I have a large jade plant, that has been in a clay pot for about 12 years. At this point, the soil is so hard, that I can barely insert a sharp paring knife into it.
It clearly needs to be repotted, but the plant is so brittle, that I can’t really lay in on its side to pry it out of the pot and jade doesn’t like excessive water, so the idea of soaking the soil to try to be able to wash/ pry the plant free of the soil doesn’t sound like a good plan either.
What can I do?
Jade plants, Crassula argentea, are very easy to grow succulent houseplants that are immensely popular due to their low maintenance habit. That being said, they do need to be repotted every 2-3 years and if this is not done, they can become pot-bound and the plant gets leggy.
In your case, as you are struggling to get it out of its current pot, the best approach is to make this a two person job. Spread some newspapers, a small tarp or an old shower curtain liner on the floor and have one person hold the pot upside-down while the other person gently eases the plant and its root ball out of the pot. Once this is done you can right the plant and set it on the floor covering to do the re-potting.
Now is the time to check the plant roots. Cut out any that look dead, brittle, mushy, rotting, overly long or any that are girdling (going round) the plant.
Go up one pot size only and make sure your new pot has a good drainage hole in the bottom. Mix together equal parts potting soil and coarse sand and then mix in a handful of bonemeal. This makes the ideal potting medium for Jade plants.
Make sure to re-plant with the root ball top no higher or lower than 1/2 inch below the pot rim. You may have to add more, or take away some, of your potting mix at the bottom to raise or lower the plant in the pot. Once you have the depth correct, you can center your plant and fill in around the edges, gently packing the soil in evenly all around.
Once you’ve got it re-planted, you can water it, making sure the water drains freely through the pot. Don’t water it again until it is good and dry as Jade’s do not like to have their roots wet.
Hope this helps.