The jade plant (Crassula ovata) is considered a lucky charm in many parts of the world. This is why many people like to present such a plant as a guest or birthday gift.
In general, the thick-leaved plant is a popular houseplant. It is easy to grow, easy to care for, and with the years and increasing age, the plant decorates bright living rooms and other rooms.
Even children enjoy this non-toxic plant, as they can use it to learn and practice proper plant care.
Origin and Distribution
The jade plant (Crassula ovata), also called lucky plant, money plant, or sometimes money tree is one of about 300 different species of the stonecrop family (Crassulaceae).
The name money tree is ambiguous in this case, though. It also refers to the Pachira aquatica which is not very closely related to the Crassula ovata.
The succulent jade plant is originally native to South Africa, where it thrives in the company of other succulents such as aloe or euphorbia on barren, rocky substrates.
The attractive shrub with its large, thick leaves has been popularly cultivated as an uncomplicated houseplant for many decades.
The plant, which originates from hot Africa, is not hardy in regions with cold wintertime. It is therefore not suitable for pure garden cultivation.
However, you will do the jade plant some good if you prepare a pleasant spot for it on the balcony or terrace during the warm summer months.
But you need to bring it back indoors when temperatures drop in autumn.
Appearance and Growth
The jade plant develops within a few years from a small, single-shoot miniature plant to a tree up to 3 ft (1 m) tall with a thick trunk and strong branches.
The species can live for many decades and become very extensive. While the evergreen shrub reaches a height of more than 8 ft (2.5 m) in its natural habitat, it can grow considerably taller than up to 3 ft (1 m) even in pot culture – and at least as wide.
In the process, the jade plant increases in height and girth, especially when it is young.
If, on the other hand, the plant is already somewhat older, the trunk and branches in particular increase in circumference. Individual main shoots can reach a diameter of up to 2.5 inches (6 cm).
This growth in thickness is particularly important because otherwise, the strongly branched shrub can no longer support its numerous, very thick leaves.
The bark is usually gray-green to brownish in color and peels off in brownish horizontal stripes on older specimens.
The fleshy, dark green leaves of the jade plant have an oval shape with a convex upper surface and flat underside.
They are stalkless or have very short stems attached directly to the branches of the plant. The leaves are green at the beginning of shoots and later turn brown.
They are arranged opposite and can grow up to 3.5 inches (9 cm) long and 1.6 inches (4 cm) wide. The leaf edges, in turn, are often reddish in color, but not always.
The jade plant is an evergreen plant.
Flowers and Fruits
Many people do not even know that a jade plant can develop a profuse bloom with numerous filigree flowers. It is capable of doing so under certain conditions, even when grown in a pot.
However, the pretty pink or white star-shaped florets are formed only from the age of about ten years. Moreover, a noticeable difference in temperature between the summer and winter months is required for this.
To stimulate this, simply place your jade plant on the balcony or terrace during the summer months and bring it back indoors with the onset of autumn.
This change alone is often enough to get the bloom going. In its native South Africa, however, the flowering time of the jade plant is in the South African winter between June and August. At that time it is comparatively cool there.
But also in our country, the eventual flowering time is in the winter months.
After fertilization, Crassula ovata forms capsule fruits with numerous tiny seeds. In pot culture, however, there is usually no fruit formation, because in winter the appropriate insects for pollination are missing.
Is the Jade Plant Poisonous?
The jade plant is not poisonous to humans or animals. It is therefore ideal for households with children or curious pets such as cats and dogs.
What Kind of Location is Suitable for the Jade Plant?
The jade plant, native to sunny and warm Africa, needs a bright and warm place in the apartment.
A spot by east or south-facing windows is ideal, provided the plant can be protected from direct sunlight especially over midday.
The jade plant does not tolerate a full sun location very well and reacts to this with leaves turning brown.
In summer, it is best to place the pot with the plant outside, although here you should also prefer a bright, semi-shaded place. If it gets cool and/or rainy, however, you should consider bringing the plant back inside.
While it can deal with really hot temperatures in the summer, you can place Crassula ovata much cooler over the winter at a minimum of 50 °F (10 °C).
Plant the jade plant in loose, well-drained, and rather nutrient-poor potting soil, which you slim down and loosen with sand or gravel as well as expanded clay.
Also, cactus soil mixed with sand and perlite is very suitable. When choosing the substrate, pay attention to quality, which is evident in the composition. Inferior soils are often heavily mixed with peat, while high-quality ones are based on compost.
Place great emphasis on good water permeability and provide adequate drainage in the pot.
For this purpose, the bottom of the pot should have a large drainage hole. And for the purpose of collecting excess watering, it should be placed in a planter or on a saucer.
Cover the hole with shards of clay to prevent it from silting up, rendering the drainage ineffective.
Planting the Jade Plant Properly
In addition to good drainage, the jade plant needs a wide and heavy pot, such as clay or ceramic.
The reason for this is that the plant often becomes very heavy, especially in the upper part, because of the large, water-storing foliage leaves.
It can get overweight in a light and small planter and simply topple over together with the pot. If you plant it in the widest possible pot with a wide base, you effectively prevent this danger.
Repotting the Jade Plant
About every three to four years you should replant Crassula ovata in a larger pot.
This is definitely necessary when the old planter is completely rooted and the roots may even be growing out of the pot.
