String of pearls is one of the favorite hanging succulents among growers because of its unique, orb-shaped foliage. This indoor plant is also drought-resistant, making it easy to maintain even for neglectful owners.
That said, the string of pearls does need a degree of care and attention, as it is not completely immune to certain problems. If you notice your string of pearls turning white, this is a clear sign that something is not right with your plant. Read on to determine the possible causes of this discoloration, and what you can do to fix the problem.
Why is my string of pearls turning white?
1. Exposure to direct sunlight
Your string of pearls is best kept in a spot that gets diffused, indirect sunlight, although it will also do fine under the soft, direct morning sunlight.
However, if you leave it under the full sun throughout the day, the intense heat will burn its foliage and you will see its leaves turning white and developing lesions as they lose their moisture.
For this reason, it is not recommended to place your string of pearls in areas with very bright sunlight, such as near south-facing windows or on open patios. If you must place your plant near a window, you can hang curtains or blinds to ensure your plant receives enough light without being harmed by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
If you notice a white, powdery substance on your plant’s foliage, it is likely that it is infested with mealybugs. Other bugs, such as aphids, mites, ants, gnats, and whiteflies, can also take up residence on your string of pearls. As the pests feed on the plant’s sap, they inflict significant damage on the foliage, leading to leaf discolorations, leaf drop, and sooty leaves.
Unfortunately, you cannot revive the damaged plant parts; the best you can do is prune away the most damaged sections while treating the infestation.
3. White mold
White mold or powdery mildew is a type of fungal infection that can affect plants like the string of pearls. It appears as white fuzzy mold or spores which spread over the foliage. If you do not intervene right away, these fungal spores can consume the entire plant and turn it into an ailing, ugly mess.
The most common causes of white mold are moist environments and waterlogged soil, which is why you need to keep your indoor climate and watering habits in check. It is also not a good idea to water your plants in the evening, as the lack of sunlight and lower temperatures at night can keep the foliage moist for too long, leaving your plant vulnerable to such pathogens.
4. Root rot caused by overwatering
Ignorance of your plant’s specific watering requirements can easily result in overwatering. Houseplants like the string of pearls have very sensitive roots which can start to rot when kept for too long in waterlogged soil.
So what does an overwatered string of pearls look like?
Damaged roots can severely affect the health of your plant, and this might lead to leaf discoloration and bursting, giving your string of pearls a wrinkled and mushy appearance.
Aside from the wrong watering habits, your plant might also end up overwatered if the pot lacks proper drainage or if it is too big for the plant. Using dense or compacted soil can worsen the problem, as the soil will hold more moisture than necessary and prevent the roots from absorbing oxygen. The increased moisture content of the soil encourages the growth of fungus and bacteria that can potentially kill your plant.
5. Chlorine or fluoride in tap water
If you have been watering your string of pearls with regular tap water, there is a higher risk of white spots appearing on the foliage. This is because the tap water in most households is too hard, and usually contains an excess amount of chemicals like chlorine, fluoride, calcium, and magnesium that can leave white residues on your plants.
Water hardness can also cause a salt buildup in the soil that will trigger moisture uptake issues. And, just like underwatering, a lack of moisture can also cause your string of pearls to lose its leaves, wilt, and stop growing.
6. Inadequate pruning
Pruning your string of pearls regularly is important to maintain its size and beautiful appearance. Doing so will remove some of the damaged stems and pearls, promoting a fuller, bushier plant.
It is recommended to prune your plant only during the growing season, as doing so during its dormant period can trigger plant stress and cause irreversible damage to the stems and foliage.
Too much fertilizer can cause leaf discoloration on your string of pearls. You might notice some of the pearls turning white, yellow, or brown – a common sign of root burn.
A string of pearls does not need very much fertilizer to grow and produce beautiful foliage. So, if you fertilize it too much, the excess fertilizer that is not absorbed by the plant will accumulate in the soil as salts and will inhibit the plant’s water uptake. The resultant root damage will weaken the plant and make it vulnerable to diseases.
