The jade plant, or Crassula ovata, has become a popular houseplant in recent years. Its woody stem gives the plant the look of a miniature tree, and it’s foliage adds color and life to any indoor space. It can also live for many years while maintaining a manageable height of three feet at full maturity.
It is completely normal for the leaves of a jade plant to fall off one by one as part of its natural process, but if you notice your plant’s leaves falling off at a faster pace and in larger numbers, there may be something stressing the plant that you will need to identify in order to fix the problem.
The most common causes of dropping jade plant leaves are insufficient light, too much water, too little water, temperature changes, pests, poor soil quality, and the use of leaf shine products.
In this article, we will discuss each of these causes and how to fix them. So, if you are experiencing this problem and you wish to learn more, then keep reading.
Why are my jade plant’s leaves dropping?
Not enough light
One of the common reasons a jade plant’s leaves drop off is if the plant is not getting the amount of light that it needs daily to thrive.
Jade plants grow best in bright, indirect light. If you are keeping the plant indoors, it does well when placed next to a south-facing window. Plenty of other plants find the light from a south-facing window to be too harsh, but not the jade plant.
A jade plant that does not get enough light will become etiolated. Etiolation is an abnormal growth pattern in plants that are kept in low-light conditions, wherein the plant’s limbs become thin and elongated as they attempt to grow in the direction of the nearest light source. While etiolation is not harmful to the plant, it does change its overall aesthetic and symmetry.
This phenomenon is typically seen during the fall or winter, when natural sunlight can be scarce. You may need to move the plant to a different spot where it can get more light. Also make sure the window is not letting in a constant draft that can dry the plant out.
If you cannot place the plant near a window because of drafts, you can help it out with a grow light instead. Of course, natural sunlight is still the best, but a grow light is a very good alternative.
Too much water
If your jade plant is receiving too much water and the soil is constantly wet, this can also cause its leaves to drop.
Overwatering can come about because you are giving the plant too much water each time you water it, watering it more often than you need to, using poorly-draining soil mix or a pot without drainage holes, or not adjusting your watering schedule to changes in the season or the weather.
Jade plants are succulents, which means that they can store water in their stems and leaves and can thus tolerate periods of drought. This is what makes them a great choice for drier climates.
When a jade plant is overwatered it becomes stressed, and one of the signs of this stress is the dropping of its leaves.
A more serious effect of prolonged overwatering is root rot. This is a condition caused by prolonged exposure of the plant’s roots to soggy soil. If the roots are not allowed to dry out between waterings, they will drown and die. The dead roots will then be vulnerable to opportunistic pathogens, such as fungi and bacteria, which will cause the rot in the dead roots to spread even faster to the rest of the plant.
You will be able to tell that the rot has reached the stems and leaves by touching them. They will feel soft and mushy to the touch and the leaves will be yellow or brown at this point.
If you think your jade plant is overwatered, stop watering immediately and place it in a spot where it can get lots of sunlight. The light and heat will help to dry out the soil in the pot.
To check for root rot, you will have to remove the plant from the pot. Wash the soil from the roots as gently as you can, because the roots are very fragile.
Inspect the roots closely, looking for brown or black colored roots. These are rotten and must be removed. Use a sterile knife or scissors to do this, leaving only healthy, white roots behind. Lay the plant on dry paper towels and allow the roots to air-dry for several hours.
Then, prepare a new pot that has drainage holes at the bottom and fill it with fresh, well-draining potting medium. Place the plant in the middle of the pot and cover the roots with more potting medium.
Do not water the plant immediately; wait at least a week to give the roots enough time to recover from the trauma of repotting.
The best way to prevent overwatering in the future is to know exactly when to water your jade plant. With succulents, you will know they need water when the top two inches of soil in the pot are dry to the touch. If the soil is dry, water the plant, but if it is still damp, wait one or two days before checking again.
Not enough water
Although the jade plant can tolerate drought better than most plants, that does not mean you can just neglect to water it entirely, and underwatering can also lead to the dropping of leaves.
Plants need water not only to maintain a level of hydration in their bodies, but also as a means to transport nutrients and minerals from the soil into the body of the plant.
The longer a jade plant is left underwatered, the more the leaves and stems will dry out, and soon they will turn yellow or brown and drop from the plant.
If you think your jade plant is underwatered, you should water it as soon as possible. Keep watering until you can see excess water flowing out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
Make sure all of the soil in the pot gets wet so that all of the roots have sufficient access to water and the plant recovers from dehydration as quickly as possible.
As mentioned above, the best way to tell that a jade plant needs to be watered is when the top two inches of soil in the pot are dry to the touch.
