jade plant concerns, turning purple, wrinkled weak leaves

NamoraSeptember 20, 2011

Hello, I'm afraid after months of searching information on the internet and my best attempts to follow advice given to others, I have to resort to asking about my problems directly. This is my third attempt at growing a jade plant, and it is again looking sickly. The first two I over-watered, rookie mistake, and they rotted. But after receiving another nice potted cutting for my birthday I was determined to keep this one alive.

I let the soil dry between watering over the Summer and it seemed to do fine. The soil is dark and has something that looks like mulch in it but I didn't really ask what it's made of, the person who gave me this cutting has a very large and healthy Jade. It drains pretty quick I guess, it gets pretty dry in 1-3 days.

The problem started about a month ago, the bottom of some leaves turned dark purple and new leaves seemed weak. I did some research but found mixed answers. Then at the end of August I moved to a different apartment.

I put the plant on a window sill facing West that has a tall building right in front of mine. It didn't really change much, getting a little darker and less green It used to be right on the sill, but when I came back from a trip this weekend (being gone 3 days) it was almost completely purple and withered. (the weird yellow light is from my lamp). I moved it on to my table where it is in the picture.

I checked and I think the roots are fine, the stem is still stiff and the little cuttings have grown nice roots. I poked around a little and it doesn't look like it is rotting, but the leaves are really soft. I immediately gave it plenty of water, but again I'm afraid of giving it too much and risking rot.. Today it seems to be doing better and some of the leaves became plumper and greener.

I'm just worried because I couldn't find any good information on why in the world it is purple. It might be getting too much light, that would be my first guess, but perhaps it's an infection?

Also, I want to know if anyone could tell me precisely how much I should be watering it, over the Summer I tried to make it about once a week or fewer. I'm not sure how to handle the winter season though, that's when my last two died. The site here says " if the plant experiences the cool then water should be withheld, and expect leaf drop as well as some of the branches. If the plant is indoors, it still will likely shed in preparation for the main growing season- the late fall/early winter" It's cool here, so does that mean I should stop watering my sickly looking plant? It doesn't seem right. Also why is winter the main growing season? I tugged at some leaves and they're securely on the stem, so it's not really doing the dropping thing. I live in Brooklyn NYC now and it's getting pretty cold now(70-60), how cold should I let the plant get?

Another thing is that I have no idea what to do about fertilization, I never had plants before and don't really understand it >_>'' When should I give it fertilizer, it is good to give it some now? what fertilizer should I get?

here are some more photos, click the images for a bigger picture

dry purple leaves

these leaves haven't grown in a while now and look damaged

some leaves that plumped up again

the little cuttings, actually the small stem one was from the last plant I over watered, and the leaf is from the original plant. I actually just noticed that leaf has two little guys at the very end starting to grow.

the underside of the leaves that is really purple.

not sure what's up with the white dots in the photos, they really don't show up that much in real life, and the fuzz stuff looks just like normal dust when I look at it : / The plant is really small, smaller than my hand, so the photos really blow it up.

Thanks in advance to anyone who attempts to help me out!!

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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

First, welcome!

Secondly, purple is not a bad sign on Jade plants.

How much light has it been receiving? Also, is it a small-leaf Jade?
I find that some of my small-leaf Jades are prone to purple coloration.

It looks to be dehydrated in the pics. Let us know if the leaves plump back up
now that you've watered it. That should do the trick.

Don't water on a schedule. Feel the leaves. If soft, water. If firm, don't water.


    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 6:46PM
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Thank you for the quick response!

It's on a West facing window sill and has bright direct light for a couple hours of the day. I read light could burn it though so I moved it on to the table.

I guess it's a small-leaf? I'm not sure. The lady I got it from has a very large plant but the leaves are the size of that one I have in the soil. The branches are brown and long and a lot of them curve down and intertwine. What worries me is that her plant is not purple at all and it's bright green and looks much cheerier I guess haha. Also my plant hasn't really been growing much, the two little leaves at the top sprouted up but stopped growing when it started turning purple and one of them wrinkled up.

Yea I've read that elsewhere, it makes sense. I'll try to restrain myself from worrying about the water

    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 7:23PM
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prayerrock(zone 5)

I am thinking along the same lines as Josh, this look like a small leaf Jade that is etoliated from lack of good light. The purple is a very nice color on the small leaf jades. Mine gets this also and I love it.
I would venture that your Jade will do just fine now that is is taking a nice drink. It just looks dehydrated. Dont start thinking you need to give it more water though, wait till the leaves plump up, it may take a few days depending on how depleated the trunk/branch part is.


    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 8:19PM
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Anyone here will agree that any jade will never get TOO much sun INDOORS. I have kept many of jades in a south window with blazing sun for just about all day. In this blazing sunny window, they NEVER aquire the purple-red color that signals good light, with the exception of the small leaf varieties, which, as Josh said, naturally get that coloring. The only way mine get the light induced purple is to be outdoors in summer. You can however give them too much sun if you plop them out in the sun with no acclimation. I also find that mine were getting TOO purple with full 16 hour sun on my deck, so I reduced it to about 10. So, with that said, don't think for a second that indoor conditions provide too much light. Do note though that after a repot, keep it out of any direct sun for a week or so.

Anyways, on to watering. I agree, but only somewhat, with the "water when the leaves get soft" thing. For beginners, such as yourself, this works great. This method will prevent you from overwatering, until you learn to care for your jade. Once you learn the ins & outs of jades, you'll beable to water BEFORE the leaves get soft. Now, in winter, if my jades shut down all growth, I will indeed wait until the leaves get soft. But, while in active growth, my experience is that I get better growth by NOT letting it go soft, but rather watering when the soil goes dry. For the record, I've kept jades for about 13 years now, and have never rotted one. This even includes when I used to use Miracle Grow, which is not ideal for jades.

So, after all that jibba-jabba, I'll say I agree that the jades in your photos appear to be suffering from lack of light, as well as lack of water.


    Bookmark   September 20, 2011 at 10:30PM
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It's probably the acclimation part that hurt it because of the moving around. How gradual do changes need to be?

I moved it back to the window, so hopefully it gets enough light. Is there a way to get it bright green again? I guess I don't mind the purple but I do like green more.

The leaves are still feeling soft and some are really flat, I hope it gets better soon :Y

Thanks for the feedback!

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 12:32AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hi, Namora!
Usually, two weeks is the recommendation for acclimating Jades to full sun (outdoors).
Indoors there shouldn't be any problem, as long as the plant is sufficiently hydrated.
Check the trunks/stems of your Jade at the soil-line (or just below) to make sure that
the trunks haven't collapsed and begun to rot.

Rest assured, your Jade will be green for most of the year! ;-)


    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 2:44PM
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Namora, when you water any plant, including Jade, be sure the water runs out of the drainage hole really well. Looks like that soil will drain nicely.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 3:22PM
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