Crassula muscosa is a very interesting-looking succulent that will get up to 12 inches tall and has a spreading habit with branching stems. These stems feature tightly stacked, overlapping, light green, narrow leaves that hide the stems on this hanging basket plant completely. The stems start growing erect but then trail over from the leaves’ weight. The pale, small, yellowish-green flowers have a very musty smell, and they appear along the leaves and stems from spring until the middle of summer. This is a great succulent to add a unique texture to a small-scale groundcover setup or to a mixed planting in a rock garden or a well-drained mound growing habit.
The most common name for Crassula muscosa is the Watch Chain plant, and it gets this name from the interlocking, delicate leaves that resemble jewelers’ links that attach your vest to your pocket watch. The muscosa name is Latin, and it means mossy, and this refers to the unique moss-like look Crassula muscosa offers. It has also been known as Crassula lycopodioides, and this references the plant mimicking Lycopodium, and this is a Clubmoss genus.
This succulent-like plant comes from very diverse habitats, and you can find it growing throughout South Africa from the Western Cape’s winter rainfall area to the Eastern Cape’s summer rainfall areas and north of Lesotho and Namibia. It will usually only grow very well in well-drained rocky quartz fields. It’s hardy to roughly 20°F or -6.7°C, but it resents growing in wet and cold environments. To get a better picture of how to grow Crassula muscosa, read on.
This pretty succulent has a very unique look to it that makes it a favorite houseplant with novice and veteran gardeners. Crassula Muscosa by cultivar413 / CC BY 2.0
Crassula Muscosa General Overview
|Bloom Time:||Spring to mid-summer|
|Common Names:||Watch Chain, Pine Princess, Lizard’s Tail, and Zipper Plant|
|Height:||12 inches tall|
|Lighting:||Bright full sun in the morning for six hours minimum|
|Origin:||South Africa and Namibia|
|Soil pH:||Acidic at 5.1 to 5.5 or strongly acidic at 5.6 to 6.0|
|Soil Type:||Cactus mix or half perlite or pumice with half potting soil|
|Tolerance:||Cold – should bring it inside when temperatures fall below 20°F|
|Toxicity:||Toxic to cats and dogs|
|Water Needs:||Frequent watering during summer, lower in the winter|
|Zone:||9 to 11|
Crassula Muscosa Care
Taking care of Crassula muscosa isn’t a hard process, and this makes it a great option for beginners. It’s a unique plant to add to your collection, and the following guidelines will help ensure that it stays healthy.
The one bad thing about Crassula muscosa is that it’s not a fan of colder temperatures. If you leave it outside and exposed during the winter, it’ll die. However, this doesn’t mean that growing it outside is completely off the table. If you live in hardiness zones 9a and 11b, the average winter temperatures dip to 20°F at a maximum, and this is rare. You can usually successfully grow it outside all year-round. If the temperatures routinely drop below this reading, it’s a better choice to grow it inside or have it in a container that you bring indoors during the winter.
Fertilizer and Water
As this plant’s native areas are rocky and warm environments, it doesn’t require a huge amount of water to thrive. This is especially true during the winter months. It’s best to hold off on watering your Crassula muscosa until the soil feels very dry to the touch. But, how do you know for sure it needs water? All you have to do is apply the two-inch rule to this plant. Put your finger two inches deep into the soil. If you do and you feel that the soil is still moist, hold off on watering it. If the soil is dry to the touch two inches down, it’s time to water again.
When you water this plant, it’s always considered better to avoid overwatering it because it can lead to issues like root rot, and this can quickly kill your plant. So, as a general rule of thumb, it’s better to underwater it than overwater it. It’s also worth noting that there isn’t a specific schedule you should adhere to when it comes to watering it. It all depends on your climate, the plant’s environment, and the humidity levels.
For example, during the dry months, you may have to water your Crassula muscosa roughly every 7 to 10 days. During winter, you should cut your watering schedule way back to 10 to 14 days. If you happen to accidentally water your plant too much, don’t allow it to sit in the excess water as this will lead to fungal diseases and root rot. You want to leave it out for a few minutes until the plant absorbs as much water as it needs and then pour away any excess water. Allow the soil to dry out over the next few days or weeks.
Like most succulent plants, Crassula muscosa doesn’t like higher humidity levels as this encourages rot or fungal infections to take hold. In very wet and hot weather, you have to give the plant a lot of ventilation to keep it healthy. The ideal humidity levels for these plants is 50% or lower, but they can take a much higher humidity level without damage if you allow the soil to dry between watering sessions. Also, you’ll have to make a point to keep the soil much drier during the winter months to combat the higher humidity levels.
Light and Temperature
Crassula muscosa is like a lot of succulents in the fact that it adores full sun. However, it can still grow very strongly in darker areas if you keep it in a cooler room. It’s hardy to roughly 20°F, but it still doesn’t do well when it’s wet and cold at the same time. On the other hand, you have to be careful to not raise the temperature much higher than 60°F to hit that sweet spot for the best growth.
