A GUIDE TO GROWING JADE PLANTBring good luck into your home with these popular succulents
Photo by: Vellicos / Shutterstock
Succulents have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years, with houseplants being no exception. Jade plant (Crassula ovata) has long been a favorite of houseplant enthusiasts for its round fleshy leaves, distinct tree-like form and undemanding nature. Also known as lucky plant, money plant or money tree, jade plant signifies luck, prosperity and friendship in many Asian cultures. It’s considered good feng shui to keep a jade plant by the front door to welcome money into the home. These revered plants are often given as housewarming or congratulatory gifts.
Though jade plant is grown primarily as a houseplant, it will also thrive outdoors as an evergreen perennial shrub in warmer regions. Learn how to grow these easy-care plants and explore different varieties here.
- JADE PLANT BASICS
- GROWING TIPS
- JADE PLANT CARE
- TROUBLESHOOTING JADE PLANT PROBLEMS
- TYPES OF JADE PLANTS
- DISPLAY IDEAS
Native to South Africa and Mozambique
Zones 9-12, depending on the species
Jade plant grows best in a mix of direct sun and bright indirect light for best vigor and foliage color. Allow at least 4-6 hours of direct sun, providing protection during the hottest part of the day to prevent leaf burn. Place houseplant specimens in a south or east-facing window that receives at least 4 hours of direct sunlight. Jade plant is somewhat tolerant of lower light levels.
Upright or mounding habit, 3 to 12 feet tall and 2 to 6 feet wide. Houseplants stay smaller.
Thick fleshy leaves can be round, oval, irregular or crinkled, occurring in colors of green, gold, silver-blue and variegated, often with red or burgundy highlights.
Clusters of tiny star-shaped white or pale pink flowers bloom from winter to early spring, with some varieties blooming later. Flowers only occur on indoor specimens if they get enough light.
Jade plant lookalikes:
Jade plants are mildly toxic to humans, causing nausea if ingested and mild skin irritation for sensitive individuals. All parts of the plant are mildly to highly toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.
GROWING JADE PLANTS
Jade plant growing outdoors. Photo by: svf74 / Shutterstock.
Where to grow:
Jade plants can be grown indoors as houseplants, or outside year-round in warmer regions. Houseplants benefit from being moved outdoors in summer, responding to the additional sunlight and warmer weather with increased vigor, growth, and color. Move to an area such as a patio or porch that receives some direct sun, acclimating slowly to prevent shock and foliage burn. Bring back indoors in fall when nighttime temperatures drop to 50 degrees F.
Temperature and humidity:
Though they prefer dry conditions, jade plants are tolerant of higher humidity. Ideal indoor temperature range is 65-75 degrees F, with nighttime temperatures down to 55 degrees F. Avoid extremes, which can stress or kill plants.
Jade plants need good soil drainage to prevent root rot. They will tolerate native soils that are rocky or sandy. For houseplants or outdoor container specimens, use a cactus or succulent potting mix and add an equal amount of coarse sand, pumice, or perlite to improve drainage. Make your own potting mix by combining three parts coarse sand with one part peat moss and one part all-purpose potting soil, or equal parts of potting soil and perlite. Jade plants prefer a neutral to slightly acidic soil pH, but are tolerant of different pH levels.
Make sure pots have adequate drainage. Terracotta clay pots are more porous, allowing soil to dry out quicker, which helps prevent root rot. If using ceramic or plastic pots, make sure there is adequate drainage and water less frequently. Larger specimens, which can become top heavy, will need heavier pots to keep them from tipping over.
Jade plant is easily propagated through stem or leaf cuttings. Stem propagation tends to be quicker and with a higher rate of success. Propagate during warmer months and use cuttings that are healthy and disease-free.
For stem cuttings:
With a clean sharp knife, cut a stem a few inches long just above a leaf node. Remove lower leaves and allow the cut end to dry and form a callous. Small white roots will begin to develop after several weeks. Dip the rooted end in rooting hormone and place in a small pot or tray with a mix of equal parts perlite and potting soil, or equal parts sand and perlite. Water sparingly. Once roots are established, treat as you would a normal jade plant.
