Jade plants are a beloved member of the succulent family and are ridiculously easy to care for. So when its leaves start to drop, you might be wondering, what went wrong? The truth is, there are several possible reasons. But it’s not hard to tell what the cause could be after a bit of studying!
Jade plant leaves can fall off because of 1) age, 2) underwatering, 3) overwatering, 4) insufficient light, 5) rootbound, 6) low temperatures, 7) high temperatures, and 8) stem rot. These factors can be controlled by providing 1) sufficient water, 2) adequate light, and 3) repotting when needed.
While there may be one reason or two that is not as bad as you may think, heavy leaf dropping in jade plants can be a sign of something worse. To help you identify the cause of it and decide what to do next, check out the list of reasons why jade plants typically lose leaves!
Old jade leaves will naturally fall off as a result of aging. Jade plants normally shed their oldest leaves to create new growth and replace their old growth.
Jade plants can live for numerous decades. The exact lifespan of these succulents is unknown, but multiple gardeners have had their jade plants for 20–30 years and longer!
Even if your jade plant is just a few years old, you can safely expect it to shed its oldest leaves near the bottom. This is completely normal and is no cause for alarm.
If you’ve had your jade plant for several years and notice it dropping healthy leaves, it’s probably because the leaves are simply old. This could happen at any time of the year.
What’s nice about this is that the leaves can be propagated to turn into new plants, giving you even more jade plants!
Continue caring for the plant as normal and the plant should continue to grow new leaves without any issues.
Dehydrated jade plants will drop leaves when they are not receiving enough water. Prevent leaves from falling off by watering the jade plant when its leaves start to shrivel up.
Like other succulents, the jade plant does not require much water. The difference between succulents and normal houseplants is that succulents will usually survive even when neglected. But of course, they cannot thrive if the neglect persists!
Thin and wrinkly, yellow jade leaves can signal that the roots of the jade plant are not receiving enough water.
To help prevent the jade plant from dropping more leaves, be sure to water it thoroughly after its soil has completely dried.
You can also wait until the leaves are puckering and easy to bend when pinched. This easy method can help you identify if the plant’s water reserves are starting to run low and need more water!
This same method can prevent string of hearts plants from turning yellow
Overwatered jade plant leaves turn brown and soft. When this happens, the leaves will eventually die and fall off the plant. Keep the soil adequately dry and refrain from watering in the winter to avoid overwatering.
This can be more dangerous than underwatering as excess water in the soil could also lead to root rot and stem rot and cause the plant to die. I’ll be talking more about stem rot later on.
If your jade plant is dropping one leaf after another and the leaves are soft and brown, it has been overwatered. Healthy jade leaves should be firm and shiny.
Aside from the frequency of watering sessions, multiple things can lead to overwatering. It can be easy to forget but using poor-draining soils and pots with blocked drainage holes can cause jade plants to suffer from overwatering.
Remember, these succulents prefer dry soils and tend to become semi-dormant in the winter and therefore do not need as much water.
Leaf drop is a common sign that the jade plant is not receiving enough light. Without adequate sun exposure, the jade plant will eventually become etiolated or stretched out and unable to keep its foliage. Jade plants grow best in south-facing windows.
They might thrive in light shade for a while, but the jade plant will eventually start to suffer and droop with prolonged inadequate sunlight exposure.
It can be easier for plants in low-light environments to be overwatered as well, with less sun available to help the moisture evaporate.
Jade plants kept in north-facing windows are especially vulnerable, as these windows may not capture sufficient sunlight. In severe cases, the jade plant could become leggy.
Etiolated plants will look pale and stretched out, almost sparse. Because the plant has been growing in low light for so long, it has started to alter its new growth to stretch out toward the nearest light source. Over time, its leaves will also start to fall.
Luckily, these spindly leaves and stems can create new plants.
Nevertheless, I recommend keeping your jade plants in south-facing windows for plenty of sunlight to prevent their leaves from dropping.
If a jade plant is rootbound, its roots will become constricted and its leaves will fall off. Maintaining healthy roots is key to preventing leaf drop. When the roots come out through the pot’s drainage holes, the jade plant must be transferred to a bigger pot.
