9 Reasons Why Jade Plants Turn Yellow (and Fixes)

The best way to learn about the health of your jade plant is to assess the strength and color of the leaves. When you notice a change in leaf health, like visible signs of yellowing, you should evaluate your plant further to get to the root of the problem (pun intended). There are several reasons your jade plant’s leaves could be turning yellow. 

Common reasons why jade plants turn yellow are watering issues, unbalanced nutrients, or insufficient light. It can also mean something more severe, like damage or rot to the root system. Chlorosis (yellowing of the leaves) can also be indicative of contamination from bacteria or fungus. 

To find out why your jade plant is turning yellow, make sure to read further. This article will explain some of the most common reasons why jade plants turn yellow and what you can do to fix these issues that cause discoloration in the leaves.

1. Underwatering 

The most common reason for yellowing leaves in a jade plant is the amount of water it’s receiving or not receiving. 

In today’s world, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of things and forget something simple, like watering your plants.

Unfortunately, this happens to many of us houseplant owners.

Water is vital to the survival of all plants, and while jade plants can survive a while when neglected, they’ll definitely let you know when they’re parched. However, if you overwater them, they could suffer even more.

The jade plant not only gives your home an attractive appeal but is also easy to care for and a very forgiving plant. Succulents, like your jade, can go for days with dry soil without making a fuss. Unfortunately, if you neglect them too long, you’ll notice discoloration and weakness in the leaves and stems.

Those fat shiny green leaves will begin to turn yellow and eventually fall off. 

The following are effects under watering can cause in plants:

  • Yellowing leaves
  • Droopy or wilting leaves
  • Browning in leaves and leaf tips
  • Leaves curling
  • Dryness in leaves
  • Slow growth

Under Watering Is an Easy Fix

Get on a routine of regularly checking your plant’s soil for moisture. Poke your finger into the soil until you reach your second knuckle. Give your leafy friend some H2O if it’s dry.

There’s no set schedule to watering jade plants or any other houseplant because the water uptake will differ throughout the year. That’s why checking the soil once a week is the best way to know when your plant needs water. It’s also the best way to prevent overwatering. 

2. Overwatering 

Overwatering is just as common as underwatering and can cause yellowing of the leaves.

Jade plants won’t be as forgiving when they’re overwatered. These plants are prone to root rot and should never sit in soggy water for long. To prevent overwatering your jade plant, always pot them in well-draining soil.

It’s also beneficial to plant them in porous earthen planters, like terracotta. These planters evaporate moisture from the soil through the porous material of the pot. This helps the soil dry out faster and reduces the risk of root rot. 

If the planter is coated with nonporous material like glaze, the excess moisture will not be able to sleep through the pot. 

Act Fast To Fix Overwatered Jade Plants

Since root rot is a major concern linked to overwatering, you’ll need to assess the roots and give your jade a healthier environment to grow in by following these steps: 

  1. Remove the jade plant from the planter and check the health of the root system. 
  2. Check the color of the roots. The roots should be close to white or off-white in color. There should be no odor coming from the roots or base of the plant. 
  3. If the roots are still healthy with no signs of rot, you should repot your plant into fresh, well-draining soil and in a terracotta pot if you have one. If some of the roots are rotten or damaged, read further.
  4. You must use pruning shears to cut off and remove all the rot and damaged areas of the roots to prevent contamination of the healthy roots.
  5. Allow the roots to dry and the wounds from cutting to heal.
  6. Discard the soil and repot your plant in fresh soil. If possible, use an earthen pot as mentioned above to prevent overwatering in the future.
  7. Wait a day or two before watering your jade. 

Learn more about how to fix root rot in houseplants in my article here: How To Fix Root Rot In Houseplants (Complete Guide)

If the entire root ball is mushy, brown, and has an odor, it may not be possible to save your jade. 

However, you can prune the healthy leaves and branches and try to propagate them into new plants. If you’ve never propagated a jade plant before, it’s pretty easy. I have a guide that includes how to propagate your jade plant if you are interested in trying the practice: How to Prune a Jade Plant (Gardener’s Guide) 

Unfortunately, that may be the only way for your jade to live on at this point.

3. Insufficient Nutrients 

Plants obtain nutrients from the soil, water, and the sun. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the primary nutrients plants need that play vital roles during photosynthesis. There should be a balance of primary, secondary, and other nutrients to keep the plant healthy.