This way you can prevent underwatering your plant, thus preventing leaf drop.
Another reason your jade plant is dropping its leaves could be due to temperature changes.
Jade plants are succulents that like lots of sunlight, and they prefer an environment with temperatures between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
As we mentioned, cold drafts from cracks in a window can dry a plant out, as can the warmth from heaters and radiators in your home.
Any sudden changes in temperature around the plant cause it stress, which is why its leaves drop off.
If you are just bringing the plant home with you from the store or nursery where you bought it, remember that it has been growing in near-perfect conditions, in a temperature-controlled setting. The moment you take the plant home with you, it is exposed to fluctuating temperatures that it does not like. Do not worry, however; the stress it is experiencing is not permanent and as the plant adapts to its new surroundings, it will recover fully. Just help it out with its transition and care for it as best you can.
If you live in a place with cold winters, be sure to take the plant indoors before the seasons change. Jade plants are desert plants that do not do well in very cold climates.
The presence of pests on your jade plant can also lead to the dropping of its leaves. The pests that frequent jade plants are very small, so catching an infestation in its early stages will be a bit tricky. The signs of pest infestation also only really become noticeable when the population of bugs has grown substantially.
Mealybugs are one of the most common pests on jade plants. These insects are small and feed on the sap from the plant’s leaf tissue.
When many mealybugs cluster in one area of the plant, they will have a white fuzz over them that can easily be mistaken for fungal growth. These bugs multiply very quickly and can go from egg to mature adult in six to eight weeks.
The longer a mealybug infestation is left untreated, the more likely it is to cause leaf loss for the plant.
You can get rid of mealybugs on your jade plant by wiping the plant down with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. You can also just spray the alcohol directly onto the affected areas of the plant.
Alternatively, you can make a neem oil solution using two tablespoons of neem oil to a spray bottle full of water, and spray the plant with this.
Repeat the process every three days for as long as you can still see mealybugs. Make sure you spray all the little nooks and crannies, because this is where the bugs like to hide.
Another pest commonly seen on jade plants is the spider mite. These bugs are reddish-brown in color and can attack not only jade plants, but your other houseplants as well.
These bugs like to hide near the base of the plant where they are hidden from any danger. You will know your plant has spider mites by the webs these bugs produce.
Like the mealybugs, they also feed on the plant’s sap, causing the leaves to dry out and fall off.
If a spider mite colony keeps growing, it can kill your plant, so be vigilant about checking for signs of pests every time you water the plant.
You can remove spider mites using the same neem oil solution described above for mealybugs. You can also apply neem oil directly onto the leaves and stems of the plant using a cotton ball or pad.
Repeat the process every three days for as long as you can still see spider mites on the plant.
As with mealybugs, make sure that you take the infested plant far away from your other healthy plants while you treat it. Pests spread from one plant to another very quickly, so quarantining the infested plant will help avoid the spread.
Poor potting soil quality
If you are using a type of soil that your jade plant does not like, this can lead to stress and leaf drop.
The soil you use for your jade plant should be airy and well-draining. These plants do not like dense or compact soil because it retains water too well and increases the chances of overwatering and root rot.
You can buy commercially available potting mixes that are specially designed for succulents, or make your own potting mix by combining three parts regular potting soil with one part perlite and one part coarse sand.
Using leaf shine products
If you have recently used a leaf shine product on your jade plant, this should be the prime suspect if your plant’s leaves are dropping.
Leaf shine products contain lots of chemicals that will have a negative effect on the plant, especially if you use too much. First, the leaves will turn yellow, and then they will fall off after a few days.
Refrain from using these products and instead use a damp cloth to wipe down the leaves and clean off the dust.
Will the leaves that dropped off grow back?
This will depend on what caused them to drop off in the first place.
If the leaves dropped off because you were giving the plant too much water and the plant has root rot, you should first concentrate on trying to keep the plant alive before worrying about regrowing the leaves.
If the plant is losing leaves because of temperature changes or transplant stress, expect the leaves to regrow once the plant has adapted to its new surroundings.
As long as the plant is able to recover from the underlying problem, there is no reason to worry about its leaves growing back.
The jade plant is a very popular houseplant because of its distinct, miniature tree-like appearance. It is a low-maintenance succulent and is very easy to grow and care for.
One of the most common problems faced by jade plant owners is when the leaves of the plant start dropping off faster or in greater numbers than normal.
The probable causes of dropping jade plant leaves are insufficient light, too much water, too little water, temperature changes, pests, poor soil quality, and the use of leaf shine products.
Image: istockphoto.com / Andrei-Sitnikov