Wrinkled Jade Plant Leaves – Causes and Fix

Wrinkled Jade Plant Leaves - Causes and Fix

The jade plant is one of the most popular houseplants in the world, not only for its unique look, but also because it is very easy to grow and care for. It resembles a tiny tree, with thick stems and fleshy, closely-packed leaves that give it a full, luscious appearance. 

One of the most noticeable aesthetic problems common to jade plants is the wrinkling of their leaves. When the jade plant’s leaves are wrinkled, it means there is an environmental factor affecting the plant that needs to be addressed and resolved as soon as possible, because it might take a heavier toll on the plant’s health over time.

The most common causes of wrinkled jade plant leaves are insufficient light, temperature issues, poor watering techniques, transplant stress, pests and drafts.

In this article, we will discuss these various causes of wrinkled jade plant leaves, and how to remedy each one.

Why are my jade plant’s leaves wrinkled?

Not enough light

One of the most common reasons your jade plant has wrinkled leaves is that it is not getting as much light as it needs every day. You are probably keeping the plant in a place with low light conditions, or you are not giving it plant alternative sources of light at times of the year when sunlight is scarce, such as the winter months.

Jade plants, like all plants, need light in order to stay healthy and alive. They need light to photosynthesize, which is how they make their food for survival. The plant needs four hours or more of bright, indirect light per day.

A jade plant in low light conditions will not only have impaired photosynthesis but will also have a harder time absorbing and utilizing nutrients that it needs to survive.

Over time, the less light the plant gets, the more curled and wrinkled the leaves will become. The stems will also become leggy, because of the plant’s desperation to reach the closest source of light.

If you think your jade plant’s leaves are wrinkled due to insufficient light, the easiest way to remedy this is by moving the plant to another spot where it can get the four hours or more of bright, indirect light that it needs. If you are keeping the plant indoors, place it near a north- or east-facing window. If the only window available is one that lets in harsh light, you can diffuse the intensity of the light by placing a sheer curtain over the window. Every couple of days, turn the plant so that all sides get their share of light.

If you keep the plant outdoors, make sure you choose a spot where it only gets direct light for certain hours of the day and gets shade for the other hours. Too much direct light can lead to sun damage on the leaves.

During the winter months, set up a grow light so that your plant still gets plenty of light despite the lack of natural sunlight from your windows.

Temperature issues

Although jade plants are succulents, there is a limit to how much heat they can tolerate. These plants do best in temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Both temperature extremes are bad for the plant. Hot temperatures dry it out much too quickly due to increased transpiration of the moisture from the leaves. This will result in the leaves becoming wrinkled.

Remedy the situation by placing the plant in an area where the temperature is cooler. Room temperature is often enough for the plant, so you do not need to take special measures to keep it happy in this regard. If the plant has dried out because of hot temperatures, help it out by watering it thoroughly.

Take the plant indoors during the warmer months, especially if you live in a place where the climate is drier than most. Do not place it near heating vents or furnaces, because the heat radiating from these will also dry it out and wrinkle its leaves.

Too much sunlight can also elevate the temperature around the plant, so if it is outdoors, keep it in semi-shade, such as under a tree or under a garden net. 

Poor watering techniques

The most likely reason your jade plant’s leaves are wrinkling is incorrect watering techniques.

Jade plants are succulents, so they can store water in their leaves and stems and are tolerant of drought to a certain extent. This means they are especially prone to overwatering.

When your jade plant is overwatered, it can develop root rot, which happens when the soil is constantly soggy, meaning the roots are always wet. The roots will drown and die, and the dead roots will be susceptible to opportunistic pathogens, such as fungi and bacteria. These pathogens will help the rot spread even more aggressively to the rest of the plant, until the entire plant is affected. The rotted and compromised roots will not absorb nutrients and water from the soil, so the plant’s leaves will become wrinkled.

Underwatering, on the other hand, can also cause wrinkled leaves, due to dehydration. Yes, these are succulents that store water in their leaves and stems, but if those stores become depleted, the leaves will dry out and become wrinkled.

Fix an overwatered plant by not watering it again until after all the soil in the pot has dried out completely. If you suspect root rot, you may need to remove the plant from its pot to inspect the roots. Shake off as much of the old soil as you can, and if there are any roots that are brown or black, those are rotten and will need to be removed. Use a sterilized knife or pruning shears to cut off these roots, leaving only healthy, white roots behind. Spray the remaining roots with fungicide and let them air-dry for several hours. Then, repot the jade plant in a pot with drainage holes at the bottom, using fresh, well-draining potting soil.

If your jade plant is underwatered, water it until all of the soil in the pot is soaked and you can see the excess water flowing out of the drainage holes at the bottom. As long as you are watering the plant regularly again, the leaves should have no trouble recovering.

There is no set schedule to follow when it comes to watering your jade plant. The best and easiest way to figure out when the plant needs water is by feeling the soil in the pot. If the top two inches of soil are dry, water the plant, but if the soil is still damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.

Transplant stress

When you repot a jade plant, do not be surprised if the leaves become wrinkled after a few days. Repotting is a stressful experience for the plant because the roots are removed from the soil, which is traumatic. These signs are even more apparent if you repot a plant that is not 100 percent healthy. Because the roots are in new soil, they need several days to reestablish themselves and adapt to their new environment.

Try not to repot your jade plant too often. It can be so stressful to the plant that it might even die, and reducing the frequency of repotting is the only way to avoid the stress caused by this experience. Only repot the plant when the roots have become overcrowded in the pot. 

Pests

If your jade plant is infested with pests, the damage they inflict on the foliage can also result in wrinkled leaves. Check the plant for the presence of pests at least once a week so that you can catch any infestation in its early stages, which will make treatment much easier.

Spider mites, thrips, scale insects and mealybugs are the most common pests found on jade plants.

Scale insects will feed on the leaves of the plant, while mealybugs suck the moisture from the plant, causing the leaves to wilt and wrinkle.

To remove pests from your jade plant, use pesticides made specifically for houseplants. You can also use horticultural oil or neem oil. Make a solution of oil and water in a spray bottle and apply it all over the infested plant. You can also wipe down the leaves with rubbing alcohol to kill the pests. Repeat the treatment once a week for a month to make sure that all the pests have been removed.

Remember to keep the infested plant away from your healthy plants, so that the infestation does not spread.

Drafts

Exposure to drafts from air conditioners, heating vents, and cracks around doors and windows can also stress the plant and cause its leaves to wrinkle.

The jade plant appreciates good airflow, but relentless cold or warm air directed at the plant will dry it out quickly and cause it to lose a lot of moisture.

To fix this situation, move the plant to a spot where it is not directly in the path of cold or warm drafts. Keep it away from air conditioners, heating vents, and windows and doors that let in cold air through cracks.

Conclusion

Wrinkled jade plant leaves are an indication that some environmental factor is causing the plant stress. This will need to be addressed and resolved as soon as possible to avoid further damage to the plant. The causes of this change in leaf texture can range from benign to serious, but you should fix the problem regardless because it will ultimately lead to a decline in the plant’s overall health.

The most common causes of wrinkled jade plant leaves are insufficient light, temperature issues, poor watering techniques, transplant stress, pests and drafts.

Once you have correctly identified the cause of the wrinkled leaves, your treatment can be specific and the plant will recover faster.

Image: istockphoto.com / Fototocam