How to Repot a Jade Plant: A Transplanting Guide

Jade plants are slow-growing perennials popular for being easy to care for. They can tolerate being rootbound and may only require repotting once every few years to accommodate new growth and replenish the soil with nutrients.

You must repot a young jade plant in fresh, well-draining soil mix and a pot one size wider and deeper than the old one about 1-2 years after initial planting. Plants over ten years old may be divided and repotted in smaller pots every 3-5 years, depending on the size of the divisions.

The rest of the article will explore a jade plant’s repotting needs. I’ll share how to identify the signs of being rootbound and the proper way of transplanting. I’ll also discuss how to avoid common mistakes and ensure your plant thrives after transplant.

Jade Plants: An Overview

Jade plants (Crassula ovata) are popular succulents from arid regions in South Africa. They’re popular for their low-maintenance requirements and resilience.

They also make excellent potted indoor plants due to the following traits:

  • Shallow, fibrous roots: They don’t grow too deep and can spread comfortably inside the same pot for several years, giving the plant tolerance to being rootbound.
  • Thick, woody trunk: You can train jade plants to grow on a tall, tree-like trunk or keep them short like a bonsai. With proper care and regular pruning, the sturdy trunk will support the weight of the branches and foliage and keep the pot from tipping over.
  • Succulent leaves and stems: Potted plants tend to dry out faster than those grown in the ground because of the limited amount of moisture the soil can hold. Jade leaves and stems can hold extra moisture to withstand drought for several weeks.

Over time, undisturbed jade plants may encounter the following issues:

  • The potting soil eventually becomes depleted of nutrients. 
  • The growing roots may displace the soil, increasing the risk of dehydration despite regular watering. 
  • Depending on the direction of the root growth, the plant may start leaning to one side.
  • The top-heavy plant may cause the undersized pot to tip over. 

Repotting a jade plant as it becomes rootbound will benefit your plant because you can:

  • Inspect and prune damaged roots as needed
  • Replenish soil nutrients
  • Provide fresh soil with beneficial microorganisms
  • Give the roots enough space to grow
  • Provide a heavier pot to support the growing foliage

Understanding When to Repot

A jade plant doesn’t require frequent repotting as it can damage the fragile roots and cause transplant shock. It’s best to wait until your plant appears rootbound before moving it to another pot.

Signs Your Plant Needs Repotting

Here are the signs to look out for:

  • Fibrous roots are poking out of the soil surface and drainage holes
  • Water quickly exits through the drainage holes without adequately rehydrating the soil
  • The plant feels wobbly and easy to pull out of the pot
  • The rootball takes on the shape of the pot and tightly wraps around the soil
  • Cracks on the pot

A severely rootbound jade plant may also exhibit the following health issues:

  • Yellowing leaves from nutrient deficiency
  • Brown or wrinkled leaves from dehydration
  • Stunted growth even during the growing season (few or no new leaf buds)
  • Leaning due to overcrowded roots

Best Time of Year for Repotting

Spring is the best time to repot a jade plant. Repotting while the plant is actively growing will give the roots enough time to recover and become established in the pot. It’ll also be easier to monitor the signs of recovery, such as new leaf buds and branches.

To repot my plant before health problems occur, I check my plant journal for transplanting schedules. Here’s a guide I find reliable for my jade plants after several years of caring for them:

  • Less than 5 years old (cutting or division): every 1-2 years
  • Over 5 years old: every 3-5 years

If the plant still feels stable in the pot without roots poking out, I usually wait another year to check again and repot as needed.

Choosing the Right Pot and Soil

In addition to proper timing, preparing the appropriate pot and soil is crucial to ensure your plant continues thriving for the next several years.

