I can't stop the jade tree leaf drop! Help! (pictures inside)

deadJuly 9, 2007

Hi there. I have a nice little Jade tree that gave me no trouble for the first 3 months that I owned it. I kept it in a south facing window on the second floor and watered it sparingly, maybe once every 3 weeks.

Well, after about 3 or 4 months I started to notice some leaf drop: there were quite a few brown crinkly leaves showing up here and there and dropping down onto my carpet. After talking with a few different people, I realized that this was probably due to a lack of water, so I increased the water that I was giving the jade. A little less than 2 quarts every 2 or 3 weeks.

Now, however, the leaf drop has continued. The leaves become yellow and soft and the slightest touch sends them falling to the floor. I am just hopeless as to what to do here! It gets decent sunlight from the window (which is quite large), and I don't run the air conditioner in my apartment at all during the day, and in the evenings I don't let it get much cooler than 77 degrees.

I'm at a loss for what to do!! I don't want to lose this beautiful tree. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much! Pictures are below:

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sjv78736(austin texas)

Dead -


Eyes may begin to roll now because I sound like a broken record with my warning...but here I go again...

Unpot your plant and completely wash the soil off with spray from the hose. **Note if there is a ball of peat around the root-ball** Check for any dead, mushy or grey roots and remove those with a sharp, sterilized knife. Sprinkle any cuts with cinnamon and set it in a dry, shady spot for a few days to allow the cuts to callus over. Prepare some proper succulent mix. *No Peat* There are as many mixes as their are succulent growers. I use 50/50 organic potting soil and haydite but turface, decomposed granite or even perlite will also work...but *No Peat*...did I say that already?

Peat becomes hydrophobic when dry and almost impossible to rehydrate. Since succulents need to dry out between waterings, it is a recipe for disaster. Oust it! Since most commercial growers use peat, it is highly possible that after the first time you allowed your plant to dry between waterings the peat was dried out and has never rehydrated whereby your plant has not had a good drink since you brought it home. Water will roll down the sides of the pot and out the bottom, never giving the roots a chance at it. This is also why you cannot remove a root-ball from a nursery pot and plop into a new pot, adding fast-draining dirt around it...that only exacerbates the problem.

Once your plant is re-potted, you can resume a normal watering schedule as it has (hopefully still will have) a nice root system. Don't bother to measure the amount of water you are giving. Instead, drench the container until water runs from the bottom...this time it should drain almost instantly from the soil surface and will trickle thru the "soil proper". You can now confidently (and properly) allow the soil to dry between waterings with no worries.

HTH! You've got a nice-sized C. Ovata and it would be a shame to lose it!
I will step off the ole soapbox and allow others their turn.
GL! Jo

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 10:33PM
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Sounds like good advice. And may I ask - why isn't your Jade outside?? I'm in Omaha and mine all go out as soon as the last frost is past and stay out until we get a good hard freeze. They really, REALLY benefit from being outside in summer, and it increases your chances of getting blooms in late fall/winter.

Hope you can save that big beauty.

Denise in Omaha

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 12:04AM
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Instead of peat, use coir. I bought mine in blocks called "Bed a Beast" at Petsmart (in the dragon/lizzard section). It is much easier to rewet after drying out. Beautiful plant.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 9:46AM
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Thanks for all of the advice!! I will probably try inspecting the roots this weekend when I have some time.

Also, the reason I don't keep it outside Denise is because I am in an apartment complex with no deck or rooftop garden space, which kills me, but I have to make due.

Thanks again for the help. I will do my best to keep this big guy alive!!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 12:43PM
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i can't agree more -


besides acting like a wick when dry, the by-products of peat decomposition are toxic. Peat is OK for palm trees or annuals which are vigorous and the soil mix is changed regularly anyway...but not succulents which rely on a stable, neutral soil mix to keep the fine roots alive

besides the soil mix, i think that plant would benefit from a wider (and maybe more shallow) pot, but as was already stated, inspect the roots 1st before you overpot.

i agree, inadequate water to the leaves is the culprit here

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 9:35PM
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dufflebag2002(Calif. 91607)

Better you be the broken record and not me. Thanks, Norma

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 9:37PM
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Well, I've gotten at the roots and I don't think they look very good. Any expert opinion on these?