Using sunlight, chlorophyll is also needed during photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and glucose. Without sufficient nutrients, the chloroplasts of plants are unable to create the green pigmentation of chlorophyll. 

When plants are unable to create the green pigmentation, the leaves will appear yellow, droopy, and sad.

Give Your Jade Plant Some Food

If it’s been a while since you’ve repotted or fertilized your jade, it’s time to think about its nutrition. Yellowing leaves will soon completely die and fall off. This is an easy fix, but you may need to get your hands dirty or choose to use liquid fertilizer diluted with water.

To fix your multicolored jade, remove it from the pot and evaluate the root system. Provide fresh soil containing balanced nutrients and excellent draining capability. Jade plants also like organic matter in their soil, like peat moss, coconut coir, or dried chicken poop.

You should see an improvement in the coloring of the jade’s leaves after providing the nutrients it needs to function and grow.

4. Fertilizer Burn

Fertilizer burn occurs when the soil contains too many nutrients from over-fertilizing or is fertilized with little or no water to flush it through the soil. Essentially, the abundance of nutrients will prevent the root system from successfully absorbing the nutrients and water to disperse throughout the stems and leaves. 

Even if you haven’t recently fertilized your jade plant, yellow leaves can indicate an abundance of nutrients in the soil, which may be caused by the water you’re using or the soil itself. 

Watering plants with hard water can cause minerals and other nutrients to build up in the soil. This creates an unhealthy environment for your jade plant, and ultimately the root system will suffocate and burn. When the root system is in distress, the leaves attempt to cool it by sending reserved water to the roots, and the roots suffer without the water reserve.

If you’ve recently repotted your jade plant, the yellow leaves may be due to the soil you used. Using nutrient-rich soil with fertilizer already mixed in could be a bit much for your jade to handle. Check the root system to ensure the roots are still healthy.

Fixing the Density of Nutrients in the Soil

This is another easy fix to get your lovely jade plant bouncing back to looking stellar. 

To fix nutrient-dense soil, you can either attempt to flush the nutrients out of the soil by placing it under running water or repot your plant. 

The easiest and sure way to correct this issue is by repotting your jade in the correct soil mix with adequate drainage and organic matter. Doing this will ensure the roots remain healthy with a proper balance of nutrients to absorb. After repotting, wait a day to water your jade but check the soil first to evaluate dryness.

5. Lacking Light Requirements

Light is vital to plant health because plants convert solar energy and nutrients into food for surviving and producing growth. When ideal lighting conditions are not provided, you’ll notice the leaves of your jade plant turning yellow. Other signs of not enough sunlight include the following:

  • Droopy and wilted leaves
  • Awkward growth, like leaning
  • Bald or bare spots with little or no growth
  • Dead or dying leaves and branches

Let the Sun’s Rays Shine Down on Your Jade Plant

Yellowing leaves from lack of sunlight is an easy fix. You’ll need to move your plant to another location that gets more light to satisfy the appetite of jades. Jade plants enjoy bright and indirect sunlight for most of the day, with a minimum of four hours to keep them healthy and growing.

With more sun exposure, your jade plant should bounce back quickly. For suggestions of the best locations for a jade plant in your home, check out my other article: 6 Best Locations For a Jade Plant in Your House. Additionally, make sure to keep your jade plant rotated to expose all areas of the plant to sunlight for healthy and balanced growth.

6. Rootbound Plant

This section and the following two sections will discuss the health state of your plant’s roots. So, get those hands dirty by pulling your plant from the pot. Remove the dirt from the root ball and evaluate the health of those roots. 

The root system is a vital part of the plant. They uptake water and nutrients from the soil and disburse them throughout the plant when and where needed. Therefore, it’s essential to provide a healthy environment for the roots to grow strong into a healthy spread to support the rest of the plant.

Easily Fix the Issue of Your Rootbound Jade Plant

Rootbound plants cannot absorb nutrients from the soil because there is less soil available due to the overgrown root system. 

It’s a simple fix: repot your jade plant in a bigger pot (going up one size) with fresh soil and balanced nutrients. Carefully loosen the root system before repotting to encourage a healthy spread to support the plant’s growth.

