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String of Tears vs String of Pearls (Confusion Solved!)

The string of pearls and the string of tears are beautiful succulent plants that look quite similar.

You are not alone if you are confused about which is which.

These plants are hard to differentiate, and many mistake one for the other.

However, some slight differences can help to separate the string of pearls from the string of tears.

A string of tears has leaves that look like tiny teardrops, hence the name string of tears. On the other hand, the string of pearls has leaves that look like small balls of pearl. Although both belong to the same family, they can be differentiated by their looks and growth habits.

Hailing from the arid regions of South Africa, both of these plants are commonly found in most indoor plant enthusiasts.

Although both are closely related, they have different care requirements and growth habits to consider if you plan to get any of them.

Their small nuances make them different, even if they are similar in many aspects.

The string of Tears and String of Pearls (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Follow through with the article below to know how they differentiate from each other.

Difference between String of Tears and String of Pearls

Its leaf structure is the most notable thing that differentiates one from the other.

However, other factors like their size, care requirements, texture, and flowers also help to know their differences.

Differentiating FactorsString of TearsString of Pearls
String Shape and TextureTeardrop Shaped LeavesSmall Pea Shaped Leaves
String Size and ColorDark green stem that grows upto 1 footLight green stem that can grow upto 3-4 feet
Growth Habit10 inches per year5-15 inches per year
Flowering HabitsTrumpet shaped flowers that grows from late summer to early winterDaisy shaped flowers that grows upto summer season.

The major characteristics that differentiate the string of pearls from the string of tears are as below:

1. String Shape and Texture

Both are succulent plants with thick, fleshy leaves that help them store water.

It allows them to retrieve water from their leaves when the climate turns dry.

It also helps reduce the transpiration rate, allowing them to survive in the harsh climatic conditions of the arid region.

A string of tears is characterized by its small, teardrop-shaped leaves, around 0.3 cm in diameter.

The leaves are thick and round on the base and gradually narrow towards the tip.

This odd shape of the leaves helps to minimize water loss by exposing the least amount of surface area.

The leaves are perpendicularly oriented and waxy, with veins on the body.

It is dark green and has purple stripes surrounding its surface.

On the other hand, a string of pearls has specialized leaves that are the size of a small pea.

It is surrounded by a thin band of dark green tissue on the side, commonly referred to as a window.

The leaves are generally 0.25 inches in diameter.

It has a surprisingly translucent band of tissue on the sides that help light enter the leaf’s interior.

It helps to increase the surface area of the leaf for photosynthesis.

It is a neat way to mitigate the small outer surface area required for minimizing water loss.

String of Pearls
String of Pearls with bloom

2. String Size and Color

The string of tears can grow up to a foot in height on average.

It has narrow stems that start trailing from the pot after it matures.

The spread of the plant is generally around 1.5 feet.

Its stem is generally dark green to purplish. However, when exposed to bright sunlight, the purple color of the stem and the leaves will become much darker.

Its stem creeps on the ground and roots through the node that runs along the stem.

Compared to a string of tears, the string of pearls is bigger and grows more generously.

Like the color of its leaves, its stem is also light green.

However, its leaves can turn dark green during the summer and spring, their active growing seasons.

Its stem starts to trail on the ground and forms dense mats in its natural environment. After that, it mostly trails in the canopy and shade of other plants or big rocks.

Its trailing stem can grow up to 2-3 feet long. In ideal condition, the stem can also reach 4 feet.

3. Growth Habit

The string of tears is a trailing plant whose leaves cascade from the edge of the pots and containers.

It makes it an ideal plant for growing in hanging baskets and pots.

However, it has a generally medium growth rate and can take up to two years to fully mature.

In a year, it can grow up to 10 inches, depending on the care requirements provided.

The string of pearls grows up to 5 to 15 inches per year in ideal conditions.

It is also a trailing and creeping plant whose leaves run along a trail on the ground.

It is a quick grower and can be a few feet long within a year.

Thus, if grown simultaneously, you will find that the string of pearls grows much faster than the string of tears.

