An elegant houseplant, you may be forgiven for thinking that the jade plant is difficult to care for. In fact you couldn’t be further from the truth. The jade plant is one of the easiest houseplants to cultivate.
Also known as lucky plants or money trees, jade is considered by some to bring good luck to the home. This, along with the plant’s easy going nature, has helped to make it a popular housewarming gift.
An attractive succulent, these plants are native to Mozambique and South Africa. The oval-shaped foliage and thick, woody stems give the jade houseplant a tree-like appearance. This helps to set the plant apart from other, more flower-like, houseplants. If cared for correctly they can reach up to 3 ft in height.
Properly cared for the jade plant (Crassula Ovata) can enjoy a long lifespan. Some can even be passed down the generations. Here is everything you need to know about caring for jade plants.
These plants are known for their distinctive, oval shaped foliage. An attractive succulent, with the correct care these plants can enjoy a long life and are often passed down the generations.
Different Varieties of Jade Plant
While the standard Crassula Ovata is pleasing to the eye, if you want something a little different there are many attractive varieties of jade plant available. Take the time to look around and find a variety that really appeals to you.
One of the most attractive varieties is Tricolor. This produces pleasing masses of green foliage which are marked with shades of cream and red. The interestingly named ET’s Fingers is noted for its distinctive red tipped tubular leaves.
Hummel’s Sunset is another attractive variety, producing yellow and red tipped leaves. For something slightly different try the Hobbit cultivar. Also known as Gollum, this plant produces attractive, elongated, tubular foliage.
The Blue Bird cultivar is a slow growing shrub. Its attractive foliage is colored shades of red, cream, green and blue. Reaching about 1.5 ft in height if planted in the ground, when growing in containers it is a smaller, more manageable plant.
If you want something truly different try Silver Dollar Jade. Also known as the Blue Buddha Bush this cultivar produces silvery-blue foliage with burgundy edging. Its long lasting flowers emerge during the fall and winter months.
Finally, Harbour Lights is another stand out variety. Its foliage, smaller than other jade plants, turns red during the winter. This is complemented by the emergence of pink-white flowers.
A popular succulent, the woody stem of the Money Tree can give the houseplant a tree-like appearance.
How to Plant
Always plant in a deep pot. Despite being slow to grow, jade has a tendency to become top-heavy. If planted in a shallow container the plant can topple over. Selecting a large container helps to counterbalance this. While ceramic pots are often heavier, you can also grow jade in plastic containers.
The pot should be deep but doesn’t have to be overly wide. Jade plants like things to be a little compact.
Your chosen pot should also be clean and have plenty of drainage holes in the bottom.
Fill the container with fresh, general purpose potting mix. If you are worried about drainage, work in perlite. A 2:1 ratio of potting mix to perlite ensures a well-draining soil.
If you want to create your own soil mix, combine 1 part soil, 1 part peat moss and 3 parts coarse builders sand. Finally, you can also pot the plants in succulent or cacti potting mixes. A mix such as the Espoma Organic Mix provides a reliable, well-draining environment.
Place some of the potting mix at the bottom of the container. Position your jade plant in the center of the pot. The top of the root system should sit just below the intended soil level. When you are happy with the plant’s position, fill the container with more of the potting mix and gently firm down.
Don’t water immediately after planting. Instead allow the roots to settle and recover. You can delay watering for at least several days to a week.
Jade doesn’t require regular repotting. In fact these plants prefer to be slightly root bound. This means allowing them to sit in a small container. Allowing plants to sit in compact conditions also helps to keep their growth habit manageable.
Repotting once every 2 or 3 years is more than enough. Older plants may prefer less frequent repotting, once every 4 or 5 years is fine.
Repotting is best done in early spring before the plants begin to wake up from their dormant period.
Pot as above, filling a container with fresh, well draining or cactus soil. Remember to wait at least a week before watering. Don’t fertilize for at least a month after repotting. This helps to prevent fresh or new roots from becoming burnt.
Gardeners in the warmest USDA zones, including those in arid areas such as Arizona or parts of California will also be able to grow jade plants outdoors. They are classed as hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11.
Gardeners in USDA zones cooler than 10 are best advised to grow the plants in containers. This enables you to move them undercover in the fall, before the first frosts arrive.
In more humid areas growing outside should be avoided. This is because the plants are prone to rot or fungal disease.
Growing outdoors requires patience. These plants are notoriously slow growing. Eventually, if not regularly pruned they can reach up to 10 ft in height. As well as pruning regularly you will need to remove any fallen or broken branches. If left on the ground these can set root and form new plants.
Pot your jade plant in quick-draining soil. Sandy or loam soil is ideal. These plants are prone to root rotting diseases meaning that they struggle in wet or heavy soils.
Position your plants so that they can receive between 4 and 6 hours of indirect sunlight every day. Ideally your chosen position will provide a little afternoon shade. This helps to protect the plants from the intense heat of the afternoon sun.
How to Care for the Jade Plant
Jade is pleasingly easy to care for as long as you get the growing and care conditions right. Luckily, for many growers, Crassula Ovata and its cultivars thrive in the warm, dry conditions that are naturally present when grown as a houseplant.
The jade plant requires at least 4 hours of sunlight every day. Indirect sunlight positions such as south or west facing windows are ideal. More established plants are able to tolerate full sun positions. However, these may become too warm during the summer months.
If these houseplants don’t receive enough light they can become leggy. Growth may also slow or become stunted. If you struggle to find a position with enough natural light, try placing the plants under grow lights. Artificial solutions are easy to provide and just as effective as natural light sources.