For leaf cuttings:
With a clean sharp knife, snip off individual leaves flush to the stem. Allow to dry for up to several weeks. When small white roots develop, the leaf will begin to shrivel and turn brown. Immerse the roots in a mix of equal parts perlite and potting soil, or equal parts sand and perlite. Water sparingly until you see a tiny new stem and leaf emerge. When plants reach several inches tall, treat as you would a normal jade plant.
JADE PLANT CARE
Jade plants succumb far more often to overwatering than underwatering. Their native habitat is arid, so the fleshy leaves evolved to act as a water reservoir. Water soil thoroughly and allow to dry out completely in between waterings. Pour out excess water from saucers placed underneath pots to prevent root rot. Water somewhere between every 7 to 14 days, more frequently in summer when the weather is warmer. Reduce watering in fall and winter when plants enter a period of semi-dormancy.
Jade plants are light feeders. Apply a mild all-purpose organic fertilizer in early to mid-spring when plants are coming out of semi-dormancy. Fertilize at half-strength every 1 to 2 months during the growing season.
Plants can be allowed to retain their natural shape or pruned into bonsai. Because jade plants store water in their leaves, older plants can become top heavy and unable to support the extra weight, so will benefit from pruning.
Wait until plants are at least a year old before pruning. The best time to prune is spring to early summer, when plants begin a new growth spurt. Because pruning can leave plants susceptible to disease, make sure pruning tools are sterile, and prune sparingly. Tools should be sharp to prevent tissue damage.
Avoid cutting the main trunk, which can severely damage or kill the plant. Cut drooping branches back to the trunk to encourage more robust growth. Thin branches as needed to increase the amount of light and air circulation. To shape, trim any errant branches just above a leaf node. Cut branches can be propagated into new plants.
Wipe leaves with a damp cloth every few months to keep foliage looking fresh.
Jade plants are slow growing and prefer to be somewhat pot bound. They will only need occasional repotting, every 2 to 3 years for younger plants and 4 to 5 years for mature specimens. Repot in spring when plants are beginning a new growth spurt and use a new pot that is only slightly larger.
TROUBLESHOOTING JADE PLANT PROBLEMS
Jade plants have few insect, disease or cultural problems when grown in the right conditions. Here are some things to look for:
Leaf spots, wrinkled, shriveled or dropped leaves can be an indication of underwatering. Water plants thoroughly and allow to dry out completely in between waterings.
Soft squishy leaves are a symptom of overwatering, which can lead to other problems such as root rot. Reduce watering and allow soil to dry out completely in between waterings.
Stunted or leggy plants are an indication of not enough light. Place plants in a window that gets at least several hours of direct sunlight or use grow lights.
Black rings on the underside of leaves are a sign of black ring disease. This virus does not kill plants and there is no effective treatment. Remove affected leaves and dispose in the garbage to prevent virus spread. Don’t propagate affected leaves.
Yellow or pale green leaves can occur when a plant is overgrown. Remove sickly, scraggly and crossing branches back to the trunk so the plant can put energy back into rejuvenation.
White spots on leaves can indicate excess salt, overwatering, powdery mildew or mealy bugs. Identify the problem and treat accordingly.
Blisters that appear on lower leaves or dropped leaves can be a sign of root rot, which can kill plants. Reduce watering and make sure pots have adequate drainage. Add extra sand or perlite to soil to improve drainage.
Brown and mushy plant tissue can be a symptom of bacterial soft rot, which can cause plants to collapse and die. Even though only part of the plant may look infected, it is best to get rid of the whole plant.
Scabby areas on leaves or a dusty white coating can be a sign of powdery mildew. Apply a fungicide or home remedy made from baking soda, apple cider vinegar, or milk. Make sure plants receive adequate light and air circulation, and don’t overwater.
Dark spots on foliage can be a sign of fungal disease. Treat with a fungicide or home remedy. Make sure plants receive adequate light and air circulation, and don’t overwater.
Droopy leaves can be an indication that plants have been exposed to cold temperatures. Bring into warmer conditions and watch to see if branches revive. Cut off any foliage that doesn’t recover.
Pests: The most common pests found on jade plant are mealy bugs. Other pests can include aphids, spider mites, or scale. Rinse foliage with water to remove most of the pests. Allow to dry, then wipe leaves with a cotton ball or swab dipped in 70% rubbing alcohol to kill remaining pests. Repeat as needed. The use of horticultural oils and insecticides is not recommended.