Here are important considerations:

Selecting the Ideal Pot

The best jade plant container must possess the following qualities:

  • Size: 2 inches (5 cm) wider and deeper than the old pot to encourage the plant to grow bigger. If the plant is over five years old, you may use a pot that’s 2 inches (5 cm) wider but has the same depth as the old one. 
  • Material: Terracotta pots are best for jade plants because they’re heavy and breathable. These properties help support the plant’s weight and facilitate better air circulation and moisture regulation.
  • Drainage: Always choose a pot with drainage holes at the bottom to prevent waterlogging. You may place a coffee filter at the bottom to prevent the coarse soil mix from falling out of the holes when you water your plant.
  • Sanitation: It’s important to sterilize the pot to prevent the spread of diseases. You can wash it with a 10% bleach solution and rinse thoroughly with clean water two days before repotting.

Pro tip: You can reuse the same pot if you have a mature jade plant with slow growth. It also helps keep your plant compact for longer. However, you must sterilize the pot, prune the roots, and replace about half the old potting mix. I’ll discuss this in more detail below.

Optimal Soil Mix

Jade plants require loose, fast-draining soil to prevent the thin roots from sitting in wet soil for too long. Constantly wet soil can increase the risk of root rot, which can severely damage or even kill your plant.

For optimum plant health, I recommend any of the following soil mixes:

  • Cactus or succulent mix: High-quality commercial mixes are often infused with essential nutrients that can supplement your plant’s needs for up to one year after repotting.
  • Equal parts compost and perlite: This homemade recipe has an excellent balance between drainage and moisture retention. High-quality compost will also gradually release nutrients every time you water your plant.
  • Equal parts potting soil, horticultural sand, and perlite/pumice: Standard potting soil typically contains peat and loam, which may hold too much moisture. Amending it with coarse materials like sand and perlite or pumice will help improve drainage.

The Repotting Process

In addition to the pot and soil mix, you’ll need the following materials:

  • Old newspaper or magazine
  • Trowel
  • Spatula or flat knife
  • Hand cultivator
  • Sharp pruning shears or scissors
  • Gloves
  • Garbage bag
  • 70% isopropyl alcohol and cotton balls
  • Mask (optional)

Preparing Your Workspace

Repotting can be a messy process. It helps to make some preparations to protect yourself and your work area. Here are some tips:

  • Choose a workspace with good ventilation. Fine particles from potting materials like perlite may cause breathing problems to susceptible individuals when inhaled. You may also wear a mask for an added layer of protection.
  • Spread the old newspaper over the workspace to contain the old potting soil and plant debris.
  • Place the alcohol in a spray bottle to make it easier to sanitize your tools.
  • Single-use cotton balls are better than cloth to wipe the alcohol dry. This will help prevent the spread of infection. 
  • Prepare a garbage bag for non-compostable waste, such as used cotton balls, infected plant matter, and contaminated soil mix.

Step-by-Step Guide

Follow this tried-and-tested procedure to safely repot your jade plant:

  1. Water your plant deeply two days before repotting. If the roots are so potbound that the water drains quickly, bottom watering is best. Soak the bottom half of the pot in water for 10-30 minutes to rehydrate the plant. A well-hydrated plant will have plump roots that will be easier to work with. Well-hydrated leaves can also resist transplant shock as the roots are established into the new potting mix.
  2. Schedule the repotting in the early morning to give your plant enough time to settle into the new pot. Natural light will kickstart root growth and prompt the roots to dig into the new potting mix because of negative phototropism
  3. Carefully remove the plant from the old pot. Using sterile shears, prune the roots poking out of the drainage holes to remove resistance. Run a spatula around the edges of the pot to loosen the rootball before sliding the plant out of the pot.
  4. Gently disentangle the potbound roots using a hand cultivator to remove about a third of the old potting mix.
  5. Inspect the roots for signs of rot (black, mushy, and smelly). If there are signs of rot, you must remove the old potting soil completely and prune the decayed roots. Soak the remaining roots in 1% hydrogen peroxide solution for 10 minutes and leave the plant unpotted for 2-3 days.
  6. If there are no signs of rot, you may remove up to half of the old potting soil and prune a quarter of the roots. This will help rejuvenate the plant and encourage new growth. 
  7. Fill the bottom 2-3 inches (5-7.6 cm) of the new, sterile pot with fresh, moist soil mix. 
  8. Position the plant in the middle of the pot and spread the roots over the soil. 
  9. Fill in the space around the roots with more soil until they’re an inch (2.5 cm) below the surface. Leave an inch (2.5 cm) of space between the soil surface and the rim of the pot.
  10. Firmly tamp the soil around the plant’s base to remove air pockets and keep it upright and steady. 
  11. Place the plant in its usual spot—ideally with up to 4 hours of direct sunlight.
  12. Wait one whole week before the initial deep watering. After that, you can revert to your usual watering schedule and water your plant as soon as the top half of the pot is dry.