They appear pretty red in that picture, though as they've dried overnight they seem to be a bit lighter in coloration. There are plenty of fine white roots, but nearly all of the large ones are that reddish color. Scratching the root with a fingernail reveals white underneath.

Quite an ordeal, I should say, to wash the dirt off of this. I had to haul him down two flights of stairs and use the hose from the business my apartment is located behind (which happens to be a bar!). Anyway, the plant is sitting in a shady spot in my apartment just hanging out today. Thoughts on where to go from here?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 9:23AM
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dufflebag2002(Calif. 91607)

At least you don't have to walk it every day. No Vet bills, give it a slightly larger pot at this time and trim the top off the plant so the roots have a chance to grow. Place it near an open window, that has some sun coming in part of the day at least. It's a healthy plant. New soil, will give it a jump start. Add some pebbles into the soil, so it can drain well, make sure your soil is fast draining. Some more hints that may be helpful. A bird shop will have coarse gravel that you can add to the soil, or scratch for chickens, or a nearby clean stream should have small pebbles or rocks. Those roots need to grow and support all of the leaves on top. Norma

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 11:12AM
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Thanks Norma! I had never actually looked at Jade roots before (except from some cuttings I had propagated) and the reddish tint of the roots scared me a bit--though they are all sturdy (no mush).

The soil mixture I was considering preparing was equal parts topsoil, sand, vermiculite and then a little perlite. Does that seem like an OK mix or should I consider something else?

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 11:18AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

I believe Norma would caution (Hi Norma!) against the sand, unless it's quite coarse & of course, clean & salt-free.

My own opinion, I NEVER use sand, it can cause problems, I'd skip the vermiculite (which is used to retain water) & increase the perlite (which will help insure fast drainage). Pls. use a hefty amount of perlite, like at least 1/4 of the whole volume, if not 1/3, personally, I use it in 1/3 propoportion (tho' I tend to use pumice in place of perlite).

Feel free to disagree w/ me Norma, I don't have a 1/4 of the experience w/ these as you do!

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 1:22PM
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sjv78736(austin texas)

I agree...skip the sand and vermiculite altogether and use more perlite, grit, or decomposed granite, etc.
The root-ball seems a bit small for this size plant so I am going to surmise that it was not developing fine roots. Water only as needed. Your surgery is going to do worlds' of good for your C. Ovata! Carry on! Jo

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 2:07PM
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I'm having trouble finding a supplier of haydite or turface in my area. Is there anything acceptable I can substitute in my soil mix (something that I can find at Menard's or Home Depot, or something like that?)

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 2:41PM
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Vermiculite breaks down into clay components which reduces drainage in the long run. Vermiculite is great for seed starting because it is light and fluffy, but not stable.

Unless you are using very coarse sand, it will not improve the soil structure in a pot. In the ground, sand can help lighten up a dense substructure.

Equal parts top-soil and perlite I think would be a good, simple place to start, and learn to observe your plants for their watering needs rather than sticking to a set watering schedule.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 2:47PM
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sjv78736(austin texas)

"Equal parts top-soil and perlite I think would be a good, simple place to start, and learn to observe your plants for their watering needs rather than sticking to a set watering schedule."

I agree with X, Dead. My mix is very simple. I know lots of folks use a number of ingredients mixed together but "simple" also works. 50/50 potting soil and perlite will give you good drainage. The only issue with using perlite is that it is sooo lite that some of it floats to the top of the soil when you drench soil. In order to keep a neat appearance, you may wish to use decomposed granite or river rocks or something over the top of your soil. You should be able to find all the items I've mentioned in this post at HD. Haydite is a bit more difficult to find but you can do a search and the manufacturer has a site that will help you locate a dealer in your area. I get mine at the local organic gardeners nursery. For turface, ask anyone who maintains a local baseball field (at a high school or community park) turface is sure to be used to control drainage. "Oil-Dri" can usually be found at HD or at WM. But as I said, simple works too! HTH - Jo

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 3:05PM
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Alright! Thanks for all the advice everyone. I've repotted the jade in a 1:1 mix of topsoil and perlite, with a few river stones thrown in and some decorative rock atop all of it to clean things up. I drilled a few extra holes in the bottom of the pot and all is draining well.

