Jade Plant Losing Leaves? (How to Save it)


How to revive a dying jade plant

In my experience, jade plants losing their leaves is one of the most common grievances of succulent lovers, and it has happened to a jade plant in my care! Fortunately, I was able to pinpoint the cause and save my jade before all the leaves dropped, and now I can happily report it is back to full health (phew!)

In this article, I distill all the lessons I learned and detail all the steps that I took to save my jade plant…

Most often, Jade plants lose their leaves usually because of overwatering and poor drainage. Jade plants are drought-resistant and need the potting soil to dry out between bouts of watering. If the soil is too damp, the roots can rot, which results in jade losing its leaves.

I have witnessed Jade plants losing their leaves after repotting if the pot is too large or the potting soil retains too much moisture. I was able to diagnose that the Larger pot retained too much moisture, which promotes the conditions for root rot and causes the leaves to drop.

It should be noted that jade plants can also drop their leaves as a result of underwatering, sudden temperature fluctuation, lack of sun, and too much water in the Summer.

The lower leaves drop naturally as the plants mature, which I can assure you is nothing to worry about.

Keep reading to learn why your jade plant is dropping leaves and how to implement the solutions to save the plant…

Why is My Jade Plant Dropping Leaves and Branches? (Overwatering and Poor Drainage)

Jade plant
This is a photo of my friend Jade (with a fallen leaf), which fell off due to overwatering. The leaf in the photo was since propagated successfully.
  • Symptoms. Soft leaves and potentially soft branches that drop suddenly or get knocked off easily.
  • Causes. Watering too often, the potting soil retains moisture for too long, or a lack of drainage holes in the base of the pot.

To save our jade plants, we must understand how our plants grow in the wild so we can replicate these conditions in our homes.

Jade plants are succulents that are native to Mozambique and it is well adapted to living in hot and dry climates typically found on rocky hillsides in gritty soil with infrequent rainfall.

As the jade plant is extensively adapted to tolerating drought (thick fleshy leaves and stems that store moisture) the jade plant does not need frequent watering when cultivated as a houseplant and needs a well-draining potting medium.

The first sign of stress that a jade plant is overwatered is the leaves dropping off suddenly.

If the jade plant is in damp soil for too long, then this promotes the conditions for fungal disease and rot which can even cause the jade plant to turn black.

Jade plants should typically only be watered when the soil completely dries out between each watering bout. If the soil is consistently damp, the leaves drop off.

The right watering schedule must also be in conjunction with the right sort of well-draining potting soil.

As jade plants are native to rocky hillsides, their roots are adapted to growing in porous aerated soils that drain efficiently.

If you have planted your jade in ordinary potting soil, then this retains moisture for too long for the jade plant to tolerate, increasing the risk of root rot and causing the leaves to fall suddenly.

It is also important to consider that Jade plants are often dormant in Winter in response to fewer hours of sunlight and lower light intensity.

With fewer hours of light, your jade plant has less energy to grow, and therefore, its demand for water significantly decreases.

A mistake I see a lot is people watering their jade plant with the same frequency year-round, as the soil is likely to stay too moist in the Winter due to the reduced demand, which can cause stress that results in dropping leaves and branches.

Due to the jade plant’s preference for dry soils, it is ofcourse it is essential to ensure that your jade plant’s pot has drainage holes in the base and that saucers and trays are emptied of excess water regularly to allow for good drainage.

How to Save Overwatered Jade Plants with Dropping Leaves

To save my overwatered jade plant, I replicated the conditions of the jade plant’s natural habitat with a well-draining, gritty soil mix and only watering when the soil feels dry…

  • Only water the jade plant when the potting soil feels dry at the base of the plant. I always feel the potting through the drainage hole in the pot’s base to assess whether the soil feels dry or not. If I can still detect moisture, I delay watering for a few days. If the potting feels dry, this is the perfect time to water. This meets the jade plant’s water requirements whilst mitigating the risk of root rot and associated ailments such as falling leaves and branches.

Waiting for the potting soil to dry before watering replicates the typically -deluge of rainfall followed by drought- cycle that the jade plant experiences in its natural habitat.

  • Always plant your jade plants in a succulent and cacti potting medium. A specially formulated succulent and cacti potting mix mimics the soil conditions in the jade plant’s native environment with a well-draining, porous, gritty structure. This allows the soil to dry out at the rate that jade plants prefer, which, combined with the right water schedule, is essential for the jade plant to revive.
The well draining gritty succulent and cacti soil (on the left) creates the optimal drainage conditions for jade plants.
The well-draining gritty succulent and cacti soil (on the left) creates the optimal drainage conditions for jade plants.
  • Scale back your watering in Winter to prevent root rot. Adjusting your watering schedule according to the time of year is important. During the Winter, I only water the jade plant every 6 weeks or so. Always check the potting soil at the base of the pot to see if it is still damp, as it takes much longer to dry in the Winter, even with the well-draining potting soil and only water when the plant is dry.