4. Flowering Habits

The string of tears is an evergreen perennial plant that blooms with cloned white flowers to be creamy in color.

It is a seasonal bloomer that blooms from late summer to early winter.

The flowers smell like cinnamon and attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

They bloom trumpet-shaped flower heads on narrow thin stalks called peduncles that can grow up to 6 inches tall.

The string of pearls also blooms seasonally, mostly during the summer season.

It produces half-inch tall white daisy-like flowers that consist of yellow anthers and red stamens.

This blooming period lasts for about a month, after which the flower starts to decay. Its bloom also has a cinnamon-like smell like its other counterpart.

To make this plant bloom, you must cut back on its watering and move it to a cooler area.

Preferably in a location with less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit through winter.

Once the growing season starts, fertilize the plant twice a week.

You can expect this plant to bloom its rare flowers in ideal environmental conditions with adequate sunlight, water, and regular fertilizing.

String of Pearls Flower
String of Pearls Flower
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Similarities between String of Tears and String of Pearls

Apart from the above differences, many things are similar when caring for a string of tears and a string of pearls.

The similarities in their care requirements make it easy to grow either of the plants with the same level of knowledge.

Factors Ideal Requirements
Light Requirements and Location6-8 hrs bright, filtered sunlight; East and West facing window
Watering Requirements Once every 1-2 weeks
Soil Requirements Well-draining and light porous soil
Ideal Temperature70° - 80° F in growing season; 55° – 60° F in winter
Humidity Requirements45% and higher
Fertilizing Requirementstwice every month during the growing season
Ideal pot Size4-6 inches; terracotta or ceramic pots
Pests and InsectsMealybugs, fungus gnats, scales, and spider mites
DiseasesRoot rot disease
ToxicityToxic to Pets and moderately toxic to humans

You can use the information below to grow either of these two plants.

1. Light Requirements and Location

Both the string of pearls and the string of tears require bright, indirect sunlight to grow.

In their native environment, they trail along on the ground below the shade of trees and big rocks.

Both grow well when provided with full sun in the morning and the evening.

You should provide it with six to eight hours of bright, filtered sunlight daily to make it thrive beautifully.

You should avoid direct exposure to the noon sunlight as it can scorch the plant’s leaves and cause water stress.

The best place to keep your string of pearls and the string of tears is near an East-facing window or a window facing the West.

If both options are unavailable, you can put your plant a few feet away from a South-facing window.

You can also keep it outdoors on the front porch or the balcony, provided the plant receives enough shade from direct sunlight.

Artificial lighting can also help your plants thrive if none of the above is an option.

Even if you live at a low light level, you can grow either of these plants below an artificial grow light.

Providing 12-16 hours of light daily with a fluorescent light source can help provide these plants with sufficient light.

Be sure to place the light 10-12 inches away from the light to avoid scorching the leaves.

Best Practices

  • Use a sheer curtain or drape in the window to prevent direct sunlight.
  • If you plan to keep these plants outdoors, keep them in a partially shaded spot below a tree or near a wall.
  • In winter, keep the plant near a window to provide sufficient light.
  • You would likely want to hang the plant rather than keep it on the floor to make the most of its trailing stems.

2. Watering Requirements

Since these plants are adapted to arid climatic condition, it surprisingly does well in low water conditions.

They can store water in their thick, fleshy leaves that help them sustain without water for a long period.

Thus under-watering won’t do much harm to your plant as over-watering does.

Overwatering easily causes problems like root rot, and yellow leaves, and the leaves start to fall in severe conditions.

These plants require the soil to be moist in the growing season, like the spring and the summer.

Watering Requirements (Source: Pixabay)

Thus, the best practice is to water your string of pearls or tears once every 1-2 weeks during the growing season, depending on how dry the soil is.

During the winter season, you should reduce the frequency of watering.

Watering once a month should be enough.

You can use the finger-dipping method to check whether your plant needs water.

Dip your finger an inch deep from the surface of the soil.

