How to Save Overwatered String of Pearls (Curio rowleyanus)


Potted over watered string of pearls

Bearing the characteristics of a succulent, string of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) is an indoor plant that is highly tolerant to drought. 

They require a very little amount of water and can survive even without one for longer periods. 

That’s why it’s very common to overwater the plant especially if you’re not familiar with its nature. 

Overwatering can kill your string of pearls if you’re unable to create solutions during the early stages. 

The presence of excessive water in the plant will cause bursting off of the leaves which will give the plant a wrinkled appearance. Soon, you’d notice falling off of dead plant portions. 

How do you fix an overwatered string of pearls?

If you happen to overwater your string of pearls, you have to take immediate action to be able to save the plant. 

It includes draining any excess water from the pot, placing the pot under bright light, withholding water for a longer period, removing the damaged/rotten portions, and repotting the entire plant (if necessary). 

What does an overwatered string of pearls look like?

It’s easy to notice an overwatered string of pearls because of the changes it will exhibit outwardly.

By careful observation, you’ll be lucky to detect the early signs and find a quick fix. The following are some physical manifestations of overwatering in a string of pearls.

Root Rot

Well, this one is a bit tricky because obviously, you never see the roots of a plant unless you pull it out of the soil. 

But, once you start seeing any yellowing and browning aboveground, you should start inspecting. Those signs normally show when roots are rotting. 

Another thing you can observe is the base of the plant. When there are portions that appear brown and mushy, then there’s a possible root rot occurring below.

To make sure, you can pull the plant out of its pot and see for yourself. 

Shriveled and Mushy Appearance

Over watered string of pearls Shriveled and Mushy Appearance

An overwatered spring of pearls would have a shriveled appearance. This is a result of the bursting off of the leaves due to the presence of so much water. When touched, the affected parts would feel mushy. 

The bead-like structure of the leaves will be ruptured. Some strings may even appear weak and limping.

Those things are signs you couldn’t neglect because they speak so much about the plant’s health.

Yellowing of Leaves

The yellowing of leaves is another indication of overwatering. The same reason for shriveling, the cells rupture as well with too much water inside. This leads to the death of the cells of the plant. 

The yellowing indicates that the cells are dead. The degree of yellowing depends on the extent of damage. It’s important to mind the early signs of yellowing. 

Leaves Turn Brown

Yellow leaves eventually turn brown after some time. This is a sign that a portion of the plant is bound to rot. In extreme cases, when overwatering has gotten worse, the whole plant may die. 

The browning due to overwatering can be distinguished from that of underwatering.

Browning due to overwatering would appear turgid and slimy when touched. If it’s underwatering, the brown leaves would look shrank and dry. 

Edema (Oedema)

Some cells do not end up being ruptured when there’s so much water intake. Every plant cell has an elastic cell wall that stretches to accommodate fluids. Sometimes, the stretching causes the cells to expand too much. 

As a result, you’d see some protruding bumps on the surface of the leaves.

These blister-like structures are called edema (oedema). Sometimes, these spots cause the leaves to turn yellow and eventually fall off the plant. 

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How to Fix Overwatered String of Pearls?

The above mentioned changes in the appearance of your string of pearls may initially throw you in panic. 

But don’t worry, not all overwatering problems result in the death of the plant. Below is the step by step procedures on how you can fix an overwatered string of pearls. 

Drain Excess Water

Check for any stagnant water in the pot. It’s important that you get rid of any sitting water to prevent further damage on roots. You can do this by gently tilting the pot on the side to allow water to flow sideways. 

Place The String Of Pearl Under Bright Light

If water is being held by the soil, you can hasten evaporation by putting your string of pearls under sunlight. The heat produced increases the temperature. As a result, the soil will dry out faster. 

Transpiration rate also increases with the rise in temperature. This leads the plant to lose more water through its stomata. As a result, the potential of cells getting ruptured will be minimized. 

