How to Revive a Dying Jade Plant


How to revive a dying jade plant

Have you ever brushed up against your jade plant so it would drop some leaves? It happened to my jade plants, to my horror! I thought initially it was due to underwatering, and I watered it even more, which made the situation worse!

So I did my research and spoke to some specialist growers at a garden center and even did some of my own testing to develop a method for watering and a step-by-step process to revive my jade plants.

I have encountered all the problems I talk about in this article whether it be saving my own plant or my friends and family’s plants and I’ll share all the tips and tricks for how to save jade plants…

In a nutshell…

The reason for a dying jade plant is commonly too much moisture around the roots due to overwatering and damp soil. Jade plants turn yellow and droop, with a dying appearance due to root rot caused by watering too often and slow-draining soils.

It is important to keep in mind that Jade plants can lose their leaves due to overwatering and underwatering.

My method for reviving a dying jade plant (Crassula ovata), is to emulate some of their growing conditions with an emphasis on watering with a good soak then allowing the soil to dry out, well-draining soil, and some direct sunlight.

Keep reading if your jade plant is losing leaves, turning yellow, the leaves have turned mushy, or have a drooping appearance if your jade plant is not growing

Why is My Jade Plant Losing Leaves?

  • Symptoms: Jade plants lose leaves. Sometimes, the leaves are wrinkled or turn brown and crispy before falling off.
  • Causes: Drought stress is caused by underwatering, watering too lightly, or sometimes factors such as being placed too close to a source of heat when indoors and potentially due to overwatering. Excess heat and not enough sunlight are also contributing factors.

From my experience, the most common reason for jade plants losing leaves is drought stress, which is due to not watering often enough or being too lightly so that the moisture does not reach the roots properly.

My jade plant has also lost its lower leaves as they grow, which is not a sign of stress but a natural process and I can assure you it is very common.

If the bottom leaves of your Jade plants are dropping off and perhaps turning brown and crispy then you often have nothing to worry about.

I was told at the garden center that the older leaves at the bottom often die back as the plant grows and produce new leaves further up the plant.

You can remove the brown dying leaves at the bottom if you do not like the way they look, but I would only pull them off the plant if there is little resistance. Otherwise I would leave them to avoid causing unnecessary damage to your jade.

Drought stress

Jade plants are succulents with special adaptations to surviving drought conditions with infrequent rainfall, gritty soils, and high temperatures in their native range of South Africa and Mozambique.

However, they can still suffer from drought stress in the home due to underwatering or not watering frequently enough.

Jade plants store water in the stems, leaves, and roots which is why they look wrinkled when they do not have enough water.

I did my research and found that when experiencing drought stress, jade plants drop their leaves as a survival strategy to reduce overall water loss, which is a sign of significant drought.

Sometimes people interpret the advice that ‘jade plants do not need much water‘ as to watering the plant lightly, whereas it actually prefers a good soak followed by a period of drying.

What happened to my jade plant was that I bought it from a store, and it was planted in soil that contained peat, which turns hydrophobic (repels water) when it has dried out completely.

This meant every time I watered it, the water trickled off the surface and down the side of the pot without infiltrating properly and reaching the roots.

(For more information read my article on how to water jade plants to learn how to establish how often and how much to water your jade in your climate and according to your conditions).

How can I tell if my jade is losing leaves because of overwatering or underwatering?

My method for telling the difference as to whether your jade plant is losing leaves to overwatering or underwatering is that underwatered leaves shrivel before dropping off whereas overwatered leaves tend to have a mushy texture and can turn yellow before they fall.

I have personally observed both of these happening, and the distinction was due to the leaves!

So what you need to do is check the soil at the base of the pot through the drainage holes. If it feels dry drought stress is the problem but if the soil feels boggy or saturated then overwatering is the issue.

Note that saucers, trays, and decorative outer pots can also stop excess water from escaping, which can result in boggy soil at the bottom of the plant around the roots, and the surface of the soil may feel comparatively dry. This is a common mistake!

We need to remember to empty saucers, trays, and outer pots regularly to prevent root rot, causing your leaves to fall off.

I’m told with good care, jade plants can live up to 100 years old.

