The basic mechanics of potting a large jade plant are the same as planting any other large plant.
- Decide if you’re going to up-pot ( put into a larger pot) or repot (replace into the same pot.
- If you’re going to up-pot, get your new pot ready. It should be no more than the next size up from the present pot. Please make sure it has drainage holes.
- Prepare your soil. Because jade plants are succulents, the drainage ability of the soil is of the most importance. If you can buy packaged cactus soil and perlite, mixing those together in equal quantities is the easiest thing to do. If you can’t buy those ingredients, you could research making your own cactus soil, based on the ingredients you can get.
- If the plant is very large, you’ll be better off with another pair of hands to help you.
- Carefully lay the plant on its side, and ease the pot off the root ball. If it doesn’t want to come, run a long knife around the inside of the pot to loosen the roots. If the plant is very large, you can wrap the foliage in a towel or sheet to help protect it.
- If you’re up-potting, put enough soil in the bottom of the new pot to raise the surface of the root/soil mass to 1″ below the top of the pot. You don’t need to use “drainage material” in the bottom of the pot, not even a screen to hold in the soil – it will stay in by itself. You should also pick out as much of the old soil as you can, and you can prune roots to encourage more root growth.
- If you’re repotting, you probably should cut away the outside and bottom of the root mass – as much as 1″ all around – to allow room for new root growth. Put fresh soil into the bottom of the pot to raise the surface of the root/soil mass to 1″ below the top of the pot.
- Now set your plant into the prepared pot, and fill in with more soil mix, tamping it down with fingers or a tool as you go.
- When you’ve filled in all the way around, water well, allowing plenty of run-off. This is to make sure all the soil gets thoroughly moistened and settled. After an hour or so, add more soil around the edges if needed.
Fertilizer is a subject of debate. I feel that too much fertilizer is far worse than too little. In my opinion, if you’ve used fresh new soil, you won’t need to fertilize for several months, because all necessary nutrients are already in the soil. I would advise only using slow-release fertilizers if your plant is outdoors – indoors, that’s too many minerals. Indoors, use a balanced (3–1–2 or 1–1–1) water soluble fertilizer, and mix at 1/2 strength. Use only every 3 months.
So what is the best way to repot a jade plant?
I use regular potting soil and terra cotta pots. The terra cotta allows water to seep through so they dry out faster. It’s hard to kill jade. You can over water it and kill it that way. But as long as you water it by the time the leaves are crinkled and a little mushy, you can’t under water it. It’s best to starve it for water a little as this makes its roots grow and it doesn’t like to. If it isn’t made to root deeper eventually it gets top heavy, falls over and rips itself out of the roots and dies.
Also, don’t clean the old soil out of its roots. Take it out of the put, massage it gently a little so that the excess dirt falls away, but keep any soil with the root that doesn’t easily fall off. If the roots are out to the sides and starting to wrap around, break them lightly on each ‘side’ and at the bottom as well.
Use a smaller pot than you might for other house plants. This will also limit the water it gets. I put mine outside in the summer as well. After its broken in, it loves the full Colorado sun, which is very intense.
When should you move a jade plant to a larger pot?
Jade plants prefer to be somewhat root bound, so you probably won’t need to repot until the plant is so big it looks out-of -balance with the pot, or it falls over, or you can’t seem to get enough water into it no matter how often you water.
The most definite answer is supplied by removing it, roots, soil, and all to determine whether its root system is too large for the pot. The condition is called “root-bound.” Not all plants do poorly when root-bound, but it’s a good guess that moving a root-bound plant to a larger pot will cause it to grow faster than it had been, and probably look a little more enthusiastic about life.
These are the roots of a succulent plant that is well into the root-bound state.
It can get a lot more severe than that, though.
To check, turn the pot on its side, and slide one hand across the surface of the soil, parting two adjacent fingers so that the main stem is between them. With one hand in that position, up-end the pot and attempt to shake the plant, the soil, and the roots loose. It helps if you watered the plant the day before, or many hours before on a warm day. You don’t want it mushy wet or bone dry for this procedure.
If the pot is made of a flexible substance, you can squeeze the sides together, working your way around its circumference. You can give a gentle shake, or a hard shake, as long as you are prepared for an upside down plant to land in your hand, possibly spilling soil all over it and whatever’s below, including white shoes and white shag carpet. The last thing you want to do (meaning don’t do it) is pull on the main stem. You could separate the upper plant from its roots that way. If nothing’s worked, you can slide a knife into the pot between the soil and the inside of the pot, and work it around as though you are getting a cake loose from a pan. You can also poke thick-ish screws into the drain holes, to push the plant downward enough to loosen it on the sides. Generally a combination of all of these techniques will do the trick, if no one of them is sufficient.
Once the accursed thing is loose, you’ll be able to tell whether to re-plant it in a larger pot, or put it back where it was. Look at the sides and the bottom.
If what you see is all soil and no roots, you should put it back. Plants tend to do poorly when they’re moved to a pot that’s too large, for some reason. If it looks like the one in the photos above, it’s time for a new home.
There’s a grey area, and in grey-area situations you can decide on other criteria. Do you want to source more soil, or do you have a heap of it that you want to find a use for? Do you like the new pot better than the old one, or vice versa? In my opinion, the plant on the right in the photo below could go back to its pot for while were it not for what’s going on at the very bottom, but would do better in a bigger pot. The one on the left definitely needs a bigger home.
Opinions vary on how to treat the root-bound root ball before planting it in a larger pot. Roots have a tendency to maintain the structure they developed initially, even when there’s room to branch out, or root out (I guess). Some people make vertical slices down the sides of the mass of roots and soil, others try pulling the roots loose and fluffing them out, like you do when you hair is limp and lifeless and you want to look good in a selfie. Roots coiled at the bottom of the mass can usually be loosened and pulled more or less straight. They might extend a few feet, making the whole assembly too tall to fit in an ordinary point. Once again the dilemma is to cut, or not to cut. Cutting gives you the size you want, but puts the plant at risk of root rot, because the cut ends will be vulnerable to pathogens such as ubiquitous and voracious fungi. Play it by ear with a jade plant. They’re hard to kill.
If you elect to restore the plant to its original pot, make sure the soil is pushed firmly against the inside of the pot, all the way around. Pressing gently downward on the surface soil might do the trick, or sprinkling soil around the perimeter and working it in with a knife blade might be necessary. You do this so that water meant to hydrate the plant doesn’t find its way to the edges and run down between the pot and the soil instead of penetrating the soil on top and soaking in. You’ll know this step is necessary if you water the plant after restoring it to the pot and the water quickly drains out the bottom of the pot.
If you have some leftover soil after filling the new pot with new soil and old plant, you can fill the old pot and use it to propagate a new plant from a cutting or three off the old one. Give the cuttings a day or so in open air so their ends will dry enough to seal and form a barrier against pesky pathogens.
Some people root new plants from individual leaves. Here’s one person’s method and the photo they used to illustrate it. It will work just fine. They used sand, which is a good idea because the young roots face very little resistance in a loose medium, and it drains well so the risk of rot is diminished. Soil works too, though.