Jade Plant Root Rot

Jade Plant Root Rot

Jade plants, with the scientific name Crassula ovata, are succulent houseplants with fleshy, oval-shaped leaves. These plants are native to Mozambique and South Africa, can grow three to six feet tall, and are also referred to as lucky plants, money plants or money trees. They are drought-tolerant plants that are easy to care for, but as with most plants, improper growing conditions can cause them to develop root rot.

Jade Plant Root Rot: Symptoms 

  • The leaves become soft and start to drop off. 
  • The leaves become wrinkled, turn yellow, and feel squidgy when squeezed. 
  • The stems become wrinkled and may begin to sag, especially if the infection is severe. 

If your jade plants are manifesting any of these symptoms, you should inspect their root ball sooner rather than later. This will determine whether it is indeed root rot that is causing the symptoms. Remove the plant from the pot and examine the root ball thoroughly. Healthy roots are firm and white, while rotting roots are brown with a slimy coating and a musty smell. This is a true indication that root rot is the cause of the plant’s declining health. 

Causes of Jade Plant Root Rot  

Overwatering

Some plant owners water their jade plants a bit too excessively, and this is detrimental for the plants. The roots will become waterlogged and will be unable to absorb oxygen, causing them to die and start rotting. Because the roots are no longer performing their function, the plants will then suffocate and starve.  

To fix this, allow the soil to dry out completely between watering. Check whether the soil is dry by poking your finger into the potting soil to a depth of about two inches. If the soil is dry to that depth, it means it is time to water the plants. Soak the soil well and allow the water to drain through the soil completely. 

Poor drainage

Another cause of root rot is poor drainage in pots or containers. To avoid stagnant or waterlogged soil, the pots should have sufficient drainage holes in their bases. These holes should be large enough that you can insert your finger, and for larger plants there should be several holes. 

Poorly-draining soil

Some potting mixes are designed to retain water, which makes them ideal for certain houseplants. However, it could be detrimental for succulents like jade plants that require free-draining soil. To fix this, use a potting mix designed for succulents. You can also make this yourself by mixing three parts ordinary potting soil, two parts coarse sand or grit, and one part perlite. 

Pathogenic infection

Pathogens can lie dormant in the soil and infect your plants’ roots when they become weak or compromised, causing root rot and other diseases. To prevent this, practice good garden hygiene. Avoid reusing potting soil from other pots or plants; rather use new, sterile potting soil. Also sterilize your gardening tools. Roots that are weakened by overwatering are more susceptible to infection by pathogens, which is another reason to avoid overwatering.

Pot size

Placing your jade plants in pots of the wrong size could lead to root rot. Pots that are too big could absorb too much water, which will not drain quickly enough and thus encourage root rot. 

Meanwhile, if you use pots that are too small, the roots may become compacted and there will be insufficient space for air circulation. The compacted roots will not be able to supply the plant with nutrients, and symptoms of root rot will appear as an effect of starvation. 

To fix this, you need to repot your jade plants when they become pot-bound. Tip the plant out and see if the roots are circling the edges of the pot. If so, transfer it to a pot that is one size bigger, and use a fresh potting mix.

Low temperatures 

Another cause for the growth of root rot is low temperatures. During the cooler months, evaporation takes longer. The soil therefore remains moist for longer than during the summer months. To make sure that your plants do not develop root rot, water them less often during the winter months.  

Jade plants are succulents and they can withstand long periods without water, so see to it that the potting soil dries out between waterings. These plants should not be exposed to temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit during winter, and an appropriate summer temperature is around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Insufficient light or sudden changes in lighting conditions 

Jade plants can also develop root rot if they do not get enough sunlight. These plants thrive in bright and direct light for certain periods, and sudden changes in lighting conditions are detrimental to them, as is insufficient light. Jade plants can tolerate various lighting conditions, but be sure to introduce changes slowly. 

To save your plants from root rot, apply a copper fungicide. Trim off the rotten parts and repot the plants in a new pot with fresh soil mix. Make sure that the soil is well-draining and water the plants only when the top two inches of soil have dried out. 

Conclusion 

Jade plants are drought-resistant plants that are easy to care for and maintain. They are also referred to as money plants and lucky plants. Like most plants, however, they are prone to root rot if their growing conditions are inappropriate. Common causes of root rot include overwatering, poorly-draining soil, and pathogenic infections. To treat root rot, apply a copper fungicide, trim off the affected parts, and repot the plants in a new pot with fresh soil.

Image: istockphoto.com / Andrey Nikitin