Questions on: Jade Plants

Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service


Q: I was at your Web site checking out the questions, but I didn't see an answer to mine. I bought a little jade plant about two or three years ago. It is happy and healthy. However, it is still the same height. The roots have not taken over the pot, so I know it shouldn't be due to that. If I pinch off the top section to promote growth in the bottom section, the part I pinched off will grow back fairly quickly, but it isn't getting any bigger. What is the deal? (e-mail reference)

A: I don't know. Could it be a dwarf jade? Surely, in the time you have had it, some size increase should have taken place, so that is my best guess.


Q: It was very hot in San Francisco this week. Because of the hot weather, half of a large jade plant in the backyard collapsed. The day before, I noticed that the leaves were turning away from the sun. It was shaded by a tree that was pruned back, so the jade is in full sun. It is watered four times a week using an irrigation system. The fog has returned, so it probably won't see any sun for a few days. Any suggestions would be great. (e-mail reference)

A: My only suggestion is to wait and allow the jade time to adapt to the change in the environment. It may look terrible for a period of time and lose more leaves, but it should recover and return to vigorous growth.


Q: My jade plant is in need of pruning and repotting to a larger pot. It is a very healthy, strong plant, but I'm wondering what I should do first. I would like to prune first because transplanting would be much easier with some of the growth removed. Is it too traumatic to do both at the same time? Should I do one and then wait a few weeks to do the other? Also, I always have propagated my jade plants in water with a lot of success. I actually have five cuttings rooting that are growing leaves underwater! I want to try rooting the new cuttings in a sand mixture (particularly with the large cuttings from this pruning), but I'm nervous. Should I stick with what has been working or do you think I will have more success with sand? What is the difference? (e-mail reference)

A: Congratulations on your success with jade! I usually get only complaints about this very majestic and easily grown plant. You can root the cuttings and leaves in a moist sand medium. The difference is more air for root development and a better chance of survival when transplanting. It seems that roots that develop in water don't take as well to being moved to potting soil as those that are rooted in sand or a sand/peat combination. Go ahead and cut your jade back before repotting because it actually will help the plant get re-established faster.


Q: I have a jade plant that has a hard, brown layering on top of the leaf and wraps slightly around the bottom of the leaf closest to the stem. The layering has about the same texture as the jade bark/stem. It started in late fall and seems to affect the new leaves at the top of the plant, but the rest of the plant is infested as well. Can you tell me what it is and how to treat it? (e-mail reference)

A: Scale insects are difficult to control. There are several remedies that can be tried in an attempt to eliminate scales from a houseplant. However, there is no easy, simple cure. One possibility is to pick off individual scales or gently scrub (or rub) the scales loose from the leaves and stems. This is a labor-intensive task that only works on small, large-leafed plants. Dabbing each scale with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab is another possibility on lightly infested plants. Insecticidal sprays have limited utility. Their effectiveness is related to how well the material is applied and the duration of the particular insecticide. Try an insecticidal soap to see if that works.


Q: I saw your Web site and read much of it, but couldn't find any situation similar to mine. It's a crazy story. Two weeks ago, a wild cat got into our house. As we tried to herd it toward the door, it ran rampant throughout the house. On its way to climbing my shear drapes, it bounced off my mature jade tree. It is not the periphery damage I am concerned about, it's the trunk. About half way up the trunk, I found two weak spots a couple of inches apart where the tissue is denting in and wrinkled, but still very firm. I am able to wiggle the trunk slightly and believe it to be broken, but not all the way through. Should I leave the plant alone to see if it heals or should I bandage, prop or prune it? Is there something I should have done already? This is a great, healthy plant. (e-mail reference)

A: Well, you have the distinction of asking me a jade question that I never have had before! Based on what you've told me, I would suggest a soft bracing of the trunk to be on the safe side. This means that the attachment should not be inflexible, such as a twist tie. Use an elastic brace, such as a rubber band or budding rubber to hold the brace. Just out of curiosity, how on earth did a wild cat get into your house?


Q: Hello and thank you in advance. I saw a jade plant at the home of my boyfriend's parents and completely fell in love with it. To make a long story short, this is my second attempt at raising one. It seems to be dying at the bottom of the stem. The stem and leaves on top are fine, but it's brown at the bottom. Some parts are completely shriveled and brown. I water it once a week. I usually feel the soil to make sure it's dry because I've read too many different opinions on how often it should be watered. I let the water drain and it is planted in soil specifically for cacti and succulent plants. What am I doing wrong! I can't even seem to get a plant started. The plant is not close to a light source. The same holds true for the plant at the home of my boyfriend's parents, but theirs is thriving. I have moved my plant near a window, but not in direct light. Will that help or should I start over? (e-mail reference)

A: Go to my Web site at http://www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/houseplnts/jade.htm. The Web site has lots of information about jade plants. From what you told me, I would suggest starting over. This time, move the jade to a place where it can get some indirect light, as well supplemental light from a plant light. Keep in mind that when you acquire another plant from a retailer, it likely has been kept in a greenhouse under optimal conditions. Suddenly moving it to a low-light situation and not allowing the plant to adapt to the new environment will cause the decline you describe. Your boyfriend's parents would have a problem with their jade if suddenly they changed the environmental setting it is in. You might ask the parents if they could spare a cutting for you to propagate. That's a good way of making points with them!


Q: I have read your feedback to people on the NDSU Web site for a couple of years. I appreciate the information you are willing to provide. I have a jade that almost grows too well. It rarely takes a break. I have noticed small, white dots on the leaves. The dots are no larger than a millimeter and do not seem to be spreading. The dots are located on the tops of the leaves. It doesn't seem to be scale, mealy bugs or mildew, so I really don't have a clue what else it may be. Any help you can offer in identifying the dots is appreciated. (e-mail reference)

A: Those dots are salt crystals and can be wiped off with a damp cloth or just ignored because they are not causing any harm to the plant. All water (except distilled) contains some salt. When fertilizer is added to the root system, the plant takes up the nutrient salts with the water. As the water moves through the leaf pores during transpiration, the salts often are left behind on the surface.


Q: I have a jade plant that seems healthy, except for two large limbs that are hanging over the edge of the pot. The limbs are firm and the leaves are healthy and green. However, I am concerned that the weight against the edge of the pot will snap off the limbs. What should I do? I have had the plant for about a year. Do I need to repot or fertilize it? What soil and fertilizer mix should I use? (e-mail reference)

A: If the branches are against the side of the pot, I would encourage you to cut them off back to the main trunk. You can take the cuttings and/or leaves and propagate those into new plants. For guidance on how to do that, go to www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/landscap/h1257.pdf. Repotting jade or any other houseplant should be delayed until it is an obvious necessity. If the water doesn't immediately flush out of the bottom of the pot when watering, then it is not ready for repotting. If the plant appears to be wilting and you water it, but the wilt comes back sooner than it has in the past, then it is ready for repotting. If it appears there is little soil left in the container or a big fist of tight roots make up the majority of the volume, then repot. There is a plethora of information on jade care and culture at www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/houseplnts/jade.htm. Enjoy your jade plant, but don't overwater or fertilize it while there is no active growth taking place.


Q: A friend left her jade plant outside during the first frost. The plant has since gone limp. I told her I wanted to try to revive it. Am I fooling myself? Does this jade have a chance? (e-mail reference)

A: It depends on how low the temperature went and how long it was exposed to that temperature. For example, if the freezing point was a rather sudden, sharp occurrence at 6:30 a.m., but it warmed up quickly, it may be superficial damage. The plant is cooked if the low hit shortly after midnight and stayed there for several hours. Time will tell. In the meantime, don't overwater. If any part of the plant appears to be rotting, cut it back to where there is no rot. If the entire aerial part of the plant rots, dump it.


Q: I have several indoor jade plants that I cherish. They developed white spider webs underneath their leaves. I sprayed the plant with something organic. Unfortunately, my husband threw away the can, so I can’t tell you what the product was. Now the plants have white mildew on their leaves and getting black spots in the middle. It also looks as if the skin is peeling off. I thought they would recover, but right now they are doing worse! I thought of throwing them out because I am afraid that all our plants will become infected. I know this is not a lot of information, but maybe you have an idea. (e-mail reference)

A: You have two problems. Your plants have a spider mite infestation and the other sounds like powdery mildew. These problems come about as a result of the air being too dry (spider mites) and possibly the light being too low (mildew). If the plants are not too far gone, I suggest purchasing some Schultz's Fungicide 3. This product is a miticide, fungicide and insecticide all in one. Move the plants to an area with more light or provide artificial light. Mist the plants with distilled water during the stressful winter months. Mist the plants about three times a week. If they don't begin responding favorably almost immediately, then dump the plants and start again. In the meantime, keep some distance between them and the rest of your houseplants.


Q: Six months ago, I was at a coffee shop and was admiring the large jade plant they had near the counter. They said I could take a clipping, which I did. It has been growing very well and I have become quite fond of it. How long will a jade plant live? Since I received a clipping from an old plant, will my jade plant not live as long as one that is started by seed? (e-mail reference)

A: Don't worry. With proper care, such as what you obviously are giving your plant, you will be able to bequeath it in your will to your children. Disease, insects and improper care, not age, are what kill plants. Enjoy!


Q: I bought a jade plant while I was visiting my mother-in-law two years ago. Sadly, she claimed the plant when she spotted it in the back of our truck. I went to visit her today and found the poor plant in a horrible state. I was so angry I took the plant home with me. She has not watered it for at least seven months. Most of the leaves have fallen off, the stalks are beginning to shrivel and the dirt has turned to dust. Surprisingly, there are a few green leaves, although they are paper thin. Is there anything I can do to save this poor plant? (e-mail reference)

A: If you haven't done so, give it a good watering to see what happens. If there is no response or improvement in two weeks, I would say it is ready for the compost pile. Give your mother-in-law a book on houseplant care this Christmas.


Q: My husband has owned a beautiful jade plant for 12 years. It gets lots of natural light, but little direct sunlight. It sits on the north side of the house with a Christmas cactus. The plant was dusty and dirty, so a few weeks ago I took it outside and washed it with a hose. I had the water running very lightly. I then sprayed leaf shine on it. My husband also put more soil in the pot (on top of what was there). The soil was Scotts Potting Soil for Cactus and Succulents with bone meal added. Now a lot of leaves are turning yellow (most of them) and falling off. I was going to take the plant outside today and wash it as best I could. I don’t know what else to do. Should I not use the leaf shine on a jade? (e-mail reference)

A: Oh boy. I thought that leaf shine had been taken off the market. Leaf shine and jade plants don't get along well. A simple wipe with a damp cloth is sufficient enough to cause damage.
The best thing you can do is move the plant back to where it was and treat it as you had before the leaf shine event. All of the leaves probably will fall off, but with a little luck, new ones will regrow in six to eight weeks. It sounds like the plant was vigorous before this event, so there is a good chance it will recover.


Q: I have been reading your columns, but I do not understand any of the horticulture lingo, so I’m hoping you might give me some simple answers. How do I prune and where do I cut a jade that is leaning heavily? Do I cut into the trunks? How do I grow the cut pieces and how many can I remove? Will it work if I put the cut pieces in water? Also, I would appreciate any advice on how to encourage my jade to flower. How do I get a white jade plant? (e-mail reference)

A: One of the most difficult, if not impossible, tasks is to communicate through words alone how to prune a plant that one cannot see. Your questions are valid, so I will attempt to be as clear as possible in answering them. Anytime you cut into a plant, it will fare better with the smallest cut possible. It’s the same as undergoing an operation. You can cut into the trunk or any of the branches, but never leave a stub. Always cut back to a lateral branch or just above where a leaf comes out of the stem. Generally, the recommendation is to not remove more than 25 percent to 30 percent of the leaf tissue at a time because doing so will reduce the food-making capacity of the plant too much. Propagation is possible by planting the cuttings in water, but I don't recommend it. I prefer sand alone or a sand and peat mix of equal proportions. For details on propagation techniques, go to www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/landscap/h1257.pdf.
Also, jade plants will flower when they are ready. Jades are sold as foliage plants, not flowering plants. Flowering is a rare occurrence to be enjoyed if and when it happens. Flowering is not something you or I can manipulate the same as on an apple tree or a lilac. I never have heard of or seen a white jade. Hope this helps.


