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Jade Plant Care (101 Guide for Beginners)

Jade Plant Care (101 Guide for Beginners)

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Jade plants are hardy little succulents that are really hard to kill, however, that doesn’t mean it is easy to grow them. It’s easy to keep them alive is all.

Getting them to grow right requires an understanding of Jade plant care, maintenance, and knowledge of training these – if you want to grow it like a bonsai.

The care requirements are the same for all Jades. It doesn’t matter the type of Jade plant you have. The Silver Dollar, Gollum, Ripple, Blue Bird, Gandalf, or the Hobbit Jade plant. The care requirements are the same because they all grow the same.

Grow them in the same type of potting soil, using pots suited to shallow rooted plants, and in a suitable growing climate. Get those right, and your Jade plant will prosper.

The Soil Mix Is the Starting Point to Nail!

Loose, porous and fast draining materials are the qualities to look for in a quality potting mix for Jades. What you are looking for is the opposite of soil.

Anything resembling dirt is not good for Jade plants. These are native to South Africa where they’ll be found growing on rocky hillsides exposed to bright sunlight. To resemble anything close to the rocks they are used to growing in, grit is what they need.

Cacti or succulent mixes are ideal. Bonsai mixes may not be because those can have Akadama or a similar ingredient used which retains some moisture and alters the soil pH. The safe zone for Jades is a pH 6. If it becomes too alkaline or acidic, nutrient uptake can be inhibited.

If you want to try mixing your own recipe, go with 3 parts indoor potting soil mixed with 2 parts coarse sand and 1-part perlite or pumice.

The key thing is that water needs to be able drain fast through the mix. Anything that helps the potting soil retain moisture should be left out.

Pot Size and Type

The right size of pot for a Jade plant contributes to how it handles water. The essential component is to have at least a single drainage hole. The more, the better. The plastic pot that Jade plants come in from the nursery is ideal because those have multiple drainage holes around the outer perimeter.

Early-stage Jades only need a 4-inch planter, repotting after they mature (around three years of age) into a pot just a couple of inches larger.

A decorative planter can be used and may even be needed as your plant grows. That is because Jade plants are shallow rooted. They prefer shallow pots. But, given how top heavy they can become, a heavier base may be needed to prevent it toppling over when it becomes top heavy.

A weightier type of pot that is beneficial for Jade plants are unglazed terracotta/clay planters. The material is porous so it helps dry the soil faster and improve aeration, plus you can double pot your plant within it so as not to use so much soil that’d risk remaining moist for far too long.

When and How to Water a Jade Plant

You can easily over water Jade plants, and given that this is a plant prone to root rot/black stem rot (one of the few succulent diseases that can be fatal to Jades), one can never be too careful. The best way to avoid giving it more water than it can handle is to only add water when the soil is bone dry.

Even at that, check the leaves first. As this is a succulent, the leaves store an excessive amount of water. Too much water and the leaves swell up. Without enough water, the leaves droop, shrivel, and wrinkle. Healthy leaves are plump because they are filled with water.

When to water is when the soil is dry to the touch, and the leaves are showing slight signs of dehydration, which is when they are slightly drooping, possibly shrivelling. They quickly perk up soon after being watered.

How to water a Jade plant efficiently is to lightly water the soil a few times rather than completely drenching the potting mix in one go. This ensures the potting mix is saturated without risking compacting it by pouring too much water in too fast. It gives the water time to drain.

If it were to be flooded with a rush of water, the air pockets in the mix can compact, reducing the oxygen levels. It’s those air pockets in the soil that keeps oxygen reaching the roots.

Without those, roots rot, which is what happens when too much water is in the pot. Air pockets flood so the roots can’t breathe and the result of that is the Jade plant dying.

The Light Requirements for Jades

The Jade plant loves sunlight despite its sensitivity to bright direct sunlight.

The best light source for this plant is a few hours of bright direct morning sunlight. It has to be in the morning though. By the afternoon, direct sunlight is far too intense for this little succulent.

The best location to have it is near a south or west facing window.

The very least lighting that is required for optimal growth is four hours. For the best growth, aim to have the plant in bright indirect sunlight for six hours daily.

Any growth that is seen in low light conditions will be leggy with droopy leaves. Not a pretty sight. Neither though is too much light.