Whilst this isn’t always necessary, it can be a good idea to use a grow light for your Jade plant in Winter for a few extra hours of light. The extra light increases jade’s plant’s resilience at a time when it is more vulnerable to rot from too much moisture.

If you are in a particularly Northern latitude with shorter days in Winter, the extra hours of light also imitate the longer day lengths of the jade plant’s native environment.

I personally used a grow light for all my succulents when I lived in New York, and I can report my jade plant looked much healthier, and the leaves did not drop off.

Once your jade plant has had a chance to dry out and you have adjusted the watering and potting soil, then it begins to recover and should keep its leaves. My jade plant leaves started to grow again in the Spring.

However, if the jade plant has been in damp soil for too long, then it can be difficult to save. I would recommend propagating the Jade plant from any healthy remaining leaves or branches, as jade plants readily propagate, and it may be the only way to save your plant.

Watch this helpful YouTube video of how to propagate Jade plants:

(Read my article on how to water jade plants for all the best practices).

Why is My Jade Plant Dropping its Leaves in Summer?

Jade plants are native to hot and dry climates and prefer a temperature range of 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C) for active growth but can tolerate surprisingly cold (light frost) and hot extremes.

However one of the adaptations to tolerating high levels of heat in a dry climate is to enter a state of dormancy when the temperature is too high as a way of conserving moisture in times of drought.

A state of dormancy means reduced growth and, therefore, a reduced demand for water (as high temperatures are associated with drought in its native environment).

The reduced active growth in high temperatures means that the roots are not drawing up moisture, which means the potting stays moist for longer.

Therefore, if you water the jade plant too often in the Summer in particularly high temperatures, then there may be too much moisture around the roots at a time when the plant is not actively growing, which causes the leaves and branches to drop off as a sign of stress.

This is rare, but it actually happened to my jade plant when I experienced a particularly hot Summer where I lived in Southern California. The temperature was so high every day that even my jade stopped growing to conserve water!

It is important to acknowledge that jade plants are very drought-resistant and, therefore, have many adaptations against harsh conditions.

Therefore you are far more likely to cause problems from overwatering than underwatering in most climates. Whilst the temperatures are high, scale back the watering.

I would keep monitoring the soil’s moisture either with a moisture meter or with your finger through the drainage hole at the base, and periodically picking up the jade plant to judge its weight is another great way to assess whether the soil has dried. (I prefer to use my finger to detect moisture as I find it more reliable than other methods).

Jade plants like a nice happy medium temperature range of 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C) for active growth, so leave it a bit longer between each bout of watering in the Summer.

This should alleviate the stress that causes the leaves to drop. New leaves should emerge in the growing season when conditions are more favorable.

Leave it a little longer between watering in high temperatures, and the jade plant should recover.

Losing Leaves After Repotting? (Large Pots Retain Too Much Moisture)

A common problem I encounter is jade plants dropping their leaves after repotting if they are transplanted into a much larger pot than their previous pot.

The problem is that larger pots have a greater capacity for soil and, therefore, a greater capacity to retain moisture. This can mean the pot takes much longer to dry out compared to what the jade plant is currently accustomed to.

This promotes the unfavorable, boggy soil conditions that the jade plant does not tolerate, resulting in the leaves dropping as a sign of stress.

It is important to note that the material of the pot is important.

From what I have observed, succulents grow much better in terracotta or unglazed clay pots as these material are porous which allows the soil to dry out more evenly after watering, creating the dry soil conditions that the jade plant prefers.

Whenever people tell me their jade is dropping leaves after repotting, they often have used Plastic and ceramic pots, which are impermeable, so they can retain moisture for longer.

There can, of course, be the issue of repotting the jade plant into ordinary potting soil (which retains moisture for too long) or compacting the soil too firm, which slows drainage and pushes oxygen out of the soil, reducing the porosity.

How to Save it…

I find the key is to always re-pot your jade plants in a pot that is only an inch or two larger in diameter than the previous pot. This means that the soil should dry out at a similar rate which mitigates the risk of damp soil and rotting roots.

Always re-pot the jade in succulent and cacti soil, and ideally, use a terracotta or clay pot to help with drainage. The jade plant should recover and regrow new leaves in the Spring and Summer.

Why are the Lower Leaves Dropping?

If the lower leaves are dropping off your jade plant, then this is usually nothing to worry about, as it is a completely natural cycle of plant growth, and I can assure you there is nothing to worry about.

