5 Reasons For Red Jade Plant Leaves – Is It Bad?


Jade Plants are known for their vibrant, deep green color and its association with luck and prosperity in many cultures. If those green leaves are suddenly turning red is it a bad and unlucky sign?

Red leaves or pigmentation on Jade Plants can either be due to one or more of the following factors: 1) excess sunlight 2) high temperature, 3) underwatering, 4) and lack of nutrition, or 5) genetics. A jade plant with red leaves due to stress can recover its original color most of the time if the triggering cause is removed.

The color your jade plant displays is up to you! All you have to do is know the growing conditions which induce the Jade Plant to change its pigmentation which can be read down below.

What Is A Jade Plant (Crassula Ovata)?

The Jade Plant (crassula ovata) is a popular indoor evergreen houseplant due their resilience, adaptability, and cultural association with luck. They are known for their titular shade of jade green and tenacity – some recorded to have survived generations even when confined in small containers.

They are succulents that have adapted to require only minimal water, sunlight, and nutritional requirements which makes them suitable for indoor growing. As with other succulents, they have specialized characteristics which help them thrive under harsh and dry conditions. Their fleshy tissues store moisture while their small leaves reduce water loss through transpiration and the rate of photosynthesis.

Where Does The Red Color Come From?

The red color comes from anthocyanins and carotenoids which are pigments found in plants. These are the same pigments that give different plants their different colors in response to the growing conditions.

For succulents like the Jade Plant, the change in color occurs when they experience environmental stress. Plant pigmentation is similar to how humans tan due to melanin. The red color in plants protects it from excess sunlight and its harmful effects.

It is a natural adaptation mechanism to prevent the consequences of excess sunlight such as an increased photosynthetic rate, greater transpiration rate, and possible cell damage.

Are Red Leaves Normal?

Red leaves for the majority of jade varieties and cultivars could be due to stress from 1) sunlight, 2) temperature, 3) watering, and 4) nutrient imbalance. It could also be due to 5) genetics. Despite their namesake, red leaves and stems can be normal for some varieties and cultivars of the Jade Plant.

Red pigmentation of the leaves is not necessarily a bad sign if dictated by the genetics of the plant. If the red pigmentation is out of the ordinary for the variety or cultivar, then it is a symptom of plant stress which may need to be treated.

5 Reasons for Red Jade Plant Leaves – Infographic

The 5 Reasons For Red Leaves

We managed to narrow down and condense the reasons for red pigmentation on the leaves (or stems) of Jade Plants into five (5). These reasons are closely connected to each other in a way that they all cause stress to the plants which induce red pigmentation as an adaptation mechanism.

1 – Sunlight

Sunlight can have a direct effect on the color of the leaves. The red discoloration is due to pigments such as anthocyanin or carotenoid which

The production of anthocyanin is a result of greater amounts of sunlight absorbed by the Jade plant. The red pigmentation could mean several things depending on the plant but, for the jade plant, it serves to prevent the plant from absorbing too much sunlight.

This is similar to melanin’s role in the human body. This is why you’ll notice your skin becoming more tanned in areas that have strong sunlight and warm climates like the tropics.

It’s a fact that all plants cannot take infinite amounts of sunlight. Discoloration is a possible sign of stress and the equivalent of a sunburn in the plant world.

2 – Temperature

Temperature can have an effect on the pigmentation in plant tissues since less than ideal temperatures can cause stress to the Jade Plant. These plants grow best under room temperatures ranging from 65-75°F (18-24°C).

Despite the Jade Plants’ association with ornamentation and indoor growing conditions, it is actually quite hardy and tolerant to a wide range of environmental conditions, capable of surviving light frost or extreme heat (40°C).

These plants originate from South Africa, namely Cape Province, KwaZulu-Natal and the Transvaal. Hence, these plants can be grown outside as long as the area is properly shaded to prevent too much sunlight and subsequent heat from stressing the plant.

Given their origins in warmer climates, it’s only natural for them to have high tolerance to extreme temperatures and less forgiving conditions. However, better conditions will encourage a flourishing green color.