The Money Tree does best in bright, indirect light positions. If you place the plants in a sun filled position, try shading the plants by placing blinds in the window.
Ideally the temperature should be no lower than 75 ℉. Plants thrive in conditions warmer than this. Don’t place the plants in a position where the temperature regularly falls below 65 ℉.
At night the temperature should range between 50 and 55 ℉. Remember, the jade plant is not frost tolerant. Any plants that are placed outside for the summer should be returned to a covered position when the temperature begins to fall to around 50 ℉.
In the winter months remember to protect your plants from the drop in temperature. This is easily done by moving them slightly away from cold windows and drafty areas.
When to Water
Knowing how often to water houseplants can be difficult. Never let the soil around the jade plant dry out. While the soil should be kept moist, you should not water the plants too often. Allowing jade to sit in overly soggy soil can cause root rot.
Water only when the top of the soil feels dry when you touch it. A soil moisture gauge, such as the Atree Moisture Meter allows you to accurately monitor the moisture content of your soil. It also enables you to accurately check how warm the houseplant is and how much light it is receiving. This information can help you to give the plants the best possible care.
If your plants appear healthy you are watering them correctly. The most obvious indication that these succulents require more water is leaf drop. Spots appearing on the foliage is also a sign that the succulent is thirsty.
Squishy or waterlogged leaves are an indication that the plant is overwatered.
Water regularly during the spring and summer months. When the plant becomes dormant, usually in the fall and winter, reduce watering.
The jade plant can be sensitive to the salt sometimes present in tap water. Bottled or filtered water are better options because they are salt and chemical free. Alternatively, a cheaper alternative is to harvest your own rainwater. This can then be used to safely water both indoor and outdoor plants.
Like other succulents, the jade plant doesn’t like being overwatered. The clearest sign that the plant is taking on too much water is the foliage becoming squishy.
When to Apply Fertilizer
Feed sparingly. Don’t water and fertilize these plants at the same time. Instead water the plants first and fertilize later. Fertilizing dry soil can cause damage to the root system of the plant.
How to Prune
Pinching out new growth encourages the plant to develop dense foliage and a bushy growth habit. This can also be done if the plant begins to look leggy.
Remember to remove any fallen foliage or branches. The jade plant is quick to take root. Allowing old leaves or broken stems to contact the ground for an extended period of time encourages roots to emerge and new plants to grow.
Use a garden scissors to prune plants. Trying to simply snap away branches can damage the plants and encourage disease to strike.
Regularly pruning Money Tree helps to keep the plant healthy. It also promotes fresh growth and flowering.
Propagating Jade Plants
Propagation is a great way to acquire new plants for very little expense. It is also a nice way to share plants or prolong their lifespan. Like many other succulents the jade plant can be propagated from either a stem or leaf cuttings.
To do this, use a clean pair of garden scissors to take a cutting. Your cuttings should be 2 to 3 inches long and have at least two pairs of leaves attached.
Allow the cutting to sit in a warm position for a few days. During this time a callus forms over the cut area. This helps to encourage roots to emerge.
The process is exactly the same if you are propagating via leaf cuttings. Remove a healthy leaf from the plant and allow to dry and a callus to form.
Once the callus has formed fill a clean container with a well-draining potting mix. Dampen the soil so that it is moist, not wet. Place stem cuttings in the soil. Use small bamboo sticks or toothpicks to help prop the cutting up if it has trouble standing on its own. Leaf cuttings can simply be laid on top of the soil.
Place the container in a warm position filled with bright, indirect light. Do not water.
Successful cuttings start to send out roots within a few weeks.
About a week after roots emerge gently tug the cutting or move it gently. If you feel resistance this means that the root system is forming well. If only a little resistance is felt allow the cutting to continue sitting undisturbed for a few more days.
Once the jade plant is firmly rooted, water it deeply. As you water, be careful not to overly disturb the roots. Instead water only the soil in the edges of the container. This also helps you to avoid getting the foliage wet. Damp leaves can create a humid environment which can cause jade plants to rot.
Alternatively allow the container to sit in a bowl of water for ten to thirty minutes. When the soil is wet to the touch remove the container from the water.
Return the cutting to a bright position filled with direct sunlight and allow the soil to dry out. You can also place the cuttings under grow lights, if you don’t have enough natural light to encourage root formation. Continue to care as above.
Common Pests and Diseases
If properly cared for jade plants are largely problem free.
Scale and mealybugs may be found hiding under the foliage or on the stem of the plants. These can be removed by spraying with a water bottle. Persistent infestations can be treated by rubbing alcohol or neem oil onto cotton wool and wiping the foliage. Heavy infestations can be difficult to treat. In these cases it may be easier to take a clean cutting from the plant and begin again.
Root rot is often caused by overwatering the plant. Allow the soil to dry out properly between waterings. Foliage that is squishy, or appears waterlogged, is the easiest way to tell that a plant is being overwatered.
Leaves shrivelling or becoming wrinkly are signs that the plant is thirsty and in need of water.
One of the most popular houseplants, the jade plant is pleasingly easy to grow. As well as fascinating, oval shaped foliage the plant also produces attractive star shaped flowers.
Remember to also occasionally dust the foliage with a damp cloth. This removes any dust, helping to keep your plant healthy.
Once you have established a care routine and found a favorable position, caring for a jade plant is pleasingly easy. With a little regular care these attractive plants can brighten up your home for many years to come.