Overwatered String Of Hearts – Troubleshooting your sick SOH plant

Identifying an overwatered string of hearts (scientific name: Ceropegia) is simple when you know what symptoms to look for. Identifying and confirming your string of hearts is suffering from water stress is important. Because then you can then take the appropriate actions to revive it back to health.

When a string of hearts is overwatered it shows a particular set of symptoms:

  • the leaves will begin to wilt and can turn yellow,
  • random red black or brown blisters appearing on the leaves, or
  • foul odors emanating from the base of the stem or soil.
Overwatered String of Hearts

Welcome to the Garden Bench Top where today we are going to help you troubleshoot your sickly string of hearts plant.

We’ll begin by walking you through the typical symptoms an overwatered string of hearts exhibits. We’ll then talk about options for salvaging your beautiful plant. Finally, we’ll discuss how to prevent your string of hearts from ever becoming overwatered again.

How to Tell if Your String of Hearts is Overwatered?

Okay, first things first. Let’s work out if your string of hearts is suffering from water stress due to being overwatered.

String of Hearts Leaves Wilting and Yellowing – A cry for help!

When a plant is upset or suffering, the leaves will be one of the first signs that your plant is struggling. It is their way of communicating with you, showing you that action is needed – and quick!

In the case of overwatering, your string of hearts will first try to grab your attention with wilting leaves. This generally looks like your plant is drooping and a little lackluster. You can see this in action in the picture from a Reddit reader below.

wilting string of hearts leaves

If you don’t act quickly, the next symptom they will display is yellowing leaves.

When you see yellow leaves on your string of hearts, it is usually the result of a deficiency in nutrients (specifically iron). These deficiencies are caused by continued watering, which washes away the nutrients in the soil before the plant has an opportunity to absorb them.

Again, if left too long, the wilted and yellow leaves will begin to drop from the plant. This is essentially the last cry for help from your string of hearts, which is screaming for your attention.

We provide guidance on a fool-proof method of watering your string of hearts later in this article, so keep reading.

String of Hearts Edema – Internal Issues

Another symptom that can form on the leaves of your string of hearts is Oedema.

It appears on the string of heart’s leaves as small red or brown splotches. These are the cells in the leaves swelling and exploding due to excessive watering and humidity, which is impeding the plants’ ability to transpire (the process of water evaporating from the leaves).

This is essentially another symptom that can result from supplying your string of hearts with too much water. When this is combined with too high humid environment, it can cause your plant internal issues that will often result in advanced edema and its demise.

String of Hearts Diseases – Something’s a foul.

credit: Unsplash

Symptoms of overwatering not only appear in the leaves of your string of hearts. It can also show up in the roots and stems.

Constantly moist soil eventually leads to a disease developing in the soil and roots, called root rot.

Generally speaking, you can recognize root rot in plants by feeling the base of the stems. If they are soft, squishy and brown, it is a strong signal that your plant is suffering from root rot. Unfortunately, the string of hearts has thin and slender stems, so it is difficult to perform the look and feel test we just described.

Another way to tell if your string of hearts plant has root rot is by sniffing the soil around the base of the plant. If it is emitting a rotten or foul smell, it is a strong indication that you have rotten roots or dead roots.

Trust us when we say you want to avoid root rot as much as possible. Once root rot sets in, it requires a complete reset of the soil and pot your string of hearts is living in. Again, we’ll walk you through this process below.

How to Fix Your Overwatered String of Hearts

Now you understand how to recognize the symptoms of overwatering, let’s look at ways to remedy the problem.

Repotting your String of Hearts Plant – The Quickest Solution

If you suspect your string of hearts soil is sitting in soggy wet soil mix (you can check this by performing the soil moisture finger test), the quickest solution to getting it into the right environment is to repot it. This will reduce the amount of water being absorbed by your plant, and prevent root rot from developing.