Q: I have an old, large jade that I would like to prune. I have read your material, but I just don't get how to prune. Through the years, I’ve had great success repotting any leaf or small stem that has been cut off or dropped. After starting a new plant, what determines what size pot the plant should be put in? With existing plants, how can you tell if they are in the right sized pot? Is there a formula for figuring out pot size? Also, how do I get a copy of your “Home Propagation Techniques” publication? (e-mail reference)

A: The "Home Propagation Techniques" publication can be downloaded at
www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/plantsci/landscap/h1257.pdf. Regarding pot size to plant size, I'm sure someone in the horticulture world has come up with a formula, but I don't know what it is. We typically use that rare commodity called "common sense" in transplanting. If the plant is too large for the pot, it will appear unbalanced and very likely may be subject to tumbling over. If the water runs out of the bottom of the container when the plant is watered, then the plant needs transplanting. As the buffering capacity of the soil is lost or used up, you have close to 90 percent rootball mass and very little soil to hold the water. We generally recommend going up to the next nominal size pot when repotting, unless you don't want the plant to get larger in size. For example, you would move a plant from a 4-inch pot to a 5-inch size, but not from a 4-inch to a 12-inch pot. While on this subject, clay pots have different watering requirements than plastic pots. If you have been successful with one type, be aware of that fact if you change pot types.


Q: I have noticed that some of the old leaves on my jade plant look wrinkled, but the new leaves look perfectly healthy. I have not moved the plant or changed anything else out of the ordinary. Any ideas what could be wrong or is this normal? (e-mail reference)

A: There is seldom anything "normal" in the dying of an organism. You might want to check my Web site at www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/houseplnts/jade.htm for lots of information on jade plants.


Q: I have a jade plant I bought at a garage sale five years ago. It's been doing great and I never have repotted it. It became obvious to me in the last year that it was time for a bigger pot. When I went to remove the plant from the old pot, I noticed the pot's top was narrower than the bottom and the plant was stuck. As a result, some of the roots were torn from the plant. The root ball has been torn in half horizontally. I finished repotting the plant and put it back in the same spot where it has been thriving for the last three years. Is my plant going to die? Is there anything I can do to help it? I'm very worried about it. (e-mail reference)

A: I doubt it will die. Jade plants are tough in spite of all the problems people seem to have with them. You obviously don't have such problems, so keep doing what you have been as far as cultural practices go, but don't overdo it by applying too much water or fertilizer.


Q: I am about to acquire two jade trees. Are jade trees poisonous to animals? I have two cats. It will be impossible to keep the cats away from the plants even though they have their own cat grass. (e-mail reference)

A: It is not listed as toxic to animals or humans, but that doesn't mean that your cats wouldn't have some reaction to consuming some of the leaves. Depending who had the plants before you got them, there could be pesticide residue in the soil or foliage, which could have a negative impact on the cats. Try keeping the cats away from the plant by spraying the plant with a vinegar solution.


Q: I recently took over the care and watering of three 25-year-old jade plants at my job. They all seem pretty healthy except they haven't been properly pruned in the past few years. Most of the branches hang over the side of the pot and dangle down nearly to the window sill. On one plant, one of the main branches got so heavy that it is severely bent and distorted where it connects to the trunk of the plant. It hasn't broken off and it's still alive. I think it's getting nutrients from the rest of the plant. If nothing else, I need to cut it off because it's unsightly, but what I'd really like to do is preserve it and turn it into its own plant. I would really like to keep its thick, woody stalk and promote root growth near where I cut it off from the main plant. Can I promote root growth by an air-layering technique before I cut it off the main plant? If air-layering is possible for a jade plant, could you tell me how to do it? If air-layering is not such a good idea, can you provide me with an alternative method of stimulating roots? (e-mail reference)

A: You can air-layer the plant or take stem and leaf cuttings. Let me direct you to two of my Web sites that can answer your questions concerning jade plants. Go to www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/houseplnts/jade.htm for questions and answers. Then go to www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/plantsci/landscap/h1257.pdf to view and get information on propagating houseplants. Jade is a very easy plant to grow, as can be seen with the 25-year-old specimen you are working with. All it takes is some common sense. Good luck and enjoy keeping your thumb green!


Q: I was given a jade plant as a gift about six months ago. The plant thrived through late summer and fall. I kept it in a location that was at 65 to 70 degrees and watered it every week or two. I moved it about two months ago to a spot where it doesn't get as much light and one side was turned toward the wall, so it probably wasn't getting any light. It was still thriving for a month and a half. I decided that wasn't the best place for it, so I moved it back near a window on the west side of the house. All of a sudden, all the leaves on the side that was once turned toward the wall began to shrivel and fall off. The stems on that side are getting very flaccid and rubbery. I don't know what to do. Please help! (e-mail reference)

A: Just let it alone! Jade plants, as with humans, resist change in their environment (unless it is their choice, which is a characteristic jade plants lack!). In six weeks or so, new leaves should be re-emerging. After the leaves come back, keep the plant in that location.


Q: I have a beloved 35-year-old jade plant. My nephew and daughter knocked the plant over one day and broke off quite a few branches. The pot was broken in half and the roots definitely were disturbed. I repotted it in the only pot I had that was big enough. It is struggling, but I thought it was going to make it. It has quite a few new leaves, but some of the branches have started to shrivel and fall off. The inside of the branch is slightly brown (in the center circle of the branch). The plant fell over at least three months ago. (e-mail reference)

A: Carefully cut the branches that are deteriorating back to healthy tissue. The plant very likely was bruised. Be patient because a plant that old has a lot going for it, except youthful vigor, so recovery will be slow.


Q: I’ve had a jade plant for five or six years. In December, it bloomed for the first time. However, some of the leaves have started to turn yellow, shrivel and fall off. Can you please help me? (e-mail reference)

A: It is probably due to insufficient light. Whenever a houseplant flowers that normally does not, the plant consumes a lot of energy. I'm willing to bet that the majority of foliage you see in the condition you describe is coming from the oldest leaves. If that is not the case, and it seems to be a general malaise of the plant, then I suspect overwatering.


Q: I have two jade plants. One is sitting on the widow sill of my living room and the other is in a hallway, which has plenty of light. During the past week, I have noticed that the leaves on the jade plant in the hall are falling off and the plant looks limp. Why is this happening and what am I doing wrong? The plant in the hall is sitting next to a radiator. Could that be the problem? (e-mail reference)

A: The radiator is the problem. Thank you for mentioning this in your note. If you can, move it to another location away from this direct-heat source. With normal care, it likely will recover and releaf.


Q: I have a question about my jade that doesn't seem to appear on your Web site. Its leaves are starting to turn yellow and drop off. Any idea what might be causing this? The soil seems dry (at least down an inch or 2) and it gets as much sunshine as Columbus, Ohio, allows. It sits in a southern exposed window. I have no idea how old it is, but there are four main stems in the pot. There are new plants growing from the green leaves that have dropped into the soil. The one thing I saw on your Web site is that I shouldn't have rocks at the bottom of my pot. I do. Should I replant now or wait until spring? What about the yellow leaves? (e-mail reference)

A: You identified the problem. The stones at the bottom of the pot have created a false water table that is causing the jade's root system to suffer anaerobic (airless) conditions, so that’s why the leaves are turning yellow. In essence, the plant is suffering from poor drainage and should be repotted in a freely draining container as soon as possible. Preferably, the pot should be made of porous clay. While you are at it, you might pot some of the small propagules that have established themselves around the base of the mother plant.


Q: My wife and I inherited an old jade plant from her grandparents. We set the plant outside, but moved the plant inside before winter. We placed it next to a window where it receives approximately six hours of sun a day. Within the last month or so, we've noticed blooms. Is this a sign of a healthy plant or have we shocked the thing into propagation? We've seen no signs of insects or mold, but a few leaves turned brown and dropped from their stems. A landscape architect friend of mine estimated the plant's age at 40 years or more and described it as a "living heirloom." Is this an accurate description? How old do these things get? I appreciate your time and thoughts! (e-mail reference)

A: A flowering cycle is rare with the jade as a houseplant. It simply means that it has accumulated enough carbohydrates, along with the good care you've give it, to go into a reproductive cycle. Yes, the plant is a genuine "living heirloom" as your landscape architect friend said. Anything that is passed from one generation to another fits that definition. You might want to take some cuttings from it to pass on to your relatives to create an "extended family." Go to my Web site on home propagation techniques at www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/plantsci/landscap/h1257.pdf for more information.


Q: I heard through a friend of a florist that jade plants affect the immune system and that households with young children should not have these plants in the house. Is there any truth to this? (e-mail reference)

A: It is not true. If they can cite chapter and verse of controlled, double-blind, randomized and replicated data from legitimate research, then I might buy into it. Otherwise, it is an empty rumor with no substance. There isn't one piece of literature that I have that substantiates this hearsay.


Q: My mother gave me a jade plant last winter when she moved into an apartment and didn’t have room for it. It was a good-sized plant with four main stems that were about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. The soil in the pot was down, so I repotted it. I was watering it, but it got quite dry on top. It was looking good, but there were some leaves that were shriveled, so that told me it needed more water. I started giving it more water, but still waited until it was dry on top and always turned it so it would get plenty of light on all sides. The leaves plumped up, so I thought I was on the right track. The last couple of weeks it has been so hot, so I put up a curtain in the door where I had it so the room won’t get so hot. I opened the curtain when I got home from work in the late afternoon. A few days ago, I came home and there were two big branches snapped off and lying on the floor. They were the main branches from the center of the plant. The center of the branch didn’t seem to be soft, so I am not sure what happen. I am just sick. I never have had a jade plant before, so I am not sure what to do or how to start a new one. Can I take the branches that broke off and put them in new soil? I have noticed there are a few leaves that have little white, dry specks on them that can be rubbed off. (e-mail reference)

A: Go to the following Web sites to have your questions answered, www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/houseplnts/jade.htm or www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/plantsci/landscap/h1257.pdf.


Q: I just bought a huge jade plant for my garden, but people are telling me that jade can’t be planted outdoors. Is this true? (e-mail reference)

A: Jade plants sold in 90 percent of the U.S. are intended for use as a houseplant because of their intolerance to cold temperatures (40 degrees or lower). If you live in a frost-free zone and have a good, protected location for a jade, then go ahead and plant it outdoors. Most people will summer their jade plants outdoors in dappled shade and then bring them inside well before the arrival of any frosty nights.


Q: We have a large, old jade plant with two large trunks growing in a V shape. Can we separate them into two more upright plants? (e-mail reference)

A: You can, as long as the trunks have not grafted together. If they have, you probably will have to sacrifice one of them.


Q: I bought two fairly healthy, small jade plants. The only care tips provided were to give them lots of light and very little water. I’ve set them on a south window sill, so they will get plenty of sunlight. How often should I water them and how often do I fertilize, if at all? Also, I would really appreciate it if you could tell me about any potential pathogens or pests typical to these succulents and how to deal with such problems. (e-mail reference)

A: Go to my Web site at www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/houseplnts/jade.htm. The site addresses the care of jade plants, which should satisfy your need. You will find more than 80 questions and answers relating to the care of jade plants. If you still have any questions, get back to me.