3 – Water

Underwatering Jade Plants can cause red pigmentation since this induces stress. Despite being succulents, Jade Plants still need water to survive and grow. The lack of water will cause it to turn to the water stored in its succulent flesh.

The Jade Plant requires minimal water to grow and survive. However, if desired, giving the plant less water will trigger stress and red pigmentation on its leaves or stems which the plant does to protect itself from losing more water from transpiration.

Overwatering, while also inducing stress, is not recommended because it is not in line with the minimum water requirements of Jade Plants. Overwatering Jade Plants or other succulents can cause the leaves and stem to become soft and mushy. At later stages, it can turn the leaves brown or black which indicates death and decay.

Overwatering can also cause other problems, namely root rot, which prevents aerobic respiration and gas exchange that occurs in the root system. Root rot also causes fungal infections which further cause plant deterioration.

To water your Jade Plant or other succulents properly, it’s recommended that you have appropriately-sized tools for the job!

4 – Nutrients

The lack or abundance of nutrients can cause discoloration in Jade Plants. The lack of abundance will cause stress which will lead to red pigmentation whereas the abundance of nutrients can cause browning or blackening due to nutrient burn.

Jade Plants, like most succulents, only have very modest growing requirements and this includes nutrition. This is why gardeners recommend withholding nutrition rather than giving excess nutrition to induce red pigmentation as it is more in tune with the natural growing conditions and biology of the Jade Plant.

The Jade Plant natural adaptation mechanics of succulents since these plants are meant for harsh and dry conditions – the natural environment of these plants. Providing too much nutrients may cause nutrient burn that can negatively influence plant growth and development. Nutrient burn symptoms include the discoloration and curling of the leaves, subsequent decay of plant matter.

5 – Genetics

Some varieties or cultivars of the Jade Plants naturally have red tinges on their leaves or have red leaves entirely. The Red Dwarf Jade plant cultivar is a popular example where its leaves can grow entirely red or only red in the margins.

Another example is the Harbour Jade Plant with its predominantly reddish color. Despite their namesake, Jade Plants can be red due to their variety or cultivar. Simply put, by natural selection or selective breeding, these Jade Plants are ironically more red than jade in color.

How To Keep The Jade Plant Green

Keeping the Jade plant green is all about giving it the optimal conditions for its growth and development and preventing stress from triggering. Simply put, anything slightly above the minimum growing requirements of Jade Plants will encourage green pigmentation.

Using the same reasons as above, we’ll tackle what to do in order.

1 – Sunlight

As stated before, excess sunlight can cause Jade Plants leaves to turn red. Jade Plants require around 4 hours of sunlight per day and prefer indirect sunlight for the rest of the day.

Keeping the Jade Plant green means keeping it indoors where direct sunlight will not reach the plant. Indoor growing conditions, while not suitable for most plants, are actually quite hospitable for succulents.

An East facing window will provide enough sunlight in the morning while still being mild. This provides adequate while still keeping the plants safely indoors.

2 – Temperature

To keep the Jade Plant green, it must be grown at room temperatures of 65-75°F (18-24°C). It must be moved indoors when temperatures fall too low as it cannot survive freezing.

This applies to all Jade Plants as temperature-induced stress is a contributing factor in red pigmentation regardless of the variety or cultivar. Maintaining room temperature will keep the Jade Plant from being stressed, preventing it from losing its vibrant green color.

3 – Watering

Gardeners recommend watering Jade Plants deeply every time the growing medium is completely dry. During warmer seasons, Jade Plants require more watering because this is when the plant is most active. Jade Plants also prefer mildly acidic water (pH 6-6.5).

It is recommended to use a growing medium with good drainage and lesser water retention properties to prevent overwatered conditions.

We have an article on growing mediums and their respective properties which may help you create the perfect potting mix. A thorough soil analysis can help you excel in any gardening field.

4 – Nutrients

Jade Plants should be fed sparingly. The rule of thumb is to fertilize sparingly every 4-6 months and with diluted water-soluble fertilizers specifically formulated for succulents and cacti.

