Jade Plant Root Rot (Signs, Causes and Step by Step Treatment)


Jade Plants have thick fleshy roots similar to their fleshy stems and leaves that we see growing above ground. These roots are prone to rotting if you do not follow correct watering procedures. 

While it is most often overwatering that causes this problem, underwatering can lead to very similar symptoms. When healthy, these plants make wonderful house plants, but they will succumb quickly if root rot becomes established. 

The application of copper fungicide is an effective way of saving the plant from root rot. In severe cases trim off the rotten parts and repot into a new pot and soil mix. Ensure a free draining environment and only water when necessary, you will easily be able to avoid this threat to your Jade Plant.

In the article, we will look at the signs and symptoms to watch out for, as well as investigate some easy techniques to alleviate the problem and restore your plant to full vigor.

Jade Plant Root Rot Symptoms

 Jade Plant roots and stems showing root rot symptoms.

When root rot becomes established, the first sign the jade plant owner sees are generally those that exhibit themselves in the leaves and stems. 

A healthy Jade Plant has fleshy leaves and stems that feel firm when gently squeezed. The leaves should also have a healthy green color and the stems should remain upright and erect.

  • If the leaves become soft and start dropping off, then you may have a problem. 
  • once the root rot becomes more advanced, the leaves will wrinkle, become an insipid yellow color, and feel squidgy when squeezed. 
  • In severe cases, the stems too, will wrinkle and begin to sag. The soil should never feel soggy as this plant hates to have its feet wet and root rot will quickly follow if it does.

If your plant is demonstrating these symptoms then it is time to do a quick root ball inspection. This is the definitive test of whether it is root rot that is causing the symptoms or not.

Tap the plant out of its pot and examine the root ball thoroughly. Healthy roots are firm and white. 

Roots that are rotting become brown and have a slimy coating to them which is a sure-fire sign that root rot is the culprit behind your plant’s unhappy demeanor. Very often, as you tip the plant from its pot you will notice a damp, swampy smell.

Causes of Jade Plant Root Rot

Overwatering 

Here we come to the number one cause of root rot. With the best of intentions, some gardeners water their plants excessively under the assumption that more water will provide a healthier and faster-growing plant. 

When this plant’s roots become waterlogged, they cease to function properly. They are unable to supply the plant with the nutrients they need or carry oxygen around the plant, and rotting soon starts to take place. 

What is happening is that the plant is both suffocating and starving because the roots are no longer able to adequately perform their function.

Solution

Allow your jade plant to dry out completely between each watering. You can test this by feeling whether the surface of the soil is dry or not, but you will also need to ensure that the soil below the surface is not still damp. 

The easiest way to do this is to poke your finger into the potting soil to a depth of one or two inches. Only when the soil is dry to that depth, is it time to water your plant.

Soak the soil thoroughly by applying water to the surface. Allow this water to drain through the soil completely and then do not water again until the soil is dry once more. 

To assess this, you will need to regularly use the touch method I have just mentioned. It is that habit of regular testing of the soil that will ensure that you get your watering technique correct.

It may sound strange, but you don’t want to get into an exact schedule for watering your plant. 

Allow frequent use of the touch method to determine when you should water, rather than a rigid time schedule. 

This is because evaporation rates will vary in response to the ambient temperature, the size of your plant, and central heating in the home.

Although a schedule may sound more trustworthy, it is that methodical probing of the soil with your finger that will lead to the most accuracy.

It should be noted that when a Jade Plant becomes too dry, the leaves can shrink and wrinkle before dropping off. This appears very similar to the signs of overwatering.

The difference is that overwatered leaves become soft and mushy first. The other sign that will make the difference obvious will be the state of the soil. Overwatering is almost always accompanied by soggy soil.

Poor Drainage

Waterlogging of your Jade Plant may not be simply because you have become a little overgenerous with your watering. 

That potting soil needs to be able to drain rapidly or waterlogging will occur. The most obvious point of poor drainage is the container in which your plant is growing.

Whatever container you opt for, there must be sufficient drainage holes in the base for the water to escape freely. 

Solution

As a rough rule, the drainage hole should be at least large enough for you to thrust your finger into. In the case of larger plants, there should be several holes of this size.

