The Jade plant (Crassula ovata) is an easy to care for succulent that makes an ideal house plant for beginners. They have beautiful fleshy leaves that store water – so even if you forget your watering duties for a few days, the plant will still be able to survive.
Native to South Africa and Mozambique, this plant is ideally suited to a sunny position in your home with relatively low humidity. However, they’re quite an adaptable plant that can survive with lower amounts of light.
I’ve grown up with Jade plants in the house all my life and I’ve seen that they can grow quite large, easily reaching two to three feet in height (60-90cm). They’re amazingly easy to prune and keep in shape. This can be the ideal time to propagate, creating small new plants if you wish to give them away to friends.
Other common names for the Jade plant are the money plant, money tree or lucky plant. As you can see from these common names, in many cultures they are considered to bring good fortune and prosperity. For this reason, they make an ideal gift, housewarming present or even a business gift.
Light requirements for Jade plants
This plant does like the sun. Ideally a mixture of direct sunlight and filtered light throughout the day. It can be placed near a western or southern facing window.
Jade plants will tolerate lower light levels, but they may become leggy if they don’t receive enough sunlight.
Room temperatures of 60-77oF (15-25oC) are suitable for this plant.
The main rule with a Jade plant is ‘don’t overwater’ it. You can use the ‘soak and dry’ method of watering, common with other succulent plants. Give your plant a good watering but allow the top inch or two of the soil to dry out before repeating. Ensure your plant doesn’t stand in water as this could lead to root rot and make it susceptible to other diseases.
Like many other succulents, this plant stores water in its leaves. In the wild, this allows the plant to survive periods of unfavorable conditions. If you forget about your Jade, you may see some of its leaves starting to shrivel. This is a sure sign that your plant needs to be watered. The trick is to do your watering just before your plant reaches this stage.
Your Jade plant will benefit from a quality soil that drains well. Use a succulent and cactus compost to get the best results. Alternatively, you could use a general purpose houseplant compost and mix this with an equal amount of perlite to increase soil drainage.
Repot your plants every two to three years in the spring.
These plants do not require much in the way of fertiliser. You can apply half strength liquid fertiliser 2-3 times during the growing season from spring to summer. In the wild, these plants grow in rocky quartz fields. This gives you an idea of the type of conditions they prefer good draining soil, a low amount of irrigation and little in the way of soil nutrients.
The only other requirements of this plant is occasional dusting. This can be done with a damp cloth.
Propagating Jade plants
So, you want to share your love of Jade plants? Great news, they’re dead easy to propagate. My go to method is to use cuttings.
First take a stalk with around 6 or more leaves attached to it. Strip off the lower leaves and put aside for a few days to allow a callous to form over the cut wound. This will help prevent disease or infection affecting the new cutting. Take this cutting and plant in moist soil. Place in a bright area with plenty of indirect sunlight and roots will start to form after a week or two.
If you only have a smaller plant, you can propagate using individual leaves. Simply remove leaves from the parent plant, and after a few days you can pop them in moist compost. These will start to root and will eventually grow into a new plant.
Pests and problems
The main problem to avoid with Jade plants is overwatering. Symptoms of this Include leaves yellowing, going limp and falling off.
Mealy bugs are one of the most common insect pests. They suck on plant juices weakening the plant. They also secrete a sticky ‘honeydew’ which can be quite messy to clear up.
Treatment with normal insecticides or insecticidal soap is not recommended, as Jade plants can be quite susceptible to these products. You might end up causing even more damage to the plant. A useful treatment is to use cotton wool or cotton buds soaked in alcohol and to wipe this over the stems and leaves.
Jade plants are toxic to pets including cats and dogs. According to the ASPCA website, symptoms of ingestion can include vomiting, depression and incoordination.
It is also mildly toxic to humans and the plant sap can be irritant to the skin. A sensible precaution is to use gloves when propagating or pruning your plant.
Questions on Jade plant care
Why is my Jade plant growing leggy?
Insufficient light is the likely cause. If grown in dim conditions, your plant will start to ‘stretch’ and grow towards the light source, taking on a long and leggy appearance. You’ll need to move this plant to a brighter location to fix its appearance. An alternative would be to install a grow light by your plant.
How do I make my Jade plant bushy?
Ensure your plant is placed in a good location where it’s receiving enough light. A light starved plant will never grow bushy. Pruning the plant will encourage side branches and leaves to grow which will enhance the overall appearance and make it look bushier.
How do I know if my Jade plant is overwatered?
The leaves may take on a yellowed appearance and/or go limp and drop off. Make sure that the plant is not standing in a pot saucer of water and that the top part of the soil is allowed to dry between watering.
Why are my Jade plant leaves falling off?
There are numerous reasons that this can occur. The first thing to investigate is too much water. This can be from over watering or an unsuitable soil that retains too much moisture. Confusingly, underwatering can also cause leaf fall.
Another potential cause is over fertilization. Jade plants only require a small amount of fertilisation during their growing period and are sensitive to too much.