Q: I recently moved my jade plant outside. Since then, some of the tops of the leaves have turned a brown/maroon color. Did I give it a sunburn? What should I do now? (e-mail reference)

A: Yes, it is sunburn. All you can do is wait for the plant to outgrow it.


Q: You give wonderful help! I just read about jade maladies, but didn’t find mine. This began when a perfectly old (15 or more years) jade plant accidentally was left outside last fall. The temperature dropped to the 35- to 40-degree range. I brought the plant in and noticed the leaves had dark gray/black stippling on them. I thought these leaves had cold damage, so I let them drop and waited for new foliage. However, the new leaves quickly get this same stippling, followed by deep pockmarks. The leaves eventually dry and fall off. Luckily, this plant is an optimist and continues to grow new leaves. (e-mail reference)

A: Does the problem happen to all of the emerging leaves? If so, then the root system probably is damaged. What you may need to do is take cuttings off the plant and see if they will develop healthy tissue from that point on. Of course, take the cuttings from the healthiest stems/foliage as possible. As sensitive as the aerial part of a plant may be to cold temperatures, the root system is even more so. I know this doesn’t sound like much of a solution, but I don’t know what else it could be.


Q: I have a problem with a substance on the soil of my houseplants. I was advised to spray the soil with a fungus gnat spray. After doing that, I noticed that the bottom leaves of my jade are turning yellow and falling off. So far, I have lost three leaves and two more are yellow. Could the spray be causing the problem? I haven’t watered the plant for some time because as I was told that my soil problem is caused by overwatering. This is the first time that I have lost leaves. (e-mail reference)

A: The spray could have caused the problem if it was in a pressurized container with the carrier material at a lower temperature than the surrounding air. Water jade plants regularly during periods of active growth. Cut down on the watering during the cooler, darker winter months. I would suggest that you check out the Web site on jade plants at www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/houseplnts/jade.htm. There is bound to be information there that will be helpful.


Q: I bought a jade plant approximately three years ago. It has proved to be a rather hardy plant. I keep it outside during the summer and bring it inside during the winter. Twice I have forgotten to bring it in before the first frost hit. Surprisingly, it recovered quite well each time. It has spawned a few smaller plants in the pot. I decided to take one of these smaller plants and put it into a large terrarium with my pet lizard. The lizard eats insects, which are mostly superworms and crickets. After placing the plant in the terrarium, I realized these insects probably are going to eat the plant. Is that the case? (e-mail reference)

A: Unless you have the terrarium swarming with insects, the plant should be safe. I assume you have other plants in the terrarium as well. For the most part, the insects you place in there for lizard consumption are disoriented and “out of season,” so they are not in a foraging mood. However, isn’t this what you want to create, a miniature ecosystem only with the fittest surviving? Even if the plant should become an object of desire for the enclosed insects, any plant worth its salt should be able to survive an occasional nibble now and then.


Q: There are little, black bugs flying around my jade plant. What can I do to get rid of them? In addition, I was rather grossed out by all the worms, bugs and molds that I read about on your jade plant Web site. Are these common problems? Is there anything I can do to reduce the chance of getting these pests? (e-mail reference)

A: The black bugs could be fungus gnats or fruit flies, depending on where the plant is located. They are knocked down easily with a pyrethrin-based spray, preferably from an aerosol can so they can be killed while in flight. The material has a very low mammalian toxicity (extracted from the mum family) and is not harmful to the plant, as long as you don’t spray it directly on the plant. The insecticide is under pressure, so it comes out cold. If concentrated on the foliage, it could cause tissue burns. Fungus gnats originate from potting soil mixes. They more frequently are found in highly organic potting mixes because, in part, that component of the mix does not go through a sterilization or pasteurization process like the inorganic part of the mix. You can repot with a quality potting soil. The label should indicate that the contents are sterilized or pasteurized. Fruit flies are common at this time of year, especially around garbage disposals in the kitchen. It’s not a reflection on your housekeeping, just an unpleasant fact. The best treatment is to fill the sink up with hot, soapy water and run it through the disposal while it is running. Jades are very popular because of their beauty. In general, Americans care too much, emotionally speaking, for their houseplants and spend too much time watering, fertilizing, etc. Amazing as it may sound coming from someone well steeped in the horticultural sciences, most houseplants that look their best are ones that are benignly overlooked by their owners. I am not advocating this practice, but I do encourage people to attempt to follow what is right for a particular plant. Don’t give up in frustration if you have friends, neighbors or relatives who “do nothing special,” but their plant is doing everything you want yours to do!


Q: I’m looking for information about white and variegated jade plants. My mother has two variegated and one completely white jade plant. We are curious as to the rarity and causes of such strains. (e-mail reference)

A: These jade plants are the propagation “dreams come true” of jade specialists. The white one is probably Crassula aroborescens arborescens, also known as the silver dollar jade. They are rare and generally need more light than the more common C. argentia. Such anomalies are often the result of chimeral formations in the somatic tissue of the plant. The observant propagator will catch these and begin an asexual propagation schedule to build up inventory. This can be done with tissue culture or, if enough material is available, through leaf or stem cuttings. They are usually very limited in availability.


Q: I have a jade plant that was given to me. It is 9 inches around the main trunk. It had another large trunk off the main that has been cut off. The cut developed into a mushy hole, so I removed it. I thought this would fix the problem, but then it turned into mushy mold. I scooped out the mold, which now has taken me into the main trunk area. It is turning brown and I fear it also is going to turn moldy. The plant itself is healthy and has a large root ball. (e-mail reference)

A: Let me introduce you to my jade Web site at www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/houseplnts/jade.htm. The site has more than 100 questions and answers regarding jade plants. In response to your question on pruning, your jade is a tree that needs to be pruned like a tree. Use a sharp pruner or saw. Always prune a jade back to a lateral bud or branch, but never into the main trunk. You always want to make the smallest pruning cut possible, which means that if you see a branch growing where you don’t want it to, take it off immediately. Large tree wounds, like on humans, take longer to heal. Finally, prune when the tree is growing actively or coming into an active growth phase. This will allow callus tissue to form and quickly compartmentalize the wound. Always prune back to a leaf node, not into it. Cut to about one-eighth inch above the leaf node, or to a lateral branch, but never leave a stub. Try to envision what you want the finished product to look like before tackling the job. If you don’t, chances are you will go too far!


Q: How do I get my jade to flower? (e-mail reference)

A: With light, patience and a visit to the following Web site:
www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/houseplnts/jade.htm. You will find plenty of hints on how to grow jade plants successfully.


Q: Do you know if jade tree leaves are poisonous to toddlers? (e-mail reference)

A: The plant is not listed in my poisonous plant references. Ingestion of the leaves still should be avoided, as everyone’s reaction is different.


Q: My jade plant is very tall and leggy, but healthy. It is growing up and not outward as I would like. What do I need to do? I read some other questions from owners and you said to pinch it, but I don’t understand what you mean by that. (e-mail reference)

A: On every woody plant, there is a growing point or terminal bud. If that is removed (pinched off with your thumbnail or clippers), the buds will break dormancy and begin growing, resulting in a bushier plant. You can accomplish the same thing by pruning back the plant to a lateral branch or just above a leaf node. The result should be a densely branched, bushy tree.


Q: I recently got a jade plant that was in a container that was not really a pot, so I decided to transplant it. Since repotting, it has started to grow sideways on the top. Is that normal? If I place it in sunlight, will it start to grow upward again? (e-mail reference)

A: It sounds normal, if I understand you correctly. Placing the plant in sunlight should be a gradual thing or else the foliage will get sunburned. Start with filtered light and then give the plant some direct sunlight for about an hour or so each day for the first week. Gradually increase the sunlight exposure to what you want. The plant should respond by growing upright.


Q: Your name came up on the Internet when I did a jade plant search. I am a follower of the principle of feng shui, where positive flows of energy can be enhanced by certain species of plants. My husband and I are going through some financial difficulties right now and the jade plant that I have had for more than six years is now looking poorly, with part of it obviously dying. Is there anything I can do to improve the well-being on my jade and our financial health as well?

A. Knowing nothing about feng shui, I had to look the words up in my dictionary. It says feng shui is “the Chinese practice of creating harmonious surroundings that enhance the balance of ying and yang.” After further digging, I found that jade plants can enhance prosperity. So it is in your self-interest that the jade becomes healthy again in order to help your financial situation. Jade plants need plenty of light, modest to minimal water during the winter months, fertilization during active periods of growth, regular pruning to keep them from becoming top-heavy and monitoring for scale, mealybugs, and spidermites. Jade plants need to be repotted in the next nominally-sized pot when they become pot-bound. Use a freely-draining container that sits in a saucer. The pot should drain within 20 minutes of a good watering. Jade can be easily propagated via leaf or stem cuttings. Check my Web page on jade plants at www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/houseplnts/jade.htm for more information.


Q: I've been reading through some of your jade plant questions and answers and I didn't find any mention of deformed new leaves. The leaves are normal coming out from the stem, but halfway down, the leaves cut in and form a point similar to a spade. Will they eventually grow out of this shape? I am giving it more light. (e-mail reference)

A: Insufficient light causes most foliage deformities. So your increasing the light may do the trick. Other problems may be a genetic glitch, physical damage, air pollutants or chemicals in the soil.


Q: My jade is 10 years old. It has three main trunks. Each trunk is about 2 inches in diameter. We recently repotted it. It's very heavy on one side because the only place in winter available is near a fireplace with bright, indirect west light. All winter we found dried-up black leaves while others got rubbery and shriveled. Recently we've had branches drop off that were shriveled and soft on the stem near the break. Since repotting, it's outside on a west porch. One of the three branches leaning onto the side of the pot has developed a fissure near the base. The fissure is opening wider each day to the point that it's nearly through the trunk. I am frantic as to what to do to save it before I lose the whole plant.

A: I would suggest taking some branch ends and rooting them to start over. Jade plants cannot successfully be band-aided together very well. This plant species seems to be the bane of many houseplant lovers. The basic problems stem from insufficient light, too much water and over-fertilization. Also, if the plants were pinched at the terminal ends of their branches on a regular basis (the first inch of the branch pruned off), the resulting plant would be a compact, balanced beauty and not a lanky, weak-stemmed freak that gets tied up with clothesline and bedsheet pieces. If you can, take cuttings about 4 to 6 inches long and root them in a sandy/peat medium. Give them supplemental light during the long winter months, water when the soil mass is dry and fertilize in response to emerging new growth. This will give you plants from the original that you could give to family or friends.


Q: I recently bought a large jade plant. It's looking pretty good, but I noticed some bugs. They are tiny black bugs on the leaves, mostly in the center of each bud where new growth is starting. I also see some white dust. Is this something you've heard of? Is there something I can do to get rid of these little pests? (e-mail reference)

A: I would suggest attacking the insect with Insecticidal Soap, a product that is safe to use on houseplants and around people. It should take care of whatever that bug happens to be. It needs to contact the insect to be effective, so be sure to get complete coverage. The dust could be powdery mildew, mealybugs, scale or aphids. If it is a general gray covering on some of the upper surface of the leaves, then it is likely powdery mildew. It can be controlled with a fungicide containing benomyl. If it appears to concentrate on the underside of new leaf growth near veins or at the juncture of the leaf petiole attachment to the stem, then it is one of the insect pests. In some cases, the Insecticidal Soap will take care of the problem insects. In other cases, you will have to purchase houseplant oil with resmethrin added.


Q: Jade plants get that lovely cottony bug which is easily killed by rubbing alcohol. Unfortunately, Jade plants are one of the few plants that cannot survive the alcohol treatment. I don’t know if the plant would even survive a Q-tip dipped in alcohol treatment. I sprayed mine with a 50-50 water and alcohol solution and the plant fell apart and died within a week. (e-mail reference)

A: Wow! Thanks for the information. It will definitely be passed on to the readers. Glad to know about their sensitivity to alcohol.