Other signs of too much fertilizer in a string of pearls include wilting, slower new growth, and plant death.
When it comes to plant care, misting is a subject of debate. In general, misting your indoor plants can be beneficial as it can help to clean the foliage and increase the humidity in your growing area. However, not all plants will benefit from this method, especially succulents like the string of pearls.
Too much moisture in the environment can invite bacterial and fungal spores to germinate on the plant’s foliage. As mentioned before, this can result in white mold on the leaves and cause the string of pearls to wrinkle or collapse.
How to fix a string of pearls that is turning white
Getting your string of pearls back to its usual, stunning appearance is generally quite easy once you have determined the cause of the problem. Here are some tips to fix your plant’s discolored foliage and prevent future problems:
1. Provide adequate light
Exposure to indirect sunlight for about eight hours per day is just one of the basic requirements for your string of pearls. Sunlight is essential for plants to photosynthesize, so make sure that your succulent receives the light it needs to produce its beautiful green pearls. But, as mentioned before, avoid the scorching heat of direct sunlight at all costs to prevent foliage damage.
If you cannot find a perfect spot with diffused sunlight, you can use artificial grow lights instead. Grow lights like VIVOSUN mimic the full spectrum of sunlight to support optimal plant growth without damaging the leaves.
2. Correct your watering habits
Your string of pearls requires just the right amount of water to thrive, and both overwatering and underwatering will be to the detriment of its full and beautiful foliage.
If you are not sure about when your plant needs water, you can easily check the soil’s moisture first. The rule is simple – if the soil is dry, water your plant. Otherwise, wait for the top two inches of soil to dry completely before watering. It is highly recommended to use a soil moisture probe, both for accuracy and convenience. If you do not have a moisture probe, you can also test the soil using your finger but make sure not to disturb the roots.
3. Get rid of pests
When it comes to pest infestations, early intervention is critical to prevent severe leaf damage. Here are some tips to save your pest-infested string of pearls:
- Isolate the infected plant to avoid spreading the disease to other healthy plants.
- Prune the damaged leaves and stems using sterilized pruning shears or scissors.
- Apply neem oil on the leaves once a week until all the pests are eradicated.
- If you prefer using insecticides, make sure that your chosen product is safe for indoor plants. Do your research on the brand and follow the proper dosage.
- Keep your string of pearls where it can get bright, indirect sunlight.
- Do not mist the plant, and avoid watering it at night to discourage fungal growth.
4. Keep fertilizer application in check
Fertilizer is a great way to give your plants that extra boost for faster growth. However, slow feeders like the string of pearls do not need a very large dose. To avoid overfeeding your plant, make sure to use a diluted fertilizer with a 10:10:10 nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) ratio.
Fertilize your string of pearls once or twice during the spring and summer, and never during the winter season, as this is when it is dormant.
5. Treat fungal disease
Dealing with a fungal infection is a bit similar to treating pest infestations. Follow these tips to revive your succulent:
- Isolate the infected succulent from the rest of your indoor plants. Unpot it and prune off all the damaged roots, leaves, and stems.
- Apply a good fungicide to get rid of the fungus.
- Let the surviving roots air-dry for about three days. Do not worry – your string of pearls should grow new roots once it has recovered.
- Transfer your plant to a new pot with fresh soil. Make sure that the pot has drainage holes and use a soil mix with good aeration.
- Establish good watering habits to prevent overwatering which can encourage fungal growth.
A string of pearls turning white is usually a sign of sunburn, pests, fungal disease, poor water quality, inappropriate watering habits, or overfeeding. If you suspect that your plant is struggling with any of these issues, make sure to address the problem right away to prevent further damage to the leaves. The golden rule for houseplants also applies to your string of pearls: give it the right care and it should bounce back to health in a very short time!
Image: istockphoto.com / vsanderson