When your the leaves of your Jade Plant turn red, it is usually caused by one of two things: it is either your plant is stressed or it is infested by spider mites.
Reasons why Jade Plant leaves turn red
Although there are cultivars of the Jade Plant that have red leaves, most have green leaves.
Before you panic, you should do a little sleuthing to determine what is actually the cause of the sudden change in the color as well as the necessary steps that you need to take.
Reason 1: Stress
One possible reason behind the change in the leaves’ color is stress. Although stress has a negative connotation, especially when relating to humans, the term is not necessarily bad for plants. In fact, many succulent growers deliberately subject their plants to stress.
To better understand stress and its effects on your Jade Plant, it is worthwhile to tackle a few things first. First, succulents like the Jade Plant mostly come from places that are harsh or downright inhospitable to plant life. For example, a desert environment lacks moisture and has intense heat. The soil has little to no nutrients that can support plant growth.
On the other side of the coin, there are succulents that originate from alpine climates where temperatures can plunge below zero degrees.
To a large degree, the adaptations succulents have developed to cope with these conditions are what makes these plants awesome.
Causes of stress in succulents
But how exactly does stress relate to you and your Jade Plant, especially if you are doing your best to care for it? A Jade Plant is said to be stressed if:
- It is exposed to full sun for an extended time.
- There has been a sudden increase or drop in the temperature, typically associated with the changing of the seasons.
- The plant has been underwatered for a long time.
- The plant is underfed with nutrients. It is either you have used poor soil, you have not given fertilizers to the plant, or a combination of both.
In the context of keeping a succulent in your home, stress means that your plant is reacting to one or more of these conditions.
How stress changes the color of the leaves
Apart from red, succulent leaves can change into other colors, including purple, blue, yellow, orange, and even black.
This change in color can be attributed to anthocyanins and carotenoids which are pigments that can also be found in fruits that are rich in antioxidants.
These pigments help succulents like the Jade Plant to cope with changes in the environment.
Distinguishing between good and bad stress in succulents
It is worthwhile to point out that there is a distinction between good and bad stress in plants.
If the plant is otherwise healthy and retains its normal shape, then that means that your succulent is under good stress.
Good stress can be beneficial, especially if you keep your succulent mostly indoors. Subjecting your plant to stressful situations can help bring out its full potential.
On the other hand, if your Jade Plant looks disfigured or distorted, it means that your plant is under bad stress and you need to act fast to change things around.
The key difference between good and bad stress is your plant’s response. In the case of your Jade Plant, changing the color of its leaves means that it is coping well with the things that put it under stress.
Controlling the color of your plant’s leaves
One cool thing about Jade Plants is that you can control the color and amount of redness on the leaves.
If you wish to keep the leaves green all throughout, you should provide it with everything it needs, from quality soil to proper lighting to the appropriate amount of fertilizers.
If you want the tips of the leaves to take on a reddish hue, be sure to put your plant in a fast-draining potting mix. After that, water your plant less frequently than it is accustomed to. Soon, you will notice that the tips of the leaves take on a red color.
If you want maximum redness on the leaves, there are a few steps that you will need to take.
1. Use the right potting mix
If you are not using the appropriate potting mix for your Jade Plant, now would be the opportune time to make a change.
Succulents like Jade Plants do not require nutrient-rich soil. Remember, these plants typically grow in areas with poor soil.
If you want to ensure that your plant’s soil drains well, you can mix two parts of a cactus mix with one part of perlite. Alternatively, you can mix a part of each if you live in an area with high humidity.
2. Limit the application of fertilizers
Succulents do not need as much fertilizers as other plants.
If you want to achieve maximum redness of the leaves, apply fertilizers during your plant’s active growth phase. And if you are going to apply fertilizer, make sure that you use just half or even a quarter of the recommended dosage.
Avoid applying fertilizer when your plant is dormant.
3. Do not schedule your waterings
Scheduling waterings is convenient for most plants. But with succulents like the Jade Plant, you cannot stick to a specific schedule.