Thanks once again for all of the advice. Hopefully this will end the leaf drop and lead to some growth.

One final question before the pics... someone had suggested that I give the jade a trim. Why should I do this, and how should I do it? I have my pruning shears ready !! :)

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 9:14PM
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sjv78736(austin texas)

...and good luck! Jo

    Bookmark   July 11, 2007 at 10:25PM
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There are several things you can do with pruning. You could whack each big trunk and take quite a bit off or jut cut each secondary branch back to within two to three inches of the main trunk. It may take quite a bit of the leaves off, but they will come back quite quickly. If you have sharp loppers or pruners (that can cut 1") you can use those or a simple knife. Make sure that whatever you use is clean. It will be hard to prune a lot for you because it will take so much of the green, but it will come back and will branch more and become fuller. Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 9:48AM
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dufflebag2002(Calif. 91607)

The first thing that I noticed when you showed the roots, is that the porportions are not correct. Too much top growth for the amt. of roots. I would trip off 1/3 of the top, or you will have the plant flopping out of the pot. Don't take the tops off and have a square top, do a little at a time wait two weeks and do a little more, make it as natural as you can. Watch watering for a month, and set it in a low light shade position until the roots grow again and the plant is steady. These plants like to be crowded, so you may want to use natural looking rocks around the plant.

Karen hi to you, you did well, if you were wrong you know I would speak up, regardless that we are good friends. If I leave out something, you would speak out and tell me of course. I would expect you to do that for me. Norma

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 1:55AM
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dufflebag2002(Calif. 91607)

Hi dead, how did you get the picture inside. Need instructions. Norma

    Bookmark   July 15, 2007 at 1:14AM
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Norma, sorry, which picture are you referring to?

    Bookmark   July 15, 2007 at 1:03PM
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dufflebag2002(Calif. 91607)

The pictures that you showed on the forum of your Jade. I would love to be able to do that, my pro PC man can't figure it out. Any help would be appreciated. I will give the instructions to him, he will be able to translate it.
Will you be able to give us some instructions please.
Trim your "Jade" a bit at a time. Come down about 2-3" per leaf cluster at the top. You will know when the roots are growing by the new growth on the top. You need to force root growth. I hope you broke up at root ball, and spread the roots on top of the soil, then poured more soil on top of them. What is that top dressing? I hope it not sand. Use two or three big rocks on top partly buried into the soil then use a coarse tan or gray gravel on top 1/4 in size. You may be able to find gravel along the side of a road. The more even the size of this top dressing the better it will look. Pour it over the rock and down into the pot, then take a brush, any paint brush will do and wipe off the excess gravel on the rocks, then see if you like it, and please show us a picure, you take excellent photos. Norma

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 12:46AM
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sjv78736(austin texas)

Oh Norma I didnt realize that you didnt know how to upload pix to the posts. It is very simple. Let me start it in a new post instead of hijacking this one! Jo

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 1:52AM
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mauch1(z6b PA)

Coir warning: Somebody suggested coir - and that suggestion was not taken. But be careful of coir - especially if it was not specifically designated for plants. I have read that some coir is high in salt which is not (generally) good for plants. I have used and like coir. You can even buy it in bricks (about the size of a brick paver), that when hydrated fill a 5 gallon bucket almost 2/3 full.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 11:42AM
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Hey there, I have a followup.

It's been about a week since the repotting, and I've done a fair amount of pruning back the tree, but there is still major leaf drop!!

I've watered the tree through once, and the soil is draining fine and is relatively moist--so right now I'm letting it dry completely. There is a tiny amount of new growth, but it is not spaced evenly throughout the tree, and none has shown up on the places where I've pruned. I'm still pretty concerned about this big guy. Is this just part of the adjustment phase and should I expect the leaf drop to continue for a while, or does this mean something may have gone wrong in my repotting process? Thanks again!

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 1:46PM
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