String of hearts plant is one of the most popular houseplants around. They are known for their beautiful trialing vines adorned with heart-shaped leaves.
But to maintain it s beautiful looks, proper care is needed. And if something isn’t right, the plant’s leaves may turn yellow. This is a sign that something is happening.
Why does your string of hearts have yellow leaves? Yellow leaves on string of hearts plant almost always caused by a watering problem.
This could be due to watering too frequently which leads to overwatering or poor soil drainage. It can also happen if your pot does not have any drainage at all.
However, cold temperature can also cause string of hearts yellow leaves. Therefore, proper identification of the cause is important before you can treat the plant.
Causes of String of Hearts Yellow Leaves
Below I’ll go through each of the potential causes of yellow leaves in string of hearts plants. This will let you go through the list like a checklist and eliminate those not relevant to what’s happening to your plant.
This way you can narrow down the cause to a single reason and fix it.
Overwatering is the #1 Cause of Yellow Leaves
Majority of the time, a string of heart leaves will turn yellow because of overwatering. This can occur for a variety of reasons. The most common are:
- Watering the plant too much
- Watering it too frequently
- You’re using a fixed watering schedule and not adjusting for seasons
Unfortunately, whatever the reason is, it will still cause yellow leaves once the plant gets overwatered.
And if left untreated, you’ll later see its leaves start dropping as well.
So why does overwatering cause yellow leaves?
Often, it is because too much water will eventually keep soil wet and soggy. As such, the roots will drown in the water.
When this happens, the roots will be unable to get oxygen causing them to suffocate.
The problem here is that roots need water but also need air to breathe. If they suffocated for too long, they will rot. This is how your string of hearts ends up with root rot.
Root rot is when a root dies. Therefore, it ceases to function. And it will spread. So, it can affect part or the entire root system.
The more roots that are damaged or rotted, the weaker the plant will be.
That’s because the rotted roots cease to function. This means no matter how much you water or fertilize the soil, they cannot absorb any of it anymore.
And the larger the portion of the root system that’s rotted, the less the plant will be able to support itself.
So, what happens is dehydration and malnutrition. Lack of nutrients causes nutrient deficiencies which lead to yellow leaves.
Thus, if overwatering is the reason for yellow leaves, it often means you want to unpot the plant and check for root rot.
This way, you know what to do next.
How to Check for Overwatering
Knowing the signs of overwatering and checking for it are important because it allows you to diagnose issues. In addition to turning your string of hearts’ leaves yellow, they can cause a variety of other symptoms as well.
Also, if you know how to check for overwatering, you can prevent it in the future.
Check the Soil
The simplest way to check for overwatering is to feel the soil. I like to check a plant’s soil once a week. Sometimes, randomly as well.
This allows you to know whether you are overwatering or underwatering the plant.
You can simply feel the surface of the soil.
It if feels wet, soggy or mucky days after you watered, you instantly know something’s not right. It should not have that much moisture.
If the soil is very dry to the touch and you’ve forgotten to water a few times, you know it is time to water.
Checking the soil is the best way to distinguish between overwatering and underwatering especially since the two have symptoms that sometimes overlap one another.
Check for Root Rot
If the soil is overwatered because it feels wet and soggy, I like to play it safe and pull out the plant to inspect the roots.
You don’t have to, but I prefer to be safe than sorry.
That’s because root rot need only happen once. And if it spreads too far, you cannot do anything but throw the plant away.
It does not give you second chances sometimes.
By taking out the plant and checking for root rot, you quickly know what your plant’s status is and if you need to take immediate action.
If there is no root rot, then allow the soil to dry completely before adding more water. Also, adjust your watering routine to cut back a bit.
If there is root rot, immediate treat and try to save the plant.
This means pruning the rotted roots and removing as much soil from the roots as possible.
In case, there you suspect or believe the root rot was caused by a fungal infection, you need to disinfect the roots by soaking them in solution first and letting them dry before you repot it.