If the pot is standing in a draining saucer, that will delay the water’s escape from the pot once it becomes full. 

Let the water drain after watering and only then place it in its saucer which should remain dry.

Poorly Draining Soil

Not all soils are created equal. Most potting mixes are designed to retain water for as long a period as possible. 

That makes them ideal for most houseplants, but far from ideal in the case of succulents. Jade plants are succulents, and as such, they require a very free-draining soil.

While the normal potting mix will provide a component of your Jade Plant’s potting medium, you will need to include other ingredients to ensure that water flows away and is not retained long enough for rot to set in. 

Solution

At your local garden center, you will be able to purchase potting soils that are mixed expressly for cacti and other succulents. These offer the enhanced drainage properties you are looking for when planting your Jade Plant. 

If you are unable to purchase one of these products, don’t panic. You can easily make something similar by mixing three parts of ordinary potting soil with two parts of coarse sand or grit, and one part of perlite. 

It will drain perfectly adequately and these products are normally easy to come by at garden centers.

Pathogenic Infection

These are infections that are usually carried via the soil to the roots of your jade plant and they quickly lead to root rot and other plant diseases. 

Here, practicing good garden hygiene is your best means of defense. Avoid the temptation to reuse potting soil from another pot or plant. Instead, always use new, sterilized potting soil.

It can be very tempting when repotting, to save some of the potting soil and use it for planting up another plant. 

The soil looks and feels perfectly healthy, but it can also harbor pathogens that can prove lethal but which are invisible to the naked eye. 

Likewise, these pathogens can live on the edges of your empty pots. That is not to suggest that you should throw away your precious pots each time you pot on a plant. 

All that it requires is that you should make sure that the pot is thoroughly clean before putting another plant into it.

A quick wash in a bucket of water containing a cap full of bleach should do the trick.

Bacterial Soft Rot

This is a catch all name for a group of diseases that affects many different plants, and unfortunately, that includes your Jade Plant. 

Symptoms start off as watery spots on the leaves similar to blisters. These then go on to become soft and mushy and so it is quite easy to confuse with root rot.

Like root rot, this problem is exacerbated by wet and soggy soil, though its causes differ. The bacteria usually enters the plant through some sort of wound. 

This could be the hole left by a sap sucking insect, right through to wind damaged branches or injuries caused to the roots by a careless gardener.

Solution

Regrettably, there is no cure for this problem and if you ascertain that your plant has it, then you are better off destroying the whole plant before it can infect other plants in your collection. 

When disposing of infected plants, don’t add them to your compost heap as this could later spread the disease. 

Burning is regarded as the best option, but place plants in the garbage if that is not possible. 

Pot size

Here is one that people don’t often take into consideration when thinking about the health of their plants.

You are happily cruising around the shelves of your local garden center when you suddenly stumble upon the most delightful pot and you know that you simply must have it.

The next thing, you are back at home, pot in hand, deciding which plant will look best in your newest acquisition. 

Bad move. Planting a plant into a pot of the incorrect size can influence the health of your jade from two directions.       

If you move your plant to a pot that is too big for it, the surrounding potting mix will absorb too much water and will not drain quickly enough. This in turn, will provide a classic environment for root rot to establish itself. 

Alternatively, if you shoehorn your plant into a pot that is too small for it, the roots will become so compacted by the tight-fitting pot that there will not be enough space surrounding the roots for air to move freely. 

Those compacted roots will be unable to supply the needs of the plant. You will end up with symptoms very similar to those of root rot because both problems ultimately result in a sort of starvation effect.

Solution

Ideally, you replant your jade plant when it is just starting to become pot bound. This is when the roots have filled the pot and one sure fire symptom of this is that some of the roots will start to pop out through the drainage holes. 

Tip the plant out of the pot and if you see the roots starting to circle around the edges of the pot, then it is time to pot on to the next pot size up, not bigger. This is best done in the spring, just as the main growth period starts.

Some plants can remain in the same pots for years but most plants, including your Jade Plant, will benefit from being repotted every year to eighteen months. 

Always use a pot one size up and use a fresh potting mix of the sort we have already discussed. 