To repot your string of hearts, follow these steps:

  1. Loosen the soil – gently squeeze the sides of your pot to loosen the soil from the planter (if you have a ceramic or clay pot, you can skip this step)
  2. Uproot your String of Hearts – spread your hand over the surface of the soil, placing the main stems of the plant snugly between your fingers to support the plant as it comes out of the pot. With your hand firmly spread over the topsoil and the other on the bottom of the planter, in one swift action flip the pot upside down. If your plant hasn’t already come loose, gently coax it out using the hand that was supporting the bottom of the pot.
  3. Inspect the Roots – now that your string of hearts is safely out of its container, it is a good opportunity to inspect the roots for any evidence of root rot. You are looking for any discolored roots (brown or black roots), that are mushy and smelly. If you suspect there is root rot, refer to our guide on treating plants with fungal root rot, as there are a few additional steps you need to follow.
  4. Re-pot your String of Hearts – tease out the root ball of your string of hearts to prevent it from becoming root bound. Use fresh potting mix that has good drainage properties and fill your pot. We like to make up our own indoor plant soil using our recipe to ensure our indoor plants have soil that drains well, but also retains enough moisture for the plant to thrive.

    Finally, make sure to feed your plant with fertilizer and essential nutrients. It will need it to recover and grow stronger than before.

Check out this short instructional video of how to repot your string of hearts by Jackie:

DO NOT Expose Your String of Hearts to Direct Sunlight

Although it may be tempting to attempt to dry your overwatered soil by putting your plant in the sun, this can actually have the complete opposite effect.

In fact, a string of heart plants prefer indirect light. By suddenly exposing your string of hearts to direct sunlight, you may stress your plant out and weaken it to the point of no return. The stress your string of hearts will suffer is a form of shock. It results from sudden changes in the environment that stress the plant.

How to Prevent your String of Hearts from Becoming Overwatered

Change your Watering Frequency Habits

Another way to repair your overwatered string of hearts is to change your watering schedule and methodology.

If there is one thing that we wish we knew at the beginning of our gardening adventure, it is this simple, yet effective way of determining when to water our indoor plants.

We call it the soil moisture finger test, and we touched on it earlier in this piece. Without going into too much detail (because we have a complete instructional guide HERE), you use your finger to test the moisture levels of the soil. Begin by sticking your finger into the top few inches of the soil and carefully remove it. If there is soil sticking to your finger, there is sufficient water, and you can come back in a few days time. On the other hand, if it comes out clean, it is time for more water.

Bottom Water Your String of Hearts

If you want to up your indoor plant game, try watering your plants from the bottom up.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to flip your plants upside down and pour water into the drainage holes.

It involves placing your indoor plants in containers of water and allowing the soil to soak the water up via the drainage holes until it is fully saturated. This way, the soil doesn’t become over saturated and only absorbs what it needs to keep your string of hearts plant happy.

Bottom watering also delivers additional benefits, like encouraging a stronger root system and keeping unwanted pests away (like fungus gnats).

Ensure Your Planters Have Sufficient Drainage

Overwatered string of heart plants are not always caused by overzealous plant parents throwing gallons of water into the pot. It can also result from insufficient drainage in the planters.

If you suspect your watering routines are on point (also because your other indoor plants are clearly thriving), then it is a good idea to check that your soil isn’t too dense, and your planter has enough drainage to allow excess water out.

Try cutting some additional holes along the bottom edge of your planter, or if you aren’t confident with doing a bit of DIY, simply repot to a pot with drainage holes following the above steps.

Final Thoughts on Overwatered String of Hearts

Overwatering is a common problem many novice plant parents face at the beginning of their journey. Fortunately it is a problem that can be easily fixed once identified.

There are common symptoms your string of hearts will exhibit when it is overwatered. These include yellow and wilting leaves that sometimes fall off.

For a quick and immediate fix, try repotting your string of hearts into some fresh potting mix that is well-draining soil.

However, for longer term success, learn how to employ the soil moisture finger test to determine when your plants need a top-up.