As the Jade plant grows bigger and taller, the new leaves are going to be more exposed to light. The jade plant then redirects its resources from maintaining the lower leaves to growing the branches and leaves higher up (as these are in more light and can contribute more energy to the jade plant).

This then results in the lower leaves dropping off.

A tip I picked up from a commercial succulent grower is that a way to mitigate this effect is by pruning your jade plant every now and then (in the Spring) to prevent the branches from becoming too leggy, which should help it maintain more of the lower leaves.

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

Your Leaves are Dropping Due to Underwatering

While overwatering is more commonly the reason for Jade plants dropping their leaves, underwatering is also a cause that can be rather confusing!

In my experience, some people misinterpret the advice that ‘Jade plants do not need much water’ to mean that jade plants do not need a great quantity of water, whereas the truth is that they do not need to be watered often but do require a good soak every time you water them.

Jade plants typically experience a deluge followed by a period of drought in their native range.

If you water the soil too lightly, then only the top inch or so becomes moist, and the water does not infiltrate the soil properly to reach the roots, which causes excessive drought that results in shriveling leaves that drop off.

How to Save it…

To save drought stress that is losing leaves, I would just give the soil a really good soak every time you water it.

Water thoroughly so that excess water trickles from the drainage holes in the pot’s base. This ensures that the water has infiltrated the soil properly to reach the roots.

However, I must emphasize it is still important to wait until the potting mix has dried out before watering again to avoid causing the leaves to drop due to root rot.

Drought stress causes the leaves to wrinkle as the jade plant has had to deplete its moisture reserves in the leaves.

After watering the jade plant for 2 or 3 cycles, the roots should be able to draw up moisture, and the remaining leaves’ appearance should be restored.

The jade plant should grow new leaves during active growth in the Spring and Summer.

(For more information on underwatered jade, read my article, how to save jade plants with wrinkled, shriveling leaves).

Lack of Sun (Not Enough Energy to Sustain Leaves)

Jade plants can tolerate some shade but prefer to be in partial sun, with a few hours of sun in the morning being ideal.

If your jade plant is in deep shade, it does not have enough energy to support its leaves, which can stunt growth and cause the leaves to drop off.

How to Save it…

Move your jade plant to an area with more light, however, I us caution that it is important to do this sequentially.

If you move the jade plant from an area of shade to intense sunlight, the leaves are likely to turn pink or red (which is a defense against too much sun) or even scorch brown.

Therefore I recommend moving the jade to an area of more light and expose it to more light every few days. You can do this by moving the plant to a sunny position for 20 minutes or so more each day. If the leaves start to turn pink or red then decrease the amount of time in the sun.

After 2 or 3 weeks the leaves can acclimate to the higher intensity of light safely, which should provide the jade plant with more energy for photosynthesis to grow more leaves.

Temperature Fluctuations can Contribute to Dropping Leaves

From experience, I have found that Jade plants can tolerate a wider range of temperatures than most succulents, but a sudden fluctuation in temperature can be a contributing factor to the leaves dropping off.

Consider that in their natural habitat, jade plants experience high temperatures during the day with mild temperatures at night.

Whereas indoors, the temperature may be contrary to this natural daily temperature cycle with indoor heating in the evening during the colder times of the year.

If the jade plant is too close to a source of heat, then the sudden fluctuation in temperature can cause stress that results in dropping leaves and branches. For example, I would not put the jade on a shelf or window sill that is right beneath a radiator.

Also, consider that if your jade plant is located on a cold and draughty window sill, then the temperature can drop at night or if you open the window, which can also create unfavorable conditions for your jade plant.

A friend of mine had a jade that was dropping its leaves because the actual leaves were in contact with the cold glass, which caused the plant enough stress for the leaves to drop off.

How to Save it…

Jade plants do prefer mild to warm temperatures, but if they are next to a source of indoor heating, then this may be too intense for the jade plant to tolerate, so simply locate your jade plant on the other side of the room from any sources of heat, and it should cope just fine as long as the temperature of the room is broadly within the preferred temperature range of 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C)

The jade plant should be able to grow more leaves when the conditions are more favorable.

(Read my article on how to revive a dying jade plant).

Key Takeaways:

  • Most often, jade plants drop their leaves because of root rot due to overwatering and poor drainage. Underwatering, a lack of sun, sudden temperature fluctuations, over-potting, and excessive watering in the Summer are also common causes for jade plants losing their leaves and branches.
  • To revive a jade plant that is losing its leaves, it is important to recreate the conditions of its natural habitat with well-draining soil, 4 hours of sunlight, and waiting until the potting soil is dry before watering. New leaves should emerge during active growth in the Spring.

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