Jade Plant Turning Black? (How to Save it)


Jade plant losing leaves due to overwatering

Is your jade turning black? This happened to my plant, too, when I first started indoor gardening! My once gloriously beautiful jade plant turned from a deep green to a worryingly black with a soft, mushy texture. What had I done? I did my research and spoke to some experts in my job, a garden center, who helped me diagnose the problem.

While I was watering the jade plant properly, the soil held on too long for this drought-resistant succulent to tolerate, resulting in root rot and black and mushy leaves. I discovered that slow-draining soils and overwatering are both the biggest culprits for jade plants turning black (I’ve learned that if you water your jade more often than once per week, you are overwatering!).

It should also be noted that from my research, jade plants develop individual black spots on their leaves called edemas, which are also caused by overwatering and poor drainage.

In this post, I’ll share with you all the tips and tricks that I’ve gained from firsthand experience to help you diagnose the problem with your jade plant and save it in a step-by-step guide…

Read more to learn what conditions are causing your Jade plant to turn black and how to save it…

Jade Leaves Turning Black and Mushy? Overwatering is the Probable Culprit!

So, for us to be able to diagnose why our jade plants are turning black, I find it helps if we understand how jade plants grow in the wild…Jade plants are native to South Africa, where they grow on rocky hillsides in dry soil, in full sun, and with infrequent rainfall.

Jade plants are specifically adapted (with their thick leaves) to growing in almost desert-like environments with little moisture and soil that drains very quickly.

Therefore, (as I found out personally!) our jade is very sensitive to overwatering when cultivated by gardeners. It is a very common problem that a lot of succulent growers have! So what are the symptoms?:

  • Black spots on the leaves (edema).
  • Black leaves (root rot).
  • Black stems (root rot).

From my research, I found out that small black or brown spots on Jade plants are edemas that are caused by excessive water intake at the roots which is faster than the rate of transpiration (water loss) through the leaves.

Whereas black leaves and stems (like I had) are caused by the fungal disease root rot.

So essentially black spots, leaves and stems are all caused by excess moisture around the roots of which over watering is usually the biggest contributing factor.

I can tell you from experience it is so easy to do. Many beginner indoor gardeners kill their succulents with kindness!

As jade plants are drought-tolerant plants, we need to replicate the conditions of the native environment by watering them more infrequently.

How to save it…

So, what’s the correct watering frequency for our jade plants? Through some trial and error and with the help of some experts, I can tell you that the correct way of watering jade (to avoid root rot) is to wait until the soil dries out completely between each bout of watering.

I know this may seem harsh, but this is the exact water cycle that they experience in the wild, where they experience a downpour of rainfall followed by drought.

But how do we make sure the soil is dry? I have three methods that I like to use…

  1. I sometimes push a cocktail stick into the soil. If the soil sticks to the cocktail stick and feels somewhat moist, leave watering for a few more days. If the stick is dry, give the jade plant a good soak.
  2. My other method is to feel the soil through the drainage hole in the base of the pot. If it feels damp to the touch then delay watering until it feels dry.
  3. You can also pick up your pot immediately after watering to assess the weight. As the soil dries out the pot feels lighter and lighter. I can now tell when my succulents, like jade need watering just by picking up the pot!

In my opinion, the cocktail stick method is best for beginners as you can more precisely tell when the soil is dry, but My personal preference is to have enough practice to know what weight my plant is by weight, so I use this method most of the time.

(Read my article on how to water jade plants to learn how often and how much to water jade for your climate).

Jade plants are hardy, and mine have recovered from black spots on the leaves once you have a more appropriate watering regimen.

The leaves may recover on their own, but if we are not aware of other causes of excessive soil moisture (such as slow-draining soil), the plant can suffer and potentially develop rot.

As we discussed, if the leaves and stems are turning black, then this is likely root rot.

This requires far more drastic action I’m afraid. You have to prune back any black leaves and sections of stem that are black to prevent the rot from spreading through the plant to save the Jade plant.

It can be difficult to revive Jade plants once they have developed rot but one way to ensure recovery is by cutting off the healthy green leaves or sections of the plant that are unblemished by black marks for propagation.

This is what I had to do once with one of my jades…

Jade plant propagation
This a leaf that I detached from my dying jade plant. As you can see two weeks later it started growing leaves and roots.

Jades readily propagate and it is extremely easy. Watch this helpful YouTube video for how to propagate Jade…

Top Tips for Watering Jade Plants

  • Water Jade plants at the base of the plant rather than overhead because if the leaves are wet from watering, this can reduce transpiration from the leaves and increase the risk of the leaves turning black.
  • Water Jade (when the soil has dried out) early in the morning as this gives the Jade plant the opportunity to lose some excess water through the leaves during the day so that it can regulate its level of moisture to the appropriate balance.
  • Watering at night when the plant is dormant can leave it sitting in wet soil, increasing the risk of rot and black leaves.
  • Reduce watering significantly in the Winter as Jade plants go into a state of dormancy and only require watering around once per month.

Help to Prevent Your Jade Plant From Turning Black (Why Drainage Matters)

So what I’ve learned from my experiences with growing jade is that even if you scale back your overwatering, it is equally important to ensure that the Jade is planted in the appropriate well-draining soil to prevent leaves from turning black. (I had to learn the hard way!)

If the potting soil retains too much moisture, it emulates the same effect as overwatering, with too much moisture around the roots, causing them to rot and turn black.

So what do we do?

Jade plants prefer potting soil that mimics the soil drainage characteristics of its native rocky South African habitat.

If your Jade plant is planted in unamended compost, then this is likely the cause of rot or black spots on your leaves, like it was for me.

I bought my own jade from a supermarket, and it had been planted in the wrong type of soil.