Instead, water your plant only when its soil is completely dry. The interval between watering sessions will vary, depending on factors like the season and container size.
4. Put your plant in a sunny location
Jade plants require full sun to thrive. If you want to achieve maximum redness of the leaves, you will need to increase your plant’s sun exposure by up to five to six hours.
But be careful. You need to help your plant adjust to prolonged exposure to the sun. Otherwise, it can get it sunburned. Gradually increase its sun exposure until you reach the recommended number of hours.
Stressing your plant to achieve maximum redness of the leaves can be beneficial to your Jade Plant. However, you will still need to monitor it from time to time to make sure that it is indeed thriving and not exhibiting signs of a larger problem.
Reason 2: Spider mites
If you have ruled out stress as the primary cause of the change in the color of your Jade Plant’s leaves, then it is highly likely that your plant is infested by spider mites. Some people mistakenly think of spider mites as insects. However, these tiny critters are actually arachnids. They are closely related to spiders and scorpions.
The arachnids target both indoor and outdoor plants, including Jade Plants. They live in colonies and are typically found on the underside of leaves. They feed on plant fluids by piercing the leaf tissue.
Signs of an infestation
One of the most common signs of a spider mite infestation is red marks on the leaves and stems of the plant.
You may also notice webbings on an infested plant. It is possible that the webbing is produced by spiders which do not harm succulents. However, their webbings can sometimes be a nuisance.
A spider mite webbing, on the other hand, is often accompanied by other changes in the leaves. The leaves may turn yellow or brown. In some cases, the leaves may turn crunchy.
Another trick that you can use to ascertain if you have a spider mite problem is to wipe the underside of the leaves with a paper towel. If you see green marks on the paper towel, it is highly likely that your plant is infested.
You can also touch the underside of the leaves with just your hands. Leaves of infested plants will feel grainy to the touch.
Getting rid of spider mites
Once you detect spider mites on your Jade Plant, it is crucial to act fast to avoid long term damage on your plant. Additionally, spider mites can also infest the other plants you might be keeping in your home.
There are several ways to remove these pesky critters from your plant.
- Cold water
These arachnids hate cold temperatures and water. Spraying cold water will remove a sizable number of these insects from your Jade plant.
- Soap solution
Instead of cold water, you can use a solution made out of water and dish soap.
- Neem oil
By applying Neem oil on the leaves of your succulent, you are providing them with a protective barrier against spider mites.
- Specialty products
Like Neem oil, leaf shine can be applied on leaves to provide them with a protective coating against spider mites. However, be aware that excessive amounts of this product can build up on the leaves and damage these.
There are supplements that are applied to the soil while watering plants. These supplements do not directly treat the infestation. Instead, these products strengthen the cell walls of the plants, making it difficult for spider mites to pierce through the leaves.
It should be noted that you cannot eliminate all the spider mites with just one treatment. It is highly likely that you will need to treat the infected plant several times before you actually get rid of the arachnid invaders.
Preventing an infestation
Spider mites can be downright troublesome to deal with. As such, prevention can go a long way. Here are a few helpful tips to keep these pests at bay.
- As much as possible, avoid placing your plant under direct sunlight. Spider mites thrive in hot and dry environments.
- Apart from direct sunlight, your Jade Plant is at a higher risk of an infestation if you place it near fireplaces, heat vents, and areas near open windows.
- From time to time, check on the leaves of your plant. You should also wipe the leaves regularly with a soap solution, Neem oil, or even an insecticidal soap.
Learn the difference
When the leaves of your Jade Plant turn red, that is not necessarily a sign that something wrong is afoot. It is possible that your plant is just adapting to the conditions it is currently exposed to.
Of course, it is possible that it is infested by spider mites or it might be severely lacking one or more of its needs.
This is why it is crucial to learn exactly what a healthy Jade Plant looks like. Acquiring this knowledge will help you determine if anything is out of the normal.
Image: istockphoto.com / Andrew Waugh