Low Temperature

Temperature is always something to be aware of with this plant. In terms of root rot, the cooler months will see a noticeable reduction in the time that it takes for evaporation to occur. 

The soil will remain moist for much longer than it might in the summer months. This is one of the reasons that I prefer feeling the soil to relying on a fixed watering schedule. 

Solution

In the winter months when the plant is dormant, you will be watering jade plants far less often. It is succulent and it is able to withstand long periods without water.

So make sure that potting soil is well and truly dry between each watering. The dormancy that the plant goes through during this time is perfectly normal.

The plant is not frost hardy and should not be allowed to go below 55°F (13°C) in the winter months. 

In the summer, it is happiest at temperatures of between 65 and 75°F (18 and 34°C). 

If you live in a very cold region make sure your plant is not standing against a window which will see dramatic temperature drops.

Lighting

Lighting may not seem an issue that bears much of a relationship to jade plant root rot. The fact of the matter is that, the healthier a plant is, the better it is able to withstand adverse conditions of any kind. 

If you are managing your watering technique correctly, and the plant is growing in a temperature range in which it is happy, the other health factor that will come into play will be correct lighting. 

There are several different theories about this and I have a number of these plants so here is my take on the subject. 

These plants can take quite bright light and even direct light for short periods. They will also manage with slightly less light such as that that one might expect on an east facing windowsill. 

Where gardeners come unstuck is when they try to change the lighting conditions too quickly. 

Solution

It is perfectly possible to grow jade plants indoors during the cooler months and then place it outdoors when the warmer weather arrives. 

If you make this change too quickly however, your plant will hate you and begin to sulk and drop leaves. 

Although tolerant of different light conditions, introduce change slowly if you decide to move it. 

Ideally, your plant will be happiest if it is kept in a bright situation and simply given a quarter turn every month or so to keep growth even.

How to Treat Jade Plant Root Rot

If you can detect the damage intensity of the root system of your jade plant, then it is possible to say whether you can save your plant or not.

Root rot due to overwater watering does not mean that you will not be able to save your favorite jade plant.

Now, you need to act quickly and take remedial measures. It is so important that a few hours can make a difference. It’s like an emergency case for your jade plant as soon as you find out.

If you can detect the problem at an early stage, following the symptoms I describe then it will be easier to save your plant. Sometimes the rot spread up to the stems. Then it becomes difficult to revive the plant.

No worries, I’ll walk you through both situations and action measures you can possibly take.

Rot Restricted to Roots

This situation is hard to find out because you will see the external symptoms when the damage is already done. 

So, if you suspect that you have overwatered your jade plant then you should check the root system by taking it out of the pot.

Now, you have found brown and mushy roots emitting a foul smell, then you found what you should be fearful of. Still, you have time to save your jade plant from dying. 

Follow this step by step process to save your jade plant: 

Remove The Plant From Its Pot

At first, do not try to pull out the form of its pot, you may cause damage to the plant. As you have overwatered the jade plant, it should be easier to remove from the pot. 

Hold the plant base and flip the entire pot upside down. You can tap the pot to make the process easier. Of course, you can take the help of your friend or family member if the pot size is big. 

Now, your jade plant is out of the pot, it’s time to inspect the root system. Try loosening the roots and check out the roots carefully. Healthy roots are white in color and feel firm.

Clean off The Roots and Dry

At this point, you have to clean off the dirt around the roots and then dry off the plant. Loosen the soil around the roots and try to take them off as much as you can.

Next, rinse the root ball under tap water to clean off the rest of the soil. After cleaning off you have to let it dry for 1-2 days. Use tissue paper or a towel to squeeze out the water from the roots. 

Keep it in a well-ventilated area where it can dry quickly. Do not use any heat source of the dryer to dry it off, it will do more harm than good.

You may be thinking to repot the jade plant immediately but it will make the situation worse. Jade plants can take 1-2 days delay before repotting. 

Trim off the Infected Parts

Next, check the whole plant and root system. Cut off the yellowing mushy leaves, they are not going to recover. 

Now, find out the brown-colored roots which are soft and mushy. You don’t want them to keep there, trim them off using a sterilized and clean garden scissor. You have to make sure you have got rid of all the rotten root parts.

