Ask a Question forum: Shriveling Jade after pruning

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Name: JamieVT
Waterbury, VT
jmwoodward
Mar 7, 2018 11:59 AM CST
I pruned my young, very healthy Jade bonsai and changed the soil last week in preparation for the growing season. Within 2-3 days it turned to this. I left over 1/2 of the root structure, all roots were healthy. I noticed the next morning the leaves and "bark" on the plant looked very shocked and shriveled. I immediately began to research and realized I should not have watered immediately after pruning - so I took out all of the damp soil and replaced with completely dry soil about 24 hours after pruning. It has been in indirect/low light the entire time.

It has now been 3-4 more days and I am not seeing any improvements - at this point I have no idea if it's even alive, if I should water, or leave it dry - but to me it looks very thirsty (I've read the plant can shrivel from suffocation due to watering after pruning). The trunk and branches are not soft at all. I'm assuming I've shocked it somehow but have no idea how to help it.

Today I also snipped a very small end of a branch off to see what was going on inside - cross section pictured. It is still green but there's literally no moisture in the plant. Leaves as of yesterday are now starting to brown and fall off. I've already replanted the trimmings from the prune, but would love to save the momma if possible. I'd really like to give it water but want to confirm that's what needs to be done as everything I read say absolutely no water. Looking for any advice.

(I've included pre-prune photos as well - I stuck to the "not more than 30% of the canopy rule when pruning but those leaves have since fallen off)

Thank you!


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[Last edited by jmwoodward - Mar 7, 2018 12:43 PM (+)]
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Mar 7, 2018 12:28 PM CST
Welcome!

Your plant has no viable roots. I'm not exactly sure why you would prune the roots on such a young plant. Jades don't have big rooting systems to begin with.

Between the root pruning and then immediately replanting and watering and then replanting into bone dry soil, I suspect your plant is a goner. I doubt there is enough energy in the plant for it to grow new roots.

The popularity of Jades as bonsai is that they very rarely need pruning and, if kept in a pot, will stay small.
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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Name: JamieVT
Waterbury, VT
jmwoodward
Mar 7, 2018 12:38 PM CST
Well, DaisyL I pruned because every forum I have read said it is much better to make changes young instead of hacking off a large branch. I didn't trim the roots bare, there is significant root structure remaining - comparable to the size of the canopy, and I did not touch any of the substantial/larger root systems. But thank you for the "constructive" advice.
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Mar 7, 2018 2:42 PM CST
The problem is the repotting, not the pruning. Plants do not need regular repotting and not in anticipation of the growing season. Bonsais should stay in their pots indefinitely if not forever. During the course of your twice repotting and trimming some root pruning, you have done considerable damage to the fragile root hairs of this plant. I am sorry you have received poor advice about all this. Your Jade was fine and would have remained so if its roots had been left alone. Pruning stems does not damage healthy plants; disturbing fragile roots does. This unnecessary repotting is a very common mistake so you have lots of good company.

All of the lesser stems and even the main stem look shriveled and that means that the tissue layers under the bark are damaged because they can no longer get water from the damaged root system. The prospects are not good, but not entirely hopeless.

Prune off most of the shorter stems. Move the plant to a warm, sunny windowsill. Allow the top half-inch of soil to dry before adding a small amount of water. Look for signs of green buds emerging below the cut stems as a sign that it is slowly recovering. If you don't see any new growth emerging within the next month, it will not make it.
Will Creed
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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Mar 7, 2018 6:31 PM CST
Hello JamieVT, with jade succulents, they undergo a certain phase of dropping older lower leaves, which at times confuses most plant owners thinking it is dying or getting too thirsty. That is the point when overwatering often occurs or makes the inappropriate decision to repot/prune when it is not needed.

Looking at your pre-prune photos, if it were mine then, I would have just left it alone. It will not really grow way too big since the growing area of the root system is limited and if grown indoors, all the more it is not getting sufficient light that it needs.. Anyways, since you have already hacked it down, the other alternative I would suggest is to get a leaf cutting as a precautionary back up. If mother plant survives, then it will just create new leaves anywhere up and down the trunk or the branches, but usually nearer to the tip area.

I would also suggest you make your media much grittier than that. Add some more pumice or perlite to allow more airflow at root zone. Position your plant in the warmest, well lit area, no direct sun yet to reduce stress on your plant. Give it time to adjust. Although Crassulas do like cooler conditions, in this instance, it is too stressed and it will need to grow new feeder roots. Also you can try to make a slight cut on the bare branch, just to see the condition of the branch, If it still shows somewhat fresh whitish green, then the plant is alive, so just got to be patient for new growth to resume growing.

You can do like this, I took a node with two pairs of leaves and got it its smaller container, laid it on top of the media, and in due time it has started to grow new leaves. Just got to be very patient.
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Good luck on your plant!
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Mar 7, 2018 7:34 PM CST
JaimeVT,

Sorry if I offended you. Are you reading regular bonsai training books and trying to apply those rules to a succulent?
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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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Mar 9, 2018 11:11 AM CST
Jamie - It does make sense to be proactive in pruning back stems rather than waiting until the plant is badly overgrown. However, that does not often apply to the root system. You may have left the main root system, but it is the tiny root hairs that are barely noticeable that do most of the work and are severely damaged when soil is removed.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Mar 9, 2018 1:00 PM CST
You should not need to prune the roots on a jade plant ever, or at least not for many many years. The root pruning and subsequent events are the source of the problem, not the repotting. If you prune the roots of any succulent you have to wait at least a week afterwards to water. Watering right afterwards put your plant at risk, and then handling the plant right after that further put it at risk, especially where it resulted in further damage to already damaged parts. I don't think there's much you can do at this point. I'm not saying you should give up, just be prepared for the most likely outcome. If and when you consider trying again, provide stronger light to achieve a more compact form. Succulent bonsais often look their best when the plant is grown in very strong light. They require the least intervention that way and they grow fatter. Exposure is much more effective than pruning in the long run for achieving the jade bonsai look.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Mar 9, 2018 1:10 PM (+)]
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