Q: I recently inherited a jade plant that was left in the sun. New growth and many upper leaves are sunburned. I have removed many of those leaves, but don’t want to pluck all of the leaves that have a bit of brown because I may end up with a spindly plant. What suggestions do you have? (e-mail reference)

A: The problems never end for jade plants that go from too low a light to too much sunlight. Maintain it like you normally would in bright, indirect light or filtered sunlight and water as needed. Fertilize it once a month when new growth starts emerging. It should fully recover in four to six weeks.


Q: I inherited a jade plant last summer that was quite large. Unfortunately, the plant was promised to two people. I split the plant in two and surprisingly, it did well. My problem started when I moved my half outside. It did fine last summer but this year the leaves are falling off. The leaves are brown in the center. They are not rotting and are firm to the touch, but I don't know what to make of this or how to make it better. (E-mail reference)

A: It sounds like the plant is exhibiting edema which is a corky condition that develops from overwatering or poor drainage. It is almost never fatal to the plant. I would suggest that you repot it in a free-draining container of the next nominal size.


Q: I have two jade plants that need help. One is covered (leaves and stems) with what appears to be waxy scales. The scales aren't bumpy and don't wipe off. The other plant has raised black spots on the leaves. I can take them off with a fingernail, but when I do, they leave a pit on the leaf that later dries and turns white. (E-mail reference)

A: Some scale insects wipe off fairly easy, while others have to be scraped off with the edge of a fingernail or knife. I suspect scale on the stems and possibly on the leaves. If you can, try to scrape or wipe those bumps off with your thumbnail or the edge of a knife to verify you have scale insects. If they are not, then I have no idea what the problem is. I suggest taking a sample and sending it to the local land grant university in your state and addressing it to the Plant Diagnostic Lab. If your county has an extension office, take a sample directly to them for possible identification.


Q: I have assumed the care of a large jade plant that is completely infested with scale. To wipe the surfaces of all leaves and stems with diluted rubbing alcohol would be almost impossible. The plant is important so I would like to save it rather than start new. It is in a public place so the treatment should be as people safe as possible. I have read that using Dimethoate as a drench is an effective control for scale but it is not licensed for this use in Ontario. Also, I cannot find any reference that Dichlorvos, which is present in no pest strips, is an effective control for scale. (E-mail reference)

A: No pest strips enclosed in a large trash bag would do the trick if used over a weekend. Horticultural oil might work but I would try a small section first to see if any damage occurs. Spraying with rubbing alcohol might work and be the safest thing to do. Rubbing with a soaked cloth will remove them physically as well. You might also contact a certified pest control company to see if there is a legal systemic that the company could apply after working hours on a Friday. There is a restricted version of Metasystox R (A.I. Oxydemeton) that has been used in the states for controlling scale infestations on houseplants. This would minimize the danger to office personnel. Keep in mind that one treatment will get most of them but not all. Follow up treatments will be necessary for complete eradication. Also, the dead scales don't fall off, since they have literally cemented themselves in place. Their home becomes their casket!


Q: My jade is 25 to 30 years old. The main stalk is four to six inches in diameter and still strong. I keep it in a 7-gallon container. One by one, over the last year, many of the larger branches have shriveled and wilted. They eventually separate from the stalk and drop to the ground. Branches are also falling off. There are now eight or nine large nodes on the stalk and sub-stalks where these larger branches have fallen off. I water it infrequently because the soil seems to retain a lot of moisture for a long time. It is planted in a succulent top soil mix. The bottom of the planter has three to four inches of medium stones for drainage. It has not been exposed to much light but I have recently rectified this problem. Should I replant it in a more specific soil? How much water should I give it and when? I have been giving it small amounts of a succulent fertilizer mixed with water. (E-mail reference)

A: Repot and eliminate the stones in the base of the planter. The stones are causing at least part of the problem. For good drainage, the container media needs to be uniform with no layering of stones. Simply put a screen over the drainage hole on the bottom. Keep the plant in strong light and water when the soil is dry. Fertilize only when new growth is evident. Take leaf or stem cuttings and root them in case this plant doesn’t survive.


Q: I've had my jade plant for years. It sits in a nice sunny window and I water it every week to 10 days. For over a year it has had some kind of pest on the leaves that makes the whole area under the plant (table and floor) very sticky. Recently, the problem has gotten worse and it now seems to be harming the plant. I'm getting some leaf drop. Is it aphids? What should I do? (E-mail reference)

A: It’s most likely spider mites doing the damage. Spider mites are almost invisible to the naked eye, while aphids, which can cause the same problem, are easily visible. Check under each leaf to see if there is any stippling (yellow dots) on them. If there is, that’s where the mite has inserted its stylet and would be the cause of your problem. If you see small white cotton looking pieces at the juncture of the leaf petiole and stem, then it is an invasion of cottony cushion scale.
If it is the spider mite that is causing the problem, move the plant to your bathtub and spray the top and underside of the leaves. That will disrupt them as good or better than many insecticides. If it is the cottony cushion scale, then take a cotton ball and soak it in rubbing alcohol and wipe the scale off the leaves completely. Look along the stem as well. If you see little brown bumps, it likely is an invasion of San Jose scale. If that is the case, you are probably better off dumping the plant, as control measures at this point are simply too difficult to undertake.


Q: My Grandmother gave me a jade plant when I visited her last summer. I placed Ella (named after my Grandmother) in my window. The plant was growing well even though I just recently found out that you're not supposed to water as frequently as I have been. I repotted the plant but before I did, I checked for rot damage. Sure enough the roots where drenched and almost rotted. I also found a few worms digging their way up towards the roots. I cut the soggy root, shook the dirt off where the worms were and let the roots dry out for a few hours before replanting it. I replanted using new soil and a slightly larger pot. I placed it back in the window. It's now very cold here and the heater is on which is also by the window but not close to the plant. Everything was fine and there almost appeared to be signs of new growth but lately the leaves have become very weak and are falling off. The tops of some of the lower branches are shriveling up and falling over and just recently the top of a branch twisted and fell off. Please help me save this plant. (E-mail reference)

A: I’m afraid your actions are killing the jade. Try and find any firm, solid plant tissue and cut it off for propagation purposes. Insert the tissue into a sand/peat mix (50/50) to root. You can use leaves or stems with leaves on them. The stems should be about 6 inches long. Your plant has most likely developed a pythium rot that is caused by cold, wet soil and overhead watering. Once it gets started it is difficult to control and often kills the plant.


Q: I am interested in rooting a jade plant. Mine is just a baby but is growing beautifully. I would like to root some so I have several plants in my home. (E-mail reference)

A: Jade is easily rooted either via leaves or stems. Simply remove and insert into a sand/peat (50/50) media for about four to five weeks. Some rooting should have taken place by then. Use distilled water, keep it at room temperature and give the propagules the same amount of light as you do the mother plant.


Q: I have white powder circles on the tops of some leaves on my jade plant. I wiped the powder off with a paper towel using mild soap and water. Underneath the powder are dark spots (not uniform but circle like) on the leaves. Is this mold or bugs? (E-mail reference)

A: I would suggest a rag soaked in rubbing alcohol to clean the upper and lower sides of the leaves. If it is a disease of some kind that comes back, do something to increase the air circulation around the plants. If it turns out to be an insect, which I doubt it is, then visit a garden shop that can provide you some guidance in selecting the appropriate, least toxic insecticide. Insecticidal soaps and pyrethrins are among those considered least toxic and effective.


Q: I purchased a rather large jade about six months ago. I expected some leaf loss but it has progressed to a point where I decided to repot and separate the plant. That’s when I noticed a fungus or some sort of insects on it. My plant has small white cottony spots on the trunk and at the base of its leaves. I dread that you will recommend taking a cutting to save the plant. Is there anything else I can do other than cleaning with alcohol swabs? (E-mail reference)

A: It sounds like a mealy bug infestation has been underway for a long time. You can try systemic insecticides that are available at your local garden store and safe for houseplants. You can try and locate a No Pest Strip somewhere and place the plant in a large plastic trash bag for 24 hours. It will kill insects and any other pests that might be harbored on the plant. I would also take some stem and leaf cuttings that are free of pests and root them in order to not totally lose the plant. I would also go back to the store that sold you the plant and inform them of your discovery. Purchasing an insect infested plant is not a bargain, no matter how much the price is reduced.


Q: The leaves on my jade tree are not plump and juicy. Many are somewhat shriveled but not falling off. I can't help thinking that this is an indication that I need to water it more frequently. I've been maintaining a once-a-month watering schedule. It did seem to me the last time I watered it that the leaves plumped up. (E-mail reference)

A: Once-a-month watering is about right, without knowing anything else about the plant's setting in the environment, which I assume is close to normal. The winter months are typically a dormant or non growth time for succulents, with some flowering, like the Christmas cactus, during that time period. Water when the foliage appears to be shrinking or losing its plumpness.


Q: I'm once again trying my hand at growing aloe and jade. I've not had much luck growing them. Everyone tells me I overwater. How often should they be watered and when is the best time to transplant? (E-mail reference)

A: Jade and aloe are succulent plants, which means they posses fleshy leaves and stems with the ability to store water so if you think they need to be watered, they don't. In fact, most succulents can go a month or two without water during the winter dormancy period without harming the plant. When spring arrives, water can be applied more liberally, allowing the media or soil to dry completely between thorough waterings. Be sure the plants get plenty of bright light, indirect and direct, for part of the day. Repot only when the top part of the plant is too big to be supported by the container. I think too many people repot these plants too often resulting in setting them back and possibly causing damage. If repotting is necessary, do it coming into the spring when there is active growth.


Q: I am in serious need of help. My jade plant, which I love dearly and have owned for just a few short months, has collapsed on me. Its dew is seeping from creases under the leaves and the whole plant is fairly limp. I don’t know what could cause this sudden change and am extremely worried and saddened by this. (E-mail reference)

A: Very likely the jade won’t survive. Sorry! I encourage you to try another one, perhaps smaller this time. And be sure to get care instructions from the place of sale. Jade needs strong light, with some direct light for 2 to 4 hours a day. Jade has modest water requirements, more than a cactus but less than an African violet. It requires cool temperatures and should be kept away from direct drafts of hot or cold air. Most jade plants die because of overwatering in a low-light situation.


Q: I have a large jade plant that is perhaps 15-years-old. It was beautiful and doing very well but in the last 6 months some branches started falling off. They look soft and wrinkly. I can't see any bugs and I haven't had it outside for two years. It still has new growth, even though some of the branches look like they have soft rot. I water it every two weeks as a general rule, though sometimes weekly. I gave it more new dirt a few months ago and I usually fertilize it at least once a month. (E-mail reference)

A: I would suggest taking cuttings, stem or leaf, from the healthy part of the plant in case this one dies. It sounds like a soft tissue rot is taking over. Once it starts, it is almost impossible to keep it from spreading.


Q: Recently I noticed a white/very light green, powdery mold in the soil of my plants. The plants themselves seem to be fine. The only problem I see is on the jade plant. A few leaves at the base have a few white spots. I've looked all over the Internet for a way to rid the plants of the mold and now my head is spinning. (E-mail reference)

A: Go to the local garden supply store and look for Schultz's Neem Oil. It is sold as Fungicide 3, which is a product that has multiple uses. It may help correct the problem. In the meantime, set up a fan to blow a gentle breeze at the lower portion of the plant and top of the pot. That should help keep the problem in check.


Q: I have a jade plant directly under a fluorescent light on my desk. It also gets indirect office window light. It is very healthy but now has air roots. Is this ok? (E-mail reference)

A: That simply shows that you have a very healthy, normal and happy plant. You are doing everything it needs to carry on a good life. Keep it up!


