Ask a Question forum: What is wrong with my jade plant?

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Name: Gayathri
Stamford, CT
Jun 22, 2017 6:25 AM CST

I have a jade plant which I propagated using cuttings from an older jade plant afflicted with what I suspect was rot. On the mother plant, seemingly random branches would suddenly start to wrinkle and look pinched/wrinkled, constricting the healthy leaves/growth at the end of the branch. I harvested the healthy portions and cut away any parts that looked wrinkled, and propagated these cuttings. Over the course of a few weeks, they took root and looked quite healthy with shiny plump leaves. One of the branches from the main cutting began wrinkling, so I was worried the plant would suffer the same fate as its mother, but the wrinkling did not seem fatal or rapidly progressive, so I just left the branch there without cutting it off.

Over the past month or two, the leaves on the entire plant have been looking very wrinkled and floppy. I water lightly about once a week (maybe 0.5 - 1.0 cup of room temperature water which was left out for the chlorine to evaporate) and the plants do not seem to react to this or plump back up. I thought I may have overwatered the plant and caused rot, so a few days ago I depotted and removed as much soil from the roots as I could, but I did not notice any slimy or overtly unhealthy roots. The soil was loose and dry. What is wrong with the jade plant and how can I help it?

Also, a general question regarding watering: during summer, is it sufficient to water jade plants once a week? In the winter time, I was limiting it to monthly.

Thanks SO much for your help!!

Location: Stamford, Connecticut

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Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
Jun 22, 2017 1:43 PM CST
I belive. That your cuttings are to big. The few roots they have grown, cannot give them the water they need, to plump up. Cut them off to around 2 or 3 inches tall.

If your going to root any others, you want a 4 to 6 inch cutting, and bury half of it.
Let get on dry side, as you've been. Give plenty of sun. Go slow with exposing to sun.
Anything i say, could be misrepresented, or wrong.
Name: Will Creed
Professional indoor plant consultan
Jun 24, 2017 9:15 AM CST
The shriveling of the leaves is a clear indication that they are not getting adequate water. In this case, it is because there are insufficient roots to do the job. Perhaps they did not develop properly during propagation. Or your watering routine may be causing the roots to die back. The pot is relatively large for the size of the new roots, so keeping the soil too moist can happen easily. On the other hand, if you allow the soil to become too dry, that will also cause the roots to die back.

With new root systems, there is little margin for error when watering. Unfortunately, there is no simple calendar formula to guide you with the watering. You have to gauge the soil moisture content with your finger and apply a small amount of water whenever the soil feels barely damp. Providing lots of good indoor sunlight will help.

Philp is right about using small tip stem cuttings for best results. I also think you will have more success if you propagate cuttings into a very small pot with barely enough porous potting mix to support the cuttings.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Gayathri
Stamford, CT
Jun 28, 2017 11:19 AM CST
Thanks for your replies! That makes sense that the root system may be insufficient to sustain the full plant - but I'm not sure if this is the case because the leaf wrinkling only began in the last few weeks. Before that, the leaves were plump and healthy, indicating that the root system was able to absorb enough water to sustain the whole plant. I depotted the plant and let the plant/roots air dry for a few days before planting it in a shallower pot. The roots did not seem slimy or overtly unhealthy - We'll see what happens.

Thank You! Thank You!
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
Cat Lover Houseplants Plays in the sandbox Region: California Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all!
Composter Cactus and Succulents Dragonflies Hummingbirder Amaryllis Container Gardener
Jun 28, 2017 3:08 PM CST
Hello Gayathri, the leaves are wrinkling, as mentioned due to inability to get additional moisture. Indeed it may be plump before, but the cutting has consumed already the moisture it has from the leaves as it tries to grow better viable roots.

If it were mine, I would further cut into two that cutting, allow to callus again. Repot in smaller, shallower container, and make the media grittier. Water very lightly once and leave it alone in a bright but warm area, not direct sun yet. Just got to wait till it shows a new leaf again.

Ideally, I do cuttings for this plant in Spring, it is a cool season grower, so it is still cooler in Spring. Your area is in CT, so it may be cooler than mine. Just protect it from rains as well, position in bright, dry and warm area. As long as the stem is still feeling firm, and leaves still green and attached, there is hope. As a backup, get another set of healthy leaves from mommy plant. Just lay those leaves on top of gritty soil in a bright, warm area and it may also root.

Also, with jade plants, at times when seasons change, it naturally drops its older leaves. It seems it is dying, but it is not, it is redirecting energy to new growth. I try to feel the entire plant, if there is no mushiness in any branch or in its trunk, then it may just be a seasonal thing. It is at this point sometimes, that most people tend to kill the plant, thinking it is thirsty. It is not, just doing a seasonal change of leaves.
[Last edited by tarev - Jun 28, 2017 3:40 PM (+)]
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Jun 28, 2017 3:35 PM CST
And it could be that lightly watering once a week is just not enough. If the soil was bone dry when you repotted and the roots were healthy, I would say its time to step up the watering. Water when the leaves are soft and then water thoroughly, making sure to get the soil completely wet and the water flowing out the drain hole. Then don't water again until the leaves start to feel soft.

Of course, if you have killed your new roots with all the repotting, drying and 'lightly' watering, you may have to start over anyway. Sighing!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost


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