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The jade plant (Crassula ovata) comes from South Africa. It’s a sun-loving, drought resistant plant which does well in sunny places with very little fuss, feeding or watering. It is happiest when it is in a dry climate with only occasional rainfall.
So why then would your beautiful jade plant start to turn brown? More importantly, what can be done about it? Thankfully brown patches on jade plants can be fixed.
Although your jade plant may not look it’s best, unsightly brown patches are not normally a serious threat to the plant.
Fortunately, the solution for brown patches is not difficult to rectify and before long your jade plant will once more be a stunning plant.
The characteristic sign of the jade plant are the fleshy, waxy-like leaves which store water. In fact, the jade plant deals with a lack of water far better than it does with wet conditions.
The most common reasons for your jade plant turning brown is sunburn and watering problems. The other jade plants turn brown are due to pests and diseases, as well as the natural aging process of the plant.
We’re going to look at the reasons why the jade plant turns brown. We will also look at the best ways to restore your jade plant to its former glory, and how to keep it that way.
10 Reasons why the Jade Plant is Turning Brown
1) Watering issues
This is probably one of the main reasons why a jade plant will develop brown spots. Overwatering may leave the jade plant waterlogged. These plants do not like boggy soil and can develop root rot if this is not rectified early.
Even a situation where the plant is not waterlogged but has been overwatered can mean that the leaves absorb more water than they need.
It is the excess water which causes small spots on the leaves. These small spots soon turn scaly and brown. You may also notice that the stems turn brown.
What to do: this is a sure sign that your jade plant is getting too much water. You should stop watering right away.
If it is in the rainy season you may even want to move the plant to a position where it receives less rainfall.
Later on in the article we cover how to fix your watering issues more in depth.
Although jade plants love the sun, too much of a good thing can burn their leaves and make them turn brown.
This is often the case when moving an indoor plant out into the sunlight without first acclimating it.
You can expect your jade plant to take about two weeks to get used to direct sunlight if it is moved from inside or from the shade.
Plants that are kept indoors will never suffer from sunburn but remember that they like at least four hours of direct sun each day and this is often impossible when kept indoors.
A note to remember here is that your jade plant needs full sun to grow properly. Keeping them in a totally shady spot will result in a leggy plant. However, sun which is reflecting through glass windows can cause the leaves to burn.
What to do: if the leaves are badly burned, then remove them. For only mildly burned leaves it is better to leave them in place. They will go on producing energy for new foliage.
We have an article on the light requirements for a jade plant to help stop sunburn.
Many plants enjoy higher humidity, but your jade plant prefers a dry environment. They do not do well in high humidity because this can indirectly cause fungus and browning. You may even see black mold develop on the leaves.
Mold can also appear grey or white on the soil so keep an eye for that. While mold on the soil is not damaging, it does signal that there is more moisture around than the jade plant is happy with.
What to do: you can rinse or wipe the mold off the plant and dry the leaves afterwards.
Increase the ventilation in the area where the plant is placed and make sure that there is adequate light. You can also use an antifungal spray to remove mold.
4) Watch the water
Sometimes tap water has high concentrations of salt and minerals and this may cause the leaves to develop brown spots. The salt and minerals are absorbed by the roots and build up, forming white spots on the leaves. These can lead to brown spots if there is an excess of minerals.
What to do: stop using the tap water and water your jade plant with filtered or purified water. This is particularly important if your water contains heavy minerals.
5) Extreme Temperatures
Jade plants do well in temperatures of between 65 – 75 degrees F during the day and 50 – 55 degrees F during the night.
Although they can tolerate heat they do not do well in colder climates. They will suffer if the temperatures drop below 40 degrees F, with younger plants being more affected than older plants.
Rapid fluctuations will also badly affect your jade plant and result in brown leaves.
What to do: If you get very cold winters you may consider bringing your jade plant inside so that it does not get too cold. You need to keep it in a well-lit area for as much as possible and out of cold draughts.
In very hot weather droplets of water which land on the leaves can cause them to sizzle and change to brown. The water acts like a magnifying glass and causes the leaves to literally sizzle and fry before the water has a chance to evaporate.
This sort of browning looks far worse than it is, and it is easy to avoid.
What to do: you should try to water your jade plant from the base instead of from the top. This is particularly important in hot weather.