Withhold Water For A Longer Period

Once you’ve realized that overwatering is the real problem, it’s time you stop watering the plant in the meantime. 

Most probably, the soil is still soaked in water and you have to wait for it to dry completely. 

You can stretch the time in between waterings to make sure that water won’t be stuck up in the pot. 

String of pearls are tolerant of drought conditions so it benefits them if the soil remains dry rather than wet. 

You can skip watering for weeks until you observe the plant is recovering from water stress. Only then can you resume watering the plant again. 

Remove The Damaged Portions

The damaged portions of an overwatered plant would no longer serve a purpose.

So, it’s kinda logical to cut these portions off to maintain the aesthetic look. It’s also a way of cleaning up your plant.

By doing this, you’ll prevent further rotting of the string of pearl. At the same time, it’ll encourage growth of new offsprings that would replace the ruptured portions. 

Repot String of Pearls

If root damage has gotten worse, repotting should be done then. You can uproot the plant by carefully removing it from its pot. Shake it off a little to get rid of soil. 

Be extra gentle as you handle the plant. At this point, the plant is already fragile and can easily get detached. We do not want to add to the existing damage.

Examine the roots to see the degree of damage. Remove rotten portions. Allow the roots to dry a little then replant into another pot. 

This time, you have to use a potting mix that’s well-draining to avoid the dangers of having stagnant water. 

How to Water String of Pearls

Watering a succulent like this string of pearls is a bit tricky. We all know that it needs only a little amount of water. But, the question is how little is little? 

Providing water to a plant is influenced by many factors. It isn’t just the amount that matters. It also takes into account the timing, the weather, the water quality, among others. 

To make it easy for you, we have included here a guidelines on how to properly water a string of pearl:

Watering Rules 

Watering from below 

Providing water from the bottom up is a technique you can use in watering a spring of pearl.

This method allows the pot to stand in a plate with water for around 10 mins. Water is absorbed from below by the roots of the plant. 

This method is more efficient because the roots will be the first to get in contact with the water.

They’ll be able to absorb the water they need without needing to soak the soil too much. 

Watering From Top

Pouring water from above the surface of the soil is the classic way of watering. 

If you choose to water your string of pearl this way, no problem with that. But you have to make sure that you water deeply. 

Use a watering can that has a long, narrow snout so that water is poured out directly to the soil. 

We don’t want to wet the beads as this will encourage fungal growth.

Watering Frequency

Since a string of pearls shouldn’t receive water more often, it’s important to remember the last time you’ve watered the plant. 

This will help you count the days to ensure that you’ve given water just once every two weeks.

Of course, this schedule isn’t fixed. You’d have to check the moisture of the soil first before you give water. 

By dipping a finger an inch below, you’d have a feel of the soil’s moisture. After that, you can decide whether to water or not. 

There are times when string of pearls would require less watering. This depends on the many factors as well which is discussed as follows:

Factors that Influence the Watering Frequency

Changing Season

It’s important to note the changes in season because this will dictate how much water should be given to the plant. During summer, the temperature is expectedly high. Water, at this point should be given, at a normal rate which is once every two weeks.

On the other hand, very little to no water is needed during winter. A cold temperature would lead to lower transpiration rate. Your string of pearls won’t lose much water so you can adjust watering to at least once a month.

Humidity Level

String of pearls require a less humid environment. There are times when humidity rises indoors so you should limit water application. A highly humid environment adds up moisture to the plant so there’s no need for more. 

Soil’s Water Holding Capacity and Porosity

Starting with the right potting mix is essential to avoid overwatering. A well-draining potting mix is always ideal. 

Mixing sand and soil in equal parts will help you achieve a porous structure for the soil.

The availability of spaces within the soil is important. This will allow water molecules to pass through freely. If the soil is compact, water will have a hard time moving out.

On the other hand, a high water holding capacity helps the soil hold more water during watering. 