TYPES OF JADE PLANTS
Jade Plant, Jade Tree
Size: Upright tree-like habit, 2-9 feet tall and 2-5 feet wide
Color: Foliage is green with yellow highlights and a red edge. Flowers are white or pale pink borne on red stems.
The most common and best-known, older specimens develop multiple thick woody trunks, taking on a tree-like appearance. Coloration is best in full sun. For indoor houseplants, place in bright light with several hours of direct sun to bring out highlights. In lower light, foliage will be solid green.
Size: Dense mounding habit, 9-24 inches tall and 10-24 inches wide
Color: Foliage is lime green with a distinct burgundy edge, white flowers
Shiny round lime-green leaves on stout trunks become tinged with burgundy when given enough light. ‘Baby Jade’ can be kept to a smaller size and is a good choice for bonsai. Display on a small tabletop, shelf or in a miniature garden.
Silver Dollar Jade, Silver Jade Plant
Size: Upright mounding habit, 6-12 feet tall and 6 feet wide
Color: Foliage is silver-blue with maroon edges, white flowers age to pale pink
Dense disc-shaped foliage occurs on heavily branched trunks, creating a lush appearance. Larger specimens become more tree-like. The sophisticated pale silvery foliage goes with most color schemes. Display in a bright window or on a tabletop in combination with other plants with similar light requirements such as cacti.
Crassula ovata 'Gollum'
Size: Dense compact habit, 2-3 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide
Color: Foliage is green with red tips, pinkish white flowers
Named for a character in the Lord of the Rings series, the finger-like tubular foliage and stubby branching has an otherworldly appearance reminiscent of undersea coral. This novelty variety makes a good specimen for bonsai. Use as an interesting focal point in a sunny room or outdoor rock garden.
Crassula ovata 'Tricolor'
Size: Dense mounding habit, 1-4 feet tall and 1-3 feet wide
Color: Foliage is variegated with creamy white, yellow and green streaks, pink margins. Flowers are white or pink.
This striking variegated form is variable depending on light exposure and other factors, with the pink margins more pronounced in brighter light. Plant in a colorful ceramic pot and display in a prominent place in the home as an eye-catching focal point. As with many variegated plants, growth is slow.
Crassula ovata ‘Hummel’s Sunset’
Size: Dense bushy habit, 1-3 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide
Color: Foliage is gold and green rimmed with a burgundy-red edge. Pale pink flowers are borne on short red stems.
This award-winning selection has glossy oval leaves that grow on thick trunks, creating a miniature tree-like appearance. Eye-catching bright golden highlights will stand out in a bold interior color scheme. Plants can be kept small or trained into bonsai. Grow in at least several hours of direct sunlight for best coloring.
Crassula ovata 'Hobbit'
Size: Dense compact habit becomes more tree-like in larger specimens, 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide
Color: Lime green foliage with red tips, white flowers
Part of the Lord of the Rings series, the elongated curving leaves lend unique structural interest to a houseplant display or outdoor container garden. Plants are tolerant of low light conditions and will stay small when grown indoors. Display on a tabletop or prune into a decorative bonsai.
- Place a jade plant in a decorative ceramic pot that complements your outdoor patio furniture and display on a tabletop where it can be enjoyed up close.
- Plant in a rock garden in combination with other succulents, cacti and alpines. Plants can be brought indoors for the winter or left in the ground in warmer regions.
- A bonsai specimen makes a sophisticated focal point in a living room or bedroom. Plant in a decorative pot that matches the decor.
- Buy an open standing shelf unit that can be placed in front of a large picture window that gets bright direct sunlight. Showcase different varieties of jade plants alongside cacti and other houseplants with similar cultural needs for an uplifting display to get you through the darker winter months.
- Combine on a tabletop or shelf with other houseplants with similar cultural needs that have contrasting forms, foliage and coloring for a captivating display. These can include trailing burro’s tail (Sedum morganianum), aloe vera, and golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii).
- For a more harmonious botanical theme, display jade plant alongside other Crassulas such as ‘Ivory Towers’ (C. x perforata), jade necklace vine (C. ruprestris ssp. marnieriana) or campfire plant (C. capitella).
- Plant several small specimens in miniature ceramic pots of differing bright colors and display side by side on a shelf for a chic modern look.
- Display a miniature jade plant on a small end table or desktop as a living decorative accent.