One of the most well-known and widely grown succulent plants around, the jade plant, Crassula ovata, or the money tree provides shape and color to any interior, or as a focal point in an outdoor succulent garden.
Here’s everything you need to know about the jade plant.
At a Glance: What You Should Know about Jade Plants
The jade plant has many names, including the money plant, money tree, and the lucky plant. While it comes from South Africa and Mozambique, it is grown across the world as a striking and undemanding houseplant.
It’s a very easy plant to care for, making it perfect for beginners, or those who are just starting out with growing succulent plants. It also helps that if you care for it, it can be very long-lived.
The money tree is tolerant of slightly lower light levels than most succulents will thrive in, and it can go for months without water.
The jade plant is a member of the Crassulaceae plant family, under the Crassula genus. Some people grow it for the belief that the plant can invite prosperity and good luck into our lives, hence the name money plant.
How to Recognize a Jade Plant
The first thing you’ll notice with the jade plant is that the leaves are thick and evergreen, and the branches are thick to match. The leaves are smooth and glossy, growing in opposite pairs along the stems.
Most varieties are a deep green, but you can get other cultivars which are variegated, or a yellowish green. In bright sunlight, some adopt red tints along the edges of the leaves, adding to the plant’s beauty.
While new stems are the same color as the leaves, mature stems will adopt a woody appearance, becoming tree-like. Some people grow it as a bonsai tree for this reason.
The jade plant is capable of reaching 8 feet tall in the right conditions, but it will be much more compact when grown as a houseplant or in a container.
Jade Plant Flowers
Once the jade plant has reached maturity, it can flower in the right conditions. Getting a jade plant to flower indoors can be tricky, as it needs the most sunlight possible, and warm temperatures.
You may find it easier to promote flowering by putting it under a grow lamp, if you choose to grow it indoors.
From the middle of winter into the early weeks of spring, the jade plant can produce flower spikes, at the top of which tiny starry flowers appear, usually in white or pink. Depending on the variety, these flowers can also be sweetly fragranced.
How to Make Sure a Jade Plant Thrives
Jade plants are easy to care for, but there are a few things you need to keep in mind in order to get the best out of these plants.
Sunlight and Position
One of the most important things is light. You need to give jade plants plenty of light for them to develop healthy leaves and stems.
If you place them somewhere that’s too dark, the plant will etoilate, where the vibrant green of the leaves will become washed out, and the leaves and stems become misshapen, stretching toward the light.
Placing it somewhere with too much sunlight will cause the leaves to burn, so there is a balance to strike. Luckily, the plant will show signs of either condition pretty quickly, allowing you to adjust the position as necessary before it affects the whole plant.
Direct sunlight indoors will be less harsh than outdoors, so you can sit it in full sunlight in your home without a lot of problems.
If you’re growing your crassula ovata outdoors, indirect sunlight is best, or shaded areas in parts of the world where sunlight is particularly fierce.
One thing that jade plants don’t cope well with is an exposed position. Keep your succulent away from drafts, winds, or sources of heat. A stable temperature is best, anywhere between 65 and 70°F (15 and 21°C).
To encourage the plant to flower in winter, give it a six-week period of cooler temperatures between 50-60°F (or 13 and 16°C).
Jade plants, like many types of succulents, require much less water than other plants do. You only need to water a jade plant when the soil has completely dried out, as excess water will lead to root rot.
Money plants require more water in the growing season from spring until summer, making sure to wait until the soil has completely dried out before watering again.
During autumn, reduce the amount of watering, and stop watering it entirely in the winter. This will allow the plant to rest, before it puts out new growth in the spring.
Should You Feed a Jade Plant?
Unlike most succulents, the jade plant will benefit from a feed once every six months, when it needs to be watered.
Use a fertilizer that needs to be diluted, so you have to water it at the same time, and never feed a dry plant, as this can burn the roots.
You can use a general-purpose, balanced fertilizer, or one specially formulated for cacti and succulents, whichever you prefer.
What Soil Should You Use for a Jade Plant?
