Jade Plant Leaves Wrinkled and Shriveling? (How to Solve it)

Jade plant leaves wrinkled or shriveling

I love jade plants as they look so unique, and they are so easy to care for. It is like they are made for an indoor environment! However, I have had the problem of my jade leaves wrinkling.

I’ve discovered there are a few reasons for this. In this article, I’ll share my tips on how to pinpoint the reason for your jade leaves wrinkling and my techniques for saving them…

Jade plant leaves can wrinkle with a shriveling appearance when they are not watered often enough or watered too lightly. Jade plant leaves store moisture, so when they are underwater, the jade plant depletes the moisture reserves in the leaves causing, them to appear wrinkled.

We need to know that strong air currents, too much sun, and high temperatures can also cause the jade plants to use up moisture reserves from their leaves, causing them to shrivel.

Soil that contains peat can also repel water when it has dried out (this happened to me) which results in a drought-stressed jade plant with wrinkled leaves.

(If your jade leaves are turning mushy or soft and turn yellow or brown rather than wrinkled read my article on how to revive a dying jade plant as this is often caused by overwatering rather than underwatering).

Keep reading for why your jade leaves are wrinkled and shriveling and how to solve it…

Jade Plant Leaves Wrinkled due to Under Watering

For us to know how to save our jade plants, it helps if we appreciate how they grow in the natural world…

Jade plants are native to South Africa, where they thrive in a hot and dry climate in gritty soils with infrequent (although heavy) rainfall.

As a strategy to cope with drought, jade plants store water in their leaves, stems, and roots, so when there is a period of drought, they can use the moisture reserves to survive.

If the jade plant is experiencing drought stress then the depleted moisture reserves turn the leaves wrinkled, shriveled, and thinner.

Therefore, if we are not watering our jade plants often enough or we are watering too lightly then this is the most likely cause of the shriveled leaves.

If the jade plant is not watered then the shriveled leaves can even drop off (This happened to me!)

Jade plant
My jade with some of it leaves dropping off.

From experience, my Jade plants typically require watering once every 2 weeks during active growth during the Spring and Summer and once every 3 or 4 weeks in the Winter to maintain the optimal balance of moisture so that the leaves look healthy and plump but not to risk overwatering.

Watering too lightly only moistens the top inch or so of the soil, and water does not infiltrate properly and reach the roots which causes the jade leaves to wrinkle as it uses up its stored moisture.

My Tips for Reviving Wrinkled Jade Plants Due to Underwatering

  • The first thing I do with Jade plants with wrinkled leaves due to drought stress is to place them in a basin of water for 10 minutes to give the plant a good drink, as this ensures water is properly absorbed by the soil so that the roots can effectively uptake the moisture they desperately require. I recommend making sure the water is lukewarm to avoid shock.
  • After it has had a soak in the basin, allow the soil to dry out completely. This style of a generous soak of water followed by a period of drought mimics the jade plants’ native environment where it typically experiences a deluge of rain followed by consistently dry weather.
  • When the soil has dried out completely, this is the perfect time to give your jade plant a generous soak of water to the extent that water trickles from the base of the pot through the drainage holes as this indicates the water has infiltrated the soil properly and reached the roots.
  • Typically, I advise watering your jade plants once every 2 weeks during Spring and Summer and once every 3 or 4 weeks in Winter.

After I placed my jade plant in a water basin it started to recover, the jade plant restores the moisture in its leaves which reverses the wrinkled appearance and it looked fully recovered with 2 or 3 cycles of watering.

We must keep in mind that the key to watering jade plants to avoid the leaves wrinkling from drought and to avoid problems associated with over watering is to establish the correct watering schedule for you climate and the conditions in your home.

Pro tip: My tried and tested method to establish how often to water jade plants according to the specific environment of your home, is to give the soil a good soak and monitor how long it takes for the soil to dry out at the bottom of the pot.

To do this, I feel the soil through the drainage hole in the base of the pot.

If the soil feels damp still then I delay watering for a few days until the soil feels somewhat dry. When the soil has dried out this is the perfect time to water you Jade plant with a good soak.

This method has kept my jade plants healthy for years. I also recommend picking up your pot periodically to assess the weight, as when the soil is dried out, it should feel noticeably much lighter.

Avoid this mistake!: I have personally tried lots of different water gauges and moisture meters to help me establish a good watering schedule, and I concluded they are just not precise enough. I had one moisture meter tell me the soil was dry when it was still damp, which, if I trusted the moisture meter, my jade plant would have root rot!

This is why I much prefer my method of feeling the soil myself, as it is much more precise.

(Read my article on how to water jade plants for all the best practices of watering and how to water jade plants at different times of the year).

Dry Soil Repels Water From Roots, Causing Leaves to Shrivel

So this was the problem that got me!

As we discussed, Jade plants are drought-resistant plants that require the soil to dry out between bouts of watering to replicate the optimal watering conditions of their native, dry environment.

I bought my jade plant from the shop it was planted in a potting mix that contains peat, which was problematic as peat is hydrophobic (repels water rather than absorbs moisture) if it has dried out completely.

What I found was that the dry peat potting soil was causing water to run off the surface of the soil, down the side of my pot, and out the drainage without actually reaching the roots!