The first signs of leaf scorch on a Jade plant are a red tinge emerging on the leaf edges. Extremely bright direct sunlight will burn the leaves. Burnt leaves brown at the leaf edges and then they dry the leaf out causing it to turn crispy, wrinkle, and eventually drop from the plant.

Low light is safer than too much as a lack of light won’t kill it, but it will stunt growth. If you are seeing leggy growth, branches drooping and little new growth, low light will be why the Jade plant is not growing.

The Temperatures Needed

The Jade plant is a tropical species so it can tolerate high temperatures although it doesn’t need it. Jade plants have adapted well to cope with the average room temperature, which tends to be in the range of 68°F (20°C) and 76°F (24°C). As it can cope with high heat, it is difficult to give it too much warmth.

Where the concern is with temperatures is when it falls below the 50°F (10°C) mark. At low temperatures, cold damage occurs.

Cold damage on Jade plants causes leaves to wilt, turn brown or black either all over or on the leaf edges. Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures will dry out the leaves causing them to drop.

Areas to pay attention to in the winter are anywhere there are temperature fluctuations such as close to doors and open windows. If the plant is placed on a window sill, care needs to be taken to ensure the leaves don’t come into contact with cold window panes.

The Ideal Humidity Levels

Similar to the temperature requirements, the average room humidity is fine for Jade plants. That is 30% to 50% relative humidity. Despite being a tropical plant, they do not need to have the leaves misted. In fact, you should never mist the leaves on these. Water ought to be in the leaves. Not on them.

Wet leaves raise the risk of fungal disease, and having water on the leaves can block the stomata, preventing transpiration.

The more likely scenario with overly high humidity is soil taking longer to dry. Moist soil is a breeding ground for fungi and that attracts gnats. You need to get rid of fungus gnats on plants fast because they leave larvae in the soil that damage the root system.

Always keep the leaves on the plant dry by watering the soil only and wiping the leaves occasionally. If the leaves are wet, humidity is too high.

A Guide to Fertilizers for Jade Plants

The Jade plant requires very little fertilizing, but it is required. Being stuck in a pot, it cannot survive on water and sunlight alone. It needs nutrients. Those come only in the form of fertilizers.

The type to use is a balanced fertilizer, meaning anything with equal NPK – Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium – ratios in equal amounts.

On the label, these are 10-10-10 or 20-20-20. Do not use a bloom booster to try to get a Jade plant to flower. These don’t need a lot of phosphorous and flowering is trial and error anyway.

For young plants, go with a lower amount of 10-10-10, and for mature plants (over a few years old) go of 20-20-20 fertilizer, each diluted to a quarter strength minimum.

The rule to follow is never to feed any fertilizer to the plant from November through to March, which are the Jade plants lazy months. During this time, little growth is happening.

As spring approaches, the plant becomes active again so early spring is the ideal time to feed a little fertilizer. How much you add is dependent on how you plan to continue.

A diluted balanced liquid fertilizer can be applied once yearly, or every three months, up to November. As an example, April 1st, July 1st, then a last feed on September 1st. The thing to remember with Jade plants is that as succulents, they grow much slower than the leafy green plants that balanced fertilizers are intended for.

Ever wonder how big Jade plants get? It has an annual growth rate of 2 to 3 inches and can live for decades. So fairly big if you get this feeding cycle right.

The biggest risk to the Jade plant with fertilizers is feeding it too much!

Be careful to avoid applying too much fertilizer. If you are opting for a 3-monthly feeding cycle. The more frequently you are applying fertilizer, the weaker the solution should be.

If you were to feed once per season at the start of spring, you could use a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to one-fourth of what the label recommends for leafy green plants. If you were to be feeding the plant every three months, dilute it further, possibly up to on-tenth of the recommended dosage.

Always start with a weak solution on young plants and gradually increase the dosage up to the level recommended on the label. Never go higher than stated on the bottle.

An over-fertilized Jade plant will have yellow leaves that droop and wilt. Those can be pruned off the plant. Once they are removed, the plant will channel its energy into putting out new growth.

Before it does though, the soil would need to be flushed to get rid of the excess salts that would have accumulated from having too much fertilizer applied. The alternative to flushing the potting mix would be to repot it with a fresh medium so you can start afresh.

