For a plant that is nicknamed as the Lucky plant, Money plant, and often referred to as the friendship plant, you may feel down on your luck when the leaves on your Jade plant turn brown.
It is alarming to see the demise of any plant you are caring for, but luckily for you, a Jade plant turning brown is an entirely fixable problem without too much effort.
It does require inspecting the leaves thoroughly, paying attention to the areas of the plant that the leaves are browning at (bottom only or all over), if it starts at the edges, or if there are brown spots expanding to coat the leaf surface.
Each of the known causes that turn leaves brown on Jade plants are detailed below with the solutions to put it on the fast-track to recovery.
The Jade plant is a succulent requiring a well-draining potting mix (not soil) that is formulated for succulents so that it never stays moist for too long. If the potting mix retains water for too long, the plant can’t cope.
Multiple factors contribute to overwatering indoor plants and it is not always because of physically overwatering the plant.
Where the concern with overwatering creeps in is with the growing factors that have an effect on the soil drainage.
- The type of potting mix used
- The container of choice needs to be right to care for any succulent indoors (such as the number of drainage holes, plastic or clay, and the correct size)
- The amount of sunlight the plant receives
- and the air circulation around the plant
Using the right potting mix is imperative to avoid overwatering. Succulents require more of a gritty potting mix rather than a potting soil.
For the watering frequency, most do well with bottom-watering – soaking the pot in a sink or basin for just 5 minutes to 15 minutes every 14 to 21 days.
Before watering though, check the soil is dry to at least an inch. Only let the plant soak until the top of the mix feels moist, then remove it from the water and let any excess water drain.
When too much water is within the potting mix, the oxygen levels are depleted causing the plant to lose nutrients because the roots cannot function properly. For that reason, an overage of moisture in the soil creates the same result as a lack of water.
Jade plants are extremely drought-tolerant making them a tremendous choice for lazy indoor gardeners. They are one of the few indoor plants that are hard to kill.
That being said, although it will take a great deal of neglect to underwater any succulent, it is still possible. The most likely cause of underwatering (other than constantly forgetting) is excessively high temperatures. While the soil should drain fast, it should hold some moisture, otherwise, Jade plants will rely on the water storage capabilities of the leaves.
The leaves in Jade plants hold an excessive amount of water content. That is what gives them the plumpness. Those are reserves that make the plant as drought resistant as it is.
Once those reserves start to be used up because of a lack of moisture in the soil, the leaves on Jade plants turn brown and wrinkle when they can’t get the water they need from the roots in the soil.
If this is happening, take the plant out of its pot and inspect the root system for signs of damage. Root rot and stem rot caused by overwatering can kill roots meaning they won’t be able to deliver the moisture to the leaves.
Without water, the leaves will die, which is what you are seeing when the leaves are turning brown. The start of the plant’s demise. The process is yellowing, then browning leaves, then black when they die and drop.
Jade plants placed in direct sunlight can cause leaf scorch, aka, sunburn. Depending on the severity, the leaves may recover. Toasted leaves will be damaged beyond repair and should be pinched off the plant. Slightly scorched leaves on a Jade plant can recover.
Scorching tends to happen when plants are placed outside in the summer months. They do grow in direct sunlight in their natural habitat, but indoors, they are not used to the intensity.
Placing them outdoors when the summer days come in quickly leads to leaf scorch if the plant isn’t gradually acclimated to full sun.
When transitioning from nurturing a Jade plant indoors to an outdoor setting, place it in an area that receives dappled sunlight first, such as under the canopy of a tree and gradually increase the plants exposure to full sun over the course of two to three weeks..
High humidity contributes to the soil staying moist for longer than you want with any succulents. While Jade plants hail from a tropical region (Southern Africa), when kept indoors, they are not used to extremes.
Around 40% to 50% relative humidity is plenty. Any higher, the soil won’t drain as fast you need it to.
Edema causes lumps and bumps on plant leaves. On a Jade plant, due to the small size of the leaves, the discoloration from a few dark spots can make the leaves appear brown.
In reality, if it is edema, leaves will have raised brown spots like a swollen leaf rather than brown and wrinkled leaves.
Edema happens when the roots feed water to the leaves faster than the leaves can transpire. That can happen as a result of over watering, high humidity, temperature fluctuations or a lack of air circulation.
Similar to edema, an excessive amount of fertilizer can lead to brown spots on the leaves of Jade plants. Get a cluster of brown patches and your plant’s leaves can be almost entirely brown.
How to tell if a Jade plant is suffering from an overdose of fertilizer or too much salt accumulated (it can happen if the plant is watered with tap water that has a high sodium content) in the soil mix to inspect the topsoil.
When too much fertilizer is present, a white or grayish crust develops on the soil surface. This happens because the excess salts can’t be absorbed in the soil.
Two solutions for this is to either flush the soil to rid the excess salts or repot the plant. Which option is best depends on the time of year.
Generally, repotting a Jade plant is best done in the summer months when the days are brighter and longer as that helps it recover and avoid shock.
Jade plants can tolerate being slightly root bound, however, when the root system is constrained by the size of the growing pot, it can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Two of the most common deficiencies in Jade plants are nitrogen and iron deficiency.
Plants are the most susceptible to nutrient deficiencies when they are pot bound. Without enough nitrogen or iron, the leaves turn yellow, then brown and the lower leaves drop from the plant.
The fix for this is to remove the plant from its pot, untangle all of the roots, (trimming if necessary), and repotting in a container that is one to two inches larger than its current pot.
The only reason to keep a Jade plant slightly pot bound is to keep its size in check. Restricting the root growth is how to keep succulents small.
The warmer the temperature – and the warmth of the water fed to plants – the faster it evaporates. If water is evaporating before the plant can use it, the result is the same as underwatering. Withering leaves, yellowing, browning, and drooping. Stems will wilt too because of a lack of water.
When temperatures rise, water the plant more frequently. It is not enough to soak the plant for longer because all soil types have a maximum capacity.
High temperatures just result in water evaporating before the roots can soak as much as needed by the plant.
The Jade plant isn’t particularly prone to pest problems, nevertheless, they can be bothersome if they do get onto the plant.
Like most indoor plants, the regular culprits for feeding on Jade leaves include mealybugs, aphids, scale bugs, and spider mites. These can each be treated with an insecticide.
These pests pierce through the leaves of plants to feed on the phloem within it. It doesn’t cause the entirety of leaves to brown fast. The early signs of leaf damage from pests are yellow spots that eventually turn brown.
The browning of the leaves happens because of the insects draining the fluids in the leaves for food.
It is natural for the lower (oldest) leaves on a Jade plant to gradually brown. This only happens to a few leaves at a time at the bottom. Not the entire basal layer of leaves. The few leaves that do brown soon drop, making way for new leaves to emerge.
There is no concern if only the lower leaves are browning then dropping from the plant.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.