Few houseplants are as easy to care for as jade plants. Natives of South Africa, jade plants have been nicknamed the “Lucky plant” or “Money tree.” These succulents symbolize wealth, prosperity, and good luck in many cultures and are very popular in Feng Shui practices. Although jade plants are easy to care for, you’ll still need to monitor their nutrition if you want a healthy plant. In this article, we’ll show you how, when, and why to fertilize your jade plant.
- Fertilizing Jade Plants – The Essentials
- The Role of Fertilizer in Plant Health and Growth
- Signs Your Jade Plant Needs Feeding
- When and How Often Should You Fertilize Jade Plants
- The Best Fertilizer for Jade Plants
- How to Apply Fertilizer
- Key Considerations When Fertilizing Jade Plants
- Fertilizing Jade Plants FAQs
- Wrapping Up
Fertilizing Jade Plants – The Essentials
As slow-growing houseplants, jade plants don’t require regular fertilizing. Use a watered-down liquid fertilizer once every six months during the growing season. Make sure the feed is balanced with an NPK (nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium) ratio of approximately 10-20-10. Avoid fertilizing in winter.
The Role of Fertilizer in Plant Health and Growth
All plants require four building blocks to survive – carbon dioxide, sunlight, water, and nutrients. While the leaves absorb carbon dioxide and sunlight, the roots suck up water and nutrients from the surrounding soil.
Plants require three major nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Each of these macro-nutrients performs a specific function during plant growth.
Nitrogen (N) is needed to produce thick, consistent foliage, while phosphorus (P) helps the roots extend through the soil. Potassium (K) helps the plant fight off pathogens while also making photosynthesis possible.
Plants also require extra nutrients that fulfill specific functions. For instance, magnesium is a key ingredient in the production of chlorophyll. This vital substance gives plants their rich green leaves and is required for photosynthesis.
Houseplants can be given a nutritional boost through liquid or granule-based fertilizers. To ensure the correct nutrition, each fertilizer has an NPK rating. This tells you the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium contained in the feed.
Signs Your Jade Plant Needs Feeding
Jade plants (Crassula ovata) grow on rocky slopes in arid regions of Mozambique and South Africa. This habitat provides nutrient-poor, slightly acidic soil. As a result, most jade plant varieties grow pretty slowly. Even with the right amount of fertilizer, these succulents usually only grow two or three inches each year.
But just because your jade plant grows slowly, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t get some help. Here are a few signs that your jade plant needs feeding:
Drooping, stunted, or leggy growth
A jade plant that’s struggling to get enough nutrients will produce weak growth. The leaves will start drooping or becoming small and stunted. The stems become thin and leggy, making them too weak to support healthy foliage. These symptoms can also signify that your jade plant isn’t receiving enough sunlight, the ambient temperature or humidity isn’t quite right, or your plant isn’t located in an optimal position in the home.
This is a common symptom (often coupled with wilting or dropping leaves) of many jade plant ailments such as underwatering or overwatering. But if you do some detective work and the soil feels fine, your plant may be lacking nutrients.
Vibrant green leaves mean that your plant produces chlorophyll, which it needs for photosynthesis. Chlorophyll is produced using magnesium so that yellow leaves could indicate a lack of magnesium in the plant’s soil. It’s worth pruning past prime foliage on your jade plants as well.
For more, see our in-depth guide on fixing jade plant leaves turning yellow or brown.
Weak stems or roots
If the roots or stems of your jade plant feel weak, there may not be enough nutrients in the soil. A lack of phosphorus can create weakened roots. Try and lift your jade plant very lightly from the soil. If the stems feel loose, the roots may not be strong enough.
When and How Often Should You Fertilize Jade Plants
As slow and steady growers, jade plants won’t demand a lot of fertilizer. Once the plant has started producing new shoots in the spring, give it a heavily diluted dose of food. Repeat this dosage every six months throughout the growing season.
Don’t fertilize your jade plant once winter is approaching. During the colder season, most plants enter a semi-dormant state. Trying to force-feed your jade plant during the winter will interfere with this natural rest period.
In addition, it’s best to hold off fertilizing propagated jade plants until they’ve had a chance to root in their new potting soil.
The Best Fertilizer for Jade Plants
Because they’re used to thriving in nutrient-poor environments, jade plants prefer weaker, more balanced fertilizers. The best NPK ratio for a jade plant fertilizer is a 10-20-10 mix.