That way, the soil will have enough storage to supply the water needs of the plant for longer periods. As a result, the frequency of watering is lessened.

Drainage Capacity 

Drainage holes help get rid of the excess water from the pot. It’s ideal to use pots with drainage holes rather than the ones that don’t have. 

With good drainage, water won’t remain stuck for that long. 

Stagnant water is the common cause of root rot as well as fungal problems. 

And though you’re providing just enough water, without good drainage, there’s a high chance that your string of pearls gets overwatered. 

Water Quality

Giving water to plants is essential but that does not mean we can just give any kind of water we find available. 

Remember water holds many particles in it even if it looks clear. Some of them can affect the plant’s health in a serious manner. 

Consider, for example, a tap water that is highly treated with chlorine and fluorine. Using it to water your indoor plants can be fine for now but notice that through time, it can cause build up of salts. 

To avoid this, you have to let the tap water sit for 24 hours before using them to allow chlorine and fluorine to dissipate first.

Of course, rain water is still the best choice for your plant needs. So, take advantage of the rainy seasons to fill a bucket or two for your string of pearl.

Collect the rainwater during the middle of the rain showers to avoid catching the acid rain. 

How Much and When to Water

The amount of water to be used would depend on the size of the plant. The idea is when you water, you have to let it flow deeply until it drains out of the drainage holes. No water should remain flooding the pot. 

Also, water should be provided uniformly on the soil so you have to pour all around inside the pot. 

Avoid watering only on one side. This will result in an imbalance in the growth of the roots. 

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It’s best to provide water early in the morning. This will give enough space for water to evaporate. 

You won’t have to worry over having excess water stuck in the pots of your string of pearls.

When to Water After Transplanting String of Pearls

If you’ve managed to root a string of pearl for propagation, then, transplanting is next. 

Moving the plant from one pot to another can be a little stressful. Your string of pearl got a new place to get accustomed to. 

Water should be given immediately after you’ve potted the plant. It surely needs added moisture given that the fresh set of soil it was planted to is dry. 

Deeply water the pot and drain it well enough before placing it in a new location.

Water the newly transplanted string of pearl once a week until the roots get established. 

Just make sure that it receives enough bright light. After that, you can gradually shift to a less frequent watering schedule. 

Common Mistakes in Watering String of Pearls

Common MistakesHow to Avoid
Inconsistent WateringMind your watering schedule
Watering too MuchAllow the soil to dry first before watering again
Wet Soil from OverwateringEnsure good drainage system
Watering the Leaves and Not the Roots Use a watering can that has long, narrow snout or do bottom watering
Watering During the Heat of the Day Establish an early morning watering routine

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How do you revive a dying string of pearls?

If your over watered string of pearls is getting worse to the point of dying, what you can do is immediately repot the plant. 

Most probably, the roots have been severely damaged by root rot. Remove the damaged parts and save whatever living part of the plant is left and pot it in a new home. 

  1. How can you tell if a string of pearls has root rot?

The yellowing and browning of leaves indicates that the roots of the string of pearls are starting to rot. 

The inability of the rotten roots to channel water and nutrients will lead the cells of the aboveground part to die. This is why you’ll notice them changing color. 

Also, you’d notice the plant getting mushy when touched. Overall, the plant would look weak and limping. 

If you’re still doubtful, you can remove the plant from its pot to know the real condition of the roots. 

  1. Can you bottom water string of pearls?

Bottom watering is a method that requires skill but once you learn it, you can apply it with your string of pearls. 

You just have to be careful not to entangle the beads as you allow the pot to sit on the saucer filled with water. 

Do not let the pot sit too long because it may drown the roots. That would trigger a root rot and we obviously don’t desire that. 

From time to time, you’d still need to water the plant from up to remove salt build up. 

Arifur Rahman

I'm the owner of gardenforindoor.com. After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I'm serving as a civil service officer at the Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh. I started Garden For Indoor to make your indoor gardening journey easy and enjoyable.

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