It grows best when you put it in very bright light or full sun in a patio or window or any other sunny space in your home. If you grow it under the intense midday sun when the summer heat is at a peak, you should give it plenty of ventilation. If you don’t, you’ll notice that too little ventilation or too much sun causes the leaf segments to get hard, brown, and woody. They’ll eventually drop off if you don’t address it. They grow well under full-spectrum LED grow lights if you don’t have a sunny space or window for them.
Pots or Containers
It’s essential that any container or pot you pick out has drainage holes. This drainage hole allows any excess water to drain out of the bottom of the pot, and this helps to allow the soil to dry and avoid root rot or overwatering. It’s very important that any pot or container you pick out has a drainage hole or two. If it doesn’t, you’re at a much higher risk of giving your plant too much water and killing it very quickly.
Also, you want to consider the material of the container or pot you pick out for your plant. You don’t want something that is huge compared to the plant’s size. An ideal pick is a four-inch clay pot.
The container or pot you pick out for this plant is very important as it should allow for great drainage to prevent root rot. Crassula Muscosa by Gertjan van Noord / CC BY-ND 2.0
Soil and Transplanting
Plant your Crassula muscosa plants in a very well-draining soil. You want to get a cactus mix or mix your own using half pumice or perlite with half potting soil to ensure that it gets great drainage each time you water it. The goal is to get a soil that drains very quickly after you water, and it shouldn’t hold on to a lot of excess water so that the plant’s roots end up sitting in more water than they need. Another option to make your own soil is to mix equal parts of perlite, loam, and horticultural sand and plant your Crassula muscosa in it.
If you’re planning on relocating your plant, take note that it won’t take kindly to it. You want to relocate it during the warmer winter months, and the soil should be on the dry side before you do. Remove any old soil and gently shake it off the roots before putting it in a new pot. Get rid of any damaged or dry roots you see.
Ideal Growing Location for Crassula Muscosa
Generally speaking, it’s much easier to care for your plant if it’s inside. However, it’s not impossible to grow this plant outside in the garden. As long as you go over the tips and tricks we’re outlining in this article and get the growing conditions correct, there is no reason why you Crassula muscosa should fail to thrive. A few pointers to keep in mind with this plant include:
- As a general rule, Crassula muscosa looks very pretty in hanging baskets. If you avoid trimming them too much and let the plant grow naturally, it will eventually spill over the side and create a pretty waterfall look.
- If you’re going to grow this plant outside in the ground or in a container, you should put it in an area that won’t interfere with other plants as the vigorous growth habit makes it invasive in some spaces.
- Put your succulent in a room that gets a lot of natural sunlight if you want to grow it as a houseplant inside.
- These plants shine when planted in rock gardens, especially if you keep a more unkempt and wild look for your space. This allows you to get away with not trimming or pruning your succulents as much to add to the aesthetic.
Maintenance for Crassula Muscosa
It’s best to get in the habit of pruning Crassula muscosa back every year in the early spring months to prevent the stems from getting unruly. Also, pruning your plant on an annual basis will help prevent the stems from dropping off due to the weight of the leaves as they grow. It’s easy to restart this plant using cuttings if yours doesn’t look too good and the stems are turning brown and dry. We’ll outline more about this process next.
This is a very low-maintenance plant that requires very little from you to do well, but you should prune it to keep it in control. Succulents by stephen boisvert / CC BY 2.0
Propagating Crassula Muscosa
Propagating this plant is relatively easy, just like taking care of him is. Like a lot of succulents, you can propagate it very easily using stem cuttings. They also propagate well from leaves, but it’s a much more time-consuming process than stem cuttings. To start, cut down the two-centimeter stem from the plant as this is an ideal size to grow this plant.
Remove the stem from your mature plant and allow it to dry for a day to let the cut heal. Next, place your cutting in a well-draining potting soil. Keep it out of hot, direct sunlight and water it once every few days. In roughly two weeks, you should notice that the stem has a new root system in place. Once the root system develops fully, you can water it once a week or so. As the plant grows, you can gradually increase how much light it gets every day.
Flowering and Fragrance
This plant can take on the shape of a small shrub with zipper-like stems. It has tree-like, compact branching stems with leaves that are in tiny rows on opposite sides of each other. It generally doesn’t have a strong scent attached to it. There are many variations of the Crassula muscosa plant. Some species have a brownish-yellow or red tint while others look similar to cockscomb. It also comes with silver stripes and grows in a corkscrew shape. However, the main variety has beautiful but simple whitish-green flowers and is one of the most popular options.
When you grow this plant indoors, it’s very unlikely that you’ll get any blooms to form. However, under certain conditions, the pale, small greenish-yellow flowers can appear along the leaves and the branching stems during spring and mid-summer and emit a musty smell. This usually happens after periods of irrigation or rain.
Size and Growth
Crassula muscosa doesn’t get very tall as a general rule, and it usually tops out at a foot tall and eight inches wide. How the plant’s light green leaves look will depend on the light conditions you grow it in. When you put it in a south-facing window, the interlocking leaves will grow very tight, close, and compact. If the plant is in an area that gets less light, the leaves will look more open and loose.
