Does my Jade plant have rot at the base?

AmyTheArtist(9a)November 20, 2012

Hello everyone, I joined here hoping I could get some help.. I'm pretty new to having plants of any kind, so I'm not entirely sure what rot can potentially look like (though saying that, a couple of the other stems that were originally in the group I got did get rot at the base, but it was worse and fit the descriptions I read of it [squishy, blackish, shriveled inwards]. I was able to salvage the tops of those stems, though they're not growing much of a root system, with roots less than 0.5mm long, and some of them changed color from white to a lightish brown color..)

I'm not sure if the bottoms of the stems shown in the attached photo are rotting or not, since they don't look quite like what I've encountered before, and they still feel firm.. If they are rotting, what do I do? Cut off the bottom parts? I'm worried the leaves don't have enough water stored to survive having to grow new roots (if that's how it works)... As it is, the leaves are getting soft and wrinkled, not plump and firm like they used to be... Does that indicate it's not taking up water and hence has root rot? What color(s) should healthy roots be, come to think of it (so I know what to look for if I do have to try and make them grow new ones)?

The parts of the stems in question were originally underneath the soil I got it in, and are also usually covered by what they're in now (a mix of perlite and miracle-gro succulent mix), if it's relevant.

Sorry I have so many questions.. Any advice on any of this is greatly appreciated! :)

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It sure doesn't look lively, does it? How about uprooting it and giving us a pic of the root ball and lower trunk. It's still very salvageable, even if it is rot (to me, it looks like it is). It could also just be stained with dirt.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 11:50AM
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Dirt staining had crossed my mind, glad to know that can actually be a thing..

Here is the main one I'm having issues about:

And here are some close-ups of its roots:

The other two plants, as seen in the picture below, don't seem to have the same coloration as the other one, so I'm not inclined to say they have rot, though their roots are still dark and dry-feeling like the other one (almost as if they could be brittle, which makes me nervous about handling them, but again, I don't know how roots are supposed to be..):

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 1:20PM
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If it feels solid, then it's nothing but discolouring. If it feels mushy, then we have a problem. How does it feel? The pictures make me think all is fine, but I've been wrong once this year.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 1:29PM
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It feels solid to me.. But then why are the leaves going soft, I wonder..? Am I just not watering it enough? I don't want to over-water, since I read that's an awful thing to do... But the mix it's in did seem rather dry...

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 1:47PM
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Watering that plant, as long as it's in a warm, well-lit room, 2-3x a month doesn't seem excessive, given the soil that it's in. Yes, leaf droopiness is what they do when they're thirsty.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 2:34PM
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I am sorry, but I don't see any healthy roots at all.

I have a feeling those roots are dead, but hopefully not.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 6:29PM
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I was afraid of that... I'll try watering them, and if they don't respond.. I guess I'll try cutting off the bottoms (or should it just be the roots)?

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 2:20AM
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I have some newish Jades doing similar things with the shriveled leaves. I think it's due to severe water stress I put them through (from spraying with alcohol to eliminate mealies--that was months ago and they have yet to recover fully).

The mix in these pics does look very dry, so I think watering is the way to proceed--guessing you did so already. If you're worried about over watering, stick a wooden chopstick or skewer in the mix. Water only when the stick feels bone dry. (You could also use a wick, but a stick is easier to add.)

I wouldn't worry about cutting them up unless they very clearly turn out to be rotting.

By the way, on mine the leaves are very wrinkled, but the stems feel pretty firm.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 3:20AM
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Here they are, a week after watering. The leaves look a lot plumper now, which is good news, since that means the roots aren't dead--glad I didn't cut them! Though there's a white build-up on the rim of the pot now.. Not sure what the cause of that is, maybe just perlite dust somehow.

I've tried the chopstick method, but I don't think it's super effective for my mix, since the water would be mainly stored in the perlite as far as I know and doesn't seem to show up on the stick, which I suppose was my problem to begin with, having to gauge when to water.. I think I'll try every other week or so.

Thanks for the input, everyone!

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 7:10PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Yes, they look to be recovering.
Try leaving your chopstick or toothpick in the mix so that it has more time to become moist -
also, the white material on the rim is of no harm, probably from the perlite, as you said,
or other salts in your tap-water. Rinsing your perlite ahead of time helps prevent this.

I think I would water more frequently (7 - 10 days) in this type of mix, even during Winter.
During the Summer, I would certainly water more often. In any event, try leaving the skewer in the
pot longer, and see if that tells a different story ;-)


    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 10:44AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Sorry, but I must pls. disagree.

Perlite doesn't hold water, in fact the opposite is true, pertlite in the mix helps the mix be more fast draining (not less). Maybe you're confusing it w/ vermiculite, (which I believe does hold water.)

