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The jade plant (Crassula Ovata) is a popular houseplant worldwide due to its low maintenance and ability to adjust to almost any environment. They have thick, fleshy roots which are similar to the stems we see above the surface but sometimes they can be prone to root rot.
So what causes jade plant root rot? A rotting jade plant can be caused by a number of things such as overwatering, using the wrong soil, pathogenic infections, low temperature, or bacterial soft rot.
This article will answer everything you need to know about jade plant root rot including signs, causes, and fixes.
Signs of jade plant root rot
First things first. What are the common signs of jade plant root rot? Well, if you have a rotting jade plant, you will notice the leaves turning yellow. If your plant is in the late stages of root rot, then most likely you’ll notice your jade plant leaves turning black.
However, discoloration is not the only sign of jade plant root rot. Other aesthetic appearances may change. A jade plant should be vibrant green, with thick, plump leaves that remain upright and erect. If you have jade plant root rot you may notice the following:
- If your jade plant is dropping leaves or turning soft or mushy then it could be a sign of root rot
- If the leaves become wilted, or frail then you may have a rotting jade plant
- If the soil is constantly wet and soggy, then again, it could be a sign of root rot
If your jade plant seems distressed and is displaying any of the above symptoms, then you should inspect your succulent immediately to see if it is root rot! Root rot won’t disappear on its own so you will want to take quick action if you have a rotting jade plant on your hands.
Remove your jade plant from its pot or container to examine the roots. Healthy roots are white and firm, whereas roots that are rotten will be brown and slimy.
A jade plant with root rot may have an unpleasant odor too!
Causes of jade plant root rot
Once you have examined your houseplant and have come to the conclusion that yes, you do have jade plant root rot, then the next thing you need to do is work out what has caused the issue!
There are a number of reasons you’ll fall victim to jade plant root rot and I have outlined the main causes below.
Root rot due to overwatering
The most common cause of jade plant root rot is overwatering. The Crassula plant derives from the succulent species and is native to South Africa. This means that its natural environment is hot, dry, and gets very little rainfall.
For this reason, jade plants can store an excessive amount of water in their stems and leaves. Unfortunately, this results in an overwatered jade plant being a common problem!
When you overwater a jade plant, you are essentially suffocating the roots, causing them to be dysfunctional. The roots will soon become waterlogged and unable to provide your jade plant with the nutrients it needs to function properly. This will lead to jade plant root rot.
Often, people will overwater if they stick to a strict watering schedule. Different conditions, environments, and seasons will all affect how often a jade plant will need to be watered.
As a rule of thumb, you should only water your jade plant once the soil is completely dry. And I mean bone dry! You can stick your finger a couple of inches into the soil to test this. If the soil still feels damp a few inches down, leave it alone.
If however, the soil feels dry throughout then you can give your jade plant a good soaking. Water your plant until it pours out of the drainage holes and throw any excess water away. NEVER leave your jade plant in a saucer of water as this will lead to rotting roots!
Root rot due to wrong soil
Soil is one of the most important factors in preventing jade plant root rot. Crassula Ovata needs well-draining, airy soil.
If you are using soil that is too dense or heavy, then it will retain too much water and this will lead to root rot.
Typically, you’ll need soil that is a blend of organic and inorganic material. The main ingredients to look out for are perlite, peat moss, and gravel. Limestone will often be used as a pH balancer because succulents enjoy slightly acidic soil (alternatively, you can try adding coffee grounds on succulents).
I know a lot of people that like to make their own potting mix for jade plants, however, I tend to use ready mixed bags as they have always kept my jade plant healthy and happy!
If you go to your local garden center, they will have a succulent and cactus potting mix that is available to buy. There are also some great online options that you can choose from instead.
Typically I stick to one soil for my jade plants and this is The Next Gardener Organic Succulent and Cactus Soil Mix. This is good succulent soil because it contains 75% substrate, 25% perlite, and low fertilizer. It is also affordable, delivers quickly and the packaging is always in a good condition when it arrives.
Another soil I will buy if the above is sold out is Hoffman 10410 Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix. This contains Canadian Sphagnum Peat moss, Reed Sedge Peat, Perlite, Sand, Limestone. Hoffman is a well-known brand and I have never had any complaints about this particular mix.
Of course, the above are just two types of soils I have tried and tested on my jade plant, but as I mentioned, your local garden center will definitely sell a potting mix that is specifically for cacti and succulents.
Root rot due to a pathogenic infection
A pathogenic infection is usually an infection that is carried from the soil to the roots of your jade plant and will quickly lead to jade plant root rot and other diseases!
To avoid getting a pathogenic infection you just need to practice good garden hygiene. For example, avoid using the potting soil from one plant to another as any diseases will be carried along. When repotting a plant you should always use fresh, nutrient rich soil.
Although tempting to use old soil when repotting, these pathogenic infections are invisible to the naked eye so you won’t know that the damage is done until it’s too late.
Pathogens can also live on the edges of your pots and containers. This doesn’t mean you have to throw away each container once it has been used once. You just need to make sure that before putting a new plant in your container, give it a thorough cleaning beforehand.
A bucket of warm soapy water with a splash of bleach will do the trick.
Root rot due to the wrong pot size
Although an uncommon cause of jade plant root rot, we can’t eliminate it completely from our list! It’s really important when planting your jade, that you are using the right container size.
