The jade plant is one of the most popular succulent houseplants in the world. It has oval-shaped, fleshy leaves that grow on thick stems, giving the plant a small, tree-like appearance.
This plant is native to South Africa and is often given as gifts to friends and loved ones because it is believed to bring good luck to the recipient.
One of the most common problems encountered by jade plant owners is when the leaves on their plant start to shrivel.
Shriveling jade plant leaves indicate that there is an environmental factor that is causing the plant stress, and you will need to figure out exactly what that is in order to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
The most common causes of shriveled jade plant leaves are insufficient water, the use of hydrophobic components in the potting mix, too much sunlight, and strong air currents.
In this article, we will discuss more about these causes and how to solve each one. So, if you are currently having this problem with your jade plant, read on to learn how to fix it.
Why are the leaves on my jade plant shriveled?
Native to South Africa, jade plants thrive in the country’s hot, dry climate and rocky soils, which receive only infrequent rainfall. The plant’s drought-resistant strategies include storing water in its leaves, stems, and roots so that it can draw on these reserves during prolonged dry spells.
When a jade plant is subjected to drought stress, its depleted moisture reserves can cause its leaves to become wrinkled, shriveled, and thinner in appearance.
The most likely cause of your jade plant’s shriveled leaves, then, is either insufficient watering or watering too lightly on a consistent basis. If this situation is not rectified, the shriveled leaves will eventually fall off.
It is usually sufficient to water a jade plant once every two weeks during its active growth period in the spring and summer, and once every three or four weeks during the winter. This should maintain the optimal balance of moisture in the soil so that the leaves appear healthy and plump without the risk of overwatering.
If you water too lightly, you only moisten the top inch or so of the soil, and the water does not penetrate properly and reach the roots. This means the plant will be forced to use the water stored in its leaves, and the leaves will thus become wrinkled.
How to revive a jade plant that has become wrinkled due to lack of water
In order to ensure that water is properly absorbed by the soil and that the roots can effectively absorb the moisture they so desperately require, place your jade plant in a basin of water for 10 minutes to allow the soil to be properly soaked. Then, let the soil completely dry out.
This pattern of a generous soak followed by a period of drought is reminiscent of the plant’s native environment, which is typically characterized by a deluge of rain followed by periods of consistently dry weather.
As soon as the soil has completely dried out, give your jade plant another generous soak of water, to the point where water trickles out from the pot’s drainage holes. This indicates that the water has been properly absorbed by the soil and has reached the plant’s roots.
During the spring and summer, you should water your jade plant once every two weeks, and once every three or four weeks during the winter. You can return to this schedule once you have given the plant its initial reviving soak in a basin of water, and after two or three cycles of watering, it should appear healthier.
It is essential to establish a proper watering schedule for your jade plant in order to avoid both drought stress and, conversely, any problems associated with overwatering. The correct watering schedule should be determined according to your local climate and the conditions inside your home.
To figure out an appropriate schedule, give the soil a good soak and keep track of how long it takes to dry out completely. To tell when the soil is properly dry, you can feel the bottom layers through the drainage holes in the base of the pot. If the soil is still damp, wait a few days before checking it again. Once the soil has become completely dry, it is time to give your jade plant another thorough soaking.
Hydrophobic components in the potting medium
Because jade plants are drought resistant, it is necessary for their soil to dry out between watering sessions in order to replicate the optimal watering conditions found in their native, arid habitat.
However, if your potting mix contains peat, this can pose a problem when growing the plant at home because peat becomes hydrophobic once it has completely dried out. This means that, when you try to drench the dry soil, the water may just run off the soil’s surface, down the inside of the pot, and out of the drainage holes, without reaching the roots.
It is possible to get the impression that the plant has been well watered if water is trickling from the pot’s drainage holes; however, if the water has run off the surface without penetrating it, the roots of your plant will not have been able to absorb any moisture and the reserves in its leaves will be depleted, resulting in wrinkling or shriveling.
How to revive shriveled leaves caused by water-repellent soil
Allow for about 10 minutes of submersion in a basin of water to counter the hydrophobic effects of peat-based soil mixes. As mentioned above, soaking the soil this way allows moisture to be properly absorbed so that the roots can take in the water they require.