Q: I would like to ask you two simple questions about a jade plant. How often should I water it and what kind of light does it like? Sometimes a leaf gets a little shriveled and falls off. What's wrong? (E-mail reference)

A: Give jade as much light as you can. That way it will not get soft and floppy. Water it when the upper third of the soil is dry. With consistent care, it will stop dropping leaves.


Q: We repotted houseplants using new soil and beads that retain moisture. Our jade tree was enormous and full of fat leaves but now it is yellow and dying. It also happened to a sheffaleria. The soil doesn't dry out between waterings so it might be root rot. What do you think? (Mandan, N.D.)

A: I think you hit the nail on the head or close to it. If the roots are not rotting, then they are starved of oxygen due to the continuous saturation.


Q: I’ve had a jade for about six years. It started flopping over after I repotted it in a huge pot hoping that it would become a tree. I tried to force it to stand up with wooden sticks supporting the main stems. When I removed the wooden sticks, the stems started breaking at the base. I don't want to give up on this plant because there are new buds and the leaves look healthy. (E-mail reference)

A: A floppy jade is the result of too little light. Probably too late for it now, but try moving it into a brighter location and see if the plant improves at all over the next six to eight weeks.


Q: We have a rather large jade plant (Crassula) that has been doing extremely well for more than twenty years. This winter I noticed two or three fairly large areas in the trunks that looked damp. One of them became quite slimy. The others have a very light slime. When we moved it outside this spring, we repotted and saw no evidence of rot. This condition does not seem to bother the plant. The leaves are fine although new growth is slow. There is some minor brown scaling. The slime is clear and has the consistency of warm Vaseline. The spots have neither grown nor diminished in six months. (E-mail reference)

A: My only guess is that you have a limited oystershell or San Jose scale problem in those areas. Some scale will secrete the excess plant fluids they take in which is called honeydew. If that is absolutely not the case, then it could be a limited canker infection that has not had the ability to compartmentalize itself due to the slow growth. If it doesn't seem to be affecting the overall health of the plant, then I suggest simply monitoring the sites where these slimy areas are developing. One last thought: it could be a borer of some kind that has taken up residency. Look carefully and see if there is a small hole about the size of pencil lead in the middle of the slimy area. Other than these suggestions, I am at a loss. I’ve never heard of this problem before.


Q: We have an old jade plant that was given to us. It's about 2 feet high and 1 1/2 feet wide. We repotted it last year into a fairly large pot. It seemed to be doing fine but in the last six months or so it started losing whole branches and drops leaves often. The branches or parts of the branches crack off even without being touched. We water it a few times a month. Should we water it really well once a month, removing any standing water? I don’t think we give it enough water even though we do it twice a month. (E-mail reference)

A: Jade plants need more sunlight than most folks give them. If you can, gradually move the plant to where it will get more direct sunlight. I have seen jades grow as high as the second floor when they were getting incoming radiation from a skylight. I have never seen a jade drop leaves or branches if it was getting a good dose of direct sunlight. Allow the soil to dry between waterings in the summer but go back to your once a month watering during the winter months. Also, don't forget to fertilize during active periods of growth in the spring and summer.


Q: I recently acquired a sick jade plant. The trunk was bent and it had very few leaves. I repotted it, watered it, and put it in morning sunshine. New growth followed and I was thrilled to see it had become so healthy. A couple of weeks ago, it started losing leaves. There have been no changes in its location or my care and there are no signs of disease or bugs. Could it be due to overcrowding of new growth? Since it grew branches in all directions, they have become slightly crowded. Some leaves are resting on each other. Some leaves turned silver and shriveled while others fell off even though they were healthy and green. It now loses about 3 10 leaves a day. I'm hoping the plant is trying to become space efficient in capturing light but I'm afraid it might be something serious. Is this common? (E-mail reference)

A: Try some selective pruning to provide more space for the branches and foliage. It's possible it doesn't need as much water as you were initially giving it after your "rescue."


Q: I have a question about our jade plant. My husband repotted it into a bigger pot a couple of months ago. It was doing really well but now he noticed that there are some white spots on the leaves. Do you know what we can do to take care of the white spots? (Fargo, N.D.)

A: It is probably powdery mildew showing up with the high humidity and favorable temperatures we have been experiencing. Try wiping it off with a cloth soaked in light vegetable oil.


Q: I bought a jade plant about eight months ago. Some of the leaves are drying up and falling off. I did not water it much during the winter. How often should it be watered? Also, when I first brought it home, it was nice and full but now the branches are growing tall and leggy. Should I cut it down? If I do, at what point on the branch should I cut? (E-mail reference)

A: Your jade is probably responding to a low-light level situation. If you can’t get it to a location where it will receive bright, indirect light or direct sunlight, it will be leggy as you described. Jade plants respond well to intelligent pruning. Cut it back to a lateral branch or leaf axis - never leaving a stump. Jade also lends itself to easy propagation, so whatever you cut off, try and root it in a 50-50 sand and peat mixture to perpetuate the plant for family or friends.


Q: I have a two-year-old jade plant. It was repotted last summer and had been doing really well until recently. I don't know if it is getting too much water or not enough. I also don’t know if it’s getting enough sunlight or if possibly something else is wrong. The branches turn green and then fall off. It happens only on the side that does not get much sun. Are the branches supposed to turn green? Please help me save this plant! (E-mail reference)

A: No, the branches are not supposed to turn green. Generally branch and leaf fall indicate an insufficient environment to support the plant. It may be too much water, inconsistent watering patterns, too much light at one time and not enough at another. Basically the jade needs some constant temperatures above 55 degrees, plenty of bright light with some direct sunlight, water when needed, which is when two-thirds of the potting soil is dry, then giving them a complete soaking. You need to fertilize every two weeks during active growing periods and repot in the appropriate soil mixture every two to three years. If they get too big to repot, then simply topdress the pot with fresh potting soil.


Q: I have a plump four-leaf jade plant. I would like to have it branch out like a bush. It's only three inches high with a skinny stem. I've had it for five months. I've never had a plant before but have always been fascinated by jade plants. How do I prune my plant to branch out with a thick stem? (E-mail reference)

A: Simply pinch it back to another leaf with your thumbnail and index finger. That will cause the plant to branch.


Q: Why do some people's jades get so big? (E-mail reference)

A: They’ve had them a long time, under ideal conditions and culture.


Q: I have a yellow fungus growing on the soil surface of my inverted jade. At one point the fungus sprouted little yellow/brown mushrooms. When I tried to re-pot I found little white nodules on the root tips. The plant has had this fungus for years but it is now starting to spread to my other plants. I have re-potted several times and have not been watering it much in hopes of getting rid the fungus, but to no avail. It has not killed the plant but its growth has been stunted ever since it contacted the fungus. I have looked at the symptoms of yellow houseplant fungus and although the mushrooms look similar, I have never seen any reference to the yellow carpet of fungus that is covering the surface of the soil. From what I have read, yellow houseplant fungus is not supposed to harm the plant but I’m certain the fungus I have is damaging my plant. Do you have any ideas or suggestions on the name, indications, and eradication of this fungus? (E-mail reference)

A: As far as I know, you have a saprophyte growing on the organic matter in your soil. It should not cause direct harm to your plant but it may be competitive with the plant for water and nutrients and in that indirect way, cause harm. The best approach that I know of is to use sterilized or pasteurized soil. Wash your pots in a 10 percent bleach solution and allow them to dry completely. You can then repot, fertilize and water according to instructions.


Q: I have a jade that is fifteen years old that is quite large and still in the same pot. The top is so heavy that it has been sitting on a table leaning on the window for years. The two large stalks are at least 1 1/2 inch in diameter with many healthy leaves on the top. It has now been moved and is leaning on something else, but I’m afraid it is going to break or die. Its look has changed since moving. (E-mail reference)

A: Get a good, sharp pair of pruning shears and cut the plant back to a more normal size.


Q: A friend gave me a few pieces of her jade plant. I placed them in water but now part of the stem has turned brown. Should I cut the stem or just place it in the soil without water? (E-mail reference)

A: Cut off the brown part of the stem and place it in well-drained media. It must be kept moist. It should be rooting for you in six weeks or less.


Q: I recently repotted my jade plant but now have found very little worm-like things in the soil. I repotted another jade at the same time with the same soil and it does not have them. What can I do? (E-mail reference)

A: The worm-like animal most likely came from the old soil still clinging to the roots of one plant and not the other. They could just be feeders of the organic matter in your soil or the larval stage of a root maggot. You can try controlling them with insecticidal soap. Water the plant which usually drives these creatures to the surface and, when they appear, spray them with the soap solution. It kills the soft-bodied insects via desiccation and is not harmful to either you or the plant. You will have to do this several times to get them all. The soap is sold by Safer, a company that specializes in organically approved pest controls, and is available at local garden stores.


Q: I have had this jade plant for a few years. It has always been healthy. Recently the stems began to flop and we noticed some little gnat-type bugs (fruit flies?) flying around the plant. I used an old trick I learned which calls for sprinkling some tobacco from a cigarette on the soil with the idea that the pestiscides should kill whatever bug it is. But after doing some reading, I realized that the problem was probably due to us placing the plant on the floor where it wasn't getting enough light. We put it back up in line with the window. It is still flopping and losing leaves and entire stems. On top of that, I just noticed today that there is some type of mold or fungus growing on top of the soil. It is bright yellow and specked in some spots and more formed in other areas. What can I do to save this plant? (E-mail reference)

A: It is probably too late based on your description. The mold you see on top is a saprophyte that is feeding on organic matter in the potting soil. From what you have told me, I would say that the problem was two fold: too much water and not enough light. Try allowing it to dry out completely and then watering it. That may rescue the plant from it's impending doom. If it does, that will go down as one small miracle in your book of remembrance!


Q: I am writing in regard to my jade plant. I have always loved jade and its unique appearance. My plant is doing just fine but I’m wondering if you have any suggestions on how to encourage the base of the plant to thicken? It is a very full jade and is currently about 6 inches tall. I just repotted it in Shultz cacti potting soil and have been using a light Miracle-Gro mixture along with Osmacote. I believe that the Osmacote is 13-13-13. Is this optimal for jade? Lastly, I have read all of your suggestions on watering but how do I check for appropriate dryness before I water again? (E-mail reference)

A: Stick your thumb or finger into the soil, weigh the plant or get a moisture sensor. If you think it needs water, wait another day. Come up with a method that you can consistently perform to determine the correct time of watering. It sounds like you are over-fertilizing your Jade. It doesn't need the Osmocote. There is usually enough fertilizer in the potting soil to last a few months. The plant should only be fertilized when it is in an active growth phase so it won’t get too leggy and soft. At 6 inches in size, you are a long way away from needing to worry about the thickness of the base of the plant. It will happen naturally as it ages.


Q: I was just reading the question about the jade plant. Mine has air roots also and they definitely are roots growing out of the plant stem. I never thought anything of it since my sheffeliera seems to also have an excessive amount of air roots. Maybe they are both suffocating from not getting dusted! (Aberdeen S.D.)

A: They definitely are roots. If it was your objective to propagate these plants, now would be a good time. They are not suffocating so don't worry, it is just a step in the process of plant growth with these tropical species.


Q: I can be of help to one of your readers who had a question about her aunt's jade plant. The little white strands she described are indeed roots. You will see them occur along the trunk and/or branches of the jade plant, especially when air conditions are humid, or anywhere that the plant's branches touch the soil. I've also seen this occur in other succulents such as a Christmas cactus. It's very easy to take cuttings at these points and start new plants. Sometimes if the roots begin forming, and conditions become too dry, they will dry up and fall off. I don't think treating them with rubbing alcohol would be such a good idea! (E-mail reference)

A: Thank you for your interpretation of the problem. It’s something I didn’t think of! Obviously rubbing alcohol wouldn't be called for in this situation. I just had my head too much into thinking it was a problem. I publish questions and answers to get feedback from readers like you. No one can know everything or have all the right answers. Again, thanks!


