How to Water String of Pearls Plants

How to revive a dying string of pearls plant

String of pearls plants are drought tolerant and only need watering when the soil around the roots has dried out completely. Typically watering once every 14 days is suitable for string of pearl to meet their moisture requirements, without causing root rot but watering varies according to climate.

Getting the watering just right is important when caring for string of pearls as they are susceptible to root rot caused by over watering and slow draining soils.

String of pearls also have differing water requirements at different times of the year due to their Summer dormancy.

The correct watering regime should be in conjunction with the appropriate well draining soil and the right pots for a healthy string of pearls plant.

Keep reading for more on how often and how much to water string of pearls and for the correct potting soil to ensure your plants stays healthy…

How Often to Water String of Pearls Plants

String of pearls plants are succulents that have special adaptations to growing in hot and dry desert environments with their leaves shaped like pearls to maximize the amount of water storage of each leaf and to limit the surface area for water loss.

As string of pearls prefer dry conditions they are very susceptible to problems resulting from watering too often.

To grow string of pearls successfully it is important to replicate the watering conditions of their native environment by watering them the right amount.

String of pearls plants should only be watered when the soil has dried out completely. Typically this means string of pearls should be watered once every 14 days.

However the time it takes for the soil to dry out can vary depending on:

  • Humidity and temperature of your climate.
  • The size of the pot or hanging basket.
  • Whether the string of pearls is in an air current from air conditioning or forced air or near a source of heat.
  • The rate of drainage of the soil.

The best way to establish the correct watering frequency for a string of pearls plant, according to your particular climate is to feel the soil at the bottom of the pot through the drainage hole to determine whether it is still moist or whether it is dry.

If the soil feels moist then you can leave watering for another day or so but if the soil feels dry then this is the perfect time to water string of pearls.

This perfectly mimics the moisture conditions to which the string of pearls is adapted, ensuring the plant has enough access to water yet the soil dries out sufficiently around the roots to avoid root rot.

String of pearls also go into a state of dormancy in Summer (as a strategy to cope with drought and high temperatures) and actively grows the rest of the year.

This means the plant has less demand for moisture in Summer and it is at more risk of root rot due to over watering.

Water your string of pearls once every 3 weeks in the Summer months at the most.

Another early indication of when a string of pearls plant requires watering is that the pearls start to shrivel when dehydrated so if your pearls remain green yet starting to shrivel, this is a signal for watering.

(For more on how to save an under watered plant read my article why is my string of pearls drying up).

How to Tell if you are Watering too Often…

If you are watering string of pearls more then once per week it is likely you over watering, even in arid climates.

The symptoms of over watering are pearls that are turning yellow, or translucent, at which point you should scale back the watering and let the soil dry out properly for your plant to recover.

Remember string of pearls is very sensitive to over watering (particularly during its Summer dormancy) yet under watering can be easily resolved so always wait for the soil to dry out between bouts of watering.

A well watered string of pearls should have healthy, green and firm pearls which indicate the plant is storing the optimal amount of water for its requirements.

Correct Method for Watering String of Pearls

Whilst your climate influences how often to water your string of pearls the method for watering stays the same regardless of conditions

Always water your string of pearls plants with a generous amount of water so that excess water visibly trickles out the base of the pot.

This ensures that the water has infiltrated the soil to reach the roots.

If you water too lightly, only the top inch of so of the soil is moist and the roots are not able to access the water the require causing the pearls to shrivel and potentially turn brown as a sign of drought stress.

(Succulents sometimes shrivel due to over watering as well as under watering. Read my article for how to tell the difference).

Watering generously and then allowing the soil to dry between bouts of watering, emulates the watering conditions of string of pearls native environment with a heavy down pour of rain followed by a period of drought.

