You may be alarmed that the crown of your string of pearls is sparse or balding. But don’t worry because this is an easy fix. I’ll share with you some important tips on how to turn things around and make your string of pearls fuller and more vibrant.
To make your string of pearls fuller cut a few trailers and lay them on top of soil on bare areas. Use a couple of pins for pegging them down and add more soil to promote aerial roots growth. Give proper water, light & fertilizer for a beautiful & full pot.
Your string of pearls is known to grow slower and harder to care for than other Senecio plants. You must ensure your plant is getting enough nutrients, light, and moisture year-round for it to thrive.
Why Is My String of Pearls Thin?
If the top of your string of pearls is crispy and thin, your plant is more likely getting sunburned. You may be exposing your succulent to intense direct sunlight.
This is especially the case if you park your plant where it will receive scorching afternoon sun. East-facing and south-facing windows can cause sunburns to your string of pearls in the afternoon, particularly during summer.
Too much direct sunlight not only sunburns the pearls but also damages the trailing stems. That means pearls on the sunburned stems won’t get any supply of nutrients and water.
Think of a village with only one bridge. If that bridge disappears, the whole village will lack the means of getting what they need from out there. The same is true of your sunburned string of pearls.
The result is stunted growth, and some pearls will die, causing a sparse or thin appearance.
As you may have noticed, your string of pearls isn’t too particular about its watering requirements. Simply keep the soil of your plant light moist (but never soggy) during high-growth seasons, namely summer and spring.
However, if you leave the soil completely dried out for long, your string of pearls will respond by losing foliage. Some leaves will wilt, dry out, and eventually fall off.
The first sign of underwatering is usually when the nearly spherical, pea-shaped leaves start to flatten out. If the dry spell continues, the leaves will shrivel, dry out, and turn brown.
If the pearls and stems have turned brown or purples, you may have waited too long. The whole plant will eventually wither and die. Water your underwatered string of pearls slowly, and it may bounce back after a few days.
For good measure, wait until the top two to three inches of the soil have dried out completely before watering again. You shouldn’t wait until the pearls and stems turn brown or sunburned.
As an arid climate plant, the string of pearls prefers things to be on the dry side when it comes to water. In fact, you will likely kill your string of pearls by giving it too much water than too little of it.
Overwatering is the #1 reason for a string of pearls dying. And you don’t want that. It all starts with foliage thinning, then wilting, and eventually, the whole plant dies.
You should wait until the topsoil (2-3”) has dried out completely. Only then should you water thoroughly until liquid comes out of the bottom drainage holes. Give your plant around 10 minutes to soak up more H2O, then dumb out excess water.
If you water too much, the soil will become soggy and waterlogged. Inevitably, soggy soil will attract pests, diseases, and root rot. Your plant will look weak and mushy at the crown, leading to loss of stems and foliage.
Other symptoms of an overwatered string of pearls include brown pearl tips, yellowing, and leaf dropping.
How to Make String of Pearls Fuller
Properly Cut off Trailers of Your String of Pearls
You know nothing livens up your room quite like a full, lush string of pearls. The stems gracefully spill over your hanging basket or pot, making it eye candy.
That’s why it can be disheartening to see bald or thin areas on the crown of your string of pearls. Your mission is to fill those gaps on the crown with more stems and pearls. How so?
Simply take a few trailing stems and place them on top of the soil. You want the stems to cover or coil them on top of the barren spots on the soil.
Alternatively, you can snip a few strands of your pearls and lay these stem cuttings on the thin crown areas. This is a more effective way because it’s much akin to propagation. You will need a well-made set of pruners, trowel, and pins.
Use a couple of pins to pin down the stems to the soil. You can use wooden pegs or horticultural pins. This will ensure that the cut or laid strands of pearls will touch the soil so that it can sprout new roots and start absorbing water & nutrients.
Add More Soil to Promote Growth from Aerial Roots
Once you have pinned or laid the strands on the crown, consider adding more soil. This should cover the trailer stem cuttings lightly. Make sure to raise the soil level to the pearls.
The added soil will do two things. First of all, the newly-placed strands will easily burrow into the soil and develop new roots faster. Secondly, the presence of light soil cover will encourage the growth of aerial roots so that it starts getting water and nutrients sooner rather than later.
What type of soil is great for the job? You can get away with the most well-draining and fertile potting mix. However, I have found a blend of potting mix with perlite (in ratio 2:1) will do better.
You can also use cactus mix. Be sure to add in some perlite in the same ratio of 2 parts cactus mix and one part perlite. Also, see to it that the soil is slightly moist and not too wet or soggy to avoid unwanted guests in the form of fungal infections.
You may also want to cut along the trailers to release apical dominance. When you cut the apex region (tips of your strands), your string of pearls will go into survival mode. This way, it will tell the strings to grow more branches and more pearls on the stems, hence a fuller appearance.
Fertilize Your String of Pearls
Your string of pearls will grow fairly vigorously during spring and summer if you give it enough fertilizer (and proper light). For more robust growth, pump up your fertilizing.
Ideally, you should feed your plant once every two weeks during the rapid growth period. That’s what you want to make it fuller. For best results, use a standard water-soluble or liquid fertilizer for houseplants.
Make sure the ratios of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus are well-balanced. Dilute your fertilizer to ½-strength and apply it during watering. Don’t over-fertilize your string of pearls, though – this will scorch the leaves, burn the stems, and kill your plant.
During its period of dormancy (aka winter), you should only fertilize your string of pearls once every 6 or so weeks.
Provide Sufficient Bright, Indirect Sunlight
Alas, you’d expect your string of pearls to thrive in full sun – after all, it’s an arid climate species. But that isn’t a good idea. Your string of pearls will feel the happiest in a combination of the part sun (in mild morning hours) and part shade.
However, in practice, you should give your plant 6-8 hours of bright, indirect sunlight every day. You should park your string of pearls near an east-facing window during the morning softer hours for indoor growth.
Later, when the afternoon sun is harsh, make sure it is in an area that gets indirect, diffused light, or partial shade. Your string of pearls needs plenty of this bright, indirect light to photosynthesize and grow fuller.
Keep Them Well-Watered
Watering is perhaps the biggest dilemma you will face while caring for your string of pearls. How much does it need to thrive? And what’s too much water?
There are two proven ways to know when to water your string of pearls:
[i] Water when the pearl just starts to show signs of flattening out. Don’t wait until they wrinkle, shrivel, or worse, turn brownish.
[ii] Check the top 2-3 inches of soil. If the soil has dried out completely, it’s time to hit the watering can. If it’s not, wait a couple of days and then check again.
As a general rule of thumb, you should water your string of pearls until liquid runs out of the bottom of the pot. You should let it sit that way for about ten minutes, then empty the saucer.
Make Sure It’s the Right Temperature
A string of pearls will do best in warmer temperatures in the range of 70-80°F (21-26°C) from early spring through late summer. During cooler winter months, ensure the temperature stays in the 55-60°F (13-16°C).
They will suffer sunburns if you expose them to too much blazing direct sunlight or heat. More importantly, you should note that a string of pearls is a very sensitive plant to cold weather, so avoid cold drafts.