Division and Propagation

Jade plants over ten years old may become quite large, with multiple trunks and branches. If you want to keep your plant compact, you may divide it and propagate the branches and leaves removed during pruning.

Here are the methods:

Trunk Division

Without proper training and intervention early in their growth, jade plants naturally start branching out low and may grow with twin trunks. The trunks may become too thick and push each other away, causing them to lean on opposite sides of the pot. 

A large and heavy jade plant may be too difficult to handle alone. I recommend asking a friend or family member to assist and avoid damaging the plant.

Follow these steps to properly divide an overgrown jade plant:

  1. Using a sharp, sterile knife, remove small, unwanted shoots growing around the trunks. You may plant these shoots separately. (I’ll discuss this further below).
  2. Loosen the soil around the edges of the pot to remove the plant.
  3. Use a hand cultivator or wooden chopstick to remove the soil around the roots and the base of the plant.
  4. Look for natural dents between the trunks for suitable division spots.
  5. Sterilize the knife with alcohol and carefully cut between the two trunks. You may ask your companion to firmly hold the trunks as you make the cut.
  6. Brush some cinnamon powder over the cuts and let them heal for the next 2-3 days. Cinnamon can prevent fungal or bacterial infection.
  7. Prepare a sterile pot 2 inches (5 cm) wider and deeper than the rootball of each division.
  8. Insert a bonsai wire through the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot and fill it in with 2 inches (5 cm) of fresh, moist soil mix. You may add 10-20% gravel, lava rocks, or pumice to your usual jade plant soil mix to add more weight and keep the division upright.
  9. Position the division over the soil and fill in the gaps around it to keep it upright.
  10. Twist the bonsai wire firmly in a spiral around the trunk to keep it steady. Ensure the wire isn’t digging through the trunk. You may need to keep the wire around the plant for a year until there are enough roots to keep the plant stable.
  11. Place the plant in bright, indirect light for at least a month as it grows new roots. 
  12. Wait one week before watering your plant deeply.
  13. Gradually move the plant back to direct sunlight until it’s properly acclimated.

Stem Propagation

Old jade plants may have too many branches and offshoots, which need to be pruned. You may collect these and grow them into new plants.

Here’s how to identify and collect viable cuttings:

  • Offshoots are young stems sprouting from random nodes along the trunk or the base of the plant. Use a sharp, sterile knife to remove the offshoots. Keep slicing off the remaining stump to keep it flush with the stem and prevent new growth from that spot.
  • Healthy branches that grow in unwanted directions or are crisscrossing make good cuttings. Cut about a quarter inch (0.6 cm) above a node where you want new growth to start. 

After collecting the cuttings, follow these steps: 

  1. Brush some cinnamon powder on the wound on the trunk.
  2. Locate a node at the bottom and make a 45° cut a quarter inch (0.6 cm) below it. This will help the cutting draw moisture more efficiently when rooted in water. Conversely, this step isn’t necessary when rooting in soil.
  3. Remove the leaves at the bottom nodes, ensuring that the cutting still has at least 2 pairs of healthy leaves left at the terminal end.
  4. Let the cuttings form a callus for the next 3-7 days. You may also brush cinnamon powder on the wound to prevent infection.