You can also change the water routine until the early evenings when it is cooler and there is less chance of the leaves scalding.
7) Excess fertilizer
Jade plants are used to surviving in poor soil. This means that they do not need much fertilizer, if any. An excess of fertiliser will burn the leaves and show up as browning.
Additionally, the fertilizer can accumulate in the soil and build up, causing it to become toxic for the plant.
What to do: Don’t be tempted to fertilize your jade plant along with other plants in your garden. Once or twice a year is plenty.
If you think that your jade plant has been overfertilized then the best thing to do is to flush the pot with running water and let it all drain away. This will remove the excess fertilizer.
We have an article on how to make your own homemade fertilizer for your jade plant.
While the jade plant does not normally suffer from pest attacks they do have some pests which can cause the leaves to turn brown. Spider mites, mealybugs and scale will all do this.
What to do: small colonies of pests can be removed by dabbing them with rubbing alcohol. For a full-blown infestation you can use neem oil or a horticultural mixture.
A solution of mild dish soap /alcohol/water (five parts water, one part alcohol, squirt of dish soap) is also effective.
Apart from root rot from boggy soil the jade plant does not suffer from too many diseases.
The most common one which can cause the leaves to go brown is bacterial soft rot. As with root rot, this condition takes place when conditions are too moist.
Another disease which may appear of your jade plant is powdery mildew.
What to do: Powdery mildew responds well to a spray of 1 gallon water/1 tablespoon baking soda/1/2 teaspoon mild dish soap.
10) Cleaning products
Now you may notice that your jade plant’s leaves get dusty. While it is a natural reaction to clean dusty leaves so that your plant looks clean again, it is possible that this can cause the leaves to react and turn brown.
You may even be tempted to use a leaf shine product to bring out the glow again. However, jade plants do not react well to chemical cleaners. In short, they are not meant for the jade plant.
Rather than making the leaves shiny, chemicals can cause the leaves to turn brown or yellow.
What to do: The best way to clean your jade plant’s leaves is by using a wet cloth. Be gentle when you wipe the leaves down as they are delicate and can fall off.
Natural Reasons for Brown Leaves
As the jade plant ages some of the older leaves can start turning brown simply because they are old. You may find these at the base of the plant because the new growth is normally up at the top.
Make sure that there is no other reason for brown leaves, such as disease or pests. Remember that a plant which is ill will often drop old leaves to conserve its energy. If there is no sign of illness, then you may want to snip off the brown leaves.
How to Correctly Water your Jade Plant
If your jade plant is turning brown due to overwatering then you may ask if anything can be done to rectify the situation. The answer is yes, you can do something, and most likely it will save your plant.
First place the pot in a bright area. It is important not to place in direct sunlight as this may burn the leaves.
Leave the pot for several days until the soil has dried out. Make sure that the pot has drainage holes in the base and that they are not blocked.
With clean secateurs cut away the brown leaves. This will help the plant focus on new growth.
If the soil is badly waterlogged you may even want to repot the plant in fresh soil which drains well.
Your jade plant should be left to dry out until the top 2 inches of soil are thoroughly dry. Only then will it need watering again.
Once you water your jade plant again, give it a good soaking and make sure that the excess water runs out of the holes at the bottom.
If you think that the soil is holding too much water, you may try to add perlite to it to improve drainage. You can also buy succulent potting mixes which are well draining.
Let’s Talk About the Water
You may not realise it, but every plant needs a certain type of water to do well, and your jade plant is no different.
Jade plants are sensitive to salt, and unfortunately tap water can contain plenty of this, even though we may not be able to taste it.
The best water to use on your jade plants is filtered or distilled water. You should also aim to water you plant at the base so that the leaves do not get wet as this can cause sunburn and brown leaves.
Once you have watered your jade plant you should tip out the excess water which has run through the base hole and into the saucer. Jade plants do not need to have water standing in the saucers. What they do need is for excess water to drain away.
It can be very upsetting to see a jade plant turning brown because we know that this may be a sign of an unhappy plant. No gardener likes to think that our plants are not happy.
Fortunately, the jade plant has very definite reasons for turning brown and all of them can be quickly remedied to bring the plant back to good health.
What makes the jade plant so easy to maintain is that brown leaves are not too uncommon, but they can be reversed in a short time, and before you know it your jade plant will be happy and healthy again.