Skip to Content

How to Fix Overwatered and Underwatered String of Hearts?

The string of hearts, scientifically known as Ceropegia woodii, is the most widely cultivated succulent specie of the genus Ceropegia from the family Apocynaceae.

As the name suggests, this plant has characteristic heart-shaped thick leaves attached to long tendrils. Thus, giving a “string of hearts” look.

Ceropegia woodii. - Overwatered and Underwatered String of Hearts.
Ceropegia woodii – Image via Flickr.

It is also commonly known as the “chain of hearts.” No matter what you call it, this wonderful vining succulent specie can effortlessly steal the show with its stunning foliage and attractive little flowers.

In today’s article, we’ll be looking at the difference between an overwatered and underwatered string of hearts and how you can fix both.

We will discuss the problems and solutions associated with both cases. So, stay with me as I dive into the article.

Overwatered and Underwatered String of Hearts – Problems and Solutions

I am going to divide the whole talk into two parts.

  • For the first part, I will list all the problems concerning an overwatered and underwatered string of hearts.
  • For the second part, we will look at how to properly water the plant and prevent the problems that arise with an overwatered and underwatered string of hearts.

But first, let us look at the essential terms associated with the debate.

Overwatering and Underwatering a String of Hearts Plant

Before I particularize the visual problems that arise with overwatering and underwatering your string of hearts. Let me elaborate, when is a plant overwatered or underwatered.

Overwatering Your String of Hearts Plant

Overwatering doesn’t necessarily mean pouring a large amount of water into the pot. It actually occurs through a combination of several factors.

  • Unhealthy potting mix. (Compact and poorly draining.)
  • Absence of drainage holes.
  • Frequent watering.

Unhealthy Potting Mix

A potting mix that’s unable to drain excess water and causes waterlogging in the pot is considered unhealthy for your plant.

The string of hearts is a succulent plant species and requires less frequent watering. An ideal potting mix for this plant should be well-draining so that the soil dries out in between waterings.

You can check out this article to make the perfect potting mix for all types of succulents.

However, if I am to provide you with an overview. An ideal potting mix for your string of hearts plant should look something like this:

You can increase the water retention by adding in 1 part of coco coir/coco peat.

Absence of Drainage Holes

If your plant pot doesn’t have drainage holes at the bottom, it can result in water sitting at the bottom.

That’s the main reason for basal root rot — a common problem in the string of hearts.

An unhealthy potting mix fused with a pot without drainage holes will instantly kill your string of hearts with root rot if you are prone to overwatering.

Frequent Watering

The primary reason behind overwatering is watering your plant more often than it requires. This results in the soil remaining constantly wet and soggy.

Wet and soggy conditions interrupt the air circulation and nutrition of the plant.

Underwatering Your String of Hearts Plant

Underwatering is not that complicated.

For a string of hearts plant, you must allow the soil to dry out between waterings before giving it another shot of hydration.

But if you leave your string of hearts bone dry for extended periods in between waterings, the soil becomes compact and cannot absorb water. Water seeps down from the pot, leaving the roots thirsty.

Thus, it results in underwatering.

Overwatered and Underwatered String of Hearts — Problems

Now, let us see the common problems originating in an overwatered and underwatered string of hearts. Overwatered and underwatered string of hearts exhibit the following complications:

  • Yellowing of leaves.
  • Drooping of leaves.
  • Root Rot.
  • Brown spots on leaves — Edema.

Yellowing of Leaves

The yellowing of leaves in the string of hearts plant is primarily caused by improper watering. You will find yellow leaves in both the overwatered and underwatered string of hearts.

Yellowing leaves in a string of hearts plant. - Overwatered and Underwatered String of Hearts.
Yellowing leaves in a string of hearts plant. – Image via Reddit.

Yellowing of Leaves in Overwatered String of Hearts

An overwatered string of hearts plant exhibits moisture stress by yellowing old and new foliage.

As I mentioned earlier, the string of hearts is a succulent plant — that is caudiciform in nature.

Note: String of hearts has swollen, potato-like root tubers that can store water. Therefore, overwatering is the most common mistake people usually make with the string of hearts.

If you frequently overwater your string of hearts, the roots in your plant will remain constantly moist. These roots suffocate in the pool of water around them, and without any air or oxygen, the roots won’t be able to absorb water or nutrients.

If the yellowing of leaves is due to overwatering, the leaves will look limp and soft to the touch.

Also, overwatering drains out essential nutrients from the soil, leading to the yellowing of leaves.

This causes a deficiency of vital nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, magnesium, or iron resulting in the yellowing of leaves in an overwatered string of hearts.

Yellowing of Leaves in Underwatered String of Hearts

If the yellowing is caused by underwatering, the leaves would be dry and crisp.

That’s the main difference between the yellow leaves resulting in an overwatered and underwatered string of hearts plant.

An underwatered string of hearts has a bone-dry root system that is unable to absorb moisture (as if it is present… 😅) and nutrients, resulting in the yellowing of leaves.

Because if the soil/potting mix of your string of hearts remains dry for too long, it becomes compact and cannot hold moisture. As a result, the water you pour into the plant runs down from the sides of the pot. And the roots remain dry.

Prolonged phases of underwatering can also cause leaf drop, browning of leaves, wilting of leaves, scorching of leaves (if you put your plant under bright sunlight on top of underwatering), and shunted growth.

Drooping of Leaves

The other problem that can arise from overwatering or underwatering your string of hearts is the drooping of leaves.