Top Tips for Watering String of Pearls

  • Always water at the base of the plant. Watering overhead onto the pearls increases the humidity of the micro-climate and decreases transpiration (water loss) from the leaves, which is the plants primary way of regulating the optimal balance of water stored in its pearls.
  • Water your string of pearls in the morning. Watering in the morning allows for the plant to use the water effectively whereas the stomata of succulents close at night which limits the pearls ability to lose excess moisture for their leaves so that they have they can maintain the appropriate balance of moisture.
  • Watering at night when the plant is dormant means the roots are sat in wet soil overnight which can increase the risk of root rot.
  • Reduce watering frequency in the Summer. Whilst it may seem counter-intuitive to reduce watering in Summer, string of pearls goes dormant at the hottest time of year as a survival strategy to conserve more water in a time of drought and high temperatures so it requires less frequent watering.
  • Watering generously but infrequently promotes good root growth whereas water lightly deprives you string of pearls of moisture and watering too frequently watering increase the risk of root rot.

Well Draining Potting Mix is Critical When Watering String of Pearls

To water you string of pearls successful and to keep them alive it its important that the are planted in the appropriate potting soil.

String of pearl plants do not grow well in conventional potting soil or compost as this retains too much moisture around the roots for a long time which turns the pearls yellow or translucent and promotes the conditions for root rot.

String of pearls grow naturally in very gritty, sandy soil that drains very quickly after watering and does not hold onto moisture.

It is therefore important to recreate the soil conditions of its native environment when potting up your string of pearls.

There are specially formulated succulents and cactus potting soil (available at garden centers and on Amazon) which contains more inorganic material (stones, grit and sand) to help encourage good drainage and mimic the soil characteristics of the string of pearls native environment.

A gritty succulent soil mix is perfect for growing string of pearls plants.
A gritty succulent soil mix is perfect for growing string of pearls plants.

The right soil helps to maintain the optimal moisture balance for your string of pearls to mitigate the risks of over watering to keep your plant healthy.

(To learn more, read my article how to revive a dying string of pearls plant).

Plant String of Pearls in Pots with Drainage Holes in the Base

String of pearls plants are sensitive to too much moisture around the roots so it is essential that the pot has a drainage hole in the base to allow excess water to escape after watering.

Watering till you see a trickle of water out the base of your pot is also one of the key ways to ensure that you have watered your succulent with a generous enough amount of water.

If you plant string of pearls in pots without drainage then water pools around the roots of your plant, causing the pearls to turn yellow or translucent and can cause the plant to rot.

It should be noted that the sometimes excess water can still pool around the roots of your string of pearls despite pots with drainage holes due to:

  • Roots blocking the drainage hole. If you have bought your string of pearls as a mature plant and notice it is draining slowly, check to see whether any roots have grown into the drainage holes and slowed down the rate at which water drains.
  • The use of saucers and trays underneath pots. Often people use saucers and trays underneath pots with drainage holes to prevent watering spilling in their home. It is important to empty the saucer regularly to ensure that water has collected is reduced as it keeps the soil around the roots too damp.
  • Decorative outer pots. When string of pearls plants are sold in stores they often are planted in a plastic pot with drainage holes and a decorative pot with drainage holes which has the same affect as saucers or trays with standing water. Ensure water can escape freely to keep your string of pearls healthy.
Decorative outer pots prevent excess water from draining ways form the roots of your string of pearls plant.
Decorative outer pots prevent excess water from draining ways form the roots of your string of pearls plant.

(For more care tips, read my article, How to Care for String of Pearls Plants Indoors).

Key Takeaways:

  • String of pearls are drought tolerant plants that need watering with a good soak around once every 14 days. Wait until the soil around the roots has dried out completely before watering again. Water no more then once every 3 weeks, during string of pearls Summer dormancy to avoid root rot.
  • String of pearls require a potting soil that replicates the well draining soil in their native environment to allow excess water to drain away from the roots.
  • Plant string of pearls in pots with drainage holes in the base to allow water to escape rather then pooling around the roots as this causes root rot.
  • The signs of an over watered string of pearls is pearls that turn yellow or translucent and mushy in texture. Under watered string of pearls turn brown and shriveled. A health string of pearls plant has green pearls that are firm an hydrated. Ensure the soil has dried out before watering.

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