Ahhhh, the Crassula ovata or jade plant, one of my favorites! I love these little troopers, they are hardy, forgiving, and so easy to propagate! I mean really easy, I give away a lot of these plants every year.
This is a great succulent to start with and I would also put it on the “must have” list. Jade plant care indoors is super easy and they are a very interesting plant to look at.
Why Did You Say Crassula ovata?
Because I’m required by succulent law to give you the Latin name. Okay, not really but it is important to learn a little about the plant and the official name. Many plants are called “jade” but by saying Crassula ovata, you get the specific one pictured.
This post on taxonomy will give you all the details on how plants are named and I actually use the Crassula ovata as my example. If you want to see an infographic on taxonomy, click here. If you want to see the taxonomy on just the Crassula ovata, click here.
I use this plant a lot as an example (because I have so many). This post on homemade succulent soil led to an experiment. You can see the progress of the experiment by looking under “The Soil Experiment” in the top menu.
Okay, Tell Me About Crassula ovata
These plants come from South and East Africa. They were first described in England around the mid-1700s and are now popular worldwide. They are used as hedges in some mild climates (like California) and because it propagates so easily, it has spread outside of home gardens and grows like weeds on undeveloped land.
Crassula means thick or fat and ovata means egg-shaped so it is easy to see how it got its name.
The Crassula ovata has many nicknames…money tree, lucky tree, jade plant, or friendship tree.
The jade plant is used in the practice of Feng Shui. Feng means “wind” and Shui means “water”. In Chinese culture, the wind brings in the positive energy (chi) and disperses the bad while water holds positive energy in place. In layman’s terms, it means arranging your home and work environment to allow for maximum flow and energy. It is connecting how you feel with how your space functions. You feel flustered, it could be because your space is unorganized, change your space and feel better.
In many Asian homes and businesses, a jade plant is placed near the entrance to welcome and attract success, partly because the leaves represent jade coins which, in turn, attract other coins (money). Jade plants are often given as wedding gifts, house-warming gifts or when someone starts a new business venture.
That is a lot of pressure for a plant but plants have been proven to ease stress and increase concentration.
Okay, They Sound Cool, How Do I Care For Them?
So glad you asked!
They are great indoors or outdoors as long as the temperatures stay above 50°F. I set my jade plants on the front porch (it is covered) during the summer and bring them in when it starts to get cooler, they love it.
These plants, like all succulents, need a pot/planter that has a drainage hole and fast-draining succulent soil. Read this post on the soil.
This is a summer dormant plant meaning it needs less care in the summer and grows in the winter, it should only be re-potted during the fall or early spring. When you re-pot a plant, you startle it, being startled when you are in deep sleep is never fun and the plant doesn’t react well (have you ever startled your Mom out of sleep?).
If the growing conditions are right (light, temperature, and water), the plant will never do dormant so you can care for it the same way all year and re-pot at any time.
The jade needs bright light, aim for at least 4-6 hours per day. Bright is good but full, hot, direct sun can sunburn it. To get the edge of the leaves to turn reddish, put it in more direct sun (but check to make sure it isn’t getting sunburned) or water it less (check the leaves to make sure they aren’t wrinkling). See this post on making your succulents turn colors. They are hardy and a bit of good stress won’t hurt them.
We covered temperature a little but if they are planted in the ground, the temperature could probably go down to 40°F – 45°F but if in a pot, then 50°F and up would be better.
The basic rule for watering succulents is to soak, dry completely, wait, repeat. Here is an infographic that can help. For jade plants, you can wait at least 10 – 12 days between watering and more if you are trying to stress it.
If you see black spots on the leaves it is either sunburned or over watered and the leaves will not heal, they must be removed.
These plants don’t mind being root-bound for a bit, as long as they aren’t tipping over, so re-potting every 2-3 years is usually fine (it will need “fresh” soil by then anyway). Here is an infographic on re-potting.
Do They Bloom
The answer is yes, but…
In order for any plant to bloom, you have to recreate its natural habitat. Jade plants will flower but it tends to happen more if they are grown outdoors and are mature (looks like a small tree, probably around 8-10 years give or take). To encourage your jade to bloom indoors, at the end of summer, do the following:
- Only water it every 15-20 days
- At nighttime keep it at a temperature of around 50°F (give or take)
- Make sure it gets bright sun during the day, about 4-6 hours
- Keep it in complete and total darkness at night by sticking it in a closet, putting a box over it, or moving it to a basement
- If blooms are going to form, they will do so mid-winter and the plant will bloom in late winter to early spring
- They will not bloom every year, they need time to rest in between
- Plants will bloom when they are ready so if yours does not bloom, it may not be mature enough
- Just keep trying
You Said They Are Easy To Propagate?
Yes, yes I did.
Leaves fall off of plants, it happens and is normal. When a leaf falls off of one of my jade plants, I just pick it up and stick it in the soil. The leaf will usually turn into a new plant as long as light, temperature, and water are correct. When you stick a new leaf in the soil, don’t water it for about 10 days.
If you want to be a little more specific about it, read this post on growing new succulents from cuttings and follow the “leaf” way or “snip, snip” way.
Pruning and Shaping
Also, jade plants can be shaped, like a bonsai. If you are pruning or shaping your tree, you will have extra leaves and stems. Again, you can stick them in soil and wait or follow the more specific instructions.
Jade plants can grow very, very tall if the environment is right (3 – 6 feet) so you may want to prune it to stay an acceptable size for your space or you may want to shape it. They can get a little leggy or thin and pruning can make the plant thicker and fuller.
Jade plants don’t need to be trimmed to remain healthy, they do not require pruning but can be pruned. Either way, here are some tips and things to keep in mind:
- Pruning exposes the “wound” to bacteria which can make the plant sick so make sure it is worth the risk
- Use something sharp (scissors, clippers, or shears) and clean (sterilize with rubbing alcohol) to make the cuts
- Cut just above a node (see below picture), the stem will die back to the closest node
- If cutting an entire branch, cut it as close as possible to the main trunk
- Usually, two branches will form where it was trimmed
- Don’t cut more than 15% – 20% off of the plant at any one time
- Make sure you plan where to make the cuts
Just A Few More Things…
You may have gasped over the sentence that indicated a jade plant was mature in 8 – 10 years because it may have shocked you. I hear you and wanted to give you a little more info on how long they can live.
Drum roll, please.
They can live, if properly cared for, many decades, 35 – 40 years is not uncommon. There are stories of people having jade plants they inherited that are 70 – 80 years old. As I said, they are hardy.
A couple of other things I want to mention:
- The jade plant is deer resistant.
- The jade is toxic if ingested by humans, cats, and dogs and can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- The plant may get bugs (mealy or spider mites), especially if it was outside and then brought in. If this happens, use a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol to clean the leaves. Make sure to quarantine it while it is being treated. You may have to repeat a few times.
- The jade can get top-heavy and it normally looks like a tree. To encourage a more bush appearance, prune it carefully.
- The biggest mistake people make when they have a Crassula ovata is overwatering it, don’t be most people, err on the side of under-watering. If the leaves appear wrinkled, water more often.
The Crassula ovata is fun, has history, and you can multiple your collection easily then experiment with turning the leaves red and pruning. Enjoy!
Oh, these are fairly common and can usually be picked up at most nurseries or box stores in season. I have also seen them on Etsy and Amazon.
For an infographic on Crassula ovata care, click here.
Do you have a Crassula ovata? Do you have experience with one? Has it brought you good luck? As always, I love to read your comments.