Due to the hardy nature of succulents, the nutritional requirements of Jade Plants are quite low. Anything greater or lesser than the minimum requirements will prevent the plant from maintaining its healthy green shade. As such, fertile growing conditions are not a priority unlike with most plants.

A specifically formulated water-soluble fertilizer for succulents and cacti like this is recommended. A light and slow-release formula would do well.

5 – Genetics

To keep a Jade Plant green means picking the right variety or cultivar to grow. The Jade Plants which exhibit greater green pigmentation are:

  1. Gollum Jade
  2. Wave Jade
  3. Jade Necklace
  4. Ripple Jade
  5. Hobbit Jade

Worrying about the red pigmentation on a variety or cultivar of Jade Plant which is inclined to have red pigmentations is counterintuitive. It would be harder to induce green pigmentation rather than red pigmentation in succulents meant to look red.

How To Maintain Red Pigmentation in Jade Plants

To maintain red pigmentation in Jade Plants, it is necessary to “stress” the plant without necessarily harming or killing it. This can be done by simply withholding water and nutrients, and exposing it to direct sunlight for a longer period of time which will simulate its natural growing conditions.

What we have to do to maintain the red pigmentation is to go slightly under the minimum growing conditions for Jade Plants. This means going against the recommendations on how to keep it green.

By exposing the Jade Plant to harsher conditions, they turn to rely on the water storage in their fleshy tissues for sustenance rather than the soil for water and nutrients. This means it will purposefully reduce the amount of sunlight it can absorb. Red pigmentation can be achieved through other means as long as it triggers the plant’s survival mechanisms.

Succulents such as the Jade Plant have evolved characteristics which help them better adapt to harsher climates and less ideal growing conditions. They have fleshy tissues for water storage and tinier leaves which reduces the surface area for sunlight to hit hence reducing the rate of transpiration. This allows them to last longer without the need for watering.

These qualities are the reason why they make for good houseplants. Indoor growing conditions (minimal water, sunlight, and nutrients) are inhospitable to other plants but exactly the conditions which succulents are built for.

Naturally Red Jade Plants

There are Jade Plants which naturally have red pigmentation on the leaves and even on the stem. These should be selected if red pigmentation is desired. These Jade Plant varieties or cultivars are:

  1. Harbour Lights
  2. Miniature Jade
  3. Ruby
  4. Bear Paw Jade
  5. Tiger Jades

There are other Jade Plants with natural red pigmentation not listed here as there are too many varieties and cultivars which vary from region to region. It is always recommended to research your local gardening stores and suppliers to better understand the desired variety or cultivar for your garden.

Flowers of Jade Plants

Jade Plants produce beautiful flowers which look like white or pink stars. For the Jade Plant to flower, it requires more direct sunlight, less water, less nutrients, and dark nights.

Jade Plants indoors will only rarely bloom flowers. Mature Jade Plants require direct sunlight for at least four hours and complete darkness during cool, dark nights. Cutting back on water and nutrients are also necessary to encourage the plant to produce flowers.

What all of these do is simulate the natural environment where Jade Plants are endemic to which is Africa. This encourages the plant to not only survive but also fulfill its ultimate goal – reproduction. Flowers carry the reproductive organs of plants which when pollinated produce seeds.

Takeaways

  1. Jade Plants are hardy succulents capable of thriving outdoors or indoors. Indoor environments – usually unsuitable for growing plants – are actually quite comfortable for succulents.
  2. Despite their namesake, Jade Plants can have red pigmentation due to genetics or stress. Stress includes any imbalance in sunlight, temperature, water, and nutrients.
  3. Preventing red pigmentation is all about maintaining the optimal growing conditions for the plant – only slightly above the minimum growing requirements.

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Andrea

A young Italian guy with a passion for growing edible herbs. After moving to the UK 6 years ago in a tiny flat, it was impossible to grow herbs outside. So I start my journey in growing indoor and so I decided to share my knowledge.

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