This is a question that pops up surprisingly often among Jade Plant owners. The good news is that this is nothing to get overly alarmed about and it is generally easy to rectify.
Most of the time, it’s due to a lack of water, and a simple change in the method you water your Jade Plant should help it reclaim its former energy and easygoing demeanor.
The most common reason for aerial roots on your jade plant is underwatering and, in this article, we will look at overcoming any problem in this regard. There are a few other possibilities but we will deal with those as well.
What Are Aerial Roots?
For the uninitiated, aerial roots are roots that a plant produces, generally from its stem, that are above ground.
While this is a normal process in some plants, it is not something to be concerned about.
However, with a Jade Plant, this is your plant’s way of informing you that something isn’t quite right. Succulents that develop aerial roots are usually ones that grow quickly.
What do aerial roots look like?
Unsurprisingly, different plants produce different-looking aerial roots. On the Jade Plant, they tend to grow close to a leaf node and are thin and white with a slightly pink tinge to them. They are most often seen during the growing season.
What Are The Functions of Aerial Roots?
Among the wide world of plants, aerial roots serve different functions. They may be a method of expanding a plant’s territory by allowing them to root further afield or they may provide extra stability as the plant increases in size.
Some plants even use them as a way of capturing moisture from the air. With clambering plants such as Pothos, those aerial roots help the plant to clamber higher by providing stability as they cling to the other plants that they tend to climb up.
With the Jade Plant, aerial roots don’t fit any of these categories and you can read their appearance as meaning that your plant is searching for something.
It may be extra nutrients or light, but in the vast majority of cases, it is extra moisture that the plant is in search of.
If your jade plant is in a container and it lacks moisture it will start to send out roots from its stem as a sort of forwarding search party. Many succulents do this but it is most common in succulents that have stems.
In some cases, aerial roots seem to appear when humidity levels are high and the plant may be putting them out as a way of absorbing the extra moisture. This doesn’t appear to be the case with the Jade Plant.
Identifying and Evaluating Causative Factors?
At first, you might not be sure why your Jade Plant is sending out these extra roots. What you do already know is that you should take it as a sign that something is wrong.
Too little water
This is the most common cause of jade plant aerial roots and the one you should probably consider first. The first thing to do would be to poke your finger into the soil and feel for moisture below the surface area.
If the soil is bone dry then your initial diagnosis was probably correct. For further confirmation, examine the leaves.
Now, If they have lost turgidity and are becoming soft and wrinkled, that will confirm lack of water is probably the issue behind the aerial roots. Jade plants like slightly moist but not wet soil.
To achieve this with your Jade Plant, place the container in a sink or basin and apply water to the surface of the potting soil until water emerges from the drainage hole in the base of the container.
Once that happens, allow any excess water to drain away completely before placing the container back in its saucer and returning it to its original position.
You can gauge the moisture level in the soil quite accurately by pushing the tip of your finger into it to a depth of about an inch. If you can feel moisture present then the plant does not need watering.
This method of soaking the plant and then allowing the water to drain away is the best way to keep your plant in peak condition.
Don’t apply just a few drops of water on a more regular basis as this won’t be absorbed by the soil. Instead, soak thoroughly but allow the plant to dry out before watering again.
Jade Plants hate to have too much water. If they become waterlogged the symptoms are soft soggy leaves.
This situation can quickly deteriorate to become critical or even fatal, but the plant will not put out aerial roots under these conditions so that is one thing you don’t need to worry about.
Temperature too high
Jade Plants can withstand high temperatures but as house plants, room temperature is occasionally sent up too quickly through the use of central heating of one kind or another.
Sensing the sudden, possibly calamitous, change in conditions, your plant may feel threatened and will send out extra roots as a precautionary measure.
To keep your Jade Plant happy and unconcerned about its future, try to maintain a room temperature of between 65 and 75°F (18 – 34°C).
Too low a temperature will also harm your plant but here the symptoms differ. It may wilt or collapse but it will not produce aerial roots. Any prolonged temperatures of less than 45°F (7°c) and your Jade Plant will start to become unhappy.
This is one that indoor gardeners need to get right. Jade plants appreciate bright but indirect light.
If you fail to provide that then the plant will start to etiolate, which means that it will grow longer and lankier than it would under ideal conditions.
This is because the plant is diverting its energy to stretching itself in the hope of finding more light further away. Sometimes it will also send out aerial roots as it does this.