To get the best results out of your jade plant, make sure you use a very well-draining soil, preferably one which is sandy, or mixed with grit, as this will help get some air into the roots.
The easiest way to do this is to use commercial specialist succulent or cacti soil, but you can mix your own using poor topsoil and grit or perlite.
It’s important to make sure that the soil isn’t rich in nutrients, as jade plants have adapted to live in poor soil.
Do You Need to Prune a Jade Plant?
It’s beneficial to prune a jade plant in the spring, when the growth is vigorous. This helps keep the growth habit strong, while also keeping the jade plant more manageable in a compact form.
It also stops the risk of the plant falling over when the stems aren’t yet woody enough to support the new growth.
Pests and Disease to Watch Out For
There isn’t much in the way of disease that can take hold of a jade plant, but there are a few pests to watch out for.
The most common of which is the mealybug, which feeds on the sap in the plant, weakening the plant.
When mealybugs have taken hold of the plant, you’ll notice a sticky residue called honeydew forming on the plant, as well as white splotches where the foliage attaches to the stems.
The honeydew is the perfect place for fungal infections to take a hold, so it’s best that you get rid of the bugs as soon as possible to stop the jade plant from weakening further.
Spider mites are also capable of weakening or even killing a jade plant completely. You’ll notice strange speckles on the foliage if your plant has spider mites, and the sooner you deal with them, the better off the plant will be.
Jade plants are vulnerable to insecticides, which can do more harm than good to succulents, making an already-weaker plant much worse off.
The best way to deal with pests is to use rubbing alcohol, directly treating the site of infestation with cotton. You’ll probably have to do this more than once.
If the levels of pests get too severe, it’s best to get rid of the plant and start again, as it will save any nearby plants from being infested, too.
How to Propagate a Jade Plant
It’s easy to propagate jade plants. You can take cuttings from the leaves or the stems, and whichever type you choose, make sure to take a few, as this will help improve the chances of success.
If you’re wanting to propagate a jade plant from a stem cutting, pick a healthy and vigorous stem, cutting above a leaf node, keeping at least one on the cutting.
Cut off the lower leaves from the stem, and allow the open wound to callus over for a few days.
Lightly mist the end of the cutting, or pop it straight into damp, well-draining soil. You should soon see new growth within ten weeks if the cutting is successful.
Leaf cuttings are easier. Choose young but not brand-new leaves, and pick them from the stem, making sure to leave a clean cut behind. You can do this with your fingers, or with a sharp knife.
Again, let the leaves form a callus over the wound before you do anything, and this will stop the cutting from taking up more water than it can handle.
Once roots emerge and get to about an inch long, pot up the leaf in a bright position, watering it occasionally.
Jade Plant Cultivars to Grow Yourself
Crassula ovata ‘Botany Bay’
‘Botany Bay’ isn’t a fast-growing cultivar, but most jade plants are slow-growing.
It features jade-green leaves which are thinner than some cultivars, and when grown in bright light or dry soil, the edges become tinged with crimson.
It features a lovely compact growth habit, with the foliage packed tightly together.
‘Botany Bay’ can reach a maximum height of 3 feet, given the room to do so.
Crassula ovata ‘Lemon and Lime’
If you’d like a variegated form of the jade plant, ‘Lemon and Lime’ is perfect. It features oval foliage in shades of yellow and lime green, each can reach 5cm in length, and like most jade plants, the edges turn red in bright light.
‘Lemon and Lime’ gets slightly taller at 4 feet if you give it a large enough area, but you can prune it to keep it smaller if you prefer.
Crassula ovata minima ‘Miniature Money Plant’
A miniature version of the money plant, this compact variety is perfect for beginners.
You can shape it into a bonsai tree, or compliment one as a neighboring plant, where its green foliage will stand out.
Crassula ovata ‘Horn Tree’
A jade plant which features tubular foliage, ‘Horn Tree’ has elongated, narrow leaves, and hints of pink on the lime leaves.
It’s a much more compact form than other jade plants on this list, reaching a maximum height of 30cm.