How to Water Jade Plants


Jade plant

Are you unsure when to water your jade plant? I can relate to this, as the first time I had a jade plant, the leaves started falling off. In my naivete, I thought this was because they weren’t getting enough water, so I increased the frequency of watering, which actually compounded the problem!

So I researched, how often I should water my jade and tested and retested several different methods of watering to find out what works the best! I actually now even work in a garden center so I have been privy to some top tier advice from expert succulent growers who supply jade plants.

In this article, I’ll share with you all the most valuable tips and tricks from my trial and error and first-hand experience in a step-by-step guide so you know exactly how to identify when your jade plant needs watering and how to avoid the common mistakes I see people make!

In a nutshell…

Jade plants are adapted to tolerate drought and need the soil to dry out between waterings. I water jade plants generously once every 14 days to meet their moisture requirements without causing root rot. Check that the soil has dried out before watering your jade plant.

It is important that we have the knowledge for how often and how much to water your jade plant also known as ‘money tree’ (Crassula ovata) as they are susceptible to root rot which is caused by overwatering and slow-draining soils.

We also need to remember that jade plants have different watering requirements at different times of the year as they can go into a state of dormancy in Summer in reaction to high temperatures as a strategy to cope with drought.

If my experiences with jade have taught me anything, it is that the optimal watering regime should be in conjunction with the appropriate well-draining, succulent soil and the right pot to prevent water stress and keep your jade plant healthy.

Keep reading for more on how to establish how often and how much to water your jade plant in your climate and for the correct potting soil to ensure that your jade plant stays healthy as they can live to over 100 years…

How Often to Water Jade Plants

How to water jade plants
This is my gollum jade which needs the same watering and other jade cultivars!

We need to appreciate how our jade plants grow in the wild and understand how to water them properly.

Jade plants are succulents and have special adaptations to growing in hot and dry climates with infrequent rainfall, such as storing moisture in their thick leaves and stems and preventing water loss (transpiration) from the leaves by opening their stomata at night rather than during the hot sunny day.

As our Jade plants are so well adapted to drought, they prefer dry conditions and are, therefore, very susceptible to problems associated with overwatering, such as yellowing or translucent leaves, leaves that drop-off, and root rot.

So, for us to grow jade plants successfully in our home or garden, we need to emulate the watering conditions of their native environment.

I’ve learned that the best method of watering jade plants is to wait for the soil around the roots to dry out between bouts of watering, so only water your jade plant when the soil is completely dry. For me, this typically means watering my jade plants once every 14 days or so.

However, I should highlight that the soil does not necessarily dry out at the same rate due to several factors:

  • Humidity level and temperature of your climate.
  • The size of the pot (smaller pots dry out much quicker).
  • The color of the pot.
  • The material of the pot.
  • Whether your jade plant is in an area of significant air flow outdoors or in the current of air-con or forced air when indoors.
  • The capacity of the soil to retain moisture.

You’d be surprised how much of a difference the color of a pot makes! I have personally tested growing succulents such as jade in different-colored pots.

Jade plants prefer some direct light, and if the jade is planted in a black pot (which, of course, absorbs more light and heat), then the soil can dry out more quickly, and the roots can draw up the moisture!

I have had jade plants with wrinkled leaves (one of the signs of drought stress), whereas its counterpart was planted in a white pot (same size and same watering frequency) and was able to thrive despite high temperatures and hot weather as the potting soil stayed much cooler.

So, if possible, avoid dark color pots!

I must caution against following generic watering advice. Instead, what we need to do is tailor our watering to the specific needs of the plant! How do we do this? I’m glad you asked!

My method for establishing how often to water your jade plant according to your climate is to feel the soil at the bottom of the pot through the drainage hole. If the soil feels moist, do not water just yet, but if it feels dry, this is the perfect time for watering.

Once you know how long it typically takes for the soil to dry out from your potted jade, you can establish a watering schedule that accurately mimics the drought, followed by rainfall, the cycle of moisture to which the jade is adapted in its native environment.

Another method I like to use is to pick up my jade plant periodically after watering to assess its weight. As the soil dries it should feel much lighter. I can now tell when the soil is dry (and therefore when it is the right to water) by the weight of the pot.

How do you tell if you are watering your jade plant too often or not often enough?

So I’ve found that if you are watering your jade plants more than once per week then you are likely watering far too frequently even if you live in an arid, hot climate.