If there is no infection, you can repot the plant in dry, fresh potting soil (in a new pot). Make sure to sanitize the current pot also.
Use Your Finger or Wooden Chopsticks
The simplest way to check for overwatering with a bit more detail is to stick your finger into the soil.
Use your index finger and insert it until the second knuckle is in the soil. Then feel and soil. When you take your finger out, feel for moisture.
If it is wet and it has been nearly a week since you watered, you’re probably overwatering the plant.
If all you get in your finger are soil dust, then the soil is dry and there is no overwatering.
You can likewise use a wooden chopstick or any wooden stick long enough to reach the bottom of the pot.
Just stick it in until you hit the bottom and take it out. You should see a water line in the wood. This will tell you where the soil is still moist.
If it is still way up and it is almost a week since you last watered, you’re likely overwatering the plant.
Lift Your Plant
This requires some experience since you need to have an idea of how heavy the pot will be.
But after a few times of doing this, you’ll easily be able to tell the difference.
Wet soil is heavy. So, if you lift the pot it will feel heavier.
On the other hand, dry soil is much lighter. So, you can easily lift the plant with less effort.
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Use a Moisture Meter
If you don’t like getting your hands dirty and don’t like feeling by lifting the pot, you can get a moisture meter. It is relatively inexpensive.
And the device is very simple to use.
Just stick the probe into the soil and the screen will tell you if the soil is dry, moist or wet.
It is keeps telling you the soil is wet even after a few days since you watered, you’re living overwatering the plant.
How to Fix an Overwatered String of Hearts?
There are a few steps you need to do to fix an overwatered string of hearts with yellow leaves.
Start by feeling the soil. It will feel wet.
If so, take the plant out of the pot and check for root rot. In case there is root rot, follow the steps in the section above.
If there is no root rot, let the soil dry completely before you add more water.
Make sure to adjust your waterings schedule. You can use any of the methods to check for overwatering above to know when to water the plant.
Making these adjustments will allow you to prevent overwatering again in the futhre.
Drainage Can Also Cause Yellow Leaves in String of Hearts Plants
Another reason for string of hearts having yellow leaves is drainage issues.
This is closely related to overwatering because poor drainage leads to an overwatered plant.
Again, the reason why the leaves turn yellow here is the same as above, the roots eventually get damaged and become unable to absorb nutrients and water.
But the cause of the overwatering is different.
This time, it is not your watering schedule. In fact, you may be watering the plant correctly.
Instead, the culprit here are the soil and the pot.
I’ll take each one starting with the soil.
Yellow Leaves Due to Poor Soil Drainage
The string of hearts needs well-draining soil. This is very important.
What this means is that the soil can hold some moisture but will quickly drain excess water. This way, the roots don’t end up swimming is all the excess water.
If left to drown in water for a long period of time, the roots will suffocate leading to root rot.
Therefore, good soil drainage is essential for a healthy string of hearts plant.
The simplest way you can make the perfect soil for the string of hearts plant is to mix:
- 1 part succulent & cactus mix
- 1 part coco coir
This allows the plant to get enough moisture so it does not get dehydrated. But at the same time has enough drainage to quickly get rid of excess liquid so the roots don’t sit in water for a long time.
Using this simple potting mix will prevent yellow string of hearts leaves due to lack of soil drainage.
String of Hearts Yellow Leaves Due to Pot Drainage Issues
The other thing that can cause issues with drainage is the pot you use.
Here, the most important thing is that the pot has drainage. It does not matter if the holes tat the bottom is one large one or many small ones.
As long as there are holes.
This will allow the moisture that drains from the soil to drip out of the pot. If there are no holes, the water will just pool and collect at the bottom of the container.
As it builds up, it keeps the soil wet.
So, you’re back to where you started overwatering and waterlogged soil.
