What Is A Jade Plant? (Plus 5 Benefits)


If you want a houseplant with a unique appearance that can tolerate a lack of water, then a jade plant should be on your radar.  This plant is also easy to propagate if you want to create more from the leaves.

So, what is a jade plant?  A jade plant (Crassula ovata) is a subtropical evergreen succulent.  Its leaves are thick and fleshy, colored green and sometimes red on the edges.  The roots are shallow, but the plant can store water in its leaves to survive drought and dry soil.  Jade grows slowly, but it can reach a height of 3 to 6 feet or taller.

Of course, there are lots of different jade plant varieties to choose from – you aren’t limited to just one!

In this article, we’ll talk about jade plants and how to care for them.  We’ll also take a closer look at a few varieties that might interest you with their leaf color patterns.

Let’s get going.

What Is A Jade Plant?

Jade plant (Crassula ovata) is a subtropical evergreen succulent.  According to the North Carolina State University Extension, the plant originated in South Africa and has the appearance of a small tree (almost like bonsai).

large jade plant
Most jade plants have green leaves, but some varieties have other colors on their leaves.

A jade plant grows slowly and prefers dry soil.  It can survive in sandy soil and can tolerate acidic or slightly alkaline conditions.

The leaves of a jade plant are 1 to 3 inches long, grow in pairs, and are usually green.  Depending on the cultivar, the leaf edges sometimes take on a red or burgundy color, especially when grown in bright sunlight.

The trunk of a jade plant is green when young, but turns brown as the plant gets older.  The trunk also becomes hard and woody with age.

According to the University of Florida Extension, jade plants do not flower often, especially in humid climates.  When they do, the star-shaped flowers are white or pink, and they appear in clusters at the tips of branches.

jade plant with white flowers
Flowers rarely appear on jade plants kept indoors as houseplants.

A jade plant is also sometimes known as:

  • Baby Jade
  • Chinese rubber plant
  • Dwarf rubber plant
  • Friendship Plant
  • Jade Tree
  • Japanese rubber plant
  • Lucky Plant
  • Money Plant
  • Money Tree
  • Silver Dollar Plant

Types Of Jade Plants

There are many different types of jade plants available.  Here are a few jade plant varieties (cultivars) that you might be interested in:

jade plant with yellow leaves
Some jade plants have leaf colors including yellow, pink, and purple.

Jade Plant Benefits

Jade plants are a great choice for an indoor houseplant for your home or office.  Some benefits of jade plants include:

  • Succulent – it does not require much water, and tolerates drought by storing water in its leaves.
  • Shallow Roots – it can survive in shallow soil of poor quality.
  • Propagation – it is easy to use a fallen or cut leaf to create a new jade plant.
  • Bonsai – it is easy to prune and turn into a type of bonsai.
  • Varieties – there are many different types of jade plants with various leaf structures and colors.
jade plant
There are many varieties of jade plants available, and they are easy to propagate.

Jade Plant Care

According to the Colorado State University Extension, the ideal temperature for jade plant growth is:

  • Daytime: 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 24 Celsius)
  • Nighttime: 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 13 Celsius)

Avoid rapid temperature fluctuation for your jade plant.  Keep the plant away from hot air drafts near heating vents or cold air drafts near windows.

You should plant jade in well-drained soil (such as a cactus or succulent mix).  The plant needs more water during spring and summer, when it is growing actively.

jade plant
Give jade plants less water in the winter, and more in summer.

As a subtropical succulent, jade plant does not tolerate extreme cold or high humidity.  In fact, the USDA plant hardiness zones for jade are limited to 11a, 11b, 12a, and 12b.

So, jade must be kept indoors or in a heated greenhouse in all but the warmest climates.

To fertilize a jade plant, follow the instructions on the fertilizer package.  Apply fertilizer to wet soil, or the roots may burn.

Certain pests may give a jade plant trouble, including:

  • Aphids
  • Mealybugs
  • Spider Mites

Try cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol to deal with mealybugs.  You might also want to read my article on getting rid of aphids.

How Big Will A Jade Plant Get?

According to the North Carolina State University Extension, a jade plant can grow 3 to 6 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide.  This is often the size limit when a jade plant is grown indoors.

However, the University of Arkansas Extension suggests that a jade plant can grow up to 10 feet tall in its native habitat!

An older jade plant can grow a trunk as wide as 6 inches in diameter.

jade plant with large trunk
Older jade plants can have trunks as thick as 6 inches in diameter.

Does Jade Plant Have Deep Roots?

A jade plant has a shallow root system.  As such, it can survive in a small container, even when root bound.  However, a small container will limit the size of the plant.

Despite its shallow roots, a jade plant can survive for a long time without much water.  This is possible thanks to the plant’s thick, fleshy leaves, where it stores water to prepare for drought.

A well-drained soil mix (such as a cactus mix) will work fine for a jade plant.  Well-drained soil is important to prevent over watering.