I overwatered my original jade plant when I lived in the hot and dry climate of Arizona because I was watering it like my other houseplants.

The symptoms of an overwatered jade plant are leaves that turn yellow, translucent, and eventually black, which is an indication of rot. I have found if they are just slightly overwatered, i.e., the soil doesn’t quite dry out, then the leaves tend to fall off very easily when you touch them gently.

Jade plant
Here is my friend’s jade plant that was overwatered. Specifically, they had let water pool in the decorative outer pot after watering so that the soil was too moist. You can see some of the leaves are turning black at the top of the jade, too.

If the jade plant leaves are turning yellow or translucent, then scale back the watering immediately and let the soil dry out completely to give the jade a chance to recover.

(If your jade leaves are turning black or have black spots then this is because of rot which requires more attention and you should read my article for how to save your black jade plant).

Mark’s Best Tip: Are you someone who always overwaters their succulents? Plant your jade plant in a clay pot, as clay is porous, which allows the jade’s potting soil to dry out evenly, whereas plastic or ceramic is impermeable and retains moisture. Since I have done this with all my jade plants they do not suffer any symptoms of overwatering.

If you are underwatering jade or perhaps neglecting it completely, the first sign of drought stress is a shriveling of the leaves and a wilted appearance to the plant, and the leaves may even turn somewhat brown.

In this case, my solution is to pour lukewarm water into a basin and place the jade plant in it for 10 minutes or so.

This soak allows the soil to properly absorb all the moisture it needs. When I’ve done this, the jade’s leaves look noticeably plumper in just a few hours, and by the time it has had two or three watering cycles, the jade looks completely healthy!

(To learn more, read my article on how to revive a dying jade plant).

It is also worth noting that jade may require more or less watering at different times of the year…

How Often to Water Jade Plants in Winter

One of the first things I observed when I first started growing jade was that the demand for moisture in jade plants can fluctuate according to the season, even if they are grown indoors.

It’s crucial that we be aware that in winter, jade plants require less watering as the rate of evaporation from the soil can be much lower due to cooler temperatures.

So, it is worth checking the moisture of your soil through the drainage hole and adjusting the frequency of your watering so that the soil around the roots can dry out completely between bouts of watering to avoid root rot.

Also, consider whether your indoor jade plant is near a source of heat, such as a radiator or forced air, which can cause daily temperatures to fluctuate and dry out the soil more quickly.

I’ve had jade plants suffer from drought stress due to the fact they were on a window sill, which was above a radiator, and the soil was just baked dry, so I had to move it to a spot in my house with more consistent temperatures.

What I have always found is that the jade plant should stay healthy as long as the soil has a chance to dry out between waterings.

Typically, for me, watering jade once every 3 weeks is appropriate for Winter, but always check your soil to establish how often you should water your jade plant according to your specific conditions.

How Often to Water Jade Plants in Summer

Jade plants are slow-growing and can live for 100 years, but they tend to grow more in the Spring and Fall, and what I’ve observed that growth can slow significantly in the Summer if the temperatures are consistently very high.

Jade plants can become somewhat dormant and stop growing due to high temperatures.

From my research, I found out this is one of the survival strategies of jade plants to conserve water in their harsh, hot, and dry native environment in countries such as South Africa and Mozambique where temperatures can be extreme in Summer.

Summer dormancy is common in succulents and is caused by the high temperature. This reduces the jade plant’s demand for moisture, so you should scale back the watering.

Jade plants that are in a dormant state should be watered less often as they are more sensitive to excess moisture around the roots, which causes root rot.

If the temperature is above 80°F (26°C) water your Jade once every 3 or 4 weeks to avoid overwatering and root rot, however, if the leaves start to shrivel then increase the frequency of watering.

I only experienced Summer dormancy in my succulents when I lived in Arizona, which gets very hot in Summer. When I lived in the Pacific Northwest, which has a much cooler climate, my jade was not dormant and consistently grew all summer. It was fascinating to watch this play out!

It can take some experimentation to find the optimal balance of watering for your specific climate, but always monitor the soil to see when it dries.

How Much to Water Jade Plants

Knowing how much to water your jade plant is critical to your succulent success!

I’ve discovered that Climate variability, humidity, and temperatures can all influence how often you water your jade plant, but the amount of water should stay the same.

Water jade plants with a generous soak so that water trickles out the base of the pot.

This ensures that the water has infiltrated the soil so that the roots can uptake the moisture they require.