If you have pots with not holes, you can drill a few holes at the bottom yourself. Avoid drilling too big a hole because the soil may just go through it.
Many people also use clay or terracotta pots. That’s because they are porous.
This means the material of the pot has tiny gaps in them. Usually, hand molded clay or terracotta pots are more porous than those manufactured by machines.
The porous material allows air to pass and water to seep through.
As a side effect, some minerals come along with the water. This is why clay or terracotta pots turn white after a while.
Check out my article on why your terracotta pots are turning white here.
Low Temperature Can Turn String of Hearts Leaves Yellow
The string of hearts prefers temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. And it has a problem with the cold.
If temperature drops to under 60 degrees and stays there for a long period of time or keeps dropping, the plant can experience yellow leaves.
Of course, you always need to take yellows in context of the entire plant and the different causes.
And I suggest focusing on the more serious ones first which is overwatering since that can lead to root rot.
Therefore, once you’ve eliminated overwatering and the possibility of drainage issues, check the temperature.
Yellow leaves on string of hearts happens when the plant is left somewhere too cold for its liking. Similarly, its leaves can turn yellow if the temperature keeps fluctuating up and down.
Both instances are conditions the plant does not like.
Thus, the best way to check this is to use a digital thermometer.
This will quickly tell you what the temperature is at any given time. As such, you know if it is in fact temperature that’s the problem or something else.
If temperature is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, move the plant to a warmer location. Ideally, somewhere with bright, indirect light since the plant needs god lighting to grow properly.
The earlier you spot the problem the fewer leaves will be affected.
But the later you get, the more foliage may have turned yellow.
Unfortunately, there is no way to revert yellow leaves back to green. So, the only recourse here is to prune the yellow leaves.
This can become an issue if most of the leaves are yellow since your plant will be sparse or even bare.
However, it has to be done since yellow leaves only use up the plant’s energy. By removing them, you allow the plant to focus all its got on new foliage and the healthy ones.
How to Save String of Hearts with Yellow Leaves
Each of the causes above have their respective fixes which I’ve discussed in detail in the previous sections.
However, there sometimes comes a point where the problem has gotten severe that even if you apply the solution, the problem persists or the plant keeps deteriorating.
This often means something else may be causing it or too much damage has already been caused.
Therefore, check the different causes again and see if there is in fact another reason. Sometimes, two or more causes happen at the same time.
But if there isn’t then it may be time to take more drastic measures.
Repot the Plant If Needed
If overwatering or drainage is the issue and you cannot fix the problem by applying the solutions above, then you may need to repot as a last resort.
This allows the plant to reboot and start over fresh.
What I mean by that is you unpot the plant and remove as much soil as you can from the roots.
Always check for pest problems, infections or any other abnormalities. If there is any, fix it first before you repot. Otherwise, the problem will follow the plant.
If there is root rot, prune the rotted roots.
Then, figure out how much of the root system you’ve pruned and how many healthy roots are left. It a substantially smaller part of the root system is healthy or a good chunk of roots were rotted, you may also need to prune the plant.
That’s because a smaller root system has a better chance of surviving, being revived and saves if it has a more manageable load. If the plant is too big, the remaining roots will get overworked just to try and sustain the whole plant.
Thus, prune the plant proportionately to what you prune the roots by.
After that, repot the plant into a new pot with freshy dry soil.
Don’t water the plant for about a week to give it time to recover from excess moisture. After a week or so, begin watering gradually.
As a Last Resort, Propagate the Plant
In the worst case scenario, even repotting won’t help and the plant will continue to deteriorate even after you’ve tried everything.
The last and final resort to save the plant (or at least part of the plant) is to find a healthy stem and propagate that.
You can propagate more than one healthy stem just to make sure.
Don’t wait too long because at some point, there won’t be any healthy stems left as the plant keeps deteriorating.
Plant the stem cutting in soil and allow it to root.
With proper care, the stem cuttings should grow into healthy clones of the parent in time.