How I Save Jade that is Losing its Leaves

  • If the Jade plant is losing leaves due to drought stress, then it requires a good soak. What I’ve found that works best is to place the pot in a basin of water for 10 minutes to allow the water to infiltrate the soil properly. If the soil has dried out completely, it can often repel water from the surface, so I tried submerging the root ball for 10 minutes, which allowed the water to absorb properly so that the roots could draw up the moisture they needed.
  • Always water jade plants with a generous soak. I observed that watering little and often only moistens the top inch or so of the soil, and the moisture does not reach the roots where it is needed. So what I do now is soak the soil so that excess water emerges from the drainage holes in the base to ensure the Jade plant is watered properly.
  • Here’s my method for establishing a good watering regime for Jade plants: I feel the soil at the bottom of the pot through the drainage hole in the base. If the soil still feels moist, you should delay watering for a few days. When the soil turns dry to the touch, this is the perfect time to water.
  • Ensure that the jade plant has some direct sun. I’ve observed that Jade plants are happiest with at least 4 hours of sun (make it morning sun and not afternoon sun). The secret is to gradually expose your jade to more hours of sun rather than all at once, as the contrast can burn the leaves and cause them to drop off. Move the jade plant pot so that it is exposed to a few minutes extra of sun per day so the jade can acclimatize properly.
  • Ensure that the jade plant does not get too hot or too cold. I researched the optimal daytime temperature for jade plants is around room temperature at around 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 23°C) with a nighttime temperature of around 55°F (12°C) or more. If the temperature is significantly out of this range then this can contribute to the leaves falling so keep the jade plant in a room with consistent temperatures whilst it revives.
  • Ensure that the leaves of the jade plant are not in contact with a window. Once, my jade plant started to drop leaves in Winter as they were in contact with a frosty window; the window was much colder than the ambient temperature of the room, which I think shocked the jade enough to drop its leaves.

What to do with the leaves that have dropped off I hear you ask?

Jade plant
Here is one of the leaves that dropped off my jade plant.

I have a plan! I love to propagate jade from fallen leaves as they usually form new plants all by themselves!

Jade plants propagation
As you can see, the dropped leaf started growing a rosette with roots!

The leaf was on moist soil and propagated as easy as that! Jade plants really are the easiest succulent to propagate!

Why are The leaves Turning Yellow or Brown with a Soft Texture?

  • Symptoms. Jade plants with leaves turning yellow, brown, or translucent have a soft feel to them, often with a drooping appearance. They also have brown spots on their leaves.
  • Causes. Watering too often, slow-draining soils and the use of pots without proper drainage holes in the base can result in root rot.

From research, the reason jade plants turn yellow is because of too much moisture around the roots caused by watering too often, slow-draining soils, and pots without good drainage at the base.

In my personal experience, softer yellowing or brown leaves resust from the soil not drying out quickly enough more then anything else. I noticed this when my friends jade plant was turning brown despite a good watering regime, but when I had a look at the soil it was very dense and appeared to reatin lots of moisture for too long.

Jade plant leaves turn yellow and mushy due to excess moisture and Jade plants can die from root rot if left untreated.

As we talked about, jade plants are drought-resistant succulents that grow in arid areas with infrequent rainfall and well-draining sandy soils that do not retain much moisture.

To prevent the leaves turning yellow and mushy what I do is recreate some of the growing conditions of the jade plants native environment with well draining sandy soil, watering with a generous soak then allowing the soil to dry and but planting them in pots with drainage holes in the base.

Well draing soil for succulents on the left next to conventional potting soil.
Well-draining soil for succulents on the left next to conventional potting soil.

Watering Jade plants too often or planting them in ordinary potting soil that stays damp for too long, causes excess moisture around the roots with this hardy drought-adapted plant to tolerate. (This was the case with my friend’s succulent. They had respotted it in ordinary potting soil rather than succulent and cacti soil).

Jade plants should only be watered when the soil has dried out.

It’s important to note that jade plants typically require less water during the Winter months as their rate of growth and demand for water reduces due to fewer hours of light and a lower intensity of light.

(If your Jade plant has brown or black spots on the leaves , these are edema caused by overwatering. Read my article Why is my Jade plant turning black for how to solve it).

How to Revive an Overwatered Jade

  • Scale back the watering. If you are watering your jade plant more than once per week you are overwatering. Jade plants should only be watered when the soil in the pot has dried out since the last time you watered. Typically, I water my Jade plants once every 14 days I but this can vary according to climate, the time of year, and the size of the pot the Jade is planted in.
  • Replace the potting soil. This was the first thing I did with my friend’s jade plant that was turning brown and soft. As I found out, even if you are watering your jade plant at around the right amount, the leaves can still turn yellow, and the plant can die if it is in slow-draining, moisture-retaining soil. If your jade plant is planted in conventional potting soil or the soil feels damp for several days after watering, then empty the pot and replace the soil with a specially formulated succulent and cacti soil (available from garden centers and on Amazon), which mimics the well-draining soil profile of the jade plants native environment and reduces the risk of root rot.
A gritty succulent soil mix is perfect for growing jade plants.
A gritty succulent soil mix is perfect for growing jade plants.
  • Plant jade plants in pots with drainage holes in the base. This is crucial. It is important to plant jade in pots with drainage holes so that excess water can escape properly. Check to see if the drainage hole is blocked with compacted soil or roots if you notice the soil draining slowly.
  • Plant jade plants in pots that are proportional to the size of the root ball. Here is a common cause that I don’t see many talk about online. With larger pots, there is a greater soil capacity and therefore a great capacity for moisture which means larger pots dry out more slowly. It is important to plant jades in pots that can accommodate the root ball but not with too much excess soil to prevent root rot.