Even after the soil has been thoroughly soaked, the peat component can become hard again when it dries out, so it would be better to repot the plant in soil that is specially formulated for succulents and cacti. This soil has a porous structure that allows water to penetrate properly, even when it has dried out.
This should be done in conjunction with sound irrigation practices, such as watering with a generous soak rather than watering too lightly.
After two or three watering cycles, your jade plants should begin to show signs of recovery.
Too much sunlight
Jade plants can tolerate sunlight a lot better than most plants, but that does not mean they should be left in direct sunlight throughout the day.
If your jade plant gets too much intense sunlight, it can suffer from heat stress, which will also cause its leaves to become shriveled.
The ideal amount of sunlight for jade is around six hours a day, with the rest of the afternoon in the shade. The afternoon sun is usually the harshest of the day, so it is best to keep the plant away from it. Full sunlight accelerates water loss from the plant’s leaves, as well as drying out the soil in the pot very quickly so that the roots are more likely to be deprived of moisture.
You may also see actual sun damage on the plant’s leaves. Aside from the shriveling, the tips of the leaves can also turn brown and crispy.
If you think that your jade plant is getting too much light, move it to a different spot where it can get bright but indirect light. If the potting mix is dry, submerge the pot in a basin of water until it is thoroughly soaked. This will ensure that all of the roots get their share of water and that the plant’s moisture level can return to normal. The plant should recover fully after two or three cycles of watering.
If you are keeping it indoors, choose a south-facing window to provide the right kind of light for the plant. If the only available windows in your home are letting in very harsh light, you may have to hang a sheer curtain over the window to diffuse the light’s intensity.
Strong air currents
A jade plant’s leaves can also become wrinkled from exposure to excessive air currents caused by wind, draughts, air conditioning, forced air, or convection currents from heat sources.
If exposed to the direct current of air conditioning, for example, the constant stream of dry air can sap moisture from the leaves and cause the soil to dry out very quickly. As a result, the leaves begin to lose moisture and become thinner and wrinkled.
That said, jade plants do prefer a degree of airflow rather than high humidity.
The solution is as simple as placing your plant in an area of your home where it will not be directly exposed to air currents that will dry out the leaves.
Once the plant has received two or three cycles of watering, it will begin to restore the moisture in its leaves and they will recover from their shriveled state.
Jade plant care
Jade plants need light to thrive, and young plants, in particular, should be exposed to bright, indirect sunlight. Both young and old plants require at least four to six hours of sunlight per day, but should be protected from direct sunlight. Harsh light can scorch immature plants and turn the leaves of mature plants red.
When selecting a soil mix for your jade plant, a succulent-specific blend is the best option. Ideally, the soil should have a neutral to slightly acidic pH, and should drain well to avoid excessive moisture accumulation and fungal growth. If you decide to use an all-purpose potting mix instead, incorporate some perlite to aid drainage. Additionally, you can plant your jade plant in a terracotta or clay container to aid in the wicking of excess moisture from the soil.
Throughout the spring and summer, jade plants should be frequently watered to maintain a moist, but never wet, soil. In the winter, reduce your watering to once a month. Additionally, if you water from below by sitting the pot in a saucer of water, be sure to drain any excess water after a few minutes and never leave the jade plant submerged in water.
Temperature and humidity
Jade plants prefer temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. They can tolerate temperatures as low as 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night and in the winter, though they should never be kept in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit for extended periods.
At the start of the growing season, feed your jade plant with a controlled-release fertilizer, or weekly with a weak liquid solution, for the best results. On mature plants, use a balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer at a quarter-strength; on young plants, use a fertilizer with less nitrogen.
The jade plant is one of the most popular houseplants in the world because of how low-maintenance it is, as well as for its beautiful aesthetic.
One of the most common problems encountered by jade plant owners is when the leaves of their plant become shriveled. This happens because there is an environmental factor that is causing the plant stress; hence its physical changes.
The most common reasons that jade plants’ leaves become shriveled are insufficient water, hydrophobic components in the potting mix, too much sunlight, and strong air currents.
The sooner you are able to determine the exact cause of the shriveled leaves, the sooner you can begin to correct the problem and help the plant bounce back to its normal state.
Image: istockphoto.com / Dani VG