Why is My String of Pearls Drying Up?

String of pearls plant drying up

String of pearls plants can dry up if the soil mix contains peat as this can repel water when it dries out which prevents moisture from reaching the roots. Under watering and watering too lightly can also cause string of to have a dried up, shriveled appearance.

Keep reading for why your string of pearls can dry out despite watering and how to solve the problem…

String of Pearls Drying up Due to Wrong Potting Soil

String of pearls are a type of succulent that is native to South Africa and thrives in gritty soil, high temperatures and infrequent rainfall.

However they can still suffer from drought even with a responsible watering cycle due to being planted in the wrong type of potting mix.

String of pearls requires well draining soil that allows water to infiltrate easily to reach the roots, so that they can uptake the moisture yet excess water is still able to drain away to avoid root rot.

It is critical that the potting mix dries out somewhat between bouts of watering to prevent common problems associated with moisture stress.

Conventional potting mixes that aren’t designed for succulents, particularly any that contain peat which can become hydrophobic (water repellent) when they dry out.

Dried out, baked soil repels water off the surface of the soil and often down the side of the pot and out the drainage hole in the base without soaking into the soil and reaching the string of pearls plant roots causing your plant to dry up despite watering.

Typically to grow string of pearls successfully it is important to use a specifically formulated succulent and cacti soil mix which are available from garden centers and on amazon.

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 succulent and cacti soil differs from conventional soil in that it retains a more porous structure even after it has dried out completely.

This allows water to infiltrate the soil effectively, even after it has been dry for some time, and reach the roots of your plant rather then just running off the surface.

This helps to recreate the soil conditions of string of pearls native habitat where it thrives.

The solution

Replace your soil mixture with a special succulent and cacti mix to help revive your dried up plant.

With a new potting mix you can create the optimal moisture balance for string of pearls to grow, so it can access the moisture it requires after watering but avoid any side affects from over watering.

Often when a string of pearls plant has dried up, turned brown and the pearls have shriveled, people make the mistake of over compensating and increase the frequency of watering which can lead to root rot which turns the leaves brown or yellow and the pearls feel soft and mushy rather then firm.

If this has happened to your string of pearls read my article for the solution.

Watering Too Lightly Causes String of Pearls to Dry up

Another common misconception about string of pearl plants and succulents in general is that they should only be watered lightly due to their drought tolerant nature.

If the string of pearls is lightly water then only the top inch or so of soil receives any moisture and the water does not reach the roots where it is required which causes the leaves to dry up.

The correct way to water string of pearls plants is to give it a generous soak and then let the soil dry out before the next bout of watering.

This replicates the watering conditions in the strong of pearls native habitat, where it tolerates drought by storing moisture in the pearls and then draws up water after a heavy down pour of rain, which then quickly drains away in the porous gritty soil.

Give your string of pearls a generous soak rather then a light watering to prevent it from drying out.

(Read my article for how often and how much to water string of pearls plants).

Under Watering Causes leaves to Dry and shrivel

Another significant cause of a string of pearls drying up is due to under watering.

String of pearls are drought tolerant plants due to their adaptions to growing in an arid climate in their native South Africa.

However this does not mean that they can be neglected entirely for several months without any water.

Typically a string of pearls plant grows well when watered with a good soak once every two weeks in Spring and the Fall.

However String of pearls often goes into a Summer dormancy as a reaction to high temperatures which is a survival strategy to cope when the environment becomes hotter and drier in the Summer.

It can also require less water in the Winter months due to lower levels of evaporation.

Typically watering once every 2 or 3 weeks in Summer and once every 3 weeks in Winter prevents the plant drying out but to also avoid root rot.

However water frequency can depend on several factors such as:

  • Room temperature.
  • Hours of sun.
  • Intensity of sun.
  • Whether the pot is located next to a source of heat in the home.
  • Whether your string of pearls is in an air current from forced air or air conditioning.
  • How naturally low or high the humidity is in your climate.
  • Artificial humidity from form domestic sources such as cooking or steam from a bathroom.

Some experimenting with how often to water your string of pearls may be required to find the right moisture balance in your home and according to your conditions to avoid the plant drying up but also prevent over watering.

Moisture is stored in the pearls which is why they turn brown and shriveled as a reaction to under watering so as soon as you notice the pearls starting to shrivel just a little bit, this is a good time to water.

By experimenting with watering you can establish the correct watering frequency for strong of pearls plants in your home to avoid them drying up.

Lack of light Causes Lower Leaves to Dry up and Drop Off

String of pearls is a succulent that requires bright light, yet it is sensitive to full sun which burn the leaves and turn them brown.

If your string of pearls is not receiving enough light or only part of the plant is in bright light then it the stems can turn leggy with sparse leaves as they grow looking for more light.

This can cause the lower leaves to dry up and drop off as the plant redirects its resources to lengthening the stem to look for more light.

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

The solution.

Ideally you should move the string of pearls to a brighter room, but do not move it into an area of direct sun as the contrast between a shaded area and bright sun causes the string of pearls leaves to burn.

It is better to gradually expose your string of pearls plant to more light by moving it for hour or so more every 3 days to the brighter area to avoid any shock from a drastic change in light intensity.

In the ideal bright indirect lighting conditions the strong of pearls tends to stay more compact as it no longer has to stretch to find more light.

However do bear in mind the plant does grow relatively quickly for a succulent which can cause the lower leaves to dry up and fall off as a natural process.

To Regenerate a string of pearls plant that looks leggy and sparse I recommend propagating the plant from cutting as it is an extremely easy and cost effective way to have more plants! Watch this Helpful YouTube video for how to propagate string of pearls plants:

Key Takeaways:

  • String of pearls plants dry up when their potting soil bakes hard and repels water away from the roots which causes drought. Watering too lightly can also cause string of pearls to dry out.
  • Not enough light causes string of pearls to grow leggy and the lower leaves dry out and drop off.
  • Under watering and neglecting the plant can cause the pearls to shrivel, turn brown and dry out.
  • Revive under watered string of pearl plants by planting them in a specific succulents and cacti soil and water when the pearls look shriveled. Place in a room of bright indirect light to keep the plant healthy.

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