A generous watering also encourages the roots to grow down into the soil and mature, which is good for the jade’s well-being and further increases the plant’s resistance to drought.

The classic mistake I see beginner indoor gardeners make is Watering too lightly, as it results in only the top inch or so of the soil being moist, and the water does not reach the roots where it is needed, which causes the jade plant’s leaves to shrivel and eventually turn brown as a sign of drought stress.

(It should be noted succulents sometimes shrivel when overwatered as well as underwatered so read my article for how to tell the difference).

From my extensive research and trial and error when watering succulents such as jade plants, I’ve found that the best method is to water with a good soak and then allow the soil to dry out.

This method replicates the watering conditions of the jade plant’s natural habitat, which includes a sudden yet infrequent deluge of rain followed by a period of drought and high temperatures.

Well-Draining Soil to Avoid Overwatering

So, the most important lesson I’ve learned when looking after jade plants in my job at the garden center is that good watering practices should be in conjunction with planting jade in the appropriate well-draining soil mix to avoid root rot.

Its so important that we acknowledge Ordinary potting soil retains too much moisture around the roots for the drought-tolerant jade plant, causing the leaves to turn yellow or translucent as a sign of stress.

Another mistake to avoid is that Potting mixes that contain peat also tend to repel water when they dry out, which causes water to run off the surface of the soil and prevents moisture from reaching the roots of your jade plant, causing drought stress.

Remember how we talked about the jade plant’s natural environment? Jade plants grow naturally in very sandy and gritty soil, often on hillsides in their native South Africa, in soil that drains very quickly and does not hold onto much moisture.

To keep the jade plant healthy and avoid root rot it is important to grow jades in special succulent and cactus potting mix (available from garden centers and Amazon) as this mimics the specific well-draining soil characteristics and soil profile of a succulent’s native environment.

A gritty succulent soil mix is perfect for growing jade plants.
A gritty succulent soil mix is perfect for growing jade plants.

With the right soil, I’ve found it’s much easier to maintain the perfect moisture balance for jade plants and prevent any effects of overwatering to keep your plant healthy.

(Read my article, How to Care for Jade Plants Indoors).

Water Jade Plants in Pots with Drainage Holes in the Base

Jade plants do not tolerate being in damp soil, so you must ensure your pot has a drainage hole in the base to allow the excess water to escape.

In my experience, Watering so that water trickles from the base of your pot is also the best to to ensure your jade plant has been sufficiently watered and a good way to detect whether the soil is moist or dry at the bottom of the pot so you know when your jade plant should be watered.

If you plant jade in pots without drainage, then this causes water to pool around the roots and causes root rot with yellow, translucent, and eventually black leaves, which is what once happened to my jade plant.

I should highlight water can still pool around the roots in your pot if:

  • The drainage hole becomes blocked with roots or compacted soil. If you notice your soil draining slowly, then it is worth checking to see whether you should clear the hole in the base to allow water to escape properly.
  • Saucers and trays underneath your pots. It is very common to use a saucer or tray underneath your plant pot to prevent water from spilling in your home. Empty the saucer or tray regularly to prevent water collecting and keeping the soil too damp for your jade plant.
  • Decorative outer pots. Jade plants are often sold in stores in plastic pots with drainage holes but placed in a decorative outer pot that looks good and prevents water from spilling in your home. However, the outer pot prevents water from escaping and keeps the soil damp, which causes root rot, so either empty the pot of water regularly or plant in a pot with drainage holes in the base.

(Read my article on how to save a jade plant that is losing leaves).

Do you have any cool insights in to watering jade plants or any experiences you’d like to share? If so, please leave a comment below!

Key Takeaways:

  • Jade plants are drought-resistant and do not tolerate damp soil. Water with a good soak and then allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. Typically, watering Jade plants once every 14 days meets the plant’s moisture needs while avoiding overwatering and root rot.
  • Jade plants should be planted in special succulent and cacti soil formulated to recreate the drainage conditions and soil nutrients that they require to stay healthy.
  • Jade plants should be planted in pots with drainage holes in the base to prevent excess water from pooling around the roots and causing root rot.
  • The symptoms of an underwatered jade plant are shriveled leaves that turn brown, whereas the symptoms of an overwatered jade plant are leaves that turn yellow or translucent with a mushy texture. Healthy jade plants have green or slightly pink leaves with a firm feel to them, indicating the optimal balance of moisture for the plant. Water Jade Plants when the soil has tried out completely.

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