Jade plants are known for their vibrant, deep green color and their association with luck and prosperity in many cultures. If those green leaves are suddenly turning red is it a bad and unlucky sign? Here’s why you’ll see jade plant leaves turning red!
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) nutrient imbalance, 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 below.
Too much direct sunlight exposure can result in primarily green jade plant leaves turning red. The red discoloration is due to pigments such as anthocyanin or carotenoid which are boosted by excess light.
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. The discoloration is a possible sign of stress and the equivalent of a sunburn in the plant world.
Temperatures above the ideal range of 65–75°F (18–24°C) can cause significant stress to the jade plant, resulting in reddened stems and leaves.
Despite the jade plants’ association with ornamentation and indoor growing conditions, it is actually quite hardy.
Jade plants are tolerant to a wide range of environmental conditions—capable of surviving light frost or extreme heat of 104°F (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 they can be 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 a high tolerance to extreme temperatures and less forgiving conditions.
However, better conditions will encourage a flourishing green color.
Underwatering jade plants can cause red pigmentation since this induces stress. The lack of water will cause it to turn to absorb the water stored in its succulent leaves as well.
Despite being succulents, jade plants still need water to survive and grow. But, of course, the jade plant only requires minimal water to grow and survive.
However, if desired, giving the plant less water than necessary will trigger stress and red pigmentation on its leaves or stems. Jade plants do this to protect themself 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 the jade plant.
In other words, although overwatering can redden jade plants, you will eventually end up with jade plant leaves turning red, soft, and mushy!
At later stages, it can turn these water-stressed leaves will turn brown or black, indicating the plant’s death and decay.
Remember as well that overwatering can also cause a host of other problems, like 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.
Learn what to do in such cases in our article on cleaning after root rot!
To water your jade plant or other succulents properly, it’s recommended that you have appropriately-sized tools for the job!
The lack or abundance of nutrients from fertilizers can cause jade plants to turn red. Improper feeding can 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 common plant nutrients.
This is why gardeners recommend withholding fertilizers 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.
You see, the jade plant natural adaptation mechanics of succulents since these plants are meant for harsh and dry conditions—like the natural environment of these plants.
Providing too much fertilizer may cause nutrient burns that can negatively influence plant growth and development. Nutrient burn symptoms include the discoloration and curling of the leaves and subsequent decay of plant matter.
Read further about the topic in our article on cacti and fertilizers!
Some varieties or cultivars of the jade plants naturally have partially or completely red leaves. For example, the Red Dwarf jade plant have leaves which grow entirely red or only red at the margins.
Another example is the Harbour jade plant with its predominantly reddish color. In other words, yes—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.
There are jade plant varieties that naturally have red pigmentation on the leaves and stem. These should be selected if red pigmentation is desired. These jade plant cultivars and varieties are
- Harbour Lights
- Miniature Jade
- Bear Paw Jade
- Tiger Jades
Now if you don’t want to put your jade plant under unnecessary stress for that charming blush, try and look for a jade plant with red leaves. With these, you don’t need to wait and see any jade plant turning red!
This is because the varieties I’ve mentioned above have natural red pigmentation. Just keep in mind that this isn’t a complete list.
So, as always, I strongly recommended researching your local gardening stores and nurseries to better understand the desired variety or cultivar for your garden.
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 have been recorded to survive generations even when in small containers.
Jade plants 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.
The red color in jade plants comes from anthocyanins and carotenoids which are pigments naturally found in plants. These pigments are produced or reduced in response to a plant’s 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 adaptative mechanism to prevent the consequences of excess sunlight such as an increased photosynthetic rate, greater transpiration rate, and possible cell damage.
To maintain red pigmentation in jade plant, it is necessary to “stress” the plant without substantially 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. In short, this 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 that 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.
All of these qualities are the reason why they make for good houseplants. Indoor growing conditions—meaning minimal water, sunlight, and nutrients—are often inhospitable to other plants. But these exact conditions allow succulents to thrive!
Keeping the jade plant green is all about giving it the optimal conditions for its growth and development and preventing stress. Simply put, improving the growing conditions of jade plants will encourage green pigmentation and so will choosing evergeen cultivars and varieties.
Using the same reasons as above, we’ll tackle what to do in order!
Jade plants require around 4 hours of sunlight per day and prefer indirect sunlight for the rest of the day to keep their leaves green.
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.
To keep the jade plant green, it must be grown at room temperatures of 65–75°F (18–24°C). When grown outdoors, it must be moved indoors when temperatures are too low as it can‘t 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.
Water jade plants deeply every time the growing medium is completely dry. During warmer seasons, they can be water more frequently because this is when they are most active.
It is recommended to use a growing medium with good drainage and lesser water retention properties to prevent overwatered conditions.
Also, jade plants prefer mildly acidic water around pH 6–6.5!
Jade plants should be fed sparingly. The rule of thumb is to fertilize them 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.
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To keep a jade plant green means picking the right variety or cultivar to grow. Jade plant varieties that exhibit greater green pigmentation are:
- Gollum Jade
- Wave Jade
- Jade Necklace
- Ripple Jade
- Hobbit Jade
Worrying about the red pigmentation on a variety or cultivar of jade plant which is inclined to have red pigmentation is counterintuitive.
It would be harder to induce green pigmentation rather than red pigmentation in succulents meant to look red.
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, fewer 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 is 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 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.
Are red jade plant leaves normal?
Depending on the specific cultivar or variety, red jade plant leaves can be normal. However, it can also be a sign of significant plant stress due to incorrect levels of sunlight, temperature, water, and nutrients in cultivars and varieties that usually do not have any red coloration on their leaves and stems at all.
Why are jade plant leaves turning black?
Jade plant leaves will eventually turn black due to overwatering and nutrient overfeeding. With black overwatered jade plants, the leave will be soft and mushy. Meanwhile, black jade plant leaves as a result of nutrient burns are typically curled and wrinky. Such plants are likely to die unless the issues are resolved.
Despite their namesake, jade plants can have red pigmentation due to genetics or stress. Stress includes any imbalance in sunlight, temperature, water, and nutrients.
Jade Plants are hardy succulents capable of thriving outdoors or indoors. Indoor environments – usually unsuitable for growing plants – are actually quite comfortable for succulents.
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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- “Jade Plant (Crassula ovata): Home” by n/a in the New York Botanical Garden
- “Observation of dissipative chlorophyll-to-carotenoid energy transfer in light-harvesting complex II in membrane nanodiscs” by Son et al in Nature Communications, 2020; 11(1)
- “Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa” by n/a in Tropicos
- “Phytochemical and Antimicrobial Activity of (Crassula ovata) Jade Plant on Different Strains of Bacteria” by Mwangi Muiruri & Mwangi Wambura in European Journal of Medicinal Plants 11(1):1-12
- “Succulent” by The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica in Britannica
- “Succulent plants” Howard Griffiths & Jamie Males in Current Biology 27(17):890-896
- “Taxon: Crassula ovata (Mill.) Druce” by n/a in United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service
- “Why autumn leaves turn red” by Katharine Sanderson in Nature