The string of pearls plant does not need to be repotted very often because it is not a very fast-growing plant, but it also cannot be considered slow-growing.
When the plant’s roots have become crowded inside the pot and this is affecting the entire plant, it may be rootbound, which means you really need to replace the pot with a larger one that will give the plant more space to grow into.
In this article, we will discuss the reasons and the signs that your string of pearls needs repotting, and how to properly perform this process.
If you have a string of pearls and are thinking about repotting it, keep reading to learn more about the process.
Why does a string of pearls need to be repotted?
Before we dive into the process of repotting the plant, let us first discuss the situations in which the plant would need to be repotted.
One of the most common reasons a plant needs to be repotted is that it is rootbound.
In its natural habitat, a plant grows in the ground and its roots have unlimited space to spread sideways. Its potential for growth is unrestricted. Compare that to a string of pearls grown in a container or pot, where the space for the roots is limited. After a few years, the new roots will have nowhere to go and will end up wrapping around themselves until they become one large, tangled root ball.
If the plant is rootbound, this can affect the overall health of the plant. The growth will be slow or stunted and there will not be enough soil, and therefore nutrients, for the plant’s needs.
The roots will end up occupying so much space in the pot that they may even cause the pot to break. The roots will start to grow out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot, and may even displace so much soil that they become visible above the pot, too.
Because there is so little soil left, the water and nutrients that the soil should retain for the plant will be significantly reduced, and eventually the plant will weaken and even die.
Even though the plant’s root system is typically shallow, that does not mean it prefers smaller pots. Later in this article, we will discuss the correct pot for your string of pearls.
Signs of a rootbound string of pearls
The following are signs that are visible above the soil, or outside the pot.
If the plant looks dehydrated despite you watering it correctly, or if you can see roots growing out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot, these are signs that your plant is possibly rootbound.
If the plant’s growth has slowed down considerably or halted altogether in the past few weeks, this can also be attributed to the plant being rootbound.
The pearls on the plant will also start to shrivel and turn yellow, and water will drain from the pot faster than usual, letting the soil dry out faster, too.
To confirm your diagnosis of a rootbound plant, you will need to remove the plant from the pot so you can inspect the roots more closely.
How to check a string of pearl’s roots
Pull all of the plant’s stems to one side so that they do not get in the way of you checking the roots.
Remove the plant from its pot as gently and slowly as possible so that the least amount of damage is done to the plant and its roots. If you are having a difficult time getting the plant out of the pot, run an old knife around the edge of the soil on the inside of the pot to loosen it.
Once you have removed the plant from the pot, check all the roots for signs of being rootbound. These signs include the roots being tangled and consuming most of the space in the pot.
If the roots have only just begun wrapping themselves around the main root ball, that means that the problem is still in its early stages. However, if the roots have matted around the root ball and there is very little soil left in the pot and in the root mass itself, then the plant is severely rootbound. In this case, you need to repot it as soon as possible.
You can fix a rootbound string of pearls either by repotting it or by propagating it.
How to repot a string of pearls
This plant does not need to be repotted as frequently as most plants, but if you are convinced that the plant is rootbound, repotting it will be necessary.
The best pot to choose is one size larger than the old pot, to give the roots more space to grow into. Remember not to jump the gun and choose a pot that is too large. A large pot means more soil is needed to fill it, and more soil means more water is retained. When more water is retained, the plant is at a higher risk of becoming overwatered and getting root rot.
Use fresh potting soil to replenish the plant’s nutrient supply. Healthy soil also makes the transfer of water and nutrients from the soil much smoother.
Before you start the repotting process, prepare the new pot, the fresh soil, and a sterilized knife or pair of scissors for trimming.
Gently remove the plant from its old pot, making sure that the plant and its roots are not damaged in the process. Shake off as much of the old soil from the roots as gently but as effectively as you can. If there are any dry or dead roots, cut them off using the knife or the scissors, so that only healthy roots remain.
Fill the new pot about a third of the way with fresh soil. Place the plant in the new pot and start filling the gaps around the roots, making sure there are no air pockets in the soil.
Water the plant immediately after repotting.
How to propagate a string of pearls
Another solution to resolving a rootbound string of pearls is to propagate it, especially if it has become quite bulky and thick. If you do not want the plant to get any bigger than it currently is, this is a good way of dealing with it, because you will be dividing it into two smaller plants.
Take your selected cuttings from the parent plant using sterilized scissors. You can leave these cuttings out for a few days with no problem.
Fill the new pots with fresh potting soil – preferably a succulent mix.
Place the cuttings in the soil, making sure that the nodes are buried.
After a few weeks, the cuttings will establish their own roots and you will have multiple strings of pearls as opposed to one plant that is becoming crowded in its pot.
What is the best soil and pot to use for a string of pearls?
The wrong kind of soil can cause problems for your string of pearls, which is why it is imperative that you use the correct soil when repotting the plant. If you use the ideal soil, the plant will be provided with its essential nutrients and minerals, as well as appropriate drainage to keep it healthy and happy.
This plant likes soil that drains well, because it is a succulent and likes its soil to dry out between waterings. Succulents have fleshy leaves and stems that can store a lot of water for use during droughts, and they really do not like their roots standing in waterlogged soil for days on end.
Use a succulent or cactus mix that you can buy at your local gardening store. If your local store does not stock such a mix, you can also make your own, using components that will create a well-draining soil mix that your string of pearls will like. Just mix two parts regular potting soil with one part perlite and one part grit or coarse sand. The soil provides the plant with nutrients while the perlite and grit provide the drainage properties.
As mentioned above, choose a new pot that is only one size bigger than the old one, because using a larger pot can lead to overwatering and root rot.
Choose a pot made of clay or terracotta. Refrain from using plastic or metal containers because those materials do not promote good aeration and may suffocate the plant. They also do not let water seep through them, encouraging possible overwatering.
When is the best time to repot a string of pearls?
This plant does not need to be repotted as often as other plants; in fact, you should refrain from repotting it too frequently because repotting is a stressful experience for the plant and it needs to be completely healthy to recover properly.
Keeping an eye on the plant’s roots is enough to know whether or not it needs to be repotted. It only really needs this when it is rootbound.
Repotting is best done during the spring or summer, because this is when the plant is actively growing. If you repot it during the winter when it is dormant, it will have a harder time recovering from the trauma of repotting.
Repot your string of pearls when the plant is getting too big for its old pot or container. This plant does not grow very fast, so you only really need to repot it when it becomes rootbound.
A rootbound string of pearls will have stunted growth and roots growing out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
You can remedy a rootbound string of pearls either by repotting the entire plant in a bigger pot, or by propagating it by division.
Repot the plant by removing it from the old pot, trimming any dead roots and foliage, and planting it in a new pot with adequate drainage holes, using fresh succulent or cactus mix. Water the plant after repotting it.
Make sure the new pot is one size larger than the old one so that the plant’s roots have plenty of space to grow into.
Propagating can reduce the size and thickness of the plant by removing some cuttings and planting them in their own small pots, so that they can grow into their own individual plants.
Image: istockphoto.com / Tatyana Consaul