Jade plant losing leaves–help!
I have a Jade 'tree' (4 feet tall, 4 feet in diameter) in an enormous pot, and it constantly loses leaves and sometimes branches. I cannot tell if its getting too much water or too little water (those seem the most common diagnoses for these problems). I check the dirt before watering, and it seems dry to a finger-depth, but I cannot get 'deeper.' I've been watering about once a month. The previous owner swore he only watered it every 6 months. Most of the leaves look plump, shiny, and healthy, but some look a bit dessicated. Please advise! I love this plant.
It sounds like a beautiful plant. You're right about the watering, and problems with jade are caused about 98% of the time by root rot, which is usually caused by the soil staying wet too long. The soil needs to dry out around the roots, so that the roots can breathe and stay healthy. And you're also right that feeling the surface of the soil is not enough -- you need to get deeper. A bamboo kebob skewer works really well - you use it as if you were testing a cake, push it all the way to the bottom of the pot, and you run it between your fingers to see how it feels. If your plant is indoors, the soil should feel completely dry. If it's outdoors, it should feel almost but not quite dry. If the skewer is still not strong enough to penetrate the root mass (don't worry about damaging roots) you can get a wooden dowel at any craft store, and sharpen the end with a knife.