Faithful Texas reader, Marie, asks, “My jade plant is several years old. It is thinning and dropping leaves. It gets water twice a week from the edge spray of the sprinkler system. What are your suggestions?” As always, Grumpy is the font of knowledge.
Jade plant (Crassula ovata) is one of our most popular succulents for growing either as a houseplant year-round or outdoors in warm weather months. “Succulent” means that it stores water in its plump, thick-skinned leaves and stems so it can tolerate months of drought. It’s hard to kill a jade plant by underwatering it. It is, however, a simple task to kill it by giving it too much water. This rots the roots and your jade plant meets its maker. The surest sign of overwatering is when leaves fall off green.
You say your jade plant gets water from the sprinklers twice a week. Stop! A jade plant should not be watered on a preset schedule. Instead, water only when it needs it. You need to let the soil go nearly dry before watering again.
Having said that, a jade plant grown outdoors can thrive where summer showers are frequent, as long as the soil drains quickly and surplus water doesn’t stay in the pot. The ideal scenario is a clay pot (because it’s porous and “breathes”) filled with gritty potting soil formulated for cacti and succulents. I also like to cover the soil surface with gravel to reduce humidity around the base of the plant.
Overwatering isn’t a problem relegated to succulents. It’s also a death sentence for many potted plants, indoors and out, that are routinely watered without checking the soil first. I’ve done it. Make sure you don’t.