Q: I have a blooming pink jade plant that receives sun mostly in the morning. Is that enough sunlight? I do not want to move it for fear of damaging it. I live in an apartment and leave the drapes open in the morning while I’m at work. (E-mail reference)

A: Your jade plant should be as happy as a pig feeding in a corn trough! Leave it there.


Q: In desperation I am seeking help with my giant jade tree. The trunk is approximately 10-12 inches in diameter and is about 5 feet tall. It accidentally got banged and a large branch came off. Usually when a branch has broken in the past it heals but this time it is rotting. I have been cutting off under the rotting part but it continues to deteriorate. The last time I made a cut, I brushed some benomyl on it. Do you think this will help? And do you have any other suggestions? ( Winnipeg, MB)

A: I suggest taking some cuttings and rooting them to perpetuate the plant. Also, you probably should cut the plant back below the bruised area to another lateral branch. It appears the rot is too persistent and virulent to treat.


Q: I recently acquired a mature jade plant and was hoping to shape it up a bit. I read through many of the other questions and found lots of helpful information on care but not too much on pruning. Is there much you can do with a mature jade plant? It’s about one foot high and very bushy. I was hoping to make it look more like a tree and less like a shrub. (E-mail reference)

A: There is no problem with pruning your jade into a tree form. The important thing is the pruning tool. Use either a razor blade or a scalpel type knife so plant tissue is not bruised. Stem any excessive sap flow with activated charcoal. Don't prune more than a third of the branch canopy at one time. Give the plant a few months to recoup in between pruning events. You might want to take some of the cuttings you remove and root them for new plants. Jade roots easily.

Remove a stem or leaf with a razor blade or sharp knife and root in 50/50 sand/peat, keeping the media damp.


Q: I have a 20-year-old jade plant. Sometimes its leaves turn patchy brown and fall off after they shrivel up and become sparkly silver. The silver color does not rub off. Some of the leaves are large while some are very small when it happens. It also has clusters of air roots around the end-tip branches. The air roots are not all smooth and some have little fuzzy growths on the sides. It has been growing in a clay pot for a number of years. The pot appears to have rust on it around the upper outer edge. The pot is eight inches high and 14 inches across. The plant base is softball size and the plant is about two and a half feet tall. Is the pot too small? It is not root bound at this point. I have been root pruning in order to keep the bonzai effect. It was transplanted 18 months ago. There are no parasites visible. Some leaves appear to be pitted, some dry up from the outside edges into the stem and some sprout in odd shapes. The problem started about six years ago but has become worse in the last year to the point where it is no longer gaining in size. The bark is grey except for a few end branches yet it is firm with no signs of softening. (E-mail reference)

A: The symptoms you describe baffle me. You have been successfully growing it for 20 years but now in the last six years these problems gradually appeared. Is this plant in a location where only you have access to it? I ask because you sound like you know what you are doing and obviously have a good track record of successful maintenance. I suspect some minor mischief. Is there anybody that is "bugged" about your bonsai jade? Has anything changed such as temperature, light exposure, fertilization, watering schedule, water source, or anything else that may be affecting the plant? It almost sounds like a minor herbicide problem such as drift from outside, contamination from a container used for watering or seepage into a well water source. I would suggest changing some routines. Start by getting a new container or completely clean the one you have. I recommend new potting soil despite your fastidious care in root pruning to keep the plant from becoming pot-bound. If possible, try and root some of the leaves or healthy, firm stems to perpetuate the plant so you don’t lose the plant if it comes down to that.


Q: I rooted a jade plant for my aunt and it's been growing fine. It's still healthy looking but she says there are little white strands, like roots, growing from the trunk. Do you know what they could be? None of my jade plants ever did this. (E-mail reference)

A: I have never heard of white strands growing out of the trunk. I suspect it could be a scale insect or mealybug infestation. Take a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol and run it along the stem. If the white strands are removed easily, it is an insect problem. Check closely where the leaves attach to the stems, at the base of the petiole, to see if there are any white specks there as well. If there are, then using a Q-Tip dipped in alcohol, do the same thing. This plant will require close monitoring to be sure you have these pests under control.


Q: I have been growing a jade plant for about 10 years. I live in Ontario, so it is outside all summer and does wonderfully, except for some brown spots on the leaves. When I have to bring it in, it drops leaves and looks spindly even with a grow bulb on it. My problem is that instead of one or two strong main stalks it has developed 14 in a 36-inch round pot. The stalks are small in diameter and bend and curl over the edge of the pot. I love the look of a large strong jade with one or two thick stems. Did I prune it improperly while it was growing? (Ontario, Canada)

A: You might have a jade plant with a root rot problem. Check to be certain that isn't the case by knocking the plant out of the container and then use your eyes and nose to detect any rot developing. Whether or not that is the case, take some cuttings and root them for new plants. Keep them in strong indirect light for healthy development of the branching system. Jade plants should be repotted at least every three years, in an African violet type potting soil, watered very little during the winter months and summered outdoors if possible.


Q: I recently moved from a western exposure apartment to an eastern exposure apartment. My old apartment was very well lit and I kept my jade plant close to the window. It thrived in that environment. My current apartment is much darker with not as much sun exposure. I now have steam heat. Recently, all of the bottom leaves on my plant started falling off. The ones near the top seem healthy and I see no signs of mold. Is this normal or should I be concerned? Is there anything I can do to help my plant? (E-mail reference)

A: When a plant is moved from an area of high light intensity to a lower one, it is natural and normal for the older, lower leaves to drop off. It then stabilizes for the new environment that it has been placed in - assuming there is sufficient light to maintain the plant. So, nothing to be concerned about at this point.


Q: I have a jade plant that I got as a cutting from a friend. It has been growing really well and looks healthy but recently some black, raised spots have grown on the leaves. What is it and what can I do to get rid of it? (E-mail reference)

A: Those black spots could be the start of scale insects invading. Take your thumbnail and see if they scrape off with a smear or if they come off dry with a little bit of tissue. If it comes off as a smear, then you have scale insects. If they are confined to just a few leaves, remove them and then monitor your plant carefully after that. If it isn't scale, then it is likely a type of gall that should not be a problem, health-wise, to the plant. Just keep your eye on it to be sure the plant isn't being debilitated.


Q: I have a jade plant with leaves that are shriveled and dropping off. I know that I haven't watered it too much. I have noticed a sparkly coating on the leaves. The leaves that fall off have a crystal-like sparkly substance that comes off on my hand. It was only on one plant, but now it seems to be on my variegated one as well. I sprayed it with pyrethrins but then read that you shouldn't use it on jades. What will it do to my plants? (E-mail reference)

A: I would suggest starting over again with new plant material, as your description isn't too encouraging. I can only guess that the substance that you describe as coming off on your hand is a mold of some kind.


Q: Our 8-week-old golden retriever puppy won't stop eating the leaves off my very old jade plant. Are the leaves poisonous? Is there anything that I might be able to put on the leaves to get our new little biter to stop eating them? (E-mail reference)

A: Jade foliage is not poisonous but I don't recommend it as a steady diet for the pup. You can purchase some already prepped hot pepper spray. Even if you apply if just once, I can guarantee results! It also works to discourage outside nibblers as well.


Q: My jade plant has what looks like spots of mold on it. They are white, powdery, flat, round spots, about a half-inch diameter or smaller. Some have darker, greyish spots in the middle with a white outer ring. They appear on the leaves and where the leaves join the stems. I've looked the plant over for insects but haven't found any. However, I'm not sure what to look for. Could you tell me how to treat the plant and what conditions caused the problem? I don't think I over-water but I have been using a plant food. (E-mail reference)

A: It is unlikely that your jade has mold unless the humidity is very high where the plant is kept. I would then think more in terms of a scale problem. I suggest getting some insecticidal soap and soaking a cloth with it then, with rubber gloves on, wiping the leaves with it to remove whatever it is on the leaf. If the infestation is too extensive to do this, then you need to resort to a systemic insecticide that will take care of the scale problem. But first, take a leaf to a local nursery, florist or your county extension agent to have an accurate diagnosis made and proceed from there.


Q: I’m hoping you can give me some information on how to redirect the growth of my jade plant. It is growing straight up but I want it to have extension/branches on it so it looks attractive. Should I pinch it here and there throughout the plant at the base of a leaf? Will that start new growth? (E-mail reference)

A: You have the right idea, basically. Go ahead and make pruning nips at the tip of the plant, back to a leaf or stem. This will force new lateral growth to develop giving you more of a bushy plant.


Q: I am seeking information on how to save a jade plant that my mother gave me before she passed away. The problem began when I purchased a jade tree. It started to develop little white cotton ball type mold spots at the base of the leaves where they sprout out of the stem. It is slowly consuming the plant. I just recently discovered the same problem on my mother's jade located on the opposite side of the room. At first I thought I had purchased a diseased plant and it had traveled over to my mother’s plant. Now I am beginning to wonder if how I am caring for them is the problem. Any clue as to what this is and if it is treatable? I would hate to loose this plant as I am tied to it for sentimental reasons. (E-mail reference)

A: It sounds like an insect problem, specifically, cottony cushion scale. These are tough characters to control on houseplants, especially when the infestation has progressed to the point you describe. For possible treatment, see if you can find a No-Pest strip. Put the plants in a large plastic trash bag or clean trash can along with the pest strip. Seal up whatever you use for at least 24 hours and follow the directions carefully on the package the strip comes in. This is potent stuff so handle as instructed. To be on the safe side, take cuttings from leaves or branches that are not infested and root them in a sand/peat (50/50) mixture to perpetuate your mom's plant. If you will send me your mailing address, I will forward to you the Home Propagation Techniques booklet.


Q: I was recently asked if jade plants bloom? (E-mail reference)

A: The answer is yes but it happens eventually and sporadically. They are generally known as bold foliage houseplants.


Q: I came across your Web site while looking for information on how to care for jade plants. In your responses to other email questions, you mentioned a circular on propagation. I have eight jade plants (eight, 10-inch-tall single stalks in one rectangular pot) that I turn daily so that they grow straight up. But they are getting too tall and starting to bend. Is there a way to train the growth direction? Does this plant just have one stalk or can it have a bush-like growth? (E-mail reference)

A: You can cut it back and it will branch out for you into more of a shrub form. If you want the Home Propagation Techniques circular, I need an address to send it to.


Q: My friend and I have had our jade plants for about a year or so and they have been growing quite well. Now, for the last few weeks, they have been losing their leaves and the leaves are turning brownish/black and almost sparkly. They haven't been getting adequate light because our dorm room does not allow for it, but we try to give them artificial light whenever we can. I checked the plants for mealybugs and other insects but have not found any. One or two of the leaves turned a shade of brownish/red. Please help! (E-mail reference)

A: I am willing to bet that you are using a weak fluorescent or incandescent light instead of a Gro-Light that mimics light from the sun. If I am incorrect, then it has to do with the watering and/or drainage. If that’s the problem, then repot in a freely draining container with fresh potting soil.