What I’ve learned is that Jade plants require a specific potting mix that is formulated for succulents and cacti (which are widely available from garden centers and on Amazon).

Why does this work? Specialized potting mixes have the exact drainage characteristics with a precise particle size that allows for water to drain away quickly from the roots of your Jade and minimize any risk of rot.

What I’ve found is that it drastically reduces the risk of root rot, even with overwatering! Jade plants and all succulents would be much more beginner friendly if they were all planted in the right soil.

I have tested several different soils for succulents myself, and I’ve had some success by amending normal potting soil with horticultrural grit or perlite in a 50:50 ratio, but in my opinion, succulent and cacti soil is much better, which I think is to the differing particle size of the individual grit and stones which simulates the soil conditions of the jade’s natural environment much better.

Succulent soil
This is the best soil for jade plants, as the grit replicates the soil conditions of its native environment.

As with an overwatered Jade plant, it may require careful pruning with a sterile pair of pruners to cut off any parts of the Jade that have turned black to prevent the rot from spreading to otherwise healthy parts of the plant.

If your jade plant has been in damp soil for too long, removing healthy leaves and sections of stem for propagation may be the only way to save it, so I would watch the YouTube video above for a step by step of how to do this (It’s very easy).

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

With the right soil drainage and watering regime, the Jade plant can remain healthy and live for up to 100 years or more.

Prevent Black Leaves: Choose Pots With Drainage Holes for Healthy Jade

I know this may seem obvious to some of you, but I see beginner gardeners make this mistake. Jade plants turn black if they are planted in a pot without drainage holes in the base or if the drainage holes become blocked so that excess water cannot escape easily.

What happens is that pots without drainage holes cause water to pool around the roots which causes root rot and turns the leaves and stems of your Jade plant black.

Therefore it is essential to re-pot your Jade plant into a pot with drainage holes as soon as you can to prevent further damage and more leaves turning black.

However, it should be noted that pots without drainage are not the only pot-related reason for Jade leaves turning black:

  • Roots blocking drainage holes. Jade plants can live for a very long time, so if your Jade plant has been growing in the same pot for a while, there is a chance of the roots becoming pot-bound. The congested roots block the drainage hole, slowing down the escape of water and promoting excess moisture, causing rot.
  • Jade plants are often grown indoors with a saucer or tray underneath the pot to prevent water from spilling in the home after watering. If the saucer or tray is not emptied regularly, water can pool underneath the pot, keeping the soil boggy, which causes rot and turns the leaves black.
  • Sometimes, Jade plants are grown in fairly ordinary plastic pots and then placed into decorative pots for display in the home. Water can collect in the bottom of the outer decorative pot (which often does not have drainage holes), causing rot.
Plant in decorative pot
Plants in decorative pots can prevent water from draining from the roots.

As we discussed our Jade plants require dry soil to avoid the conditions that turn the leaves and stems black so it is very important to plant them in pots with drainage holes in the base and to ensure that the excess water escapes freely from the base after watering.

My Best Tip: I always plant my jade plants in terracotta or clay pots. Why? Because clay and terracotta are porous, which allows the potting soil to dry out more evenly after watering, which reduces the risk of root rot and reduces the risk of your jade plant turning black. In my experience, combining well-draining soil with a terracotta pot is the best way to prevent your jade leaves turning black.

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

Avoid Black Leaves: High Humidity Can Harm Your Jade Plant

As we talked about earlier, jade plants are native to arid environments in South Africa with breezy mountainside conditions, therefore they are accustomed to low humidity.

I’ve noticed that it is homes (or rather climates) with high humidity that have more problems with their jade plants turning black.

As I’m sure you can imagine the higher levels of humidity, lower the rate of transpiration (water loss) from the leaves of your Jade plant which causes water stress and can turn your plant black.

There are a few factors that I’ve observed that can lead to higher levels of humidity for Jade plants in a home:

  • Watering overhead. As previously stated in this article but worth re-emphasizing, to always water Jade plants at the base rather than overhead. Water on the leaves reduces transpiration and creates a humid microclimate.
  • Jade plants in humid rooms of the home. Rooms such as bathrooms or kitchens can get very steamy from showering or cooking which can raise the level of humidity.
  • Naturally humid climates (such as Florida) can cause Jade plants to be more at risk of turning black which increases the importance of full sun and placing Jade in a breezy location.

I consulted with some succulent growers in Flordia for this article, and they assured me that you can grow jade and other succulents well despite high humidity if you locate your jade ideally in the path of a breeze from an open window to avoid still air.

Also, avoid locating your Jade plant in a steamy room such as a bathroom or kitchen. The growers in Florida emphasized the importance of really gritty potting soil and avoiding overwatering to prevent root rot in humid climates.

High levels of humidity often aren’t the only cause of Jade plants turning black, but they are often a significant contributing factor, so with good watering practices, well-draining soil, pots with good drainage, and lower humidity, the Jade plants can grow healthy.

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

Do you have any more questions or experience with jade plants that you’d like to share? Or perhaps you have a specific question? If so, please leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you!

Key Takeaways:

  • Jade plant leaves and stems turn black due to excess moisture around the roots, which causes rot. If the Jade plant has black spots on its leaves, this is due to overwatering and slow-draining soils.
  • Overwatering and slow-draining soils are the most common reasons for Jade plants turning black. Pots without drainage holes and high humidity also cause root rot.
  • To prevent the jade plant from turning black, try to replicate the growing conditions of the Jade plant’s native South Africa: full sun, infrequent watering, a breezy location, and well-draining gritty soil.
  • Jade plants can be saved by cutting back any black leaves and stems to prevent the rot from spreading. If there is significant rot, use the healthy leaves or cuttings for propagation.

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