If the soil is dry, then it means that it’s time to water your succulents.

Tips: If the leaves start to flatten, then it is a sign that your plant needs more watering.

Best Practices

  • Water thoroughly until excess water comes from the pot’s drainage holes.
  • Always use the finger-dipping method to check the moisture of the soil.
  • You can let the soil completely dry off before the next watering.
  • If you are growing these plants outdoors, water them once every week.

Here’s a short video on watering your string of pearls and your string of tears,

3. Soil Requirements

Using the proper type of soil can also prevent problems like waterlogged soil and root rot.

Soil that is well-draining and porous is ideal for growing succulents like the string of pearls and tears.

Succulent plants need light and airy soil that has low water retention capacity.

Heavy and compact soil can easily deteriorate your plant’s health and bring issues like yellowing and leaves dropping.

Both of these plants love soil that has a neutral pH value. However, the string of pearls can do well in slightly acidic soil with a pH value of around 6.5-7.5.

As for the potting soil, you can use Hoffman Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix for either of those plants.

Hoffman Succulent Soil Mix (Source: Amazon)

It is a professionally formulated soil that can help grow both the string of tears and the string of pearls.

However, if you want to go the inexpensive route, you can make your potting soil using your garden soil.

Mix 3 parts garden soil with 1 part sand and a handful of wood chips or orchid barks.

Tius potting mix will be favorable for providing enough drainage and aeration for your succulents to thrive properly.

Best Practices

  • Add small pebbles or gravel to the soil to improve the aeration capacity.
  • You should avoid too much organic matter, which results in high moisture levels.
  • Make sure that the crown of the plants stays at the same level or higher than the topsoil.

4. Ideal Temperature

Succulents like the string of tears and the string of pearls prefer temperatures on the higher side as they belong to a natively arid climate.

The string of tears grows in USDA hardy zones 10a-11b, whereas the string of pearls grows in USDA hardy zones 9-12.

That means that both of these plants need warm climatic conditions to thrive.

Both these succulents do well in a temperature range of 70° – 80° F. 

Winter temperatures ranging from 55° – 60° F shall be ideal for your plant growth.

Being true plants of the desert, none of them can survive the harsh climate of the winter.

Thus, proper care needs to be provided during winter to avoid damaging the plants.

If the temperature falls below 55°F, you will see stress-related problems like yellowing, bursting, and falling leaves.

Extra care is needed during the winter to save the plant from frost.

If you have planted your string of tears or your string of plants outdoors, bring them indoors in winter.

Best Practices

  • Cover the plants with frost blankets or bed sheets if the temperature falls below 55°.
  • You can hang a light bulb a few inches above the plant to maintain heat levels.
  • Provide full sunlight to the plant during winter times.
  • If you want your plant to flower, keep the temperature around 65° during winter.

5. Humidity Requirements

Both the string of tears and string of pearls are succulent plants with thick fleshy leaves that can retain water.

So they don’t require as much humidity as other plants. Besides being a desert plant, it can survive in low water and humidity condition.

The ideal relative humidity for growing either of these plants is 45% and higher, but you can also grow it at average household humidity levels.

Low humidity levels can result in wilting, yellowing, and crisping leaves you want to avoid.

If the humidity drops below that, you can use some methods to increase the humidity of your room.

You also need to keep a hygrometer to check the humidity levels in your room.

Tips to Increase Humidity

  • The most convenient way of increasing the humidity of any room is to use an electric humidifier.
  • If you have a lot of plants in your room, you can group them to increase the humidity levels.
  • Placing a pebble tray below the plant can help absorb the excess runaway water and add moisture.
  • Keeping a bowl of water around the plant can also increase the humidity, but this should be the last alternative if the above three are not feasible.

6. Fertilizing Requirements

Succulents like these plants don’t require more fertilizing than other plants.

Too much fertilizing can easily result in problems like wilting, curling leaves, leaf tip burns, and eventually, the death of the plant.