Q: I have a jade that is 25 years old. Its trunk is equivalent to the diameter of a golf ball. It’s about 2 feet high. It has brown patches and leaf drop. What kind of soil do I use for repotting? I can see the root ball on the surface. It’s in an 18-inch container. I'm afraid to transplant it for fear I may kill it. It’s a really nice specimen when its healthy. What type of fertilizer is best? (E-mail reference)

A: The leaf drop is likely coming from a light intensity that is too low. Jade requires a very strong indirect light or filtered sunlight. The soil mix should be either for cacti or succulents. You can also mix it yourself using two parts sphagnum peat moss, one part coarse perlite, and one part coarse sand. Generally, you want to move it up to the next-sized container. It sounds like you have a large enough container for the aerial size of the plant you have described. Consequently, I would suggest some root shaving or pruning accompanied by a corresponding reduction in the aerial portion of the plant. Repot it in the same container, assuming it is a freely draining pot.

During the winter months use very little fertilizer unless active growth is observed. When it is, use a formulation for foliage houseplants such as those marketed by Schultz or other reputable companies. Be sure to follow label directions.


Q: I have a jade plant that my cat knocked over breaking off three or four good-size branches (if that's what you call them) and a lot of leaves. Can I simply stick the branches back in the pot or do I need to make a clean cut. Should I use a new pot? I love this plant and don’t want to throw these pieces out if I can possibly save them. (E-mail reference)

A: Make fresh cuts and plant them in a fresh pot (preferred), leaves included. Most should root for you in about six weeks. Naughty kitty!


Q: I have recently inherited a jade plant from a friend. It was a large plant. My friend cut it down and it has grown back. The soil that it is in has a very strong musty smell. I want to know if I can repot it and how exactly I would go about it. (E-mail reference)

A: Get a good quality potting soil from a local garden supply store or garden center. Knock all of the soil off the roots and clean the pot up with hot, soapy water. Assuming it is a freely draining pot, simply put the plant back in with the potting soil and water it twice. The second time after all the gravitational water has stopped flowing out of the bottom. If it isn't free -flowing, then dump the pot, and get one that is. Make sure the plant is at the same depth it was in the original container and all will be well.


Q: My grandmother has had her jade plant for about 10 years and within the past week or two the leaves have all started falling off. She said that she has not been doing anything different than she usually does. Can you tell me what kind of lighting the plant should have and how much water it needs? I would like more information on how to care for the plant. (E-mail reference)

A: If your grandmother has been successfully growing a jade for 10 years and has not altered anything, then she isn’t the problem. It’s more likely something else like mealy bugs or scale. Tell her to take a look at the leaf axils and see if there is anything that looks like a small fuzzy cotton mass at the point where the leaves attach to the stem. If it’s there then she has mealy bugs. If it isn't present, then have her examine the branches to look for small bumps along the stem, that is the scale insect. Both can cause defoliation and, in most cases, copious amounts of honeydew that is usually more noticeable than the insects. Both are very difficult to control when they start causing visible symptoms such as you describe. Usually the cure ( a potent systemic insecticide) is worse than the problem. She might be better off getting rid of the plant and starting anew. For culture, the jade requires high intensity lighting or full sun. Water normally when the plant is in active growth. During winter, allow the plant to remain on the dry side. If there are no insects present, then something in the plant's environment has changed that is causing leaf drop to occur and needs to be corrected ASAP.


Q: My mom has had a jade plant for around 10 years. It is beautiful and huge. We think it has some sort of fungus. There is a mold type fungus that has been spreading from leaf to leaf. We are not sure where it came from. Can you please help us figure out how to treat it? (E-mail reference)

A: Try to get some of Schultz's Fungicide 3. It is an excellent product from the Neem tree that provides control of fungi spores, insects, and spider mites. It should be available in any major garden supply outlet.


Q: I was reading questions and answers on the jade plant that stated the plant could be propagated by stem or leaves, but I do not know how to do this. I also would like to know about the watering technique. My friend gave me the plant and she has had hers for years. She said she never waters the plant on top of the soil, only from the dish it sits in. But I read that water should never be left in the dish. Please let me know the proper way to water. (E-mail reference)

A: Plants don't know the "rules" that we lay down for them, so when someone breaks the rules and the plants don't die, we "rule-makers" have a problem. What your friend is doing is letting the force of capillarity through cohesion of water molecules do the watering. She is apparently clever enough to time the placing of the water in the saucer and have just the right amount of water taken up by the soil and plant roots so nothing remains in the saucer to cause problems. Since you are a beginner, water from the top until the water appears in the saucer, letting it stand for no more than 30 minutes like that, and dump or aspirate the excess out. Send me your mailing address, and I will send you a copy of my publication "Home Propagation Techniques."


Q: I obtained a jade plant from a friend of mine when he moved out of state. I have had it since August of 2001 and it has done well. I repotted it about six months ago because it needed a better pot. I now have it in a heavy pot. In the last few days it has started leaning almost completely over so I decided it needed to be replanted and added more dirt to make it more stable. When I pulled the plant up, I felt a snap and all I saw at the bottom was a small mushy end. I went ahead and put it into the dirt and stabilized it as much as I could. I have no idea how to repot or anything about plants. I am afraid I might have killed it. This plant means so much to me. Can you please tell me what I need to do to save it? (E-mail reference)

A: The best thing you can do is take some 4-inch cuttings from the plant and root them; individual leaves will also root. I doubt that you can save the entire plant at this stage, but if you saved propagules from the mother plant, that would be the same thing basically. If you will forward me your mailing address, I will send you a circular on home propagation techniques that should help you get some new plants established.


Q: I read with interest your questions on jade plants, but unfortunately did not find the ailment that plagues mine. The plant is old and has thick stems that go from brown to green. They are not in the center of the pot, however, and instead the plant is growing out over the edges. In addition, when I pinch the upper leaves it does not sprout new branches from the bottom up. Rather, branches sprout from the upper parts of the stem, and then grow long and droop. Needless to say it does not look like the healthy thick jades I've seen elsewhere. Am I not pruning it right? What would happen if I cut off a thick portion of the stem? How do I get it bushy in the center of the pot? (E-mail reference)

A: The plant sounds like it isn't getting enough light. Jade plants need strong direct light, even sunlight, in order to be bushy and self-supporting. Try moving it to a sunnier location to see if that improves the lot of the plant, and take some cuttings to root, to build a new plant that you find appealing.


Q: I have a jade plant that I purchased last December. It has grown quite a bit since then and has already been transplanted once. The plant is healthy and seems happy in its current location. However, due to all of its growth, it is looking "leggy" and unkempt. Is it possible to prune a jade? I have seen older jade plants that have beautiful branches and appear to have been pruned or shaped in some way. Can you please tell me how to proceed with this plant? (E-mail reference)

A: Floppy jade plants are usually an indication that the plants are not getting enough direct light.

Yes, they can be pruned. and some people are successful in creating interesting looking plants by taking PVC coated copper wire and carefully twisting it around the branches to get them to grow the way they want. This would require careful monitoring on your part to make sure that the wire did not girdle the branches you are trying to shape. Since they root easily, I suggest taking the cuttings that you remove and rooting them into new plants. Younger ones are easier to work with.


Q: I inherited two jade plants. They both seem to be very healthy, happy plants. I do not want to do anything to ruin their lives. One of them seems to be a bit large for its pot, meaning it leans a lot. Should it be repotted? Is it true that I don't have to water these plants very often? Once a month or twice a month? (E-mail reference)

A: Jade care is as follows: 1. Adequate bright light, with some direct sunlight. Too little will cause them to become spindly and flop over. 2. Keep them cool during winter, 55 degrees or lower to 45 degrees. Summer temperatures are OK as they occur. 3. Water to soak the root container during the active growth period of summer, and allow two thirds of the root ball to dry completely before rewatering. During winter rest period, water only enough to keep the root ball from completely drying. 4. Fertilizer should be applied, diluted, every two weeks during the period of active growth. 5. Repot every two years into the next larger sized container. 6. Propagation is by individual leaves or from 2-3 inch long stem cuttings. I hope this helps you keep your Jade plants healthy and you happy!


Q: I have a jade plant I repotted and it has exponentially developed white gooey junk around all of the nodes and at the base of the plant. I sprayed all the junk off with a water bottle and will try the alcohol method at the base of the plant. First question, should I use isopropyl alcohol and will the alcohol harm the plant? Second, can this fungus/parasite come into contact with humans, i.e., like live on your eyelashes and cause them to fall out? Silly question I know, but I live in an apartment and there's not much ventilation except through the wall air conditioning units. I can't figure out where the fungus came from and how to get it out of my apartment. (Minneapolis, Minn.)

A: Not to worry. If plant fungi were to attack human hair, I would be totally bald, beardless, and have no eyelashes! I have a pretty full head of hair, a full beard, and normal eyelashes. The isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol will not hurt the plant, just the fungus. Fungal spores are air borne and can travel through air conditioner openings and are usually non-active until they reach an environment that suits their development. That is apparently what has happened in your situation. Good luck - keep up the fight!


Q: A jade plant that I've had for over 10 years is in trouble. Since I repotted the plant last winter it has been losing leaves. The leaves are dropping from the bottom up. Some of the leaves are getting a dark brown splotchiness in the center of the leaves and around the edges. (The dark brown has happened more recently, and these aren't the leaves that are dropping. ) I have read that leaf drop can be the result of underwatering. I have increased my watering this past month. I let the soil get dry to the first knuckle, then water. I never let water sit in the dish. The pot also has a white powder on the outside. I have heard this is normal and not harmful. The stems are strong and in good shape. Please help! This plant is very dear to me. (E-mail reference)

A: Something obviously has changed in the plant's environment. Jade has a fairly high light requirement, with a range going from as low as 150 foot candles to as high as 500 foot candles. Usually, leaf drop is associated with lower than optimum light intensity to sustain the plant. If possible, check this out, and add a direct light source that has phyto-sensitive range for plant growth. Too much heat and underwatering - as you surmised - may also cause the same problem.

Second, the white powder on the side of the plant is an indication of a salt build-up problem. But since you've recently transplanted, that should not be the cause of your symptoms right now. Finally, look carefully at the leaf and branch axils (where they attach to the stem). Mealybugs are notorious pests and could be contributing to the decline of plant quality. They can be easily controlled by dipping a cotton swab (Q-tip) into rubbing alcohol then swabbing it onto the pest.

Finally, as Jade is a succulent, adjust your watering schedule to meet the needs of the plant - low requirements for water in winter; more in summer when active growth is taking place but always allowing it to dry between waterings.


Q: Can you give me instructions on how to take care of a jade plant, such as how much water and sun light is needed, if any fertilizer is needed and any other advice you can give me. I have always wanted a plant like this because they are such a great looking plant. (E-mail reference)

A: The jade is a relatively easy plant to grow. Give it plenty of light - even direct sunlight - fertilize lightly monthly, water when the surface of the soil gets dry (never overwater a succulent!), root new ones from either leaf or branch tip cuttings.


Q: I have a fairly large jade plant that has been in the same location(lots of light) for two years now. Lots of the leaves have been shriveling, turning yellow, and falling off. I don't think I over water. The main stems seem healthy. Some are over an inch thick--maybe more. I repotted it about 18 months ago. I never have fertilized it much. Should I start? It is much thinner than it was, and I am most concerned. I have many babies from this plant, but want to save this one! (E-mail reference)

A: It should be fertilized monthly using fertilizer for cacti and succulents. Water only when the surface is dry, and even less in the winter. Don't let water stand in the saucer after watering the plant.


Q: I have mealy bugs on my jade plant. How do I get rid of them? (E-mail reference)

A: Take a cotton swab, dip it in rubbing alcohol, and rub the little suckers off! Swab the entire area where they were housed with the alcohol. That should take care of both the parents and their offspring.


Q: I have had a jade plant since I was 16 years old. I am now 41. The plant is huge and beautiful. About seven years ago, much to my surprise, it bloomed. It was more white than green! I have been unable to produce any blooms since. I had another jade plant in the house at the time. Did one pollinating the other cause my original plant to bloom? Is there any product to buy that will pollinate the plant into bloom? A friend told me only female plants will bloom. I thought at the time this was ridiculous, but since no blooms have appeared since, I am beginning to wonder about this possibility. Is there anything I can do to produce blooming again, such as placing the plant in darkness for awhile?

