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String of Pearls Turning Purple (9 Causes and Solutions)

Although some green and white variegated forms of this plant exist, a healthy String of Pearls is usually green. The tell-tale fleshy, pea-like leaves that resemble a beaded necklace only change color when the plant is exposed to stress. This is why a String of Pearls turning purple is a concern for many growers.

So, why does it happen? The leaves of a String of Pearls will turn purple if the plant is stressed. Usually, the plant will produce a pigment called anthocyanin in response to environmental stressors like sunburn, underwatering, overwatering, intense heat, or pests and diseases.

It is not always necessary to be concerned about color changes in a succulent. In fact, some growers stress their plants in order to induce variegation in their plants. It is critical, however, not to go overboard with your enthusiasm.

I’ll discuss some of the possible causes of your String of Pearls turning purple, as well as how to resolve the issue.

String of Pearls Turning Purple
String of Pearls Turning Purple

Is Your String of Pearls Stressed?

The string of Pearls leaves turning orange, blue, red, or purple indicate that the plant is under stress. Succulents are known to produce anthocyanin, a pigment that is produced in response to stressors such as heat, sunlight, and excess or a lack of water.

Anthocyanin, the pigment that gives a blue or purple hue to a plant, protects it from sun damage and intense UV rays. Some Strings of Pearls growers take advantage of this adaptation to make their Strings of Pearls more colorful. On rare occasions, the stress can become too much for the plant, causing it to suffer damage.

If the discoloration on your plant is accompanied by other signs of damage, you should address the situation as soon as possible. Identifying the source of the stress and then reversing it will allow your plant to return to its normal state of green to be your first step. The following are some of the most common stressors that the String of Pearls must deal with:

Sunburn

Luminous, indirect light is ideal for String of Pearls’ growth and success. However, if you place your plant in an open window facing the sun, or outside in the summer away from shade, it will most likely be exposed to excessive light. If you place your plant in a location where it will receive direct sunlight, it may develop a purple hue. It is possible that the leaves have the following appearance in addition to the pigmentation:

  • Scorched
  • Scarred
  • Burned

Solution

If you prefer the purple tint caused by exposing your plant to direct light, you can leave the plant slightly exposed to maintain the coloring. However, if the pigmentation is accompanied by distress symptoms like shriveling or drying leaves, you should move the plant to a shaded area.

Here are more tips to help you protect your plant from sunburn:

  • Move it away from the hot glass of a window
  • Adjust the plant’s position in the afternoon when the sun is very hot.
  •  Consider moving the plant to the other side of the room where the sunlight is indirect.
  • Place your plane under a porch or tree where it can receive some morning sun and enough shade to protect it from direct afternoon sunlight.

Underwatering

If the purple leaves of your String of Pearls plant are also shriveling, the problem could be that your plant is not getting enough water. Moisture-deprived plant cells tend to collapse, leading to the leaves shriveling in an attempt to reduce their surface area and reduce more moisture loss.

Generally, this response leads to leaf browning or purpling, among other distress symptoms. It could also eventually lead to death if the plant doesn’t receive water in time.

Solution

It is vital to note that succulents are very hardy and will generally prefer underwatering to overwatering. However, you should not starve your plant. Instead:

  • Check the moisture levels in the potting mix regularly.
  • If the potting mix is completely dry, place the growing container in a water tray for a couple of hours. This will allow the plant to enjoy a deep drink.
  • A slow drink is more suitable when the stems and balls begin turning purple or brown. It will likely reverse the pigmentation.

Overwatering

Overwatering causes stress to your String of Pearls plant, triggering leaf purpling. Tell-tale signs of this problem include a mushy-looking crown, soggy roots, and a fleshy stem. If allowed to continue, overwatering could result in the death of your plant.

When plant roots are exposed to too much water, they cannot absorb oxygen efficiently and may drown, leading to the plant’s death. Too much water could also foster the growth of fungal pathogens that cause root rot, which could also kill your plant.

Solution

  • Maintaining a consistent watering schedule at the expense of your plants’ health is not recommended.
  • Do not water your plant until the little balls start to shrink and shrivel a little bit.
  • When the green balls are plump, the plant has received enough water.

Sudden Temperature or Lighting Changes

A number of studies have demonstrated that the anthocyanins produced by plants as a stress response can assist them in coping with cold temperatures.

If your plant is subjected to sudden temperature or lighting changes, such as extreme heat or cold, this explains why it may begin to show signs of purple coloration.

When grown in average indoor conditions and temperatures, String of Pearls plants do exceptionally well.

Stress symptoms may appear if you expose them to excessive amounts of direct sunlight, extreme temperatures, or prolonged periods of darkness. This is especially true when the changes occur quickly and the plant has little time to adjust to the new environment.

If you notice that your plant’s leaves have turned purple after moving it or changing the environment in your home, you should investigate what is causing the temperature or light variations. The following are examples of possible culprits:

  • Placing the plant next to a vent or air conditioner
  • Moving the plant outside to next to a large sunny window
  • Locating the plant next to a heater
String of Pearls Turning Purple Due to Lighting Change
String of Pearls Turning Purple Due to Lighting Change

Solution

Maintain a safe distance between your String of Pearls plant and air conditioners, vents, and cold doors. Maintain a temperature of 70-80°F (21-27°C) around your plant in the summer and a little cooler in the winter.

Root System Problems and Root Rot

The leaves of your plant receive insufficient nutrients and moisture when the root system is compromised. This deficiency can cause the entire plant to become stressed, resulting in stunted growth, shriveling, and purpling leaves. Root rot is one condition that can cause this effect.