Even when you fertilize the plant, it’s best to use a weak, diluted solution of liquid houseplant half the recommended dosage.

Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food is one of the best fertilizers out there for your string of tears and your string of pearls.

However, it is a concentrated formulation, so you must read the label properly before use.

Miracle-Gro Plant Food (Source: Amazon)

Fertilizing should be done twice a month during the growing season to boost healthy growth.

The plant is dormant during winter, so you must avoid fertilizing at all costs.

Instead of that, you can also use organic fertilizer with good results.

Dressing the soil with fish emulsions, worm castings, compost, manure, blood and bone meals, etc., can be a good choice of organic fertilizers for these plants.

7. Ideal Pot Size

Choosing an ideal pot size helps prevent many problems related to water issues and soggy soil.

If you choose the perfect pot size to grow your plant, you will have fewer problems.

These plants do not have that big of a root system. So a pot size that fits them snugly will be the best one to use.

If you are growing a baby string of pearls or a baby string of tears, use a pot size of around 4-6 inches, depending on the plant’s size.

Using an oversized pot can cause the soil to stay wet for too long and cause root rot problems.

Also, while planting the plant, make sure that the plant’s crown stays above the top of the soil.

You have several choices when it comes to choosing the potting material. For the best drainage capacity of the pot, you can use terra-cotta or ceramic pots.

Ceramic Pots with Saucer
Ceramic Pots with Saucer (Source: Amazon)

Both will maintain moisture in the soil while draining out any excess water.

Ensure that the pot you are using has drainage holes either on the side or the bottom since drainage is important to grow succulents like these.

You can also choose any of the following pots if the above ones are not available.

  • Metal Pots
  • Cement Pots
  • Plastic Pots
  • Wooden Baskets

8. Pests and Insects

These plants are resistant to pests and insects, so you wouldn’t have to worry much about this aspect.

However, using the wrong soil, overfertilizing, and overwatering can make the plant susceptible to pests and insects.

Pests like mealybugs, fungus gnats, scales, and spider mites can damage your plants.

You can refer to the table below to learn about these pests and insects.

Spider MitesUnderside of the leaves1. White or Yellow spots on leaves
2. Silky Webs around plants
3. Yellow and Brown appearance of Leaves
ScalesUnderside of leaves and stem1. Produces Honeydew sticky excrement on leaves
2. Sooty Mold
3. Scorched leaves that starts to fall
MealybugsBeneath leaves and flower petals, can also be found in roots1. White Cotton-like substance on the underside
2. Leaf curling and yellowing
3. Falling off of leaves
Fungus GnatSoil Surface1. Brown scars on roots
2. Yellowing of leaves
3. Plant loses vigour

Pest Infestation Prevention Measures

  • Avoid misting these plants, as these pests thrive in a moist environment.
  • Place the plants in a spot with proper light and aeration.
  • Isolate the infested plants as soon as possible.
  • Don’t provide too humid conditions.
  • Check the plant regularly for the growth of weeds and any other unwanted plants.
  • Always remember to disinfect the tools you use for propagation and pruning.
  • Maintain a proper watering schedule.
  • Overfertilizing the plant should be strictly avoided the plant.
  • Periodically check plants for pests and insects.
  • Prune the infected parts of the plant.

Pest Infestation Treatment

  • Dip cotton balls in alcohol and dab the bugs
  • A blast of water on the leaves can knock off these pests.
  • Use a toothbrush or a blunt knife to scrape them off the leaves.
  • Wipe off the plant leaves with a clean damp cloth.
  • Washing the leaves with Neem oil and Insecticidal soap.
  • Prune the infected leaves and stems timely.
  • Pick off the pests by hand.

9. Incidence of Diseases

These plants are pretty hardy when it comes to diseases too.

Root rot is the only problem you need to be aware of when it comes to the string of pearls and tears.

Root rot disease shows symptoms like falling leaves, stunted growth, and a bad smell from the soil.

Overwatering and improper soil mix are the most common reasons for root rot disease.