A: The only thing that will make the jade flower again is brighter indirect light, festooned with some direct sunshine through a sheer curtain. That along with the fantastic care you have been giving it all these years should get it in flower again in nine to12 months.


Q: I am trying to propagate a jade plant. I let the branch air for a week or so, till it crumpled over the stem where I cut it. I planted it in dirt, where it’s been for about two weeks. I noticed it was leaning to one side, and while trying to right it I pulled it out of the dirt and noticed how mushy the stem was in the dirt. What should I do? I don't want to lose my nice branch cutting. (E-mail reference)

A: I would suggest making a fresh cut--diagonally and this time place it in a 50/50 sand/peat mixture. Keep the mixture moist but not wet, allowing the top inch to dry between waterings. Keep the plant in diffused light, in a warm room, giving it liquid fertilizer (such as Schultz's) once a month. In about three months it should be rooted. If this one bites the dust, try again in the spring.


Q: I am a new jade plant owner, but I have this funny superstition about jade plants. My mother always gave them as gifts for people who moved into a new home or apartment. She always said that they will bring good luck. So of course my mother got one for me and I feel as though it's dying or sick or something. It's a medium size plant, approximately a year old (I think), and just looks yucky. I'm constantly picking the fallen leaves up from the floor, and they're tiny. The leaves are not the big, juicy green jade plant leaves that I know. The stems fall off too, and it doesn't seem "strong" to me. I water the thing once per week but was told that they don't need much water so I compromise and use very little water. It really bothers me that I seem to have trouble with this jade plant, as according to my mother, it is supposed to be bringing me luck.

Any advice would be most appreciated. (E-mail reference)

A: From what you have told me, it sounds like your luck may have run out on the current jade plant. I suggest (without telling your mom!) that you acquire another one and treat it in the following manner: Locate it where it will get bright light most of the day (some sunlight is ok).

During the active growth period, keep it in a warm location. In winter, place it where the temperature will not get appreciably above 55 degrees F. Water it on a regular basis during this active growth period, enough to wet the soil mass completely, then allow about two-thirds of the upper soil mass to dry out before watering again. In winter, water requirements are less and watering is needed to keep the soil mix from drying out completely. Fertilize with a standard houseplant fertilizer every other week during this active period; not at all during the winter rest period. If you are attached to this plant irrevocably, then you might find the plumpest leaf and sever it from the parent to propagate. Insert the stem end into a mix of sand/potting soil (50/50).


Q: I have a jade in my office window, which faces toward the west. It gets sun from about 11:30 or so on, all year round. There are three branches coming out of the soil. Two are about 1 inch, one is about three quarters of an inch. The smallest and one of the others have leaves that are wrinkling and shriveling, looking like your hands after they are in water too long. The leaves are thin and soft. However, the new growth on those branches seem fine. The dirt is pretty dry right now, probably about ready to be watered again. It's a 7-inch pot or so, total about 16 inches tall. Might it need to be repotted? (E-mail reference, McLean, Va.)

A: On the surface, it sounds like you are doing everything alright for the jade plant, with adequate sunlight and keeping it on the dry side. If it has been more than a year since the last repotting, then it may need it. You didn't mention your fertilization schedule. It should get a dilute fertilization every month, using something like Schulz's House Plant Fertilizer. I don't know what the story would be with those thin, wrinkled leaves - sorry!


Q: We recently obtained a 5-inch potted jade plant (Crassula argentea). It appears healthy; in fact all five branches are sprouting a pair of new growths. If we remove these will we encourage the plant to become more bushy with "sprouts" in the lower areas as we wish ? (E-mail reference)

A: Yes. You want to perform what is known as "pinching," taking the thumb nail and forefinger and removing a portion of the new growth back to a leaf axis.


Q: I'm not much of a gardener, but I am curious about the red edges on my jade leaf. Does that mean it's getting too much light? (E-mail reference)

A: It could be the beginning signs of poor drainage, keeping the soil too wet, or a salt build-up in the root zone.


Q: We had a gorgeous jade plant that was a picture of health since we got it in spring of 2000. We went to Mexico in January and February, leaving the plant in our family room, not in very good light. It was watered three or four times while we were away, but on our return we noticed that the back side (darkest) had deteriorated badly with leaves and branches softening and falling. We read your questions on jade plants and comparing symptoms, figure the plant possibly developed root rot. Is there any solution that could save this plant? (E-mail reference, Toronto, Canada)

A: From your description, it sounds like there is a chance you may be able to save the plant. I suggest the following action, as doing nothing at this time will not improve things: Repot, using a soil based mix along with about one part coarse sand or perlite. At that time, examine the root system and prune out anything that is obviously infected or rotted. Move it into the next nominal sized pot -- from a 6-inch pot to a 7- or 8-inch size, for example. It could be your jade got too warm while you were away. They like it cool–below 55 degrees F -- and on the dry side. If it was watered only three or four times in your two-month absence, that shouldn't have been enough to cause over-watering problems. I suspect that it could be due to the lower light that it was placed in. The good news is that your jade should recover and show signs of improvement as spring arrives. Summering it outdoors wouldn't be a bad idea either.


Q: I have had several jade plants for approximately 10 years. Over the years they have been both in my home and in my mother's school classroom. They have grown beautifully! Over the last six to eight months, however, something has drastically changed. Initially, late last summer, the problem was all on the leaves. They appeared to have a whitish coating. I visited a local florist who recommended that I put all the plants outside and let them get fresh air. They were outside for probably two months and during that time the area that had the whitish coating tuned brown. Then it got colder and I brought them inside. Over this winter I have sadly watched the leaves fall off my previously lush healthy jade plants and they are now skeletons of what they used to be. Further, there appears to be a mold growing in the soil, which I can only equate to looking like cookie crumbs. And, the stalks seem kind of rubbery. I once again contacted a local florist who suggested that I repot them with a cactus soil, use systemic houseplant insect control and only water them every two weeks. I did, around 6 weeks ago, and crossed my fingers. As you can probably guess, the problems still exist. The leaves (which are thin and spotted with brown) are all over the floor and the soil again has the mold, fungus, or whatever it is. (E-mail reference, Chicago, Ill.)

A: The whitish coating was probably powdery mildew. The other problem could be scale causing the plant to defoliate. They usually take up residence on the underside of the leaves feeding along the veins. Many people describe them as small "bumps" on the foliage. What you are describing at the end sounds like a combination of a saprophytic mold in the soil and a parasitic fungus known as grey mold. At this stage of the game, I suggest attempting to propagate from either leaf or stem cuttings wherever the plant appears healthiest. Once they get to the stage you describe, it is very difficult if not impossible to get them back to their old form again. If you would send me your complete address, I would be happy to send you some propagation information and information on the care of jade plants. Nothing against your florist friend, but I don't think you were given complete information on the care of this plant.


Q: I have an old jade plant. Some branches get weak then break off; some other branches seem to be shriveling up and dying. This also happened to a transplant of this same plant. Is there something I can do to save it? (E-mail reference)

A: Generally Jade plants suffer from too little light and too much water at this time of year. It sounds like your plant is slowly dying from root rot. I suggest taking some healthy leaves off and rooting them before the entire plant is gone.


Q: I had a Jade plant but threw it out, and now I'm wondering if could I have saved it somehow. Could it have been saved by using some good stems from new plants? (Bruce, S.D.)

A: The Jade can be rooted easily via leaf or stem cuttings if kept in a warm room with filtered sunlight. Refer to the Extension publication "Home Propagation Techniques" (NCR-274) for your future propagation projects.


Q: In the east window of my living room is a very large jade plant which has grown from a small slip to it present size. Recently many of its "leaves" have begun to turn splotchy black on the under side, while others have become shriveled and fall off. New growth is apparent on the tips of each branch. Some I pinch off to encourage a fuller plant, while some I leave to allow for a longer stem in the event I might wish to propagate the plant.

I was advised that my plant is suffering from root rot and should be destroyed, as it will eventually destroy itself. Would you recommend this course of action or would you have a suggestion as to what else might be causing leaf drop? If my plant is terminal, could I still use some of the stems for new plants? (Fargo, N.D.)

A: The symptoms you describe could be due to root rot or a bacterial infection.


Q: This is to pass on information about a jade plant I have had for about six years. It is blooming! It has three clusters of pale pink flowers shaped like stars that have bloomed since November and are only now starting to wilt. Very pretty!

I checked my plant book and it said jade plants in a house will never bloom. Mother Nature has been fooled by this jade plant, perhaps because it has sat in the same southern exposure spot for three years. I water it once every two weeks and talk to it once in awhile, thanking it for being such a nice plant. I found this quite interesting and thought I would share it with you. (West Fargo, N.D.)

A: A very interesting and exciting bit of horticulture info! You've obviously found the perfect technique and location to fool Mother Nature! Nice going!


Q. I have a variegated Jade plant that is dropping small branches, and the new plants that are growing in the pot are rotting from the bottom up. It was repotted last spring and I would like to know what is wrong with it? (Tappen, N.D.)

A. Jade (Crassula spp.) are fussy about their winter temperatures. Yours is likely suffering from temperatures being too high this winter. They thrive at 50 to 55F temperatures during winter months, which would be too cold for most other indoor plants.

Most likely, you are over-watering the plants during this dormant season as well. They should be allowed to dry completely between waterings. Jade can be rooted from individual leaves or stem cuttings in a sandy potting mixture where they can receive filtered or dappled light.


Q. What is wrong with my Jade plant? (Moorhead, Minn.)

A. I had our plant pathologist in the plant diagnostic lab run a culture on your Jade leaves. She could not isolate any pathogens from the sample.

I suggest that the problem is abioticrelated to environment, watering, fertilizing, etc. Perhaps a simple repotting will solve it.


Q: Why won’t my Jade plant grow? What would be the best conditions to keep my jade plant in so that it will grow? It's about 5 inches tall. I got it from a branch of my grandpa’s about three months ago and it sprouted about six new petals since then. Is that normal growth? I had it outside for that three months (I live in northern Indiana). My soil is pretty moist and has been for the last week, but it just won’t get dry. I know that they are "dry soil" plants, so could this have an effect, or am I just plain impatient? (E-mail reference)

A: I vote for impatience. Slow growth is better than fast as far as houseplants go. I assure you, in about 10 years you will be giving away slips and writing to me or another horticulturist asking what you can do with the oversized plant that is driving you out of your room. It is one of these plants that, as it gets bigger little by little, it tends to grow faster. The jade grows best when the soil is kept uniformly moist, but not wet.


Q: My Jade plant has grown extremely well in the kitchen window. My problem is that one side has grown more than the other even though I turn the plant. I would like to trim the larger side as the plant will fall over pot and all if not supported. How do I do this without causing harm to the plant? (E-mail reference)

A: No problem at all with pruning the jade plant - likely the Crassula argentea. Simply prune it as you would any shrub that has started to go out of bounds. Use a sharp, clean pruner and cut back to a lateral branch or one of the main stems. Don't be concerned with any sap flow. Allow your prunings to "cure" overnight and use them to propagate new jades.


Q: I have a beautiful jade plant that is apparently suffering from powdery mildew, which I understand is rare in living room jade plants. How can I eliminate it? Is there a spray on the market to treat this? (E-mail reference)

A: Rare indeed. Remove any badly mildewed leaves and lightly dust the rest of the plant with powdered sulfur. Set up a fan, or do something to improve ventilation around the plant. It should be no problem once the furnaces start to run for the winter, drying the interior air.


Back to Houseplants Menu
Back to the Hortiscope Table of Contents