Pro tip: Jade plants will readily grow roots from the bottom nodes when planted in soil or water. However, if you want them to root faster, you can dip the cut end in rooting hormone and shake off the excess before planting.

Rooting in Soil

You can root the cuttings in your usual jade plant soil mix or use 100% coco peat and perlite, which are sterile, soilless substrates. They have excellent drainage and aeration that can prevent rot. 

Here’s how to root jade cuttings:

  1. Prepare a 3-4-inch (7.6-10 cm) sterile nursery pot with drainage holes and fill it with your chosen substrate. 
  2. Water the substrate evenly and deeply and let the excess drip from the drainage holes.
  3. Poke a hole in the middle deep enough to bury the bottom 1-1.5 inches (2.5-3.8 cm) of the cutting in the substrate. Tamp the soil around the stem to keep it steady.
  4. Place the setup in a warm room (75 °F or 24 °C) with bright, indirect light. 
  5. Maintain the humidity at 50-60% to prevent the leaves from drying out. You may switch on a humidifier a few feet from your plants or place a clear plastic dome over your cuttings during the day.
  6. Water the soil as soon as the top inch (2.5 cm) is dry to encourage root growth.

After a month or so, the rooted cuttings will put out new leaf buds, indicating good root growth.

Rooting in Water

Water propagation is pretty straightforward but relatively slower. It can take up to three months before roots grow long enough for repotting. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Prepare a small, clear glass or jar. I recommend a small jar with a narrow neck.
  2. Fill it with enough filtered water to soak the cutting’s bottom inch (2.5 cm). Ensure the bottom node is submerged and the leaves aren’t touching the water. 
  3. Place the jar in a warm room with bright, indirect light.
  4. Replace the water every week.

Once the roots are 2 inches (5 cm) long, you may transfer the young plant to a standard jade soil mix in a 4-inch (10 cm) sterile pot.

Leaf Propagation

Jade leaves are also capable of forming roots when planted in soil. Even fallen leaves may root in the same pot if the soil has enough moisture. 

Leaf propagation is an excellent method if the plant has severe rot and there are few or no viable stem cuttings.

Below are the steps for collecting and propagating jade leaves:

  1. Look for healthy green leaves without signs of discoloration, wrinkling, or shriveling.
  2. Pinch the leaves close to the branch or stem so that there’s a bit of the node attached.
  3. Prepare a shallow container with about 2 inches (5 cm) of soil.
  4. Place the leaves horizontally on the surface of the moist jade soil mix, ensuring the node is touching the soil. Keep the leaves 2 inches (5 cm) apart.
  5. Lightly spray the soil mix with filtered water. Keep the surface moist by spraying it every 1-2 days.
  6. Keep the setup in a warm, humid room away from direct sunlight.

Roots should develop within a month and new leaf buds will form. Over time, the original leaf will dry out and the new shoots will grow bigger. You can transplant the young plant into a 6-inch (15 cm) pot when it is around 3-4 inches (7.6-10 cm) tall.

Post-Repotting Care

Based on my decade-long experience with jade plants, I can say they’re quite sturdy and tolerant of messy repotting. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to pay more attention to your jade plant for the next 1-3 months after repotting to quickly catch signs of transplant shock.

