Why Is My String Of Pearls Dying?

Whoever was in charge of designing plants must have gotten bored.

One of the bizarre results of this boredom was the string-of-pearls plant. It looks like someone ran a stem through a bunch of pea-green chickpeas.

Delicate String of PearlsPin

This plant’s uniqueness makes it a conversation piece no matter where you place it.

However, the ball-shaped foliage and its obscurity can make caring for your string of pearls a little tricky.

Good news! These plants are forgiving, and you can bring them back from your care mistakes without much difficulty once you know what went wrong.

How To Revive A Dying String Of Pearls Plant?

Care issues with a string of pearls plant almost always come down to the soil, sun, water, or a disease/infestation.

Here’s what you need to know to check for and solve these issues.

Soil Issues

String of pearls has a shallow root system, so it can be easy to plant it too deeply.

Pick a shallow container for your plant—one that’s not too big and has adequate drainage holes.

The pot size does matter. One that is too large will prevent the roots from getting at the water along the edges. This can lead to fungal contamination of the soil.

If the pot is too small, it can cause root-binding (usually identified by roots poking from the drainage holes or soil surface). Root-binding makes it harder for the plant to absorb water and nutrients.

Another common issue here is soil density and type.

This plant needs a good cactus and succulent mix with added perlite to ensure proper drainage.

Cactus mixes can get pretty dense if not aggregated. Add perlite to keep the soil from compacting. 

The soil itself is formulated to provide many nutrients your plant needs.

Yet, putting plants in containers will prevent Mother Nature from being able to enrich the soil naturally. Fertilize occasionally.

Always follow the package instructions and use a liquid fertilizer, as these dilute and spread through the soil.

Timed-release granules are a poor choice because nutrients don’t dissolve at the same rate. Also, the concentrated pockets can result in chemical burns to your plant’s roots.

Because toxins can build up in the soil, repot regularly, using fresh soil every time.

Sun Issues

As with most exotic plants, the string of pearls loves sunlight but burns like an Irishman.

Put it somewhere where it will get bright, indirect sunlight.

Try:

  • in front of a window with a sheer curtain, 
  • to one side of a south-facing window, or 
  • in an east or west-facing window that gives direct morning or evening sun while providing shade in the afternoon.

You can also augment indoor plants with grow lamps if the lights aren’t too close to the plant.

Watering Issues

Watering plants is relatively easy, but we’re taught how to do the opposite of what the plant needs from a young age.

So unless you always drink exact amounts of water according to a schedule, it’s time to start using the soak-and-dry method.

Stick your finger in the soil to check how dry it is.

Since the string of pearls has a shallow root system, water it when it feels dry ½” inch down.

Use distilled water or natural rainwater. Pour slowly and work your way around the plant, making sure not to get the plant itself wet.

This method ensures even coverage and can help prevent damage to the leaves.

Stop watering when you see moisture seep from the drainage holes or when the soil surface can no longer absorb at the same rate you’re pouring.

Almost every plant problem involves water, even though it doesn’t drink more than 97% percent of the water it absorbs.

Instead, the plant uses it for transpiration, a process similar to sweating. This process increases the humidity around the plant.

Too much water can invite pests, fungus, or even root rot. But dehydration can also leave the plant vulnerable to pests and diseases.

Pests And Diseases

Insect pests can still be a problem with this plant.

Piercing insects drink the sap, and their frass contains undigested sap called honeydew.

This excrement is a perfect breeding ground for fungal infections such as powdery mildew and sooty mold.

Wet leaves can also lead to fungal infections, as can soggy soil.

Thankfully, both pests and fungal diseases are treatable using neem oil, insecticides, or fungicides.

Root Rot

One type of disease can be devastating to your string of pearls—root rot.

This deadly disease is usually fungal but can also come from bacteria.

Plants suffering from root rot usually do so due to overwatering. As a result, they have trouble absorbing water and nutrients from the soil as their root systems slowly die.

You can identify root rot by dark brown to black roots, often accompanied by a foul odor.

Use a sharp, sterile knife to remove all the diseased roots, sterilizing between each cut.

Since the rot may be bacterial, it’s best to do the following:

  • Dip the remaining root structure in a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water for 30 minutes instead of dipping it in fungicide.
  • Let the roots air dry for two days.
  • Repot using a fresh, sterile container and new potting soil.
  • Sterilizing the old container is possible. But, first, soak it for at least 20 minutes in a stronger solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water and allow it to air dry completely.

Yet, even if you know how to sterilize the soil properly, the quality has already dropped from use, so it’s best to discard it rather than reuse it.

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