Why Do Jade Plant Leaves Fall Off?

Improper watering is one of the most common reasons that jade plant leaves fall off.  Too much or too little water will both stress the plant and cause leaves to fall off.

However, over watering is probably the more common of the two extremes.  For one thing, jade is a succulent, so it can tolerate drought and prefers less humidity.

It is also tempting for gardeners to keep giving plants water when they start to look unhealthy.  However, soil that is too wet for too long can cause root rot, and the plant will eventually succumb to this disease.

To prevent over watering a jade plant, use a cactus or succulent mix and make sure there are drainage holes in the container.  Let the soil dry out completely between waterings – they may only need water every 10 to 14 days!

According to the Cooperative Extension, jade plant leaves may also fall off if the plant is stressed by excessive heat.  This is especially true for older leaves.

Although jade plant is subtropical, its ideal temperature range is 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 24 degrees Celsius) during the day.

Finally, a lack of sunlight can cause jade plants to lose their leaves.

Does Jade Plant Need Full Sun?

According to Clemson University, a jade plant needs full sun for at least 4 hours per day.  A south facing window would be best for a jade plant kept indoors.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, established jade plants can tolerate more direct sunlight than younger plants.

Some jade plant varieties have leaves that turn different colors in direct sunlight or with drought stress.  Some of the colors you may see on jade plant leaves in strong, bright, direct sunlight are:

  • Red
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Pink
  • Purple
jade plant red leaf edges
The edges of leaves on a jade plant may turn red in bright sunlight.

How Long Do Jade Plants Live?

Jade plants can live for many, many years.  There are stories of jade plants that live over 100 years!

In fact, the Old Farmer’s Almanac suggests that jade plants are often passed along as a family heirloom from one generation to the next.

40 year old jade plant
This jade plant is over
40 years old.
Image Courtesy of:
Orengi Harvey via:
Wikimedia Commons:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
A_40_year_old_jade_plant_
(Crassula_ovata).jpg

They recommend repotting young jade plants every 2 to 3 years and older jade plants every 4 to 5 years.  After repotting, wait a week or so to water, and wait a month to fertilize.

Can I Put A Jade Plant In The Bathroom?

You should not put a jade plant in the bathroom, due to the higher humidity typically found in a bathroom (due to hot showers and baths).  Remember that jade plant is a succulent, and as such, it prefers a dry environment with low humidity.

A jade plant would be perfect for a bedroom or home office, or for your desk at work.  Its compact size means it does not need much space, and it will tolerate drought if you go on vacation or forget to water.

Jade Plant Pruning

There are two main reasons to prune jade plants:

  • Appearance & Structure – for example, if you want to get a more even and symmetrical appearance, or if you want to form a structure like a bonsai.
  • Propagation – since you can use a leaf to create a new jade plant (more on this later).

According to the Cooperative Extension, there are two types of cuts when pruning jade:

  • Heading Cut – this is when you cut across a branch.  After a heading cut, the plant becomes thicker (more like a bush), since new growth will appear where the branch was cut.
  • Thinning Cut – this is when you completely remove a branch back to another branch, or back to the main trunk.  After a thinning cut, the plant becomes thinner (less like a bush), since energy will be redirected to other parts of the plant.

With these two types of cuts, you can shape the jade plant into your vision of the perfect bonsai!

pruned jade plant with new growth
This jade plant has new
growth where it was pruned.
Image from:
Sabina Bajracharya via: Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.
wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Crassula_arborescens_-Silver_Jade_02.jpg

Of course, you can also cut off a leaf and plant it to propagate jade plants.

Jade Plant Propagation

Here are the steps to propagate a jade plant:

  1. Find a clean knife or scissors.  Use a cloth with rubbing alcohol to clean the blade if needed.  A clean blade prevents the spread of disease between plants.
  2. Identify a healthy leaf on the jade plant.  It should not be shriveled or dried up.
  3. Use the knife or scissors to cut off the leaf at the base, right where it attaches to the plant’s stem.
  4. Put the leaf on a tray to dry out.  After it is exposed to the air, the cut end of the leaf will “scab” over and become tough.  According to the Piedmont Master Gardeners, this process can take anywhere from hours to weeks, depending on the variety of jade plant.  https://piedmontmastergardeners.org/article/creating-new-plants-from-cuttings/
  5. Plant the leaf (with the cut or scab end down) in a pot that contains a soil mix for cacti or succulents.  The soil should just barely cover the cut or scab end of the leaf.
  6. Water sparingly until roots form.  This will usually take 3 to 4 weeks.  The cut leaf then becomes the base of the new jade plant, and will start to sprout new leaves.
scissors
Use clean scissors for plant pruning.

Conclusion

Now you know what jade plants are and some of the varieties that are available.  You also know how to care for them and how to propagate a jade plant to create more of them.

You might also be interested in learning about Monstera, another type of houseplant.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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