To help your jade plant thrive in its new environment, here are some essential considerations:

Initial Care After Repotting

Maintain a more stringent care routine for at least a month after repotting to avoid transplant stress. Remember the following parameters and care tips:

  • Light: Jade plants over three years old will do well with the same light conditions they had before repotting. However, if there had been significant pruning (of roots and foliage), they may need bright indirect light for a while. The shorter roots need time to recover and expand. Too much light will dry out the soil quickly and stress the roots.
  • Temperature: High temperatures can also dry out the soil more quickly. It’s best to maintain the temperatures around 75 °F (24 °C) during the day and 60 °F (15.6 °C) at night. 
  • Humidity: After transplant, the roots may initially struggle to draw water from the soil. Maintain the humidity at around 50% to reduce transpiration and prevent the leaves from drying out.
  • Water: Check the soil moisture 7-10 days after repotting and water your plant when the upper half of the pot has dried out. Keeping your jade plant well-hydrated is crucial as it recovers from repotting. However, be mindful of the adjusted light, temperature, and humidity conditions and how they can affect the rate of moisture loss. 
  • Fertilizer: Avoid feeding your plant immediately after repotting. Using a high-quality soil mix should be enough to feed your plant for up to a year. That said, if you repot your plant in spring, you can wait until the following spring to fertilize it.

The appearance of new leaf buds is a good sign that your plant is recovering and comfortable in its new pot. When you see signs of growth, you can gradually revert your plant to the usual care routine, which I’ll discuss further below.

Transplant Shock

Overwatering and underwatering are common causes of stress for newly transplanted jade plants. 

Here’s how to identify and fix them:

ProblemSignsSolutions
Overwatering
  • Wet soil
  • Yellow leaves (entire surface)
  • Brown, mushy spots on leaves
  • Black spots or blisters (edema) on the leaf surface
  • Leaf drop

Note: Address the issue promptly before it escalates to root rot. A newly transplanted and stressed jade plant might not survive another repotting if rot occurs.

Cut back on watering and wait until the upper ⅔ of the potting soil is dry before watering.

Allow the excess moisture to drain through the holes before placing the pot back on its saucer.
Underwatering
  • Dry soil
  • Wrinkled or shriveled leaves
  • Yellow leaf edges that eventually turn brown and dry
  • Leaf drop
Water the plant as soon as the top half of the pot is dry. Avoid letting the soil become bone-dry.

Use a watering can with a narrow spout and swirl it all over the soil surface to ensure it’s evenly saturated.

Bottom water your plant once every two months to relieve hydrophobic soil clumps.

Below are other common post-repotting problems to watch out for:

  • Leaf tips and stems that are becoming redder than usual: Jade leaves tend to have red tips when exposed to direct sunlight. However, if the tips of fleshy stems and branches also turn red, moving your plant away from direct sunlight is best. You may place them in a spot that receives 8 hours of bright indirect light daily.
  • Leaning or falling over: Overgrown jade plants with unbalanced foliage may lean after repotting. Keep them upright by securing them against a bamboo stake using Velcro garden tapes or soft twist ties. You may need to keep the stake for a year or so until the roots and trunk are strong enough to anchor the plant.

Long-Term Jade Plant Care Tips

Once your plant starts producing new shoots, you may refer to the following for long-term care:

  • Gradually move your plant closer to a bright window until it becomes comfortable with four hours of direct sunlight daily
  • Water the plant as soon as the top half of the potting soil is dry. 
  • Rotate the pot by 90-180° every time you water your plant for even light exposure and balanced growth.
  • Inspect the stems and undersides of leaves for honeydew, brown bumps, cottony white fluff, and fine webs. These can indicate pests. You may spot-remove the pests using a cotton swab with alcohol.
  • Feed your plant a 10-10-10 slow-release granular fertilizer in early spring. Apply a thin layer of granules over the soil surface and water the soil deeply. You may apply a second dose in early summer to encourage faster growth.
  • Pinch unwanted leaf buds or offshoots growing on random nodes. You can use sterile shears or your clean fingernails.
  • Prune mature plants in spring for balanced foliage growth. Remove dead leaves or branches and leggy or crisscrossing stems. Limit pruning to less than a third of the plant. 
  • Clear the soil surface of plant debris to prevent pests and pathogens from hiding and proliferating in decaying plant matter.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

To keep your plant healthy, here are common repotting mistakes you must avoid:

Overpotting

Jade plants are slow-growers and the roots can take a long time to fill out the pot. Oversized pots may contain too much soil and hold excess moisture, increasing the risk of overwatering, which can lead to root rot.