As mentioned before, jade plants can live for several decades.
In my gardening circles, I have friends that have owned their jade plants for over 20 years and plan to give them to their children once they’re old enough.
Because of this, however, it’s easy to leave the plant in the same pot for years.
If the roots are starting to poke out through the drainage holes, the plant is in dire need of a new container!
Read more in-depth in our article on Root Bound Symptoms in Plants!
With the roots so tightly constricted, with nowhere else to go in search of water and nutrients, the leaves of the jade plant will eventually die and fall off.
Rootbound plants can even suffer from underwatering when the water passes too rapidly through the pot—leaving the center of the root ball dry.
Jade plants can lose leaves during winter or when temperatures are consistently at 50˚F. Keep jade plants where temperatures are around 70˚F to prevent falling leaves.
While you might find winter nice and cozy, this does not mean your plants share the same sentiment. The jade plant, or Crassula ovata, is native to South Africa and does not handle harsh winters very well.
Like many other plants, it will go semi-dormant in the winter to preserve its energy for the next growing season. So long as it is kept dry, a brief dip in temperature won’t automatically be fatal to the plant.
But if the jade plant is regularly exposed to temperatures of 50˚F or lower, this could lead to its leaves turning brown and falling off.
To prevent this, bring the plant indoors where it is warmer when it starts getting cold outside. Place it in an area that’s kept around 70˚F or 21˚C and it should stop losing leaves.
Temperatures over 80˚F will cause jade plants to dry up and drop their leaves for self-preservation. To prevent sudden leaf dropping, keep jade plants in a cool area away from high heat.
Jade plants love the heat, but there is such a thing as too much. This is yet another factor that can cause jade plant leaves to die and fall off.
The easiest way to tell if your jade plant is suffering from overly high temperatures is to check the leaves. Healthy jade leaves should be green and firm.
But if the leaves are dry and brown, this could be an indicator that temperatures are much too high for the plant. This typically happens in the summer when temperatures are regularly over 80–90˚F (26–32˚C).
This heat can cause the soil to dry up faster than the jade plant can absorb its much-needed moisture. Over time, the plant will drop its oldest leaves in an attempt to save itself.
To help take care of a jade plant in intense heat on summer days, bring it to a shadier position or a cooler part of your home, where the temperature is slightly lower.
Heavy leaf drop and branch loss with mushy stems are signs of stem rot in jade plants. There is no cure for stem rot. But further spread can be stopped by cutting off the infected branches with a sterilized knife. Only water the soil when dry to avoid rot.
Random leaf drop in plants is always terrifying, regardless of how experienced you are. But if your jade plant is losing entire clusters of leaves or whole branches, this can indicate something much worse.
If the insides of the stems are dark and mushy, the jade plant is most likely suffering from stem rot. This can be caused by overwatering, resulting in the plant rotting from the inside and slowly dying.
It’s sad to say, but there is no way to reverse stem rot in jade plants. The best way to control this is to save what is left and prevent it from happening again by using well-draining soil and watering the plant only when it is dry.
Unfortunately, since the rotting happens from the inside, most people only notice this when it’s too late. But if you act fast enough, you might be able to save some of it!
With a sterilized knife or cutter, cut off the infested branches and stems to evaluate how bad the stem rot is. Be sure to clean your cutting tool between every cut to prevent the infection from spreading.
If you only have one healthy branch left from an entire plant, that’s still better than nothing! These healthy cuttings can be used to propagate new jade plants.
Jade plant foliage can be kept healthy by providing the plant with sufficient water and light, and repot them as needed. Doing these can minimize and prevent leaf drop.
Besides the mysterious leaf drop, jade plants don’t really have any problems and they’re quite easy to take care of. All you need to do is take care of these 3 basic needs, and you’ll have a happy jade plant!
To prevent jade plant leaves from falling off, ensure the soil is completely dry before watering and wait until the leaves start to slightly shrivel. Avoid watering in the winter.
The best way to keep jade plants from dropping their leaves is to make sure they’re properly watered. When given adequate water, these plants are less likely to suffer from stem rot and frost damage, both of which are fatal to Crassula ovata.