Crassula Muscosa Care Tips
There are several things you can do to increase the chances of this plant surviving and doing very well in your home. These tips include:
- Appropriate lighting and watering are the main things to do when it comes to caring for indoor plants. Temperatures and humidity will also factor in, and you want to get the environment as close to the natural one as you can.
- Don’t water your plant until the soil is dry to the touch using the two-inch test. When it does feel dry, you can water it. Make sure your plant’s drainage holes are open and not clogged to help shed the excess.
- Ensure that your plant doesn’t go through extended periods of heavy sunlight. Too much sunlight can damage the leaves and cause the plant to die if you don’t move it to a new area.
- If you keep your plant wet and in colder temperatures, it can lose the root system and die off. So, it needs the proper temperatures to do well.
- This plant is considered to be invasive in some areas because any tiny pieces of the succulent that break off can take hold in the soil and shape roots. So, you have to be very careful when you have it and contact your local agricultural office to see if you can have this plant or not outside. You don’t want to get into trouble for having it.
- When you plant Crassula muscosa, you have to ensure that you get a piece of the succulent and keep it for two or three days before you plant it to allow the cutting spot to heal. The ends should be dry when you plant it as succulents hold a lot of water internally. The soil should also have a lot of sand with a smaller amount of organic soil.
- You can tell whether or not your plant is healthy by looking at the leaves. If you notice that they’re getting brown or looking stretched, this is a sign that there is something wrong with your plant.
Getting as close to the natural growth habit as you can will boost your chances of getting a very healthy plant that lives for years at a time. Growth Habits by cultivar413 / CC BY 2.0
Seasonal Survival Care Recommendations
During the hotter summer months, Crassula muscosa won’t grow a lot. You need to make a point to take extra care of your plant during the warmer months if you live in a humid or hot planting zone. If you care for the plant and provide protection from the extreme cold or heat, there is no reason why this plant won’t do very well all year-round. Ideally, you want to move your plant inside during the hottest parts of the summer months. You can also create shade whenever possible for your plant by strategically planting your succulents next to taller plants that will shade them when the sun is overhead.
Another option you have is to invest in shade cloths to cover your plants during the hotter portions of the day. It’s also a good idea to catch rainwater around the plants to ensure that they don’t sit in soggy soil. You can do this by digging holes next to the plant so the water drains away when it rains. It’s better to grow them in a pot instead of in the ground as they need very sandy and porous soil to survive.
Common Diseases and Pests
The most common pests you’ll see with Crassula muscosa are thrips, mealy bugs, and scale insects. If you spot pests on your plant, you can treat them using neem oil. You can spray your plants once every six weeks until you don’t see any more pest signs.
Root rot and fungal infections are the most common diseases succulent plants have issues with, but they’re not that common with Crassula muscosa. Root rot is corrected by taking cuttings and restarting your plant from a baby. However, if its a fungal infection, it’s best to treat the whole plant using neem oil.
Crassula Muscosa Frequently Asked Questions
There are several frequently asked questions surrounding Crassula muscosa, and we’ve rounded them up and answered them for you below.
1. What is the best way to propagate Crassula muscosa?
This is a very intrusive plant if you don’t watch it, and you can propagate it using leaf and stem cuttings. Put three to five stem cuttings in each pot and put them in a sheltered area. Water it until you see roots developing and then transplant it.
2. Is this an indoor plant?
Depending on the environment, you can plant Crassula muscosa inside or in the garden. Outside, most of these plants prefer well-depleting soil, and they don’t respond well to wet, boggy soil as it can lead to root rot. Indoor pruned plants usually do very well in a well-draining soil with other succulents.
3. Is Crassula Muscosa toxic?
The entire Crassula muscosa family landed on the ASPCA’s (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) list of plants that are toxic to both cats and dogs.
4. Can Crassula plants get rooted in water?
Yes, and it’s a simple process. You fill a glass with water and put the stem into it or stick it in so it’s an inch or so down into a sodden soil blend. Take out the leaves that are just below the water level or under the dirt and wait for them to root before transplanting them into a container.
5. Do Crassula muscosa need direct sunlight?
Almost all Crassula plants require some shade in the hottest parts of the summer months, but they also need bright light during the active growing season. At the point when you grow it outside, pick out a spot that gets morning sun and afternoon shade to protect the plant.
6. Is it possible to propagate a dead succulent?
If you think that your succulent can’t recover from the current unhealthy state, it’s possible to salvage a few cuttings and start over. You should remove a few solid leaves and allow them to dry for five to seven days, undisturbed. Put them in a shallow dish or plate in a succulent soil blend and water lightly to encourage root development.
Crassula muscosa is, without a doubt, one of the most appreciated houseplants available anywhere in the world. From the easy-going nature to their unique look, various shapes or sizes and colors, these plants can make a splash in your home. These plants really stand out due to their unique look. They are easy to care for and grow, so they make a nice addition to your succulent collection, no matter if you’re a veteran gardener or a novice grower.
Now that you know how to properly care for Crassula muscosa, all you have to do is source one and add it to your collection. If there’s a small corner of your office or home that needs a unique plant, try to bring this cute and small succulent in.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.