String of Pearls Root Rot and How to Deal With It

String of Pearls is delicate cascading succulent. Its scientific name is Senecio rowleyanus. It is a beautiful plant that trails gracefully over the sides of pots and hanging baskets. It’s a unique vining succulent that grows well in warm temperatures. The plant gets its name from its round, fleshy leaves carried down by slender stems. The name is a bit of a misnomer because the leaves may look more like beads than pearls. The plant is succulent, and root rot is one of the most significant diseases for succulents, including the string of pearls.

What Causes Root Rot In The String Of Pearls?

There are various possible causes of root rot to look out for as follows:


Overwatering is the leading cause of root rot in succulents. Many succulents’ natural habitat is dry, and they don’t get a lot of water. As a result, their roots have the necessary adaptations to seek water from the surrounding soil, but they are not equipped to obtain oxygen if there is a lot of water around them.

Having the roots constantly surrounded by water suffocates them, and this causes them to rot. Besides root rot, waterlogging makes the plant susceptible to pests and diseases.


Lean soils characterize the environment in which the plant grows naturally. The String of Pearls is adapted to these soils. The plant doesn’t require much additional feeding, even when domesticated. Most parents don’t feed it, especially in the periods immediately following potting, because the nutrients on the pottage have not been depleted. Feeding may be done after the plant remains on the same substrate for a while. However, it would help if you only fed it with liquid fertilizer after diluting it to half strength.

Overfertilization causes an accumulation of chemical salts in the substrate. These chemical salts cause injuries to the roots, such as chemical burns. These injuries can make your plant vulnerable to bacteria that can cause root rot.

Poor Drainage

Besides overwatering, the plant can experience waterlogging due to poor drainage. If you have a pot without sufficient drainage holes, any amount of water you give to the plant will be too much because there is no drainage. Ensure your pot can let out excess water. If you have planted the plant outdoors, you can make French drains to let water out.

The Wrong Substrate

You should plant your String of Pearls on well-draining, lean soil. Soil that doesn’t allow water to pass through it will cause waterlogging and, ultimately, root rot. Get a cactus mix from a store and use it. Alternatively, you can mix loamy soil with an equal measure of sandy soil or pumice to give the soil the right level of permeability.

If the soil is too loamy or contains too much clay, it will retain water, leading to root rot. Soil with too much organic matter is also a significant cause of root rot. Such soil has too much moisture due to an abundance of organic matter.

Signs of Root Rot in String of Pearls

The following indications indicate that your plant may have root rot.

  1. Slow or No Growth: This plant’s growth is slow, but it should be steady. If you find that it is not growing, it may indicate that the plant is experiencing root rot. Slow growth may also show that your String of Pearls require some more light, so you should look out for more signs to be sure. 
  2. Yellow leaves: if the leaves start yellowing from below and the soil is soggy, your plant is overwatered. Yellow leaves may also signal severe dehydration.
  3. Mushy stems: A mush stem shows that your plant has root rot. When the stem has become mushy, it may be too late to salvage the plant. You can use the still healthy parts of the stem to propagate and get new plants.
  4. Stinky pottage: If you notice that your substrate is producing an unusual odor, like that of rotting organic matter.
  5. Brown or Yellow Pearls: A healthy String of Pearls should have green pearls, which are also pulpy. If you find the pearls are yellow or brown, your plant may suffer from root rot.
  6. Shriveled leaves: Root rot makes it impossible for your plant to transport water. The resultant low water content in the plant causes the leaves to wither and shrivel up.

All these signs of root rot can also be signs of other problems. Therefore, if you notice them, smell the soil to see if you can smell decaying vegetative matter.

How to Fix Root Rot on String of Pearls

The following are some of the things you can do to save a plant with root rot.

