Jade plant does best when you leave it be. That’s one of the reasons why I got hooked on succulents in the first place. But what should you do when it starts changing in appearance? What could be causing jade plant branches or leaves shriveling or drooping?
Common causes of jade plant branches or leaves shriveling or drooping include underwatering and overwatering, not giving this plant enough light or leaving in the sun for too long, using leaf shining products, or exposing it to wrong temperatures.
If you want to know more about what causes jade plant leaves to shrivel and droop, and how to fix those issues and care for your plant well, read on.
Improper Watering Routine
Jade plants are used to conditions that are rather dry and warm with strong rain showers sometimes. They are native to South Africa, so you need to replicate these conditions, in a way, to ensure proper growth.
The best way to water jade plants is to allow the soil to dry completely and water them when you feel that there isn’t any moisture in the soil. Once you water them, you want to make sure that the soil is completely soaked but drains fast so that there’s no sogginess or standing water in the pot.
Underwatering Your Jade Plant
Not watering enough can lead to leaf shriveling, so this might be the cause of your problem. Jade plant leaves hold the water, so you’ll notice certain plumpness once you water them. But as the plant spends that water, the leaves will shrivel and droop, and it’s a sign that you need to water it. Try not to wait that long, though, as it could put stress on the plant.
To check, feel the soil for moisture. Dig your finger into the soil and see how it feels — if completely dry, it’s time to water your jade plant. After a thorough watering, the leaves’ plumpness will return in a few days, and you’ll have a healthy, good-looking plant again.
Overwatering Your Jade Plant
On the flip side, you could also be overwatering. As mentioned, the jade plant should only be watered when the soil is dry. This will happen more often during summer, so keep checking every few days. It may take a week or two before this plant needs watering again.
Overwatering will cause that characteristic drooping and perhaps even some yellowing on the leaves. You should immediately stop watering your plant on the current schedule and allow the soil to fully dry before moving on with watering.
Jade Plant Soil Not Draining Properly
A problem could also be not that you are overwatering, but that the soil is not draining well enough. The most common types of planting soil are meant to hold the water for as long as possible, but this doesn’t work for the jade plant. You need a type of soil that drains well, and that won’t keep any lingering water around the plant.
If this is the case, repot the plant with an appropriate soil mix. Ask for soil that’s specifically good for succulents to ensure that the drainage of the soil is okay for jade plants. What has worked for me and is really simple to make is mixing succulent/cactus potting mix with perlite or pumice (2:1 ratio of potting mix to perlite is usually good enough).
Jade Plant Root Rot
But, both overwatering and poor soil drainage can lead to root rot, which is a more serious problem, and it could cause your plant to die if left untreated.
To check for root rot, gently slide the plant out of the pot and look at the roots. If they are brown and mushy, and may also smell bad, then your jade plant has root rot.
If the roots are white and don’t smell bad, then the plant doesn’t have root rot. Even if you do notice some brown and mushy roots, check carefully to see whether the plant still has some healthy, white roots. If this is the case, then you have a chance to save your plant.
Trim the bad roots and repot the plant in a clean container with an appropriate type of soil. The pot should have holes in the bottom so that the soil can drain. Water the plant lightly and remember to throw out the water from the dish or saucer as the water drains out and collects in the dish.
The plant should recover after a while, but you have to be careful not to give it too much water in the future.
Not Enough Light (or Too Much Light) For Your Jade Plant
Considering that the jade plant is native to South Africa, it loves the sun. So, you have to provide them with enough light for them to thrive. However, there is such a thing as too much sun for this plant.
Exposing it to too much direct light could be devastating for this plant, especially if it’s not acclimated to full sun or if it’s a new plant from the store, or if it’s a young, baby jade plant.
In general, a jade plant does need as much direct sunlight as it needs plenty of natural light, whether it lives in the shade or inside your home. In general, you want to ensure that your plant gets 4 hours of direct sunshine a day, and more is not necessary. If it’s potted, you can gently move it into the sun for those 4 hours and then put it back in the shade.
