It takes only a single leaf to start growing a jade plant (Crassula ovata) that will eventually stand over 5 feet tall. Popular as houseplants, these succulents feature fleshy branches and rounded, glossy leaves. They require very little water but grow best in bright light with at least a bit of direct sunlight. As your jade plant grows, it will naturally drop older leaves. An increase in the rate of leaf loss, however, may indicate a problem. To fix it, you may need to adjust your watering schedule and check your plant for pests. Low light and cold temperatures may also be to blame, as can leaf shining products.
Jade plants that are not receiving enough water often shed their leaves rapidly. If the lower leaves on your plant are shriveling up and then falling off, check the soil. If it is completely dry, water your plant thoroughly. Water a jade plant every time the top inch of its soil is dries out. Jade plants add leaves and shoots during the summer and need more water during those months. The plant will use less water in the winter but will still need a drink every now and then. Don't make the mistake of ignoring a slow-growing winter plant or you could lose it.
Just as too little water is a problem, so is too much. Jade plants don't like wet feet and are vulnerable to root rot. Never leave your jade plant's pot in standing water. Check your plant's soil if its leaves turn yellow and start to drop off. If it is damp or soggy, withhold water until the soil dries out completely. If you notice soft sections on the jade's trunk or branches, remove the plant from its pot and wash the soil away from the roots. Cut off any soft branches or roots and then repot the plant in a potting mix specifically formulated for cacti. Use a clean pot when replanting your jade in case the rot is the result of a fungal infection.
If your jade is losing its leaves at the beginning of winter, it's probably not getting enough light. Move your plant closer to a window but keep it a few inches away from the glass. Winter drafts are just as damaging as low light. If you fear your window is too cold or drafty for the plant, supplement the light it receives with an artificial light source. Pure white CFL bulbs work well for this purpose and last a long time.
Jade plants do best at temperatures between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Frost will kill the plant, but both colder and warmer temperatures can cause leaf drop. Keep an eye on the thermometer all year, keeping your plant away from drafts and radiators both. Remember, too, that window glass can magnify the sun's rays and burn your plant during the summer months.
A sudden change in temperature caused by a move will also cause leaf drop. The leaves will grow back once your plant has adapted to its new surroundings. To prevent this, gradually acclimate your plant to a new location by placing it there only for a few hours at a time. Gradually increase the length of time your jade plant stays in its new location before making the switch permanently.
Jade plants are vulnerable to infestations of mealy bugs and scale insect. Mealies and scale make jade leaves sticky and can encourage the growth of molds. They also cause leaf drop and deformed leaves. Treat mealies and scale by dabbing them with a paintbrush or cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol. Avoid insecticidal soaps and sprays as they can damage the plant itself. Treat any pests you find daily until they are gone.
Never use leaf shine products on jade plants as it will cause all their leaves to turn yellow and fall off. Household chemicals and cleaners have a similar effect if they touch the leaves. Jade plant leaves shine naturally if they are dust free and the plant is healthy. If dust dulls the shine on your plant, simply wipe the leaves gently with a soft cloth.
- University of Wisconsin Extension: Jade Plant, Crassula Ovata
- North Dakota State University Extension Service: Hortiscope
- Clemson University Cooperative Extension: Jade Plant
- South African National Biodiversity Institute: Crassula Ovata
- Pennington Seed, Inc.: Recovering from Root Rot
- World of Succulents: Why the Leaves on a Jade Plant Turn Yellow
Alex Bramwell started writing in 2002 and spent six years in the field of writing and editing news reports in the business, finance and technology sectors. He is the author of several guidebook chapters and the complete "Sunshine Guide" guidebook to Gran Canaria. Bramwell holds a Bachelor of Science with honors in zoology from the British University of Reading.