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 4:37PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Pirate Girl is correct.

Perlite doesn't hold moisture internally - only on its outer surface,
and thus it reduces the overall water-holding capacity of the mix. When Perlite
becomes the primary component of the mix, then it begins to increase drainage.

I say give the skewer a second try, leaving it in the mix continuously.


    Bookmark   November 30, 2012 at 10:26AM
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Oh! I misunderstood how perlite works! I thought I read it held water in its pores so the roots could get it without being waterlogged by other soil..? Thank you for telling me! And I'll give the skewer a try!

I have been using distilled water on them, so don't think it'd be a salt build-up, unless that can happen rather quickly? They haven't been in this mix long, maybe 2-3 months tops?

On the topic of watering during winter, I'm under the impression Jades are supposed to go dormant in winter? But what I'm wondering is if they do it regardless of the outside temperature, or if they react to their surroundings? Since I keep it inside and I'm in Louisiana, it doesn't really get below 30F in winter at worst, and since it's inside and not directly by a window, it would never be exposed to that.. So will it keep growing if it stays warm, or no?

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 9:29PM
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Not to hijack your thread any, Amy, but I'm curious now if the windowsill is the best place to keep a jade during the winter. I have several inside on windowsills now and live in NY (we can get some pretty dang chilly days in winter).

Also, though I'm not sure its applicable to your situation, I have noticed that my jades continue to grow... or at least portions of them that were lopped off back toward the end of summer.


    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 10:17PM
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Completely untrue - Crassula ovata flowers in the winter and wants to grow in the winter, provided it has growing conditions.


Not a hijack at all. If the area around your windows is cold most of the time, no, but it should get as much sun as it can lest it etiolate. These plants grow when conditions are opportune, not too hot (and humid), not too cold and sunless.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 10:42PM
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I see..! Good to know, thank you!
Ah, maybe because it was so hot.. Not directly about my jade plant, but I have a few pots of small, individual Portulacaria afra on the windowsill (west-facing) and they were dropping leaves like nuts. Now that it has cooled off, I notice they're growing new leaves. Here's hoping for some good growth over the winter for all of them! :)

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 2:25AM
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I am also going to chime into this thread ("hijack") to get some help of my own, if possible. I have a jade plant that I've had for almost four years. I grew it from a leaf. Recently, a lot of the leaves have been falling off. I had checked the roots, and they seemed okay, but today, I was checking it out again and realized that the bottom of the trunk is a bit soft to the touch. I'm afraid that it has root rot. It looks a lot like Amy's plant (the discoloration) except, unfortunately, it is soft.

I have rinsed off the roots as best I could, and as I was doing so, a part of the main, thick root fell off. I have sprinkled cinnamon where the root fell off and I'm now letting the plant dry out, out of its pot.

Do you think the plant can survive this? Or will I need to cut the bottom of the trunk off?

I can provide pictures if that helps. Thanks in advance!


    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 7:51PM
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If the trunk is soft and squishy, there is rot, which will only spread up the trunk to the rest of the plant. If it is just a little soft, it could just be from lack of viable roots to supply water to the plant. In any case, any rot present should be cut out completely.


    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 8:02PM
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Thanks Christopher! It felt pretty soft, and a little hollow, as if it were rotting from the inside out.

Here are some photos: (Note that there is cinnamon on the open wounds, thus the redish color...)

and this is the root the fell off:

Should I cut the plant from above the suspected rot, plant it in new soil, and try again? I'd be sad to see this plant go.

The thing is, the top part of the plant isn't doing too well either. As you can see, many of the leaves fell off, and now the stem is getting very droopy.

Let me know what you think. Thanks so much!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 12:38PM
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You have more cutting to do. Cut to healthy tissue, and your last cut should be with a clean knife. The healthy tissue will have a yellowish-white hue. Dust the end in your cinnamon and set aside for a few days. Then plant it in the smallest pot you have and don't water - mist it only every few days. Once you see new growth on the plant you can begin watering, along with a repot to a more commodious pot. And the leaves at the top falling off are a result of the root rot - it's trying to limit its load in times of trouble.

This post was edited by cactusmcharris on Fri, Dec 7, 12 at 15:52

    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 3:51PM
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Okay, thank you so much. I have not done any cutting yet, so I will get to it. I have a very small terra cotta pot. Will that be okay? I've always grown my jade in plastic pots...

Thanks again for your help!


    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 6:07PM
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I grow my jades all in clay pots, easier to manage watering, for me, anyway. And small is good. No roots, no need for a big pot. I would say to make haste with the cutting, before the rot spreads.


    Bookmark   December 7, 2012 at 6:16PM
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