These conditions will help it thrive, rather than dry up because of the sun. If the plant is in your home, a southern window that gets plenty of light will do just fine.
A jade plant lacking in sunlight will start to droop, shrivel, and eventually drop leaves. While dropping leaves is a natural process for this plant in optimal conditions and in certain seasons, when your plant is dropping leaves because of the lack of sun, it could be a bad sign.
Fortunately, this problem is easy to fix. Just give it enough sunshine in the future, and it will recover pretty quickly.
If you can’t get the light this plant needs, a lamp or a fluorescent light should do the job in a pinch. Of course, natural sunlight is still best for this plant.
Plants, in general, do best in medium temperatures — not too hot or too cold. They also don’t like stark changes in temperatures, so this is something to consider. If the weather outside shifts a lot, especially from night to day, where it’s hot during the day but gets a lot colder during the night, you should move your plant into your home where the temperatures can be more stable.
If your jade plant spends a lot of time in temperatures that are too cold for it, it will start drooping and shriveling. The same goes for when your jade plant spends a lot of time in the heat. The best temperatures for this plant are between 65°F (18°C) to 75°F (24°C). So, do your best to keep them in conditions that provide that range.
The jade plant should be able to survive even in lower temperatures, but not optimally if the temperature falls below 40°F (4°C). Even higher than that could cause them stress, although they will survive. They don’t handle frost well at all. It’s a shock to their system, and the jade plant will start losing leaves and changing its appearance.
My jade plants have stayed outdoors for years and have endured frost in the winter, but they’ve also been more susceptible to disease which alters their leaves’ shape and appearance. Take it inside during winter months if possible to protect from frost and freezing temperatures to ensure optimal growth.
While everyone wants their plants to look their best, this doesn’t mean that you should use aggressive products on the leaves of the plant. A healthy jade plant will have shiny leaves naturally, and you won’t have to use anything else on it to make it look better.
Still, it can be tempting to use a leaf shine product on those plump leaves. But, they can have a poor effect on the leaves as they could be too aggressive for the plant. Instead of making your leaves shiny, these products could make them shrivel and droop, which is the opposite of what you want to achieve.
The jade plant doesn’t react well to any form of chemicals, especially so if you try to clean it and shine it with household products that are not meant for this plant. If your jade plant is dirty in any way, you should clean it simply with a wet cloth and be gentle with the leaves. Leaf shine products could also make the leaves yellow, and it’s not a good look on the jade plant.
If you have already noticed these bad effects on the plant after using any of the mentioned products, you should stop using them immediately and clean the leaves with a damp cloth, giving your plant time to recover from these harsh chemicals.
Jade plants and succulents, in general, are not that demanding when it comes to fertilization. They are happy with a good cactus mix soil and a bit of water here and there. If you give them enough light and good temperatures while leaving them alone and not moving them around much, your plant will thrive.
However, if you want to use a fertilizer, you should know that this plant only needs small amounts. If the soil is good enough, meaning that it has nutrients inside already, you might not even need further fertilization.
But if the soil is lacking in nutrients, then the plant will suffer. It will start to shrivel and droop, losing leaves and showing yellow spots on the branches and leaves. The growth will also be stunted if this is the case. The plant could eventually die if the soil is not nutritious enough for the plant.
If you notice this, it might be time to repot in a fresh potting mix that is fast-draining. I usually like to use succulent/cactus potting mix combined with perlite or pumice. But if you cannot repot your plant yet, you can also add some fertilizer with good nutrients that can help your plant thrive. You won’t have to do this often — in fact, if you do, the plant may start to die as well, since it doesn’t like too much fertilizer.
Once you use a fertilizer, take a look at the effects it has on your plant. If the effects are adverse, you should give your plant some rest and dilute the fertilizer with water next time to ensure that it doesn’t suffer from root rot.
You should fertilize this plant during the summer, spring, and early fall, but not during late fall and winter since they won’t need it. Summer and spring are their growing season, so this is when they will benefit from the fertilizer the most.
