When it comes to picking pots for jade plants, the most important rule of thumb is the same rule that exists no matter which succulent you plan on potting: concentrate on good drainage.
This rule of thumb holds true whether you’re planning on putting your potted jade inside or outside, or even a mix – outside in the summer and inside in the winter. It’s also true whether you choose to place your jade plant in direct sunlight, or partial sun.
While you can bend on this rule a little, especially if you have the perfect plant pot already picked out for your jade plant and you’d just like tips on how to make it work, if you’re still in the market for a pot, and want the best option possible to give your jade the biggest chance of not only surviving, but thriving, you’re going to want to stick to this rule.
There’s a second factor that you’ll likely want to consider – one you won’t necessarily have to worry about much with many other succulents: you’ll want a plant pot for your jade plant that’s pretty heavy. Why? Crassula ovata grows mighty big and top heavy when it’s doing well, so you’ll want a heavy pot to make sure your plant doesn’t topple over!
Besides that, you have a lot of wiggle room, so let’s go through and have a look at your ideal candidates in terms of particular types of pots to can-still-make-do options one by one.
The Very Best Pots for Jade Plants: Un-Finished Terracotta with Drainage Holes
The absolute best pot for each and every succulent & cacti – including the common jade plant – is an un-glazed, unpainted, and untreated in any other way terracotta pot with a drainage hole in the bottom.
Let’s start by discussing the value of the drainage hole, then we’ll move on to discuss the advantage in using a pot made from terracotta/clay.
The Importance of the Drainage Hole in the Pot
Here’s why the drainage hole is exceptionally important when it comes to growing jade in containers like pots (again, whether they’re outside or inside): it allows excess water to flow directly out of the pot and not sit and gather, collecting at the bottom of the planter.
If you allow water to build up at the bottom of a potted succulent, there’s a really high chance the roots will begin to rot, and the plant may even absorb too much water, dying slowly over time. Succulents are drought tolerant plants, and aren’t used to getting water very frequently in nature. They typically live in parts of the world that get water in bursts – so very little rain for many days, then when it rains, it will rain relatively heavily. As a result, when water is given to succulents like jade plants, they take in as much of it as they can, as quickly as they can, just in case it’s a long time before they have access to water again.
What does this mean for a jade plant under your care, no longer at the whims of nature? If you as the water-er give even a little too much water to a jade plant without a drainage hole, or happen to water too frequently – not giving enough time for water at the bottom of the plant to evaporate, and instead letting it collect at the bottom of the plant pot, these two forms of over-watering can easily kill the plant over time.
With the drainage hole, the excess spills out the bottom, your plant gets as much water as it needs, and the rest evaporates, giving your succulent time to use up the water it’s stored instead of taking too much in. Good drainage = happy succulents, and the best way to get good drainage is to have that drainage hole in the bottom of the container.
Planning on having your jade as an indoor plant? You’ll want a plant saucer or some type of tray or plate to go beneath the pot – but do note, if you have one of these, whenever you water your jade plant to spill out the excess water that collects in the saucer right after you’re done watering. You don’t want water to sit here, as it would be nearly the same as letting the water sit collected at the bottom of the pot. Spilling out the water that collects in the saucer drastically reduces the amount of time crassula ovata roots have to sit in water and dramatically decreases chances of root rot, which can absolutely kill your plant.
Now, I will say, you can sort of get around having a drainage hole, there are ways you can manage without one, but it’s not ideal. If there’s one rule that’s best not to break it’s the drainage hole one. If you’re new to keeping succulents, or have ever had one of your succulents die and didn’t know why, or suspected it may be due to over-watering, I’d ever so strongly advise against using a pot without a drainage hole. Again, you can manage without one, and I’ll get to how later in this article in case you’re curious, but it’s ideal.
Now that we’re done talking about how the drainage hole of a pot plays an important role in keeping your jade plant happy, let’s talk about the un-finished terracotta clay’s role!
The Advantage of the Unfinished Terracotta Clay Pot Material
There’s a reason un-finished terracotta works better than any other material for succulent plant pots. As with a regular pot with a drainage hole at the bottom, water is quickly and easily able to drain out of the soil and through the hole when you’re watering or it’s happened to rain. But with unfinished terracotta, you get a second drying effect since the clay wicks water away from the soil, absorbing it into the material itself, then allows that water to evaporate easily due to the terracotta being exposed on the outside to air, wind, and sun.
While this effect is beneficial to many plants, as it allows more airflow to the roots, lessening the chance of root rot and soil disease – desert & drought tolerant plants like cacti and other succulents, including jade plant, are much more susceptible to root rot, and thus this benefit is especially high for them.
Then there’s the second benefit you reap from terracotta that’s typically need for jade succulent plants in particular – they’re relatively heavy, certainly heavy enough to keep crassula ovata from falling over. There are heavier pots out there – cement pots, for instance – but those in larger sizes typically make pots more difficult to pick up and move around, so the benefit of terracotta is also that they’re not too heavy to be a nuisance if you like to take pots from one location to the next every so often, or even regularly.
Un-glazed, unfinished clay pots are available pretty ubiquitously, especially if you’re looking for the common traditional-style terracotta planter. Pots made out of clay are typically ridiculously cheap as well. They usually all come with a drainage hole, or a print out of a drainage hole for you to chip away at with a nail and hammer, to create one easily yourself.
If you don’t like the look of traditional terracotta pots, or if you don’t like too much uniformity and like to mix things up like I do in my outdoor succulent pot collection, there are a plethora of options in terms of different styles clay pots come in – from cylindrical ones and square shaped containers to tall, thin-lipped or lip-less planter pots that typically look a lot more modern than traditional thick-lipped planters. I’ve listed a number of ideas on how to diversify a pot collection even if you just stick to terracotta pots here.
