How to Grow a Jade Plant
Jade plants look like trees, but they are actually succulents. Their brown “trunks” are fleshy stems, and, like most succulents, they are native to South Africa. They can reach a height of 8 to 9 feet tall in the wild. When grown as a houseplant, they usually grow to 3 feet, although with time and care, they will sometimes grow to 5 feet.
Folklore Associated with Jade Plants
Jade plants have been called by many names. They were called money plant or lucky plant because it was thought that they brought prosperity and good luck. Because of their reputation as bringers of prosperity, they were frequently given as housewarming gifts earning them the nickname of friendship tree.
Varieties of Jade Plants
I grow three different varieties of jade plants.
- The plants you see most often offered for sale with the flat green leaves
- A variegated variety called "Tricolor". The leaves are mainly green and white with a touch of red.
- My favorite is called “Gollum” or “Hobbit”. The leaves are long and tubular looking.
How to Grow a Jade Plant
Growing a jade plant is very easy making them a popular houseplant. They grow well in a southern window where they will receive at least four hours of direct sunlight each day. They should be grown in potting soil formulated specifically for succulents which drains well. Jade plants, like their succulent cousins, are prone to root rot if their soil is too wet.
Keep the soil moist during the growing season but allow it to dry between waterings during the winter. When you water, if there is water in the saucer on the bottom, empty is immediately. Leaving your plant standing in water will cause root rot.
Ideal indoor temperatures for growing jade plants are daytime temperatures of 65⁰F to 75⁰F and nighttime temperatures of 55⁰F. The plants prefer cooler temperatures in the winter of 55⁰F both day and night. I say “ideal” because I have grown jade plants successfully in rooms both hotter and cooler than the recommended temperatures so don’t worry about getting them just right.
You can use regular liquid houseplant fertilizer three to four times during the growing season. No fertilizer should be used during the winter. During the winter if you withhold fertilizer and keep your plant cool enough and dry enough, you will be rewarded with flowers which will be either pink or white.
How to Propagate a Jade Plant
In the wild jade plants have a very unusual way of propagating themselves. Because their branches are soft rather than woody, when they become too heavy for the plants to support, they break off and fall to the ground. Once on the ground, the ends where they broke off eventually grow new roots and create new plants.
You can do something similar at home with your own jade plant. Instead of an entire branch, all you need is a leaf. Break off a leaf and let it sit and dry out on the end where you broke it off. This is called callousing. Once the callous has formed, stick the leaf in soil, callous side down, just partially submerging it. Don’t bury the entire leaf, just the bottom. Keep the soil moist. When you see new growth forming, usually in about four weeks, you will know that your leaf has rooted and is becoming a new plant.
How to Bonsai a Jade Plant
Jade plants are so easy to grow as bonsai that they are often used by beginners to learn how to create and maintain bonsai plants.
The first step is to look at your plant and envision how you want it to look. Then begin to prune it into the shape that you desire. Only prune a few branches or leaves at a time because each time you prune off part of the plant, new growth will appear in that spot, usually two stems or two leaves where you pruned only one stem or one leaf. You can take advantage of that trait to create more branches or more leaves to make your plant look fuller.
Keep an eye on your plant. Once or twice a week, you will want to snip off leaves that have grown too large or leaf buds that appear in places like the trunk that you don’t want leaves to grow.
There is no need to use a wound sealant where you have removed leaves or branches. Allow the wounds to callous over naturally. If you seal the wounds, you risk sealing in fungus or bacteria that could grow and kill your plant.
Another trait that you can take advantage of is the flexibility of the branches. Bend the branches into your desired shape and loosely wrap wire around them to hold the shape. You will want to do the bending in increments each week so that you don’t snap them off by bending too much at once.
Jade plants are popular houseplants because they are easy to grow and propagate. You will always have extras to share with friends. Best of all, you can experiment with bonsai techniques with them without the difficulty of using trees.
Questions & Answers
- Helpful 5
I have many jade plants that I have grown from a one leaf cutting from a friend 30 years ago. My larger plants seem to get 'leggy'. In other words, I have a strong trunk with branches that grown long and, then, curl up. Eventually, the branches get so heavy that they break off. My plants never look full like the image at the top of this article. How is that full look achieved? How do I know when to prune a branch?
As you have guessed, the answer is careful pruning, sometimes a little extreme. If you look carefully at the photo, you will see that it is multiple plants. But the technique used works for single plants also. Choose a stem to become the main "trunk," preferably one that is very straight. When it gets to be a few inches tall, snip the top off. This will force the plant to grow new branches. Then when those branches are a few inches tall, snip the tops off of them. The idea is to encourage the plant to become fuller while keeping the supporting branches short enough and wide enough to support the weight of the branches and foliage above them. To achieve a plant like the one in the photo takes time and patience.Helpful 6
I have a jade plant in the house. It's getting really tall, and it is tied to stakes. It's top heavy and keeps falling. Can we cut the stem and root it from a cutting? Will the other I cut from die? Can we separate the roots?
It sounds like your jade plant needs a good pruning. Yes, you can prune it and root the cuttings. They make great gifts! Pruning away lanky branches will not damage the remaining plant. Pruning the roots is a way of keeping your plant small. Root pruning is a technique used in bonsai to keep trees tiny.Helpful 6
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