Plant Profile: Jade Plant

One of the easiest houseplants to grow, jade plant (Crassula ovata) is native to provinces on the eastern side of South Africa and in Mozambique. In its native habitat, jade plant can grow more than 7 feet tall with a woody trunk, lush, green succulent leaves and pinkish blooms.

jade plant and other succulents in dish

Jade plant (center) with other succulents

As a houseplant, jade is the ultimate in easy care. Like other succulents, it thrives in a loose soil with good drainage, lots of sun and minimal watering. It grows best in a south-facing window with several hours of direct sun per day. If you only have windows that face north, you may have to place it under a grow light. Watering is easy, too. Wait until the soil is bone dry—like dry, dry, dry—before giving it water. Over-watering is a more serious problem with this plant, which can be susceptible to root rot. If you are worried you're not giving it enough water, don't fret. The plant will tell you that it needs more water when its leaves look wrinkly.

Most sources advise not fertilizing the plant in winter, but giving it a light dose of water-soluble succulent fertilizer (something in the 3-4-7 range of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) every two weeks or so during the growing season.

Make More Plants

jade plant bonsai in blue pot

This bonsai jade plant was displayed at the MSHS Potted Plant Show at the Minnesota State Fair.

Jade plant is easy to prune to keep the shape you like and it's also easy to propagate if you want to make new plants. To encourage the plant to grow in a more bushy form, prune just above a leaf node and the fast-growing plant will produce new growth. Because they take so well to pruning, jade plants are often used in bonsai.

To propagate new plants, cut a leaf with a bit of stem attached using a clean pruner or scissors. Dip in rooting hormone, then place the stem in  a pot with damp soil. Or just place it in a damp soil mix. Mist the soil around the cutting during the time it is developing roots. Roots can develop as quickly as two to three weeks.

You can also propagate jade from just a single leaf. Pluck a leaf and allow the cut end to dry for a day or two. Then stick it in soil, keep the soil very slightly damp and wait for roots to form.

Pest Problems

Mealy bugs are the most common problem with jade plants. The bugs are usually first noticed when gardeners see the fluffy, white cottony substance they leave behind. To treat for the bugs, dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and clean off any signs of the bugs. Mealy bugs are persistent, so it may take several treatments. An alternative treatment is to use an insecticidal spray on the plant, dousing all the leaves thoroughly. Continue to inspect plants on a regular basis.

It's a good idea to isolate any plant experiencing pest problems so the pests aren't spread to other plants.

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