Jade plants are drought tolerant. But it’s still best to avoid letting them go without water for too long and too frequently since this can stress the plant and cause leaf drops.
Let the soil dry out completely before giving it a deep watering. A moisture meter can be inserted into the bottom of the pot and help you know exactly when the soil has dried out.
This budget-friendly moisture meter doesn’t need any batteries and is what I often recommend!
Most gardeners wait until the leaves begin to shrivel before watering, so you can try this for yourself to see how well it works for your plants.
When in doubt, wait another few days before watering the jade plant. Also, keep in mind that watering is not needed nearly as much in the winter, especially if it’s placed outdoors.
Jade plants grow best with 4 hours of direct sun exposure per day and are less likely to lose leaves. Indoor plants can be kept in south-facing windows. Avoid sun stress and leaf drop by allowing the plant to adjust to the new lighting conditions gradually.
Jade plants can soak up quite a bit of sun. If the plant can’t be set in at least some direct light, place it as close as you can against a south-facing window for as much bright indirect light as possible.
But if you can, try to place it where it can receive at least 4 hours of direct sun. Mature jade plants can handle direct sun better than younger plants.
However, just because it can tolerate it does not mean the plant should be put in direct sunlight immediately. You can gradually build up its tolerance by increasing the time it spends under direct sunlight for a week or two.
The leaf edges will become red when the plant is sun-stressed. You can bring the plant away from the harsh sun if this is the case.
Some plant owners, however, enjoy this look and intentionally stress the plant to coax its red hues out. Just avoid placing it directly under the afternoon sun. Sunlight during these hours tends to be much more intense and can damage the leaves.
Learn more about this in Why Cactus and Succulents Turn Red
Maintain healthy jade plants by repotting them whenever the roots stick through the drainage. Repot jade plants in terracotta pots 1-inch deeper and wider than the old pot and use well-draining cactus soil. This will prevent leaves from dropping.
It can be scary repotting plants sometimes, especially if the plants are old. But sometimes the older the plant is, the more desperately in need it is for a new home.
Jade plants can indeed tolerate being a bit rootbound, but the keywords are “a bit”. To prevent their leaves from falling, repot the jade plant once you see its roots through the drainage holes.
You likely only need to do this every 5 years or so. It doesn’t need to be repotted very often. If it has root rot, make sure the pot is clean before using it again.
For a happy jade plant, move it to a pot that’s at least one size up and make sure its new soil is well-drained. Cactus soil is a good choice.
Here’s a terrific option on Amazon that is lightweight and great to use for jade plants!
While plastic pots can be used for your jade plants, it’s better to use terracotta to wick away excess moisture. Repot the jade plant in active growing seasons, during spring and summer, and enjoy its healthy foliage!
What to do with fallen jade leaves?
Jade leaves can be used for propagation. Once the leaves have calloused over, lay the leaves on top of a moist potting mix, and they will grow roots after 2–4 weeks. Leaves that are brown, damaged, or shriveled cannot produce new growth.
Are jade plant leaves poisonous?
Jade plants are toxic for cats, dogs, and humans and must be kept in a safe place. Consumption of jade leaves can lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
What seasons do jade plants drop leaves?
Leaf-dropping can happen at any time of the year. It is most common in the winter when temperatures are lower but can also occur in the summer. The sunlight can be more intense in the summer and burn the leaves of jade plants, causing them to die and fall off.
Old age, underwatering, overwatering, insufficient light, rootbound, low temperatures, and stem rot are the most common causes of jade plants losing their leaves.
All of these can be remedied by ensuring the plant is watered only when dry, given at least 4 hours of direct sun per day, and repotting the jade plant when the roots poke through the drainage holes.
- “Crassula ovata” by n/a in NC State University
- “Jade Plant, Crassula ovata” by Susan Mahr in University of Wisconsin
- “Crassula (Jade Plant) Diseases” by Gary W. Moorman in Pennsylvania State University
- “Plant of the Week: Jade Plant” by Gerald Klingaman in University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture
- “Pot-Bound Indoor Plants” by n/a in University of Maryland