You may have root rot if you notice your plant’s roots and stems turning mushy and brown. If allowed to spread, this disease is very dangerous and could kill your String of Pearls. Overwatering, poor drainage, or fungal infection are the most common causes.

If you buy a purple or blue String of Pearls, make sure the roots are healthy and the plant isn’t suffering from root rot. Roots that are in good health are firm and white.

Solution

Remove all affected plant parts with sterilized scissors and immediately stop watering your plant, allowing the soil to dry. If there is a lot of damage:

Step 1: Take the plant out of its pot.

Step 2: Remove the soil to reveal the roots, then wash them in a sink.

Step 3: Soak the roots in a fungal pesticide, then place them in a well-ventilated, dry location with indirect light.

Step 4: Allow the roots to dry before replanting the cactus in fresh cactus potting soil.

Poor Drainage

Leaves might also turn purple if the plant doesn’t have good drainage. When cultivating a String of Pearls plant, place it in a clay or terracotta pot with good drainage holes and give it plenty of light. This system keeps the roots moist and aerated while also retaining good drainage.

To keep the roots from getting soggy, it’s important to have good drainage in the potting soil. When the roots are compromised, they are unable to properly absorb nutrients and water, and this causes your plant to be stressed and eventually discolored.

Solution

Use a cactus and succulent soil mix, which can be found at any garden center. It will be light and well-drained, allowing your String of Pearls to quickly regain its green color.

Alternatively, you can make your own potting mix out of organic and inorganic materials. In a 3:2:1 ratio, a great combination that promotes proper root growth, airflow, and drainage could include the following:

  • Potting soil
  • Bark fines
  • Perlite or Pumice

Overfeeding

String of Pearls are not heavy feeders and can go for extended periods of time without fertilizer. In fact, using too much fertilizer or feeding the plant too frequently can cause root burn, resulting in discoloration, stunted growth, and even death. To check for overfeeding, look for purple or brown foliage, as well as other signs such as:

  • Burnt leaves
  • Stunted growth
  • Yellowing of green pearls
  • Shriveling
  • Dieback

Solution

The best option is to use water to drain the surplus nutrients from the potting mix. Pour water into a tub or sink and allow it to flow out of the drainage holes.

In most cases, you will need to repeat this step three to four times to completely drain out the fertilizer. After that, you should refrain from feeding your plant for at least one month to allow it to recover.

Cold Drafts

String of Pearls plants dislike extreme temperatures, and drafts can cause substantial stress. If, in addition to the leaves turning purple, you observe them dropping off, a draft could be the cause.

Cold air weakens and shrivels the foliage of tropical houseplants. You can check the temperature of the air around your String of Pearls to see if there is a problem.

Solution

Move your String of Pearls to a warm location, away from any windows, doors, or vents. You should also distance it from any air conditioners that could be releasing cold bursts of air.

Generally, you want to keep your plant at temperatures of around 70-80°F (21-27°C) during summer and a tad lower in winter.

Pest and Diseases

Infestations of pests and diseases weaken the plant, reducing its ability to absorb light, water, and nutrients. Your plant may produce pigment as a result of the stress, as well as show other signs of damage such as stunted growth and shriveling. Pests and diseases that may affect your String of Pearls include:

PestSymptomsSolutions
AphidsStunted growth.
Presence of tiny brown/green pests on your plant’s leaves.
Leaf discoloration.
Shriveling, and dieback.
Spray insecticidal soap or neem oil on the leaves.

Introduce predatory insects like lacewings and ladybugs. 
Mealybugs Fluffy white wax-like substance on leaves.

Black sooty mold on foliage.

Discoloration and shriveling. Death of the plant. 
Prune infected leaves for minor infestations.

Wash the leaves with soapy water or neem oil.

Introduce predatory insects like lacewings and ladybugs.
DiseaseSymptomsSolutions
Root rot Roots turn mushy and black.

Leaves discolor, shrivel, and dieback.
Reduce the watering frequency and allow the soil to dry.

Use a well-draining potting mix. If the problem is fungal, treat the plant with a suitable fungicide.

Extensive root rot cannot be reversed and will require the propagation of a new plant. 

Solution

Neem oil is a highly effective remedy for pest infestations and sooty mold. When consumed, it has the potential to disrupt a pest’s feeding habits, egg-laying, and growth stages.

The following instructions will guide you through the process of creating a neem oil mixture for your String of Pearls. Bear in mind that because oil and water do not mix naturally, you will need to use an emulsifier such as castile soap.

  • Pour one teaspoon of castile soap into a gallon of water and stir until uniform.
  • Mix in two tablespoons of 100 percent neem oil to the mixture.
  • Spray 2 to 4 cups of the mixture into the soil around your plant.
  • Repeat the procedure every 3 weeks as a prevention measure.

When Should You Worry About Your String of Pearls Turning Purple?

It’s possible that your plant is variegating if it’s turning blue, pink, or purple. Some people don’t mind if their String of Pearls turns purple because the color can add a lot of visual interest to a room. Purple pea-like leaves also resemble real pearls, making them an excellent decorative piece.

Furthermore, stress caused by temperature changes, water requirements, or lighting can be easily alleviated by adjusting the plant’s environment.

Reduce or increase the frequency of watering, or move your String of Pearls to a shaded area, and it should return to its original green hue.

If the color change in your plant is caused by pests (mealybugs, aphids, ants, etc.) or diseases like root rot, you should be concerned.

If you don’t address these issues right away, your String of Pearls plant could suffer significant damage and eventually die.