The name ‘Jade plant’ suggests bright, jewel green foliage. So if your Jade plant is changing from green to purple, you might be alarmed! Most of the time, though, there’s nothing to worry about if your plant turns purple or reddish.
Jade plant turning purple is a sign that it is going through some stress conditions. This includes too much sun exposure, temperature stress, and lack of phosphorus that can cause an increase in anthocyanin content within the jade plant which leads to changing the color into purple.
These plants can tolerate various conditions and change color depending on their surroundings and various environmental factors.
Is Your Jade Plant Stressed?
Stress is the usual reason for Jade plants turning purple. All kinds of things can cause stress, and it is not usually a life-threatening problem for these plants. Some growers even deliberately stress their plants to get them to change color!
Occasionally though, the problem is more serious. It’s best to determine what is causing your plant to turn purple; then, you can decide if you want to keep your purple plant or encourage it to turn green again.
Let’s look at the different stressors that could affect your plant.
Causes of Jade Plant Turning Purple
The most common reason for Jade plants to turn purple is over-exposure to sunlight. Although Jade plants do like a bright environment, they don’t need as much direct light as some other succulents.
If you keep your plant in a place where it gets a lot of direct sunlight, like on a sunny windowsill, it will protect itself from the sun’s rays by producing anthocyanins in the surface cells of its leaves. (Source: Wiley Online Library)
Anthocyanins are purple, red, or blue and play various roles in protecting a plant’s leaves from damage. They have been shown to effectively filter harmful UV rays and reduce damage from sunburn – the Jade plant’s natural sunscreen!
Most of the time, a bit of sun stress won’t cause a Jade plant any problems. If you don’t mind the purple tinge in your plant’s leaves, you can usually leave it be. However, if your plant looks unhealthy – with wilting or dying leaves, you should move it to a situation with less direct sunlight.
If you want your Jade plant to produce green foliage with no tint of purple, keep it in a place where it gets plenty of bright light, but no direct sunlight on its leaves.
If you keep your Jade plant in a very dark place, it will produce anthocyanins and turn purple. Studies show that anthocyanins increase the efficiency of photosynthesis – the plant uses these chemicals to help it produce food in dark environments. Unless you notice your plant looking very unhealthy, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Ideally, you should keep your Jade plant in a position where it gets plenty of bright, indirect light. A position in a bright room, a few feet away from the window, is perfect.
Excessive Heat or Cold
Another common stressor for Jade plants that can cause leaves to turn purple is extreme heat or cold. Jade plants need a temperature of 65°-75°F (18°-24°C) to thrive and will show symptoms of stress if kept at temperatures outside this range.
The anthocyanins produced when a plant is stressed protect it in various ways. This mechanism is yet to be fully understood, but it has been shown in studies that leaves with higher concentrations of anthocyanins have a better tolerance to cold temperatures.
Keep your Jade plant in a situation where the temperature stays within the recommended range, ideally without large fluctuations.
Drafts and heat sources like windows and AC units can stress plants and cause the production of anthocyanins. If you want your plant to keep its green foliage, it’s best to keep it away from anything that causes temperature variations.
If the leaves of your Jade plant are wrinkled and wilting as well as purple, it could be that the plant needs a drink. While succulents such as Jade plants don’t need as much water as other kinds of plants, they do need some!
When deprived of water, the cells in a plant’s leaves begin to collapse, causing the plant to wilt. This is an emergency protective measure that minimizes the leaf’s surface area and helps to reduce further moisture loss.
If you haven’t watered your plant in a month or so and it is beginning to look unhappy, this is probably the reason.
Check the moisture level of your plant’s potting mix regularly. When it is completely dry, place the pot in a tray of water for an hour or two to allow the plant to take a deep drink.
Jade plants are accustomed to long periods without rain and the occasional heavy downpour in their natural environment. Your plant will respond much better to a deep drink now and then, rather than a small amount of water relatively often.
In summer your jade plant needs more water as the transpiration rate is higher. You should water it once a week. In winter plant goes to the dormant stage, the physiological activities slow down, so your jade plant requires less water. So, your plant might be happy with watering once every two or three weeks.
Overwatering and Poor Drainage
Giving your Jade plant too much water is a bad idea. Too much water around the roots of a plant can cause it to drown – the roots can’t take in the oxygen that the plant needs to survive.
Additionally, excess water encourages the fungal organisms that cause root rot – the biggest killer for houseplants. Root rot destroys the roots of a plant and prevents it from taking in water or nutrients.
Both of these issues will cause stress to your plant, triggering the production of anthocyanins and turning the leaves purple. If your plant has developed root rot, it will also display symptoms of dehydration and nutrient deficiency – wilting, yellowing leaves which gradually die off.
Keep your plant in a container with adequate drainage holes and a well-draining potting medium. Only water your plant when the potting mix is completely dry – always check first, and never water to a schedule.
If you’ve overwatered your plant, you should re-pot it in a fresh, well-draining potting mix and refrain from watering it for a few weeks. If it has developed root rot, it might be difficult to save, and you should consider propagating a new plant from one of the leaves.
Luckily, Jade plants propagate easily – cut off a healthy leaf, pop it in fresh potting mix, and keep it moist. Within a few weeks, your new plant should begin to develop roots and grow.
Reddish purple leaves on a Jade plant can be a symptom of phosphorous deficiency. Jade plants don’t need much fertilizer to survive, so this is not a very common problem. But if you’ve had your plant a long time and never fed it, this could be the issue.
Feed your Jade plant with a general-purpose houseplant fertilizer once every two to four months. Always follow the instructions and avoid feeding it in winter.
Pest and Diseases
Jade plants are not prone to pests and diseases. Still, as with any houseplant, infection is possible – especially if the plant is already stressed. Any kind of pest or disease affecting your Jade plant could cause the leaves to turn purple through stress. Look out for the symptoms of the most common issues:
|Mealybugs and soft scale||Unmoving white, gray, or brown fluffy or waxy clusters underneath leaves near stem.|
Presence of sticky honeydew.Wilting, yellowing leaves.
|Horticultural or insecticidal oil such as neem.|
|Spider mites||Small yellow or brown spots on leaves.|
Presence of tiny mites and fine webbing underneath leaves.
|Spray mites from a plant with a hose.|
Horticultural or insecticidal oil such as neem.Specially developed miticides.
|Disease||Symptoms and Cause||Solution|
|Bacterial soft rot||Jade Plant turns mushy and collapses. |
Caused by the pathogen Erwinia
|Isolate and discard plants.|
|Powdery mildew||White or gray powdery areas on leaves and stems that develop into scabby patches.|
Caused by the pathogen Sphaerotheca
|Improve air circulation and treat plants with a fungicide.|
(Sources: Pennsylvania State University)
When To Worry About Your Jade Plant Turning Purple
Stress caused by lighting conditions, unsuitable temperatures, and nutrient deficiency is easily solved by adjusting your plant’s growing conditions. Jade plants are relatively tough and should respond well. You could even choose to keep your plant in a slightly stressed state to retain the purple color.
However, if the stress to your plant was caused by root rot through poor drainage or overwatering, or a pest or disease, it is vital to deal with the issue as soon as possible, or the plant may die. Look out for the symptoms of these problems in addition to the purple foliage.