My method for establishing the optimal watering regime and to help the jade plant recover from over watering feel the soil through the drainage hole in the base. If the soil is damp then I delay watering for a few days. If the soil is dry then this is the perfect time for watering.

This style of watering replicates the natural conditions of a down pour of rain followed by a period of dry weather or drought, to which the jade plant is adapted.

I would also ensure that if you are using a saucer or tray underneath the pot, you empty it regularly to allow water to escape freely so that the soil can dry out.

Once the soil around the roots of your jade plant has had a chance to dry out completely and you have adjusted your watering frequency or replaced the soil so it drains suitably quickly for succulents, then the jade plant has a chance to revive and show signs of recovery over the following weeks.

My friend’s succulent recovered well after the soil was replaced. I gently removed any mushy leaves with some pruners to stop the rot from spreading, and the jade plant is now thriving.

Jade Plants with Severe Root Rot

If the leaves of your jade plant continue to turn yellow and feel mushy more and more then this indicates root rot at which point a full recovery of the jade can be difficult.

However, there is a very effective option to save the jade plant, even if it appears to be dying.

As I alluded to earlier, jade plants readily propagate from leaves and stem cuttings to grow new plants. Propagation is incredibly easy as jade plants can reproduce vegetatively in their native environment.

Watch this helpful YouTube video for how to easily propagate Jade plants from cuttings to produce lots of extra plants at no extra cost:

Save Your Drooping Jade Plant

If your Jade plant is drooping then from my experience, this is most likely over watering or low levels of light. Overwatering causes root rot which results in stems, branches, and leaves drooping whereas low levels of light cause the jade to grow spindly and droop as it searches for more sunlight.

If you are watering your Jade plant more than once per week then overwatering is the most likely cause of the drooping plant and you should read the information above on overwatering for how to revive the plant.

However, if your jade plant is not in any direct sun, then the jade branches and stems grow long, and spindly with fewer leaves and droop downwards under their own weight as they look for more light.

For jade plants to grow compact and proportional they should be in 4 to 6 hours of direct sun.

However, if you move jade plants from shade to direct sun, then this is likely to result in sunburn, so I had to gradually expose my jade to more light for about 10 minutes more or so each day so it can acclimatize and adjust to more sun.

One of my jade plants started to stretch out and droop when I lived in an apartment during the Winter. I did not have a window that had enough sunlight, so it grew leggy. I had to use a grow light in Winter to supplement the natural light to keep my plant compact and healthy.

To restore a tidy appearance to your jade plant, it may be necessary to prune it quite drastically and perhaps take some cuttings from propagation; watch this helpful YouTube video for how to help succulents that are drooping or leggy due to too much shade:

Jade Plant Not Growing

I can assure you that jade plants grow very slowly in the winter in response to reduced levels of natural light and cooler temperatures, and they may appear not to be growing. The Jade plant should resume normal growth in the Spring and Summer with more sun.

I have observed that when I moved to a cooler climate my Jade plants grew very slowly. This is particularly the case if they are in temperatures of around 55°F (12°C). Any lower than 55°F often causes the leaves to drop but if the temperatures are consistently around this level then the jade plant can grow very slowly.

The optimal temperature for jade plants to grow is between 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 23°C) so move your jade plant to a warmer area of the house.

Anecdotally, I have noticed that If the jade plant is planted in a significantly larger pot than the root ball then the jade plant tends to direct energy into establishing its roots rather than the plant growing above the soil.

Larger pots also dry out slower, which can increase the risk of root rot in your jade plant.

I’ve learned that it is best practice to always plant jade in a pot that this relatively proportional to the size of the root ball for a healthy plant and to avoid root rot.

Do you have any more questions about Jade plants? Please, leave a comment below!!

Key Takeaways:

  • A dying jade plant with yellow leaves and a drooping appearance is caused by overwatering and damp soil, which causes root rot. Jade plants that are losing leaves with a dying appearance are also due to drought stress caused by watering too lightly.
  • Jade plants lose their leaves if they are suffering from drought stress or because of high or low temperatures.
  • Jade plants droop if they suffer from overwatering or are in low levels of light.
  • To revive dying jade plants, emulate their growing conditions by watering properly and planting them in well-draining soil in direct sun to avoid root rot.

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