Thus, the main thing you need to remember to prevent diseases is to maintain optimal environmental conditions for plant growth.

Prevention of Disease

  • The best way to prevent root rot is by maintaining a proper watering schedule.
  • Make sure you don’t let the soil stay wet for a long time.
  • You should place the plant in a well-aerated and well-ventilated space.
  • Avoid the use of pots that may contain contaminants.
  • Use a pot that has proper drainage and that absorbs water easily.
  • Keep the soil as dry as possible before watering again.
  • While reusing a pot, clean it thoroughly with bleached water to destroy the fungal spores.

Treating Root Root Disease

  • The best way to treat this disease is to replant the plant in fresh new soil with good drainage ability.
  • If the disease has just started spreading, you can prune the affected plant parts with sterilized tools.
  • If the case is severe, there is no option other than to destroy the affected plants.
  • Fungicides can help prevent the spread of disease, although it does not specifically treat the plant.
  • Cinnamon powder is also said to treat root rot disease, so you can try this out to see if it works for you.

10. Toxicity

Almost all plants belonging to the family of the string of pearls and string of tears are toxic to pets and moderately toxic to humans.

According to ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), both the string of pearls and the string of tears are Root rot diseases.

The toxicity can occur through ingestion and even skin contact in some cases. If your pet has been exposed to the toxins, then the following symptoms can occur:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Dermatitis skin contact
  • Vomiting and convulsions
  • Inflammation of the skin
  • Irritation and itching of the skin
  • Redness of the skin
  • Pawing the face
  • Diarrhea and decreased appetite.
  • Drooling
Pets and Plants (Source: Pxfuel)

These plants have been rated as toxicity classes 2 and 4 by the University of California.

Toxicity class 2 means minor toxicity, and the symptoms can include swollen lips, tongue, vomiting, and difficulty in breathing when ingested.

Toxicity class 4 means that contact with the skin can cause skin irritation and rash.

If you see any of the above symptoms in yourself or your child, seek medical attention immediately.

Call the APCC at (888) 426-4435 or contact your local veterinarian asap if your pet shows any of the above symptoms.

Here are some tips on how to reduce exposure to its toxins:

  • First, place the plant out of reach of children and pets.
  • Teach your children not to touch the plant.
  • Use pet repellant spray to keep the pets away from your plant.
  • You can grow the plant in a Terrarium or Vivarium.
  • Wear gloves regularly while handling and wash your hands immediately after pruning, propagating, or repotting.

FAQs About String of Pearls and String of Tears

Why is my String of Pearls and String of Tears Turning Yellow?

Both these plants start yellowing when over-watered and when the soil is improper.

Overwatering can cause wet feet, which can eventually result in yellowing.

Only water when the top one inch of the soil is dry, and use soil that is aerated and well-draining.

Why is my String of Pearls and String of Tears Turning Brown?

Browning the leaves can occur due to various factors like under watering, low humidity, and too much sunlight.

Maintain a proper watering schedule, and don’t expose the plants to direct sunlight.

A humidity level of around 40-50% will be best for both plants.

How Long does String of Pearls and String of Tears Live?

Both these plants are short-lived and will start losing their vitality after maturity.

On average, their lifespan is around 3-5 years, depending on the care you provide.

Why does my String of Pearls and String of Tears keep dying?

Over-watering is the most common reason your plants are dying rapidly.

These plants require soil to dry out between watering to prevent them from dying of root rot issues.

Do String of Pearls and String of Tears like to be misted?

Regarding misting, it’s best to use alternative sources for providing moisture and humidity.

Improper misting resulting in wet leaves, can easily attract pests and cause diseases. Thus, you can skip the misting part on these plants.

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Wrapping up…

Both of these plants are beautiful succulents that can be grown in hanging baskets and pots.

Even though they have some small differences, you can use similar care practices to grow these plants.

With a bit of love and caring, both will grow beautifully and bring the fresh air of positive energy to your home.

Now that you’ve learned about the string of pearls and tears, I’m sure checking out String of Frogs would also be interesting!

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