Jade plants tolerate a wide range of sun exposure, from moderate indirect light to full sun. The adaptability of these succulents makes them among the most popular indoor plants for beginners, often labeled as almost impossible to kill.
However, sudden changes in lighting conditions can still lead to stress and damage. Just as succulents show signs of struggle in low light, they can also suffer in too much sun.
Luckily, there are several ways to tell if your jade plant is getting excess sun, allowing you to quickly resolve the problem.
The Short Answer
If your jade plant gets too much sun, the leaves will begin to discolor, turning from a lush, healthy green to a pale, almost white color. Some types may begin to turn red at the edges first, showing other signs if sunlight conditions don’t improve. They will also start to shrivel and wilt from lack of moisture. Finally, in severe cases, leaves will develop brown patches and begin dropping off the plant. Moving it away from direct light and pruning can prevent the problem from worsening.
The Long Answer
Before determining whether your plant is getting too much light, you need to know how much sun they prefer.
Crassula Ovata Preferred Light Levels
These succulents adapt well to different light levels, making them ideal for indoor growth.
Jade plants (Crassula ovata) are native to Southern Africa, typically found growing in full sun or partial shade. Their ability to adapt to different light levels makes them great for growing indoors.
Crassula ovata plants can survive in much lower light levels than they receive in their native habitats, making them one of the few succulents able to grow indoors without struggling. They will grow best with a bit of direct light but will also be happy with a full day of bright indirect light.
If your jade gets too little light indoors, you’ll notice the stems stretching toward the nearest light source. Leaves will also be smaller and may begin to yellow if the problem is severe. Moderate light is usually fine for short periods too.
The specimens I keep in moderate light indoors grow slowly and have slight gaps between the leaves but are otherwise healthy and show no visible signs of struggle.
Symptoms of excessive sunlight are slightly different and can vary depending on the type of jade you’re growing.
Can Jade Plants Get Sunburn?
Jade Plants have natural protection against UVB but can still be damaged by sudden excessive sunlight.
Science shows that plants don’t really get ‘sunburn’ as humans do. They contain compounds that protect them from UVB, the type of UV radiation most responsible for sunburn.
However, that doesn’t mean plants can’t be damaged by the sun. Anyone who has left a houseplant in direct sun for too long knows this all too well. Excessive sunlight can damage a plant’s cells and cause dehydration, depending on how much light the plants are used to.
Even though they can adapt to high light levels, jade plants in high sun exposure may still be susceptible to this ‘sunburn’ or sunscald. If there are sudden changes in light levels without time for the plants to adapt, the foliage and stems can become damaged. This usually occurs when succulents grown indoors and used to indirect light are suddenly moved outdoors and into full sun.
Although Crassula species handle this transition better than other plants, even a few hours of intense direct sun during the hottest part of the day can damage the leaves.
Unfortunately, I learned this hard lesson when I left my houseplants outside when moving apartments. By the end of the afternoon, my jade plant looked very unhappy, and several other plants with the worst exposure had already begun to change color.
Excessive Sun Exposure Symptoms
Discoloration, red tips, wrinkled leaves, and brown, crispy patches are indicators that a jade plant is receiving excess sunlight.
Luckily, if your succulent is getting too much sunshine, there are some indicators to look out for that help you identify the problem.
The first sign is leaf discoloration. Previously lush and green leaves will begin to look dull and may develop white patches that appear almost bleached. These symptoms will first show up on the upper leaves that are closest to the light source.
Red Leaf Tips
The leaf tips may also turn red depending on the type of jade plant you’re growing. While this isn’t a permanent change and doesn’t indicate any serious growth issues, it is a sign that your plant may be getting excessive sun. If you want to protect them from further issues indoors, move them to a shadier spot. Remember that red leaves can also develop from stress and aren’t always related to sun exposure.
Wrinkled, Droopy Leaves
Jade plants quickly become dehydrated with sudden bright light exposure paired with heat. This will cause the leaves to become wrinkled, losing their plump appearance due to lack of moisture. They may also droop downwards toward the stem rather than outwards as the cells lack moisture to maintain their structure.
Brown, Crispy Patches
The final sign to watch for and one that indicates severe ‘sunburn’ is brown and crispy patches. These parts of the plant have died off and won’t turn green again. This damage takes away from the plant’s overall health, slowing growth as it tries to recover. Severely damaged leaves will begin to drop off the plant.
These signs can also appear when conditions or care are not right. Pest and disease problems, incorrect watering, and other issues can lead to wrinkled leaves or brown spots. But you’ll know sunlight is the issue if your plant has recently moved into a higher light area.
How To Fix It
Move the plant out of direct sunlight, provide indirect light, trim browning leaves, and water as needed.
As soon as you notice any of these signs and determine that sunlight is the issue, move your plant out of direct sunlight immediately. This will prevent any further damage from occurring.
Change or Filter the Lighting
Make sure you don’t overcompensate and move the plant to an area with much lower light. This rapid change will only add to the stress the plant is facing. Instead, move the plant to a spot with bright indirect sun, just outside the direct sun rays. Imagine a slow tapering of light. Alternatively, filter the sun with a sheer curtain to protect the leaves from scorching.
Prune Brown or Dead Leaves
Now that you’ve eliminated the cause, it’s time to assess the damage. Minor issues should resolve themselves once the plant is out of direct sun. Jade plants are pretty resilient! However, any browning leaves will need to be trimmed off to reduce stress and encourage the growth of new and healthy leaves.
Peel the leaves off with your fingers, or trim them off with shears. They should be easy to remove and may even fall off on their own. Leave the green growth on to fuel the plant and promote new growth.
Water Right Away
Finally, water immediately to improve moisture intake. The soil can dry out quickly in full sun; watering immediately will counteract any lost moisture. If the leaves are still plump and the lower levels of soil are still moist, there is no need to water.
Jade plants can be susceptible to high sunlight levels if they are used to growing in partial sun indoors. Luckily, if you catch it early, any problems are easy to resolve. Avoid making the same mistake by keeping light levels consistent. If you want to move your succulent to full sun, slowly expose it to these conditions over two weeks rather than all at once to stop any future sunburn issues.