Why Is String Of Dolphins Shriveling [Causes & Fix ]

It’s usually a downer when cool houseplants like the string of dolphins shrivel.

That breezy, beachy vibes you get from it would gradually recede in sympathy with the shriveling plant.

The feeling of dismay that settles in the pit of your gut can only come from a place of deep concern.

‘Why is my string of dolphins shriveling’ is most likely the dominant question as you wonder if this is just a small hitch or a very serious problem.

The string of dolphins is generally easy to care for. Often, all it requires is a bright environment and watering the soil when it’s almost dry.

It can be ignored for long periods and still thrive. Which makes it alarming when it shrivels.

In this article, we would examine the causes of string of dolphins shriveling, especially when care and maintenance are seemingly up to the required standards.

The article also includes the best ways to fix the issue and the best care tips veteran gardeners employ to keep it constantly healthy.

String Of Dolphins Shriveling: Causes & Solutions

Also commonly called the dolphin plant, flying dolphins, and dolphin necklace, the String of dolphins (Senecio peregrinus) are frost-intolerant succulents that can be grown all year in warm, indoor spaces.

Outdoors, they can only be grown all year round in agricultural zones 9 – 11.

The shriveling vines or leaves are caused primarily by dehydration linked to too much heat, underwatering, and prolonged exposure to direct sunlight.

Overwatering and subsequently root rot can ultimately lead to shriveling. But, this only happens after the leaves turn yellow.

So shriveling string of dolphins is hardly ever linked to soggy soil since the primary symptom (yellowing foliage) is enough to set the alarm bells ringing.

If the over-watering issue is tackled as soon as possible, the shriveling (which occurs at the latter stages when the plant is practically dead) becomes moot.

Let’s now look at how dry soil, excessive heat, and sun stress can lead to this problem and the various ways to either fix or prevent the problem.

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Causes of String of Dolphins Shriveling


Succulents like the string of dolphins are drought-tolerant plants because they store excess water in their leaves.

Knowing that dolphin plants don’t require frequent watering can easily nurture a forgetful and inconsistent watering habit.

Basically, knowing the plant can thrive for long without water makes it more than likely you’d leave it unwatered long past its due irrigation date.

At this point, when the plant starts shriveling, it’s safe to say the soil has been bone dry for more than a week.

Under normal circumstances, the leaves of an optimally watered dolphin plant are plump and fleshy with water.

Shriveled leaves appear dried up and certainly don’t look like the iconic leaping dolphins we love.

Many experts believe shriveling is the plant’s attempt to reduce evaporation through the leaves by providing a smaller surface area.

Solution – Fortunately, the prognosis is generally good. All you need to do is water the soil very well until excess water starts coming out of the holes at the bottom.

Then place the pot in a southwest-facing window or anywhere it can be exposed to full to partial sunlight daily.

Usually, the leaves should perk back up a few days after watering.

But in extreme cases of dehydration, some leaves might not respond to watering. Simply prune these leaves.

Tip: To help you maintain a consistent watering schedule, consider setting up a reminder on your smartphone.

This way, you’ll never forget to water the plant at the right time

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Exposure to high temperatures

Interestingly, while the string of dolphins is not tolerant of wintry temperatures, they also dislike high temperatures.

Unlike most succulents, they are happiest in temperatures that hover around the average indoor levels.

That said, what shrivels the leaves are temperatures above 80°F.

Temperatures at or above this point trigger a series of events starting from the increased loss of water from the leaves and ultimately shriveling as the leaves try to prevent further loss.

Your string of dolphins might also shed some leaves as a result.

Solution – First, determine the temperature where the plant is located. You can use a home thermometer for this.

You’d be surprised that even in winter, some indoor spaces can heat up beyond 80°F real fast when heaters are turned on.

You want to move your plant away from that location to a much cooler area.

Also, move the plant if it is located close to other heat sources such as furnaces and radiators.

But you need to be careful not to place it where the temperature is below 40°F.

Your string of dolphins won’t fare well in this condition.

If the plant is grown outdoors, the summer heat may be taking a toll on it.

If possible, move the plant indoors where the cooler temperatures would reverse the problem.

But if you can’t take it indoors, cool the plant by misting the leaves.

Make sure no water droplets are left on the leaves though. Wipe off any droplet you see with a soft cloth.

Water on leaves promotes the growth of harmful fungi.

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Lighting problems

Generally, shriveling string of dolphins as a result of exposure to direct sunlight is associated with outdoors dolphin plants.

When this happens, as well as shriveling, the leaves get sunburned.

When grown indoors though, it is rare problem since the plant is mostly exposed to indirect light for at least 6 hours daily to thrive.

Even perching on a south-facing window sill hardly counts as too much exposure for established plants.

Sunburns and shriveling can also occur to a new dolphin plant bought from a nursery or garden center.

If placed near a south-facing window or exposed to sunlight, those symptoms might appear because the plant is unaccustomed to that level of light exposure.

On the other hand, low light exposure can also cause a similar problem.

Basically, at very low temperatures, vital plant functions such as energy production and transport of water to the leaves shut down.

The result is a myriad of symptoms that include shriveling, drooping, and eventually death.

Solution – If your string of dolphins is reacting to direct light, consider moving it to a shady area.

Another option is to protect it from direct sunlight by using shade cloth or sheer curtain if the plant is close to a south-facing window and moving it is not an option.

If it was recently bought from a nursery, you want to get it acclimated first. Place the pot in a shaded area and gradually move it towards full light.

This should take about 2 months.

Always remember that string of dolphins is a light-loving plant.

Ensure that wherever it is moved, it should get at least 6 hours of indirect or medium light daily.

If low lighting is the causative factor, simply move the plant to a brighter area.

A few yards closer to a south-facing window should fix the issue. Placing it where it gets indirect light or in a shady, but the bright area would work just as well.

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String of Dolphins Care Tips

  • For a new store-bought string of dolphins, consider repotting if it’s not growing as expected even with all the right growing conditions in place.

Use fresh, standard cactus potting mix.

  • While all pots with drainage holes are okay, terracotta pots are best because they promote the absorption of excess moisture from the soil.
  • To encourage blooms, allow the plant to become slightly root-bound.
  • Avoid applying too much fertilizer if any at all.

The leaves tend to lose that dolphin shape with over-fertilization.

  • The best string of dolphins fertilizer is organic. Look to fish emulsion, worm compost, or liquid kelp for the best results

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Wrapping Up

The String of dolphins is such a low-maintenance plant that homeowners growing them don’t expect problems.

So it’s natural to be shocked by the leaves or vines of the dolphin plant shriveling. Fortunately, resolving the problem is quite easy.

Most often, the issue is caused by persistently dry soil due to inadequate watering, temperature extremes, and exposure to wrong lighting.

These are all straightforward string of dolphins care issues that can be easily resolved.

In the main, making slight adjustments to the growing conditions is all that is needed to revitalize the plant.