A good rule of thumb is to use a pot that’s only 2 inches (5 cm) wider and deeper than the rootball.

Selecting a Pot Without Drainage Holes

Avoid using pots without drainage holes. Excess moisture can suffocate the roots and promote harmful fungal and bacterial growth. Due to their thin, fibrous roots, jade plants are highly susceptible to root rot when kept in constantly moist soil. 

Using the Wrong Soil Type

Jade plants like loose soil with excellent drainage and aeration. Soil that contains too much peat moss, vermiculite, or clay will hold excess moisture and increase the risk of root rot.

Conversely, a soil mix that contains too much sand will easily become hydrophobic if frequently allowed to become bone-dry between watering sessions. 

Sand particles have a low surface area, so fatty compounds from decaying plant matter can wrap around them. The compounds can form a hydrophobic barrier that repels water, keeping the roots dehydrated.

It’s important to find a balance between moisture retention and drainage to avoid over- and underwatering problems. That’s why my go-to soil mix for jade plants contains equal parts compost and perlite.

Over-Fertilization

Jade plants are light feeders and will do great with a gentle dose of nutrients from fresh potting soil. Even during the growing season, they don’t require too much fertilizer because of their naturally slow growth rate.

If you apply too much fertilizer after repotting, the excess salts can build up in the soil. They will draw moisture out from the roots, causing them to dry out. This can lead to transplant shock as the leaves exhibit brown or black spots with yellow margins (leaf scorch).

Wrong Timing

Jade plants grow more actively during spring and summer. Although they don’t enter dormancy, they may grow more slowly during fall and winter. As a result, repotting during the cold season can result in slower recovery. 

If you must repot your plant during the cold season due to urgent issues like root rot, it helps to maintain optimal conditions similar to the growing season. 

Here are some tips:

  • Give your plant at least 8 hours of bright indirect light daily. Alternatively, place it under a full-spectrum 40-watt grow light for 12-16 hours a day.
  • Keep daytime temperatures around 75 °F (24 °C) and nighttime temperatures above 60 °F (15.6 °C)
  • Water your plant as soon as the soil dries halfway through.

Wrong Placement

Too much light can dry out the soil more quickly and prompt your plant to be more metabolically active. Both conditions can stress the roots that are still recovering from pruning and adjusting to the new environment.

On the other hand, insufficient light can delay root growth. Roots require bright light to promote negative phototropism. There should be a balance between blue and red light (natural or artificial) to help both the roots and the foliage adapt to the new pot and soil.

When relocating your jade plant, it’s also worth remembering that the leaves are toxic to pets and curious kids. The sap may cause vomiting or diarrhea if ingested. 

Choose a spot that’s beyond the reach of kids and dogs, or place the plant in a room inaccessible to cats.

Final Thoughts

Jade plants are forgiving of rough repotting and heavy root pruning, but only if you know how to handle them and where to cut. 

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Use a pot that’s only one size bigger than the old pot or 2 inches (5 cm) wider and deeper than the rootball. Ensure it’s breathable and has drainage holes.
  • Choose a high-quality soil mix with excellent drainage and infused with nutrients.
  • Use sharp, sterile tools when cutting.
  • Pay extra attention to your plant care routine 1-3 months after repotting to diagnose and quickly address transplant shock symptoms.

If you’re a beginner gardener or new to jade plants, this article is a great guide until you become more confident in your jade plant handling and repotting skills. 

Don’t be afraid to repot your plant if it appears rootbound. Repotting can help replenish the soil nutrients and encourage your plant to keep growing. It can also help rejuvenate severely rootbound and droopy plants.

Please leave a comment if you have questions or valuable tips and insights about repotting jade plants.

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