If you use a pot that is too big for the size of your jade plant, then there will be too much soil. Using an excessive amount of soil will encourage water absorption and these are the perfect conditions for root rot to take hold.
Alternatively, using a pot that is too small will mean the roots are so compact that they are unable to move around freely. The compacted roots will be unable to provide your jade plant with the nutrients it needs to survive and you’ll end up asking yourself ‘why is my jade plant dying?’.
Jade plants don’t need repotting very often (once every three to four years) and they do like to be cozy. You should wait until the plant is just starting to become pot-bound. A good indicator is if the roots are beginning to poke out of the drainage holes.
You should only ever repot one size bigger and it is best to wait until the spring, just before the main growing season starts.
Root rot due to low temperature
Jade plants are popular because they are able to adapt to a range of different temperatures. However, because of their native environment, they will not thrive in extremely low temperatures.
In the winter months, the soil will take a lot longer to dry out and the soil might remain soggy for longer than in the summer months. This again is a perfect condition for root rot to begin. You should always stick to waiting for the soil to be bone dry before you rewater and of course this will be a lot less in the winter than in the summer.
Jade plants also become dormant in the winter so will require less watering.
If you live in a particularly cold area, keep your plant away from window sills that let in a cold draft. To avoid jade plant root rot altogether, keep your succulent in a warm, brightly lit room ideally near a south-facing window.
Bacterial soft rot jade plant
Bacterial soft rot isn’t a set disease but rather a term coined for a group of diseases that affects many different plants.
The first signs of bacterial soft rot will be small watery lumps on the leaves, essentially little blisters. These go on to be soft, mushy, and squishy and it’s really easy to confuse bacterial soft rot with root rot. You will also notice discoloration and a seeping liquid with a bad odor.
Like root rot, having wet, soggy soil will definitely exacerbate the problem, but wet soil won’t be the initial cause. Bacterial soft rot usually enters through an open wound.
This type of disease unfortunately has no cure. The best course of action to take if you do have bacterial soft rot is to destroy your jade plant before the disease has time to spread to any of your other house plants.
Treating jade plant root rot
Jade plant root rot doesn’t have to mean the death of your beloved succulent plant! There are actions you can take, depending on how severe the root rot is.
Treat jade plant root rot with fungicide
If the root rot is restricted to the roots, and is in the very early stages, then treating it with a Liquid copper fungicide might do the trick. Make sure you cut away the infected roots and then dip the remaining healthy roots into the solution.
In a dissolved form, copper penetrates the plant tissue and will help control fungal diseases and early stages of root rot. This is also a great alternative to using harsh chemicals on your plants.
Treat jade plant root rot by repotting
If a fairly large amount of the roots are infected, then you will have to repot your jade plant. Curing a jade plant with root rot by repotting can be done in 4 easy steps:
- Remove your jade plant from its pot, dust away any soil, and do a thorough inspection of infected vs healthy roots. Healthy roots will be white and firm, whereas infected roots will be brown and slimy
- If there is a reasonable amount of healthy roots remaining, then you can start cutting away the infected parts. Remember to cut right up to the healthy roots because if you leave any infected areas on your jade plant, the disease will continue to spread. Keep a rough estimate of the percentage of roots you are cutting away
- Once you are positive all the infected roots have been discarded, you’ll then need to start cutting some leaves, branches, and stems off of your jade plant. Because you have cut away at the roots, the plant system won’t have enough strength to support the remaining plant matter. Prune your jade plant until you have cut a similar percentage of leaves to roots
- Finally, you can repot your jade plant in some fresh, well-draining soil
Treat jade plant root rot by propagation
If the root rot has unfortunately spread to most of the roots and you have jade plant stem rot, then propagation might be the only option. Luckily jade plants are easy to propagate and can be done through cuttings.
- Start by taking a cutting of one of the healthy branches that are 3 – 4 inches long
- Allow the cutting to dry in a warm, dry spot until a callus develops. This will typically take around 2 weeks. It is important to wait for this callus to develop so prevent any damage or infection happening when you plant your cutting
- Once the cutting has fully dried, plant it in a pot with fresh soil and water sparingly until the cutting has taken root
After a couple of weeks, you should begin to notice the early stages of growth of your brand new jade plant!
Although you weren’t able to save your original plant, you’ve ended up with a new healthy plant. It is incredibly hard to save a jade plant with a rotting stem so I wouldn’t worry too much.
Jade plant root rot conclusion
I hope you have enjoyed this article on jade plant root rot and you are now well equipped on how to treat root rot. There are a number of ways you can prevent root rot in a jade plant and these are making sure you are caring for your succulent properly.
Things like temperature, watering, soil, and pot size will affect the general health of your jade plant and you want to make sure it stays healthy and happy.
As a quick recap, jade plant root rot will occur when:
- The plant has been overwatered
- You are using potting soil that is too dense or heavy
- Your jade plant has a pathogenic infection
- You are using a pot that is too big or too small
- The jade plant has been exposed to low temperatures
I also spoke about the difference between root rot and bacterial soft rot in a jade plant. Unfortunately, there is no cure for bacterial soft rot and it is best to eliminate the infected plant as quickly as possible to stop any potential spread.
We also discussed three ways of treating jade plant root rot and these were by using a Liquid copper fungicide, repotting, or propagation.
The method you need to use will rely entirely on the stage of the root rot.
If you have any questions, leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can!