7. Erwinia Bacteria Contamination

Contamination from the Erwinia bacteria is common in jade plants. The bacteria were originally found in Africa but are now present in most areas of the world. This bacteria can affect the leaves, stems, and roots by attacking the vascular system and eventually killing your jade plant if left untreated.

Erwinia bacteria will cause discoloration of the leaves, which will turn yellow and/or brown from the soft rot forming. 

The leaves and stems will feel mushy with an unpleasant odor from the bacteria rotting the plant.

Saving Your Jade From Erwinia

If the entire root system hasn’t been damaged, you may be able to save your jade. Use pruning shears to cut off all the decayed areas and follow these directions: 

  1. Start by trimming the leaves and stems affected with mushy rot and move down to the root system. 
  2. Using shears, cut off and remove all the rot and damaged areas of the roots to prevent contamination of the healthy roots. 
  3. Allow the roots to dry and the wounds from cutting to heal.
  4. Discard the soil and repot your plant in fresh soil.
  5. Wait a day or two before watering your jade. 

8. Damaged or Rotten Roots 

Finding your favorite plant suffering from root rot can be very disheartening because you aren’t always able to save plants suffering from decay.

As mentioned earlier, healthy roots will appear white or like an off-white, but they should never be brown, mushy, and stink. If the roots seem healthy, repot in fresh soil to ensure they remain healthy. If they appear damaged or have some rot on them, you can use your pruning shears to snip those areas. 

Roots can become damaged and rotten for several reasons, and they are as follows: 

  • Overwatering and poor drainage
  • Awkward growth puts stress on the roots
  • An excessive amount of nutrients is built up in the soil
  • Too much salt in the soil
  • An extended period of time with no water
  • Bacteria and fungus

The Erwinia bacteria is also a culprit for root rot. Check the soil for any pests that may have caused the damage if it wasn’t from the possibilities listed above.

Fixing and Preventing Rot and Damage to the Roots

There are several ways to prevent rot and damage to the root system, and they are as follows: 

  • Check the soil once a week before watering to prevent overwatering and saturating the soil.
  • Utilize brightly lit areas of your home to prevent awkward and leaning growth that may stress the root system. 
  • Use the correct soil mixture that includes fast draining and balanced nutrients. 
  • Provide fresh soil every six months or once a year with fertilizer in between to ensure a healthy balance of nutrients is always available.

If some of your roots are damaged, you can quickly fix those by using the pruning shears to cut out all the damage.

To save the roots and fix root rot, follow these instructions: 

  1. Use pruning shears to trim off and remove all the rot and damaged areas of the roots to prevent contamination of the healthy roots. 
  2. Allow the roots to dry and the wounds from cutting to heal.
  3. Discard the soil and repot your plant in fresh soil.
  4. Wait a day or two before watering your jade. 

9. Gnat Infestation

Insects can be quite annoying, whether you’re trying to relax and enjoy the outdoors or caring for your plants and finding them flying around your planters. 

If you’ve ever had an infestation of fungus gnats all over your plant’s soil, you know how frustrating those tiny flying creatures can really be. Before you know it, there are tons of those nuisance bugs everywhere. Most houseplant owners have battled with this issue a time or two…or more.

Fungus gnats are attracted to the fungus growth in your plant’s soil. The fungus grows from moist soil, and those gnats come out of nowhere to lay eggs in the contaminated soil. When the larvae hatch, they feed off the soil fungi, and then you end up with even more of those little buggers flying in your face and around the soil of your plants.

Fix and Prevent Fungus and Fungus Gnats

The following are ways to keep fungus and fungus gnats out of your home and away from your plants:

  • Try watering your plants from the bottom. Bottom watering is easy, and it reduces the risk of overwatering your jade plant. It also keeps the top of the soil dry, preventing fungus from forming, which can attract fungus gnats.
  • Place a layer of sand on top of the soil. This prevents the gnats from being able to reach the soil to lay their eggs. Moreover, it’s less likely they’ll be attracted to your plants with the sand on top.
  • Mix one part of peroxide with four parts of water to flush the plant’s soil and kill the fungus and gnat larvae.
  • Toss the soil your plant is currently in and start fresh with new soil.

If you’d like a more in-depth guide about dealing with fungus gnats in your soil, you can read my other article here: How to Deal With Fungus Gnats in Your Soil

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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