Jade Plant Pests
Pests are another common cause of issues with the jade plant. As expected, if your plant gets fungi or bug infestation, it will show negative effects. You need to keep a watchful eye on your jade plant to ensure that no pests are attacking it.
As soon as you notice some changes, you should make sure that you check and inspect everything thoroughly. Once you discover a problem, it’s time to act quickly so that your plant can have a speedy recovery and continue to thrive.
Here are some of the most common jade plant pests.
Mealybugs in Your Jade Plant
Mealybugs are by far the most common pest troubling the resilient jade plant. These insects can suck the life out of the leaves, causing them to shrivel and droop, eventually falling off in the lack of nutrients.
But these bugs are just as resilient as this plant. They will form a little cottony tent around their bodies so that they can feed on your plant in peace. These tents are quite sturdy, and it keeps them safe from all sorts of pesticides.
Fortunately, the tents that they form also make them easy to spot as they will be quite obvious at the base of the leaves. At first, there won’t be many of them, but you can soon have a full-on infestation if you leave this problem untreated. The bugs you are most likely to see are fully grown mealybugs, and they will suck on the plant the most.
However, there will also be tiny younger bugs that will run around quickly, and you won’t be able to see them until they grow into an adult mealybug and form that tent to keep them safe. They live for anywhere from 4 to 10 weeks, but this will be enough to ruin your plant. It will also give them time to reproduce.
Another tell-tale sign that your plant is infested with mealybugs is ants. If you see a lot of ants, not just a dozen but a lot, even hundreds of them on your plant, chances are you have an infestation of mealybugs or something else.
That’s because ants feed on the sweet substance that these pests secrete. Get rid of the ants before you can get rid of the mealybug infestation.
Keep in mind that these bugs can also move on to your other plants, so remove the infested jade plant from any others.
How to Get Rid of Mealybugs
To get rid of these bugs, you will have to use a pesticide that goes directly into the soil so that the plant can absorb it and send it through to leaves where these bugs will feed on it and eventually die. Of course, this will take some time, so if you want to get started as the bugs get poisoned, you should remove them by hand.
Start by dropping some alcohol in their tents. This will dissolve them quite easily. Then, take a cotton swab and wipe the bugs away, throwing them into a bag and away from your other plants.
After a while, you will notice that the bugs have completely disappeared if you use this process.
Spider Mites in Your Jade Plant
Spider mites are another pest that can trouble jade plants sometimes. Of course, it’s not nearly as common as mealybugs, but it’s worth mentioning because of their effect. These tiny creatures will spread all over your jade plant and cause numerous issues, including drooping as they spend its resources.
The trouble with these creatures is that they are really tiny and will be hard to notice until they’ve done a lot of damage. While they are in the arachnid family, these tiny pests don’t look much like spiders. Rather, they look like crabs. They have fat, stubby bodies and short legs. You will be able to see them under a magnifying glass, so keep one around for checking.
If you see spiders with long bodies and legs, they could be helpful for your plant as they feed on spider mites, and you could prevent an infestation this way.
Spider mites love hot and dry conditions, which is why they will love any plant that doesn’t get a lot of water and likes similar conditions. You might notice that they form these webs as well.
How to Get Rid of Spider Mites
The best way to get rid of them is to drown them. Cover your plant with a cloth material and secure it around the base of the pot. Lay it down in the bathtub on the side and then fill the bathtub with lukewarm water. The water should feel pleasant, not too hot, nor too cold. Then, submerge the plant under the water for about an hour.
Once you’re done, drain the water, put the soil that fell out back in, and drain any water from the pot and tray.
Your jade plant will probably do best if you just forget that it exists and water it only when the soil is dry. However, if you notice some negative changes, it may be time to revise your strategy. For one, change its placement so that it gets more or less light than before and change your watering schedule. Remember to check for root rot and the most common pests.
If you find the cause on time, you can easily help your plant get over the problem and start thriving. Follow the general guidelines of watering only when the soil is dry, giving this plant 4 hours of direct light a day, not fertilizing too much, and keeping it in comfortable temperatures.