The higher phosphorus content helps the jade plant create a strong root system. This is perfect for getting as many nutrients as possible out of poorer soils. Because jade plants grow quite slowly, higher nitrogen content isn’t going to make much difference to the foliage. A decent level of potassium protects the jade plant from pests and diseases.
Store-bought fertilizers do the job for most houseplant owners. Avoid any fertilizers that have a high nitrogen content. Otherwise, most all-purpose houseplant fertilizers can work well if diluted to one-quarter strength.
Another good option is to use fertilizers designed for cacti and succulents. These are tailored for succulents like jade plants that grow in looser, nutritionally-deficient soils.
Miracle-Gro makes both an all-purpose Indoor Plant Food and a dedicated Succulent Plant Food. Another good choice is Espoma Organic Cactus Plant Food.
You can also make your own jade plant fertilizer with ingredients that are typically found in garden centers. Fish emulsion is a good nitrogen source, while bonemeal contains lots of phosphorus. Potash or pulp from banana peels is packed with potassium.
For jade plants, a 1:2:1½ mix of fish emulsion, bonemeal, and potash is a good place to start. Combine this mix with some Epsom salts for the magnesium and dilute the mixture with a few gallons of warm water.
How to Apply Fertilizer
Using liquid-based fertilizers is the easiest way to feed your jade plant. These solutions need to be diluted to about one-quarter strength with water. If the fertilizer is too strong, it can actually burn and damage the plant.
When fertilizing jade plants, one key thing to remember is to avoid pouring the fertilizer on a dry growing medium. The plant needs to absorb the nutrients slowly rather than straight away. Always water your jade plant as usual first, then apply the diluted fertilizer.
You can also use slow-release fertilizer granules. These can be mixed into the growing medium when you repot a jade plant or at the start of the growing season. If you’re using organic food waste like banana peels as fertilizer, always mash these ingredients to a pulp before diluting them with water.
Also – it’s worth noting that Jade plants are considered mildly toxic to pets and humans so it’s best to wear gloves during the process.
Key Considerations When Fertilizing Jade Plants
When fertilizing jade plants, you need to keep an eye on how much food you’re giving them. If your jade plant starts having the symptoms below, the fertilizer is too strong.
Soft stems or foliage
Too much fertilizer can weaken your jade plant instead of strengthening it. If a jade plant has stems or leaves that feel mushy to the touch, the fertilizer is damaging the plant. Decrease the intensity of the food or feed the plant less often.
Salts in the soil
If your jade plant’s potting soil has white patches, there could be too much salt in the soil. Most fertilizers contain minerals and salts that can build up over time, harming your plant. If these patches appear, flush the soil clean using some distilled water and fertilize in another six months.
Fertilizing Jade Plants FAQs:
Do jade plants need fertilizer?
Like most houseplants, jade plants need some fertilizer to grow at their best. However, they only need very weak doses because they grow pretty slowly.
When should I fertilize my jade plant?
A good feeding schedule for jade plants is to give them fertilizer at six-month intervals during their main growth period. Avoid feeding your jade plant in winter while it’s dormant.
What is the best fertilizer for jade plants?
The best jade plant fertilizers have a balanced NPK ratio of 10-20-10, with a bit more phosphorus to encourage strong roots. Liquid fertilizers work well but must always be diluted to one-quarter strength.
Is Miracle-Gro good for jade plants?
Miracle-Gro does make some fertilizers that can suit jade plants. Make sure to use low-nitrogen products like their all-purpose Indoor Plant Food or Succulent Plant Food.
Are used coffee grounds good for jade plants?
Used coffee grounds are great for succulents like jade plants that grow in slightly acidic soils. Coffee grounds also contain two crucial nutrients; magnesium and potassium. However, coffee grounds should be heavily diluted and used sparingly with jade plants because the grounds are high in nitrogen.
Although they aren’t hugely hungry houseplants, jade plants can still benefit from being fertilized. But because jade plants grow relatively slowly, they only need small doses. Phosphorus, which helps create strong, healthy roots, is the main ingredient that jade plants need.
Jade plants should be fertilized every six months during the growing season with diluted one-quarter strength fertilizers. Each dose should have a balanced NPK content with slightly more phosphorus, such as a 10-20-10 ratio.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.
Comments are closed.