If this is not the case, remove the plant from the container, remove the old soil, clean the pot, and put the jade plant back in with fresh substrate.
Firmly press the newly placed plant into the substrate so that it does not topple over right away. However, be careful not to damage the roots in the process.
After repotting, the jade plant is somewhat sensitive due to the planting shock and should therefore be treated with special care for about two to three weeks.
You should especially protect it from direct sunlight at that time. However, it will soon recover and continue to grow healthily afterward.
Watering the Jade Plant
Water the jade plant rather moderately overall. A small amount of water is sufficient for the thick-leaf plant even during the growth phase.
Water it so that the substrate is just moistened superficially. Too much water – as well as insufficient drainage in the pot – will lead to overwatering, which in turn will cause the roots to rot.
Remove excess water from the saucer or planter immediately so that the jade plant does not remain permanently wet.
During the dormant period between November and February, just make sure that the substrate does not dry out completely. During these months, water only sporadically as well as very cautiously.
Do not use cold tap water for watering, but well stale, room-warm tap water or rainwater. Since the jade plant prefers a slightly acidic or neutral substrate, the watering water should not be too calcareous.
Restraint is also required when it comes to humidity. Unlike many other houseplants, which often originate from the rainforest, the jade plant should be placed in as dry an environment as possible.
Fertilizing the Jade Plant Properly
The jade plant is also pleasantly uncomplicated in terms of nutrient supply. You need to fertilize only during the growth phase between March and October.
Treat the plant with a low-dose cactus fertilizer at intervals of four to six weeks during that time. During the winter dormant period between November and February, you should not apply any fertilizer.
The dosage, by the way, depends strongly on the size of the jade plant as well as on the chosen substrate.
Large plants need more nutrients than small ones, while specimens growing in humic substrate need to be supplied more sparingly than jade plants growing in mineral substrates.
Pruning the Jade Plant Properly
As long as the jade plant stands in a sufficiently bright location and is cared for there according to its needs, pruning is useful at most for maintenance purposes.
Thus, pruning ensures that the shrub grows more compact and denser due to the increased formation of branches. Otherwise, the plant usually forms a lush, bush-like growth all by itself.
If, however, the plant forms too many horny shoots – for example, because the branches are too long and therefore very susceptible to overhanging and breaking – or develops a sparse growth due to lack of light, it is time for pruning.
The best way to do this is as follows:
- Cut off all shoots that hang downwards.
- Work out a clear trunk with a coherent crown.
- Remove all excess branches.
- Shorten too long and weak shoots.
- Always cut only in dense distance to a ring.
- From these the jade plant sprouts again, because it has no dormant buds.
- Remove the last two leaves from shortened branches.
- At this point the branch branches.
It is best to carry out such pruning during the dormancy in late winter. After that, the bush will sprout again.
You can correct the growth of branches growing in the wrong direction with the help of support rods. However, do not use wire for this purpose, as it will injure the soft branches and quickly grow in.
Since the jade plant is quite tolerant of pruning, it is easy to grow into a bonsai.
Propagating the Jade Plant
The jade plant probably owes its reputation as a lucky plant mainly to the fact that it can be propagated very easily via head and leaf cuttings and almost all planted branches take root.
You can root the branches, preferably cut in the spring, both in a jar of water and directly in a container with a growing medium. If you root the cutting in soil, you should keep this constantly slightly moist.
For a leaf cutting, all you need is a leaf, which you place on a pot of moistened substrate and wait for new roots to develop from it. Again, keep the soil evenly slightly moist.
Wintering the Jade Plant
In principle, you can cultivate the jade plant all year round at a constant temperature in the living room.
However, if you want the plant to bloom, you should place it outside during the summer and in winter at about 50 °F (10 °C) with only a little water and without fertilization.
With luck, the shrub will subsequently form flowering plants.
Diseases and Pests
The robust jade plant is rarely attacked by pathogens. If this is the case, there are usually care errors behind it.
Especially an excess of moisture can cause problems, as it causes roots and shoots to rot.
In this case, with a little luck, you can save the jade plant in question by repotting it in a fresh and dry substrate. When doing so, cut back all soft and rotten roots vigorously.
Pests also tend to be rare. Mealybugs and spider mites attack the jade plant primarily in the winter months when it is dry.
You can fight these pests by rinsing the plant in the shower and treating it with an insecticide if necessary.
Aphids, on the other hand, appear primarily in the summer months and must be controlled immediately, as they often bring on fungal diseases.
These signs indicate diseases in the jade plant:
- Dropping leaves: The location is too dark and/or too humid. High temperatures in winter can also be the cause.
- Yellow leaves: A too dark location, waterlogging, lack of nutrients, or infestation with spider mites are possible causes.
- Brown leaf spots: These indicate sunburn. Place the jade plant away from direct sunlight.
- Soft shoots and leaves: This indicates overfertilization, but also too high humidity or damp root ball.
Species and Varieties
The popular houseplant is available in numerous varieties, some of which feature unusual leaf growth or particularly interesting coloration.
These popular varieties, for example, are particularly distinctive for indoor cultivation:
- ‘Hobbit’: Also known as the spoon jade. It comes with light green, spoon-shaped leaves.
- ‘Gollum’: The leaves turn red when exposed to sunlight.
- ‘Variegata’: The variety comes with distinctive green-yellow variegated leaves.
- ‘Tricolor’: Tricolored leaves with yellow-green interior and reddish edges.