Pruning and repotting Jade plants

I was given a cutting from a Jade plant about 10 or 11 years ago, it was tiny, maybe a couple of inches tall and I did what most of us do and stuck it on a windowsill and forgot about it. Watered it occasionally, when I remembered.

This was back before I got excited about plants, before my first Peace Lilly adventure got me hooked. So the Jade just existed, in the background.

Thing is, it was clearly very happy, it grew, and kept growing and at one point about 7 years ago I knocked a branch off while I was dusting, so I stuck that in another pot and it just grew. They both got to a decent size.

Then when Kate and I moved into Ar Bruidair, the Jades got a new home. We call it Narnia because to get there, you have to climb through the built in wardrobe, but it’s directly under a window, the plants loved it there and became HUGE.

Narnia, through the wardrobe but under a roof light, early days in their new home.

Not only huge but unmanagable. We were struggling to get the door open to water them and they had started to wilt, so we had to bring them out of Narnia and find a new home. This was an impressive feat. It took two of us and a lot of manouvering.

Ten year old plant, three feet wide and four and a half feet high

This led to a small (not so small) complication, now that they were accessible, I watered them too much. Oops, Jade plants are succulents and don’t like to have wet roots. I realised something was wrong as one of them started dropping its leaves, a lot. Every day there was a good handful of leaves, which overwise looked really healthy, on the floor around the plant. Also anytime you touched or knocked the plant leaves would drop.

I also noticed a lot of leaves were withering.

Panic set in. These plants are gorgeous and I didn’t want to lose them after 10 years.

So for the last couple of weeks, I have been researching Jade plant care and how to help my plants. I won’t lie, I’ve been obsessing.

Nutrition

I had been noticing that the plant was putting out new roots from some of the branches for a while now, I had assumed this was normal as I know the plants propagate VERY easily from leaves etc which fall onto the soil, however it turned out this was the first sign of trouble. The plant was trying to find new soil as it needed nutrients. It had after all been in the same pot and soil for at least 6 years.

Next the leaves falling off and withering, well there are a few things which could be the culprit here. Mealy bugs are common on Jade plants, and can cause damage that sees leaves or stems fall. I checked and luckily I don’t have any.

Sunlight

Lack of sunlight, this one I think is an issue. When we moved the plants, I moved the biggest one into my study which is quite a dull room with filters on the windows to help me when I am studying. The problems all started when we moved the plants so I think this is a culprit. Researching this I found that Jade plants need A LOT of light.

The light in the room doesn’t travel much further than the window sill and only last a few hours a day. (We were in the process of decorating when this pic was taken, hence the unfinished frames.)

Also, when Jade plants are happy and getting enough light, the leaves have a red tinge on the ends. When the plants were in Narnia, they had the most vibrant red tinge, they don’t any more. 🙁

Overwatering

Lastly, I mentioned the overwatering. Because the plant was now beside me, and because I had worried when it wilted, I began watering, a lot. A couple of weeks after the plant move, the study developed an awful smell of damp, and we worried, we thought we had a leak.

Turned out no, the pot was full of water and couldn’t drain fast enough to keep up with me watering, the plant was basically sitting in a bog. Not good, Jade plants HATE wet roots.

Checking the roots for rot

So this weekend I had a scary new adventure, time to put all my newly learned knowledge into action. I knew I was going to have to take the plant out of the pot, get rid of all the soil and check the roots for rot since they had been sitting in a bog for months. I was terrified of what I was going to find, what if all the roots have been badly damaged, was I going to loose my plant?

Also, I can’t even lift the plant as it’s so large… it took two of us. Again.

You can see how unweildy it had become

But good news, the roots were almost all fine, the soil was still very wet, but luckily we had discovered the bog in time and stopped watering and let it dry (somewhat). There was still enough healthy root mass, yipee!

The root ball is quite small but healthy.

Once I had very happily confirmed there was no lasting damage to the majority of the plants roots, I potted it up into a new pot with new soil.

Soil

The soil is important, you need very free draining soil, preferably cactus mix, but you can make your own if you can’t find this in your local gardening centre.

My recipe for succulent soil

  • 3 parts soil
  • 2 parts course sand
  • 1 part perlite

So now in a new pot (slightly smaller) and with new soil to give the plant the nutrients it has been begging for, it was time to think about pruning to make it more manageable.

Pruning

You don’t have to prune Jade plants, they will grow happily without, but the biggest plant had just become so big that we were struggling to find places in the house where it could live, so I decided a bit of pruning was in order. I was, however, terrified I’d trash my plant.

When you prune your Jade, the branch, where you have cut, will now sprout two branches, so remembering this, have a think about how this will shape your plant in the long run. Take long, “leggy” branches down to a make them fill out. I also decided to take away all the drooping branches to make the plant more upright and to allow light and air into the plant by thinning some of the crisscrossing branches throughout the centre.

Newly pruned and repotted Jade plant

Don’t throw away those cuttings though, let them dry out for a week and then pot them in some soil (see soil above). Don’t water them, leave it dry for a couple of weeks and new roots will form and you have a new Jade plant.

I got 15 cuttings from this one plant. Guess what EVERYONE is getting for christmas next year?

Jade plant cuttings

Before and after

I have also moved the plant nearer to the window, I will be keeping an eye on things from now on.

Moved the Jade to the window, now that it fits.

An update on my jade plants

It’s been a few months now since I repotted my plants. Did I save them?

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