In this condition, the leaves and stems appear limp and leggy, as if the plant is about to die. Drooping leaves can occur in both overwatered and underwatered string of hearts plants.

Whatever the cause, the principle of leaf droop is the same: Leaves in a plant droop/wilt due to a decrease in turgor.

Turgor: We can define turgor as water pressure in plant cells that make up roots, stems, and leaves.

Drooping of Leaves in Overwatered String of Hearts

Drooping/wilting leaves from overwatering results only when roots in your string of hearts are decayed due to root rot.

These rotten roots cannot absorb water or nutrients, and as a result, the plant wilts. The turgor pressure, in this case, is diminished due to damaged roots that are unable to absorb water.

The visual symptom is usually the same whether the drooping is due to over or underwatering. But in the case of overwatering, the leaves are soft and mushy to touch.

Drooping of Leaves in Underwatered String of Hearts

Wilting of leaves due to underwatering has a simple concept.

Less water equals less turgor pressure. When your plant doesn’t receive enough water to keep itself erect, guess what? It wilts.

The main difference in the wilted leaves of a string of hearts plant due to underwatering rather than overwatering is that the leaves appear dry and crisp with wrinkles.

Why are the leaves in my string of hearts curling and how can I fix it? - Overwatered and Underwatered String of Hearts.
Why are the leaves in my string of hearts curling, and how can I fix it? – Image via Reddit.

Root Rot

Root rot is the most severe case of overwatering. It is primarily caused by overwatering but can also be caused by extended periods of underwatering.

Root Rot in Overwatered String of Hearts

By now, most of you already know the mechanism behind the process.

Root rot is caused when water stays in the pot for an extended period of time.

  • The roots, swimming in the pool of water, turn soft and mushy.
  • They suffocate and turn weak as the oxygen levels in the soil begin to diminish.
  • The water damages the epidermis (the outer root surface) and leaves the inner root layer bare. This inner layer is prone to infections.
  • The soil-borne fungi and bacteria responsible for the decaying process thrive in wet and soggy conditions.
  • Once they are able, they attack the weak roots and cause root rot.

This rot can spread and turn nasty if not diagnosed and treated at the start.

You must go through this article to be able to diagnose and treat root rot.

Root Rot in Underwatered String of Hearts

This is a rare case. Root rot can never occur in the absence of water. So, how does underwatering causes root rot?

I have mentioned earlier in the article that when you underwater your string of hearts for a long time, the soil becomes compact and is unable to absorb water. But what happens to the poor thirsty roots?

The epidermis of these thirsty roots dies off (because the roots need water to work and grow properly), leaving these roots in the same condition as those in overwatered plants.

If you have this underwatered plant in a container or a pot without drainage holes and you water it, the water would flow down without being absorbed by the roots.

And if you fill the entire pot, the roots will remain sitting in the water, leading to root rot.

Brown Spots on Leaves — Edema

Edema is a unique condition that results from overwatering a string of hearts plant. The string of hearts is a succulent plant that can store water in its roots and leaves.

When we overwater a string of hearts plant, the turgor pressure in the plant cells increases to such an extent that they burst, and black or brown corky spots appear on the leaves. This condition is known as edema.

It is also known as “succulent edema” and results when the amount of water absorbed by the plant is more than it transpires.

Overwatered and Underwatered String of Hearts — Solutions

First, let us see how to water a string of hearts plant properly.

How to Properly Water the String of Hearts Plant?

It is not ideal that you water your plant on a fixed schedule.

Watering your plant on a fixed schedule will result in mistakes like over and underwatering.

If you are not a “pro” in watering and you don’t know about your plant’s needs regarding sunlight, humidity, and temperature, you will not be able to water your plant on a perfect schedule.

Watering a string of hearts on a proper schedule is only possible if you have it in constant environmental conditions like a greenhouse, which is not very common in household plant owners.

So, what is the ideal way to water a string of heats plant?

“The ideal way to water a string of hearts is to wait for 2/3rd of the soil/potting mix to get entirely dry in between waterings.”

For this purpose, you will first have to monitor your plant constantly. Once you know how long it takes for the soil to dry in specific environmental conditions, you’ll become a “pro” in watering your plants.

You can use a moisture meter or a wooden probe to check your plant soil’s moisture levels. Or, you can also use your fingers to feel the dampness of the soil.

“Once you see/feel that more than half of the soil is dry, you can give your string of hearts a lovely dose of hydration.”

Do not allow the soil to entirely dry out in between watering.

With that said, now you will be able to prevent overwatering and underwatering your string of hearts plant.

How to Fix Yellow and Droopy Leaves in a String of Hearts Plant?

There is no way to reverse the discoloration of the leaves. However, your precious plant will get back to life after fixing up the watering if the roots the still healthy and safe from rot.

It is better to cut off damaged leaves to save the plant’s energy.

You can watch this excellent tutorial on repotting a string of hearts plant. Repotting your plant in a fresh potting mix is perfect for fixing these problems.


Conclusion

On that note, let us conclude the talk.

I hope that today’s article helped you understand the difference between an overwatered and underwatered string of hearts.

After taking in all this valuable information, you are now able to water your string of hearts properly, and you can easily prevent any problem associated with either of the cases mentioned above.

If you found this article helpful, consider sharing it with your friends and family.

In the comments, let us know how your incredible string of hearts is going on.

Happy Planting!

Regards,
Mahad H.