The Next Best Thing: A Heavy Pot with a Drainage Hole
If you don’t want to use an un-glazed terracotta pot for your jade plant, the next best thing you can do is to use absolutely any plant pot that’s heavy and has a drainage hole.
Why? As I mentioned before – that drainage hole is vital for reducing the chance of root rot and your jade plant absorbing way too much water into it. If you’ve been eyeballing a plant pot that’s got a drainage hole, or even have an idea for a creative planting container made out of an unusual object like a ceramic vase or a neat ceramic mug – just add a drainage hole and you’re pretty nearly at the best you can get in terms of keeping your jade plant happy with its pot. I do this myself – recycling the ceramic pots my desserts come in when I buy them at the grocery store and making them into adorable little jade & succulent plant pots. I get my husband to use his drill + masonry drill bits to create a single hole in the bottom of each one, then I plant in them.
Since I like moving my plant pots around a lot, I actually cut out a little square of fly screen roll that’s just larger than the size of the bottom of the pot, and use it to line the bottom before I add my potting mix. This keeps the soil from falling out when I move them, as well as helping it stay in rather than running through when I water the plants. It’s not necessary, but I find it really helpful, so I thought I’d share.
Using Lighter Pots for Jade Plant
If you have a really great container you’d like to use for your jade and it happens to be quite light – say, made out of plastic, and you just want a way to make it work, you can easily do so by adding small rocks made for landscaping gravel to the bottom of your pot.
There are myths around this being better for drainage that are just that – myths. Adding rocks to the bottom of your pot does nothing to increase drainage – nor does it decrease drainage. That being said, it goes a long way in helping you weigh down your plant pot, which can be really beneficial when it comes to planting jade in light pots, since jade becomes so top heavy.
Weighing down your plant pots with landscaping gravel rocks is also helpful if you have cats like I do – especially ones who make trouble by toppling over things like water bowls. It’s a tip I discussed in my article on another one of my blogs, KittyClysm, about how to cat proof planters to keep your houseplants safe, so check that out if you’re interested.
Opting Out of the Drainage Hole in Your Jade Plant Pot
Here’s the section you were probably waiting for from nearly the start of the article if you have a plant pot in mind and desperately want to use it, although it has no drainage hole.
I’m going to reiterate – the safest method is to use a drill with masonry bits to get a nice hole in the bottom, then if you’re placing your pot inside, using a tray or a saucer underneath to protect your furniture from the overspill – but if you absolutely have to hard pass, this is how you can sort of make opting out of a drainage hole work.
Tip 1: To use really well-draining soil…
But this is a tip you should be taking advantage of no matter what you plant your jade plant in. That means using a ready made cactus and succulent potting mix, making your own, or (because some commercial cactus and succulent potting mixes are still not well draining enough), grabbing a commercial succulent mix and adding something like perlite to it to make it even more well-draining than before.
Again, you should really be doing this to help prevent your jade from sitting in waterlogged soil regardless of the pot you have, but it’s going to help you a lot more if you chose to opt out of having a drainage hole.
Tip 2: Keep your plant in a nursery plant pot, then place this inside your pot without a drainage hole.
Basically, if you do this, when you water you can take the nursery plant pot out, spill the excess water down the drain, then place the nursery plant pot back into the pot without the drainage hole, reducing excess water that’s left to potentially drown your succulent.
If you don’t have a nursery plant pot the size of the pot you’re planning on using, you can absolutely find one that’s the right size, they come in a lot of options.
Want/need to plant directly into the pot? There’s only one last option…
Tip 3: Use just the right amount of water when you’re giving your jade plant a drink. Don’t over-water, don’t under-water; give it exactly what it needs.
It’s possible to use this tip if you’ve got an indoor jade plant or an outdoor one that has no access to rain. That being said, if there’s any chance your jade is going to have access to watering that isn’t coming directly from you, there’s quite a lot that can go wrong if you refuse to use a drainage hole.
Even if you do have complete control over how much and how often your jade plant gets watered, if you give too much water or water too frequently, there’s quite a lot of damage you can do to your plant if you don’t notice and fix the issue without a drainage hole to help remedy the over-watering issue. You can also begin to accidentally under-water your plant, not giving it as much as it needs, and while you may think you know the difference between a succulent that’s been under-watered and over-watered visually, you’d be surprised how difficult it is sometimes to know, and how easy it is to accidentally give too much water when really the problem was over-watering to begin with – exacerbating the situation.
My best advice in case you’re not an expert – invest in a soil moisture sensor meter. These can help you figure out if the soil in your jade plant’s pot is dry, and since you should only be watering a jade plant ever when the soil is dry, it can help you go a long way in not over-watering if you happen to go without a drainage hole. There still is a chance you’d be over-watering, but it’s a lot easier to discover if you should be watering your jade or leaving it be this watering schedule if you have a moisture gauge to help you out.
The rule of thumb: if you’re not sure, wait to water. Jade and other succulents can handle being under-watered a lot better than they can over-watered. If your jade plant’s leaves look wrinkly and thin, they could probably use a drink. But if they’re yellowed, coloured red at the tips, or turning brown and droopy – it could be an indication they’re over-watered, so leave them alone and don’t give them another sip until they begin to look a little wrinkly and thin.
Your Thoughts on Jade Plant Pots?
I’ve shared my 2c, now it’s time to share yours! What do you think are the best pots to plant jade in? What do you prefer aesthetically and how do you think it’s best to make those types of containers work?
Have you ever planted jade in a pot without a drainage hole? If you have, how did it fare? If you haven’t, would you ever risk it?
Have you any other tips for those looking to plant jade in pots?
Can’t wait to hear your thoughts & experiences in the comments down below!