Root Treatment with Fungicide

You should treat the root ball with a fungicide solution.  This step is important to make sure your jade plant roots do not have any fungal agents. Otherwise, all your efforts will be in vain.

I found Liquid Copper Fungicide works great for this purpose. Check out the latest price on Amazon. 

Make sure you read the instructions and take proper precautions before using the fungicide. The process is very easy, just make the solution and dip the whole roots into it, you are done. 

Prepare Soil Mix And Pot

You can Prepare your own soil mix or use a ready-made potting mix for succulents. This time make sure your soil mix is capable of draining the excess water successfully.

I recommend mixing 50% of other materials like coarse sand, perlite, coco coir, etc.  This mix should reduce the risk of overwatering the soil draining out the excess water. 

When you are dealing with the overwatered jade plant, you should not use the old soil and even the old pot.

Because soil and the pot are already infected with fungal pathogens. Even if you want to use the old ones you have to disinfect them before using them again.

You can use boiling water to disinfect both pot and the soil. Also, drying soil in the oven is another way of disinfecting soil from any kind of pathogens. But using fresh new soil and pot is the best way to go. 

Repot

Here comes the last and most important steps of saving your plant. Your soil mix and pot are ready, now fill 1/3rd of the pot with the soil mix you prepared or purchased.  Then place your jade plant and fill the rest of the spaces.

You have to keep in mind that the pot should be big enough to support the root system. Another important thing is to have drainage holes at the bottom. You must ensure the functioning drainage hole for your jade plant.

At this point, you may be tempted to water the newly potted plant but don’t. Do not do anything for the next 1-2 days. Then you can start watering lightly, enough to drip through the drainage holes.  

Make sure to drain off all the water from the pot and clear away the water sitting on the saucer. Hopefully, your jade plant will revive within one or two weeks. 

Rot Spread More Widely

This is very unlucky for you that the rot spread more widely to other parts of your jade plant.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to revive your plant from this stage. But do not lose hope, there is still another way to get a new plant from the infected one.

Propagation is the only way to save the plant from dying completely. You have to use this method when its roots are beyond recovery. 

In order to propagate the jade plant, cut off 2-3 healthy stems with leaves and insert them into slightly watered potting soil.

Remember to cut the stem right below the nodes (from where the leaves grow). You can choose any size you are comfortable with. 

At this point DO NOT water the cuttings. Keep them in the shade where it gets enough indirect light. Wait for a few weeks and the stems will grow healthy roots. 

You can also propagate your jade from healthy leaf cuttings. They will grow root same as the stem cutting and you can grow a healthy plant with it.

If you do not want to propagate in potting soil, then water propagation is another popular method of propagation.

After rooting you can transfer the cutting into a pot. This way you can save your overwatered or root rot affected jade plant.  

How to Prevent and Control Jade Plant Root Rot

In this section we will give a quick recap of the most effective ways of avoiding root rot

  • First and foremost, you need to avoid water logging jade plants. Before watering, check that the plant container has sufficient drainage holes in the base. The container should be of a size that comfortably accommodates the root ball but is not too large or too tight.
  • Make sure that you water the plant only when it needs watering rather than following a regulated time schedule. The most accurate way to decide when to water is to poke one’s finger into the soil. The top two inches should be dry before adding more water. If you are unsure, err on the side of too little rather than too much.  
  • Free-draining soil is crucial to avoiding root rot. You can opt for a proprietary cactus or succulent mix or make up your own free-draining potting medium.
  • When you do water the plant, allow it to drain thoroughly before placing it in a saucer. Apply water to the top of the soil and not to the leaves and stems as this can cause fungal diseases. Use captured rainwater or filtered water where possible to prevent chemical build up.
  • A plant that is growing in ideal conditions will be far better able to overcome root rot or other diseases. You want your plant to receive bright light but not direct light. Its preferred temperature range is in the 65 to 75°F (18 to 24°C) area, and it does not like to be kept cooler than 55°f (13°C). If you are able to provide these basic needs, you should have a strong healthy plant that lives for many years.

Arifur Rahman

I'm the owner of gardenforindoor.com. After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I'm serving as a civil service officer at the Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh. I started Garden For Indoor to make your indoor gardening journey easy and enjoyable.

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