Tough characters like jade plants can be killed with
I hope you can tell me what is wrong with my jade plant
and how to fix it. It is an old plant that my parents had. It was
doing very well at their house. After their death in the summer of
2003 I brought it to Michigan from Ohio and repotted it. Now its
leaves are falling off, branches are drooping, the leaves are
wrinkled and some are gray. It is not doing well.
I have it sitting in our foyer out of direct cold and
heat with some afternoon sun. I don't keep it very wet and have not
Jades can be killed with kindness. That may be the case with
We grow jades (Crassula species) as houseplants but
they evolved to thrive in the hot summers, mild winters, clear
skies and sparse rainfall of western South Africa and Namibia. They
develop problems if they have too little light, too much moisture
or temperatures below 35F . I'm guessing yours first declined as a
result of a moisture problem that was then compounded by low
Wild jades live where rain is sporadic and a year's total may be
less than ten inches. When those infrequent rains fall, the jade
absorbs water quickly, stores it in its leaves and draws on that
reserve during dry periods. To be healthy, its roots must be
downright dry between waterings, as they are between rains "back
So water by the feel of the soil and look of the leaves, not by
the calendar. Let the soil dry right down and the leaves lose some
of the thickness they had from stored water.
Also, be aware that a plant's water use is tied to sunlight. The
lower the light, the slower stored water will be used. I water my
jade every week or two during summer when it's in good sun on the
back porch. During winter it has less light, even though it's under
supplemental grow lights, and needs water only every four to six
I'm supposing you repotted your plant into a bigger pot. In
doing that you put roots on the outer edge of the original root
ball into contact with new, root-free potting mix. That layer is
always much wetter than the root-filled soil. The soggy root tips
rot and die, causing branches to wither and die, too. Then, with
fewer leaves, the plant can't trap enough solar energy to enlarge
its root system, so the new, moist soil never fills with roots,
remains wet and continues to kill more root tips.
Take the plant out of the pot, let loose soil fall off, and set
the bare ball on a stack of newspapers for a few days so extra
water will be drawn out. Clip off all rotted branches and any
rotted root tips you see. Then put the plant back into a smaller
pot. Move it into a south or east window or under grow lights for
12 to 14 hours per day. Don't give it any water until the soil in
the pot has been warm and dry for a week or two, not just on the
surface but an inch below the surface.
Fertilize only after new growth appears, which may not happen
until March or April when the days become significantly longer.
Leave it in that smaller pot. Up-pot only if the top ever
outweighs the pot by so much that the plant tips over readily.
Winter can be great for outdoor home
...that in other seasons would devastate gardens. But the ground
isn't frozen yet so beware the harm that can come to the soil.
Trucks, tractors and even feet can press so much air out of the
soil that roots there will die.
If vehicles leave ruts in a lawn or garden, use a garden fork to
loosen the soil. Push the tines into the compacted soil, then lean
back on the fork's handle to pop up the depression.
Now add loose soil just to level the area.
Simply filling a rut is like putting soil into a pot with no
drainage holes. It's a recipe for root rot.
Winter's here. Do you know where your rabbits
If you had rabbit trouble this year, you should guard your
shrubs and small trees now. With few greens left to eat, rabbits
have started stripping buds and bark.
Fence the rascals away from new, low-branched and thin-barked
plants. Fruit trees, euonymus and burning bush are rabbit
Green thumbs up
to Paul Emanuelsen, a star among stars in that hard-working band
of volunteers. For two years Paul not only did the work and
bore the cost of keeping up a beautiful adopted garden, but also
wrote for a newsletter, keeping his fellow gardeners informed.
Thanks for that turn as communications officer, Paul!
Green thumbs down
to delay when there's bad pruning to correct. If this leafless
season reveals stubs or ragged edges that need recutting, don't
wait, start sawing.
Originally published 12/11/04