This can give the appearance that the jade plant is well watered if water is trickling from drainage holes in the base of the pot, but if it has run off the surface, then the roots of your jade plant do not uptake the water and deplete the moisture reserves in their leaves causing them to wrinkle or shrivel.

My Solution

To revive the shriveled leaves of your Jade due to water-repellent soil:

  • As before, I can assure you, the best step is to place the potted jade in a basin of water for 10 minutes or so to counter the water-repellent effects of peat potting soil mixes. Soaking the soil allows moisture to be absorbed properly so that the jade plant roots can uptake the water they require.
  • Even if the soil has been soaked so that the roots can absorb water properly, the peat soil can bake hard again when it dries out between bouts of watering. Therefore we need to soak the soil to loosen the soil around the root ball to replace the soil to prevent the problem from happening again.
  • What I did was replace the soil with specially formulated succulent and cacti soil, as this retains a porous structure that allows water to infiltrate properly even if it has dried out.
  • Special succulent and cacti soil replicates the soil profile of the jade plant’s native environment which allows water to infiltrate and reach the roots yet also avoids root rot which is a common problem for jade plants.
Succulent soil
As you can see, this is my succulent and cacti soil, which has a variety of stones in various sizes to help with drainage. The structure was still porous when it dried out, so that infiltrated properly to avoid drought stress.

When I replanted my jade with special succulent and cacti soil, the jade’s roots could access moisture after watering, which restored their reserves of moisture and reversed their wrinkled or shriveled appearance.

Of course, this is in conjunction with good watering practices, such as watering with a generous soak rather than watering too lightly.

In my experience, jade plants typically show signs of recovery after 2 or 3 watering cycles.

Excess Sun Can Contribute to Shriveling Leaves

Jade plants can tolerate some direct sun (which causes the leaf tips to turn a reddish color), but I’ve noticed if my jade plants get too much sun, particularly afternoon sun, it can cause the Jade plant stress and result in leaves wrinkling.

From my research, I learned the best balance of sun for jade plants is up to 6 hours of morning sun followed by shade in the afternoon when temperatures are typically at their highest.

What can happen is that full sun all day can contribute to increasing water loss from the leaves and cause the soil to dry out significantly quicker to the extent that the roots can struggle to uptake water before the potting soil has dried.

From my observations, this can be exacerbated by 3 factors:

  1. The size of the pot.
  2. The type of pot.
  3. The color of the pot.

So I have experimented extensively in my efforts to establish the best pots for succulents and found that clay and terracotta are excellent as they are porous, which allows the soil to dry out more evenly (compared to plastic pots which are impermeable) and helps to mitigate the biggest risk with succulents which is overwatering.

However, on the hottest day of Summer, they can dry out very quickly! Particularly with smaller black pots that absorb light and heat!

My solution to all this is to repot my jade in a larger pot and keep them out of afternoon sun.

Too much sun can also cause jade plants to scorch, especially when they are moved from an area of shade to an area of intense full sun without having time to acclimate to the difference in light intensity.

What I found really helped was when I located my Jade plant in an area of bright indirect light if the leaves are starting to shrivel so that the plant does not have to contend with intense sun and high temperatures while it recovers.

Then, give your jade plant a generous soak, ensuring all the potting soil is moist so that the roots can uptake the water they need to restore the reserves of moisture in their leaves.

However, I must emphasize that it is important to still let the potting soil dry out between bouts of water to reduce the risk of root, which is a common problem for this drought-resistant plant when cultivated in our homes.

As I discussed before, with 2 or 3 cycles of watering, the jade plant leaves should look less shriveled and return to their healthier appearance.

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

Air Conditioning and Wind Can Cause Jade Leaves to Shrivel

This one is a little less common, but I still think its worth mentioning as I have seen it be a contributing factor. Excess air currents from wind, draughts, air conditioning, forced air, or convection currents from sources of heat can contribute to the jade plant’s leaves wrinkling

Jade plants do prefer some air flow rather then high humidity but I have noticed they are in the direct current of air conditioning then the constant stream of dry air can sap moisture from the leaves and dry out the soil quickly.

The result of this is the jade leaves losing moisture from their leaves, causing them to turn thinner and wrinkle.

The solution is to simply locate your jade plant in an area of the home out of the direct path of air currents that dry the leaves.

After 2 or 3 cycles of watering the jade plants can begin to store moisture again in their leaves so they can recover from being curled or shriveled.

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

Key Takeaways:

  • The leaves of the jade plant shrivel due to a lack of water. Not watering often enough or watering too lightly depletes the moisture stored in its leaves, which causes them to shrivel up and appear wrinkled.
  • Air currents from air conditioning, too much, and high temperatures can all contribute to jade leaves shriveling and appearing wrinkled.
  • Soil can repel water off the surface when it has dried out, causing the jade plant to become drought-stressed as the moisture does not reach the roots where it is required.
  • Give jade plants a generous soak rather than a light watering and water every two weeks or so. If the soil repels moisture, soak it in a basin of water. Replace the soil with succulent and cacti soil, which allows water to infiltrate even when dry. Jade plants can recover from a wrinkled appearance after two or three cycles of watering.

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