If you need to change the position of your Jade Plant for any reason, you should do this gradually to avoid shocking the plant into putting out aerial roots.
Move it to its new position gradually over a period of several days so that it adapts to the change in light.
It is my experience that these plants will tolerate a wide variety of positions without putting out aerial roots or starting to etiolate if they have time to adapt.
It is sometimes difficult to imagine your jade plant suffering from trauma but it is something that definitely does happen.
Trauma can be caused by a number of different factors, but they all revolve around a change of some kind.
Plants have evolved under conditions where change tends to take place gradually and if we as gardeners change things too fast, our plant can panic and send out aerial roots as a security measure.
There are a number of changes that we might induce that cause trauma to our plants. Over and under-watering are two of the most common, but moving the plant to a different position or increasing or decreasing ambient temperatures are some others to look out for.
If the plant receives some sort of injury, for example, a branch gets broken off while the plant is being moved, then the jade plant may put our aerial roots in the vicinity of the wound.
Likewise, over-fertilizing can burn the roots and cause the plant to produce these aerial roots.
If none of the other causes seems to be creating this issue and you have recently applied fertilizer you should think about repotting the plant into new potting soil.
First, remove as much of the overfertilized soil as possible from around the roots. After that, soak well and allow excess water to drain away.
Nutrients in short supply
Because we can generally expect our Jade Plant to ride out periods of neglect, it can be easy to overlook their basic needs and this is a mistake many gardeners make.
Some plants constantly demand our attention and as the Jade Plant seems to soldier on regardless, their needs can sometimes be overlooked.
Just as your Jade Plant requires light and moisture, it also needs a basic supply of nutrients. Those aerial roots might be a sign that your jade plant needs to be fed or repotted.
If plant stem is not becoming etiolated, and there are no signs of underwatering but you are still seeing aerial roots this is a factor that needs to be considered. Your Jade Plant will probably need to be repotted every other year.
They need free-draining soil so purchase a proprietary cactus mix from your local garden center.
You can also make up a mix of your own using two parts coarse grit or vermiculite added to three parts of potting soil.
Pot your plant into a container that is one or two sizes larger than the container that it has just outgrow.
Even though these plants are tough, they still need feeding. Every two months you should feed with a 2-8-8 fertilizer (Amazon link) and over the growing season increase this to once every six weeks.
How Can You Get Rid of Aerial Roots?
Aerial roots will cause no harm to your Jade Plant, so it is completely acceptable to overlook them. The main reason for getting rid of them is that they are unattractive from a cosmetic standpoint.
As they are serving no real purpose there is no reason why you shouldn’t remove them, and this will not harm your plant in any way.
You can simply cut them off near the stem with a pair of sharp scissors or a knife but be careful not to cut into the flesh of the stem.
Can You Propagate from Aerial Roots?
Aerial roots do not contain the DNA needed to reproduce new plants in the same way that root cuttings do.
You can propagate by taking a stem node along with the aerial roots. By planting this cutting into ordinary potting soil, you would be reasonably sure of achieving a successful new plant.
I would caution against doing this, however. Remember that these aerial roots are a sign that your plant is stressed.
It is relatively easy to get cuttings to take from a Jade Plant. In fact, very often when one of mine drops a leaf, all I need to do is lay it on some soil and it will put down roots and start growing with no further help from me.
I would rather wait and take cuttings when the plant is back in a healthy state than further weaken it by taking cuttings when there are aerial roots apparent.
If you want to propagate more plants, you should look into other propagation techniques.
However, you should wait until your Jade Plant has recovered to its full health before attempting to take cuttings.
Jade Plant Aerial Roots Drying Out
Your Jade Plant only produces aerial roots when it is stressed. Once the stress factor is addressed then the aerial roots become superfluous to the plant’s needs and they will dry out and probably drop off.
I hope that you now understand why your Jade Plant is sending out these roots and recognize that they are not a reason to panic. They are, however, giving you an early warning that something is wrong and that you need to take action.
- Firstly, check that the plant is not too dry. (Almost always the reason for this issue)
- Establish a proper watering regime.
- Repot if necessary.
- Ensure bright light but avoid direct sunlight.
- Keep to within the plant’s most comfortable temperature requirements.
- Make sure the plant gets the right amount of fertilizer
If you follow these steps then your plant will thrive and stop producing aerial roots.