  1. Drain excess water: Check your pot to see if it has excess water, and drain the pot if you find the water lodged at the bottom. You can find a way to tilt the pot or make some additional drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
  2. Avoid watering the plant for a while: If the pot has enough drainage holes, withhold water from the plant for longer than you have been doing. Delaying your watering allows for the soil to be drained.
  3. Place your String of Pearls under direct sunlight: Placing it under direct sunlight will allow excess water to evaporate, thus reducing the danger of the plant getting root rot.
  4. Cut off the damaged sections of the roots: You can remove the affected sections if the problem has not advanced too far. Remove the plant from the substrate and cut off the sick sections.
  5. Repotting: You can repot the plant if the pottage has lost its porosity, the pot is unsuitable the substrate has too much organic matter. Cut off the rotten sections of the rots before repotting.

If you took too long to intervene when the plant is affected, you might have to cut off the roots and use the vines for propagation.

How to Prevent Root Rot on String of Pearls

Root rot is inextricably linked to watering. Managing the amount of water that goes into the substrate is vital. Ensure you only water the plant when the soil is already dry. Plant your string of pearls in a pot that allows water to drain and air to pass through the soil. Also, ensure the soil is porous and well-aired.

How To Water String Of Pearls

Watering is always a sensitive issue when it comes to succulents. Over watering causes the roots to rot and eventually die. First, ensure the pot you use has drainage holes to release excess water. Also, the soil should be well-draining; any cactus mix soil is ideal. All this is to avoid any instance where water stagnates.

Although the plant generally requires little water, you will need to water it more often in hotter seasons than in colder ones due to evaporation. How easily you manage this aspect of care for your plant will largely be determined by the type of soil on which you have grown your plant. Since there is no one-size-fits-all approach for watering, you will need to determine the need for watering on a moment-by-moment basis.

How do you know your plant requires to be watered? The topsoil dryness test is always an effective method of knowing whether your plant requires some watering. Insert a finger into the plant’s soil or potting mix to feel whether or not the top two inches of the soil is dry. If dry, your soil needs more water since moisture from the previous drink has dried up.

When you notice the bottom leaves of the plant start to wrinkle and slightly wilt when the plant is severely dry and needs urgent watering.

The best method to water this succulent is the soak and dry it. Insert the plant into a large container filled with water and allow the plant to soak in the water for at least half an hour. After removing the plant, let the excess moisture drain from the drainage holes at the bottom of the container for another half an hour. Water again when the soil is dry. 

Dipping your plant in a tab is more applicable to this plant due to its structure. The vines grow long, covering the pot, so getting water directly to the substrate is impossible without wetting the leaves. Wet leaves make the plant susceptible to the growth of fungi.

We are always cautious about giving a definite watering schedule even for the various seasons because the environmental conditions are a significant factor in how well the soil can retain water. Ambient temperature, for example, determines how fast water in the soil evaporates. Even in the same seasons, this temperature varies from place to place.

String of Pearls FAQ

How do you revive a dying string of pearls?

The steps you take depend on why your plant is dying. You can revive the string of pearls by giving it sufficient water if lack of water is the problem. Root rot can be dealt with in the following ways.

  • Draining excess water
  • Repotting
  • Cutting off the affected parts of the roots

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

The following are some of the indicators:

  • Yellow leaves
  • Yellow or brown pearls
  • Crisp leaves
  • Smelly substrate
  • Mushy stems

Can you bottom water string of pearls?           

Yes. Bottom watering is recommended due to the structure of the plant. The vines cover the substrate making it impossible to water the String of Pearls without wetting the leaves. Wet leaves are highly vulnerable to root rot.

Final Words

The String of Pearls is a beautiful trailing succulent. Its evergreen rounded leaves are spectacular when placed in an outdoor garden or hanging pots. As shown above, this plant benefits from moderation. Root rot is the plant’s most likely cause of this plant’s death or failure to meet its aesthetic potential. You should take its watering requirements seriously as too much or too little has adverse effects on the plant. For this plant, moderation is vital for it to thrive and continue to grow for a longer time. Considering all the tips we have shared, your string of pearls will mature healthily.


Richard Miller

Salute everyone. It's Richard, the author of this Succulent & Xeriscaping blog. I am a traveler and a nature lover looking for a connection with the wild green. In my journey, I found a love for succulents and xeriscaping. What attracts me is the long-lasting & unique beauty of every plant I have the chance to see with my own eyes. Welcome to my little blog and let's enjoy a good time together!

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