungal pathogens can take a toll on your plant’s health? In fact, a fungal condition inhibits the plant parts from functioning properly and limits photosynthesis.

Fungal diseases are due to poor drainage systems and extreme weather. Thus, causing pearls on your plant to turn yellow.

Always use a well-draining soil mixture to encourage proper airflow around the roots. Ensure the pot has drainage holes at the bottom to drain excess water.

The first thing you should do when bringing home your new String of Pearls is re-pot it. Nursery soil that comes with most plants is low quality and lacks nutrients. 

Roots on the String of pearls plants are thin and shallow. Therefore, they only need a small pot. Using a pot that is too large will require more soil than necessary. Thus, causing the soil to stay wet for too long, leading to root rot.

Another must for your pot is having a drainage hole. This allows water to properly drain out of the bottom. Without one, you are really asking for a root rot problem. 

I prefer to use small terracotta pots. String of pearls plants have small root systems and do not need a ton of space. In fact, terracotta and other porous clay pots help minimize excess moisture. If you have the proper drill bit, you can drill your own drainage hole at the bottom of your pot.

When repotting, handle your String of Pearls with care so the beads do not fall off. Also, plant your Senecio rowleyanus close to the top of your pot. Thus ensuring proper air circulation around your String of Pearls. In fact, not getting enough aeration can lead to fungus or rot. 

After repotting, hold off on watering for a few days. Give the plant time to heal any wounds on its roots or stems before it gets watered.

In closing

I hope you learned what may be the cause of your String of Pearls dying. Now you know how to solve these problems and to make sure that they never happen ever again. Follow our tips listed above to grow a happy and healthy String of Pearls

Growing the Senecio rowleyanus can be tricky, but this beauty is definitely worth it. Thanks so much for reading and as always, happy planting!

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