Pruning Jades for Symmetry and Routine Maintenance

Pruning gives you complete control over the plant’s symmetry. You can let it grow upright, dense and leafy, or use strategic pruning to keep succulents small and compact. That’s super easy with the Jade plant because it’s only leaves and branches.

The Jade plant tolerates cuts very well. It reliably puts out new growth where cuts are made. Cut a branch off, two grow back. Regardless of the time of year that you trim it. There are preferable times to prune though.

In the spring is the best, just before it comes out of dormancy and begins actively growing. It does grow year-round indoors, provided the conditions remain stable, but growth is slower in the winter months.

How to Prune a Jade Plant

Relief Cuts

If you notice any of the branches drooping, it is best to prune those off first to prevent too much weight being on one side of the plant. Take off roughly up to 3-inches of a branch that is drooping before it bends to prevent it snapping.

Rejuvenation Pruning

Rejuvenation pruning is done to promote denser leaf growth. Old branches are the first to go and they get cut right back to the trunk.

Any branches that have grown in sparsely because of a lack of light can benefit from being taken back by one-third of its size. However, leave at least two pairs of leaves intact if at all possible.

Growth Pruning

To encourage the plant to put out more upward growth, cut off up to half of all side shoots. If you want to grow the plant taller, young leaves can be nipped from the trunk to keep only the top branches and shoots.

For a short bushier jade plant with more outward growth, the trunk can be pruned by up to one third of its size. If you are considering shortening the trunk because your Jade plant is falling over due to excess weight on one side only, you don’t have to.

How to Fix a Lopsided Jade Plant

If the plant has been lacking sufficient light, it will either stop growing, or it will stretch in search of light. Left to grow towards a light source, branching will happen only on the side of the plant receiving sufficient light. The other side could be entirely bare causing an uneven weight distribution, resulting in the plant growing lopsided.

To get the plant upright, leggy growth can be pruned off by making the cuts on sparse branches right above an internode. Where you make the cut, two more branches will sprout, each producing shoots. Everything above where you cut will die off.

To correct the plants vertical alignment, a bamboo cane can be used to stake the plant by tying the trunk to it with string. Depending on how severely the trunk is bent, it may need to be done in stages. The trunks are brittle so take care not to apply too much pressure when straightening it.

If it is severely slanting to the one side, straighten it only by as much leeway as the trunk gives without applying force so as to avoid damaging it, such as cracking or splitting the trunk. It can be gradually adjusted by removing the string every few weeks, straightening it slightly each time until the plant stands upright.

Once it is straightened, the string and cane can be removed. Provided it is put in a spot with sufficient lighting, the trunk will straighten and put out new growth within a few months.

How to Propagate Jade Plants from Stems

Jade plants are super easy to propagate. It can be done with leaves or a stem cutting, but stems will root much faster. All you need is three to four inches of a branch. The bigger the cutting, the longer it will take for the cut to callous over.

Choose a stem from your plant that won’t distort its appearance too much. If you have any that have fallen from the plant or been accidentally snapped off, use that.

With a 3 to 4-inch of stem cutting taken, leave it to cure for a few days until it callouses over. Once the stem is calloused over, dust it with a rooting hormone powder, then plant it in a 4-inch nursery pot with the same potting mix as the parent plant, or a suitable alternative.

Propagated Jade plants tend to put out roots within just a few weeks, provided a rooting hormone is applied and the growing conditions ideal.

Dealing with Pests Attracted to Jade Plants

Very few insects pose a problem to Jade plants. Those that do are after the juices in the leaves. And, you will only find them becoming problematic when something is off with the growing conditions.

Typically, over watering the plant is when pests become a problem. The excessively moist soil attracts fungus gnats, but any leaf-piercing insect that relies on the sap from within the leaves of plants pose a risk to Jade plants.

The three pests you’re likely to encounter are mealybugs, scales, and mites (asides from the aforementioned fungus gnats).

When these are present, you won’t see them top-side. Insects take refuge on the underside of leaves. The symptoms they leave behind are the same as underwatering – yellow leaves, wilting, and stunted growth – along with dark spots on the leaves of Jade plants caused by the insects piercing through the leaves to get to the juices within it.

The fix for getting rid of any of these plant pests is to wipe the leaves with either rubbing alcohol or neem oil. Both are contact poisons.

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