The jade plant, Crassula ovata, also known as Chinese rubber tree or money plant, makes an excellent houseplant. It loves living in a sunny spot and grows best when ignored for long periods of time. Many people who practice Feng Shui say that having one of these plants in your home, with their small round leaves like coins, helps to bring money into your life. The jade plant originates from South Africa and Madagascar, but will live quite happily as a houseplant in cooler climates.
How to Care for your Jade Plant
Jade plants are succulents, like cacti. The plants store water in the leaves and stems, not in the soil like many other plants. For this reason, they like very little water. Too much water can harm or even kill a jade plant. It's recommended that you should only water when the leaves feel a little squishy or dried out. Sometimes it is hard to tell when this happens, so a good rule of thumb is to water just once a month in the summer and even less in the winter.
As for soil type, the jade plant likes sandy or coarse soil. For the avid gardener the best mixture is four-parts loam and one part each of sand and broken brick. Jade plants don't mind being root-bound, in fact most seem to thrive on it. When you do need to re-pot your jade, only re-pot it in a pot one size larger than the original.
Jade plants enjoy a sunny location. When given enough sun, the leaves develop a reddish colour. Jades vary in size and shape, but can grow up to ten feet tall. They also make great bonsai. When old enough and if given enough light, the plant will produce a small white flower and seeds. In the summer they can live outdoors, but being a desert plant they don't like the cold, so bring them inside in winter.
If the jade plant is too top heavy, and it can't support itself, try pruning some of the branches back to the first bud along the stem. This is best done in March. Alternatively, this could be caused by the plant having too small a root system. This can be attributed to watering the plant too often; the roots become lazy and don't grow. When they have less water they'll start to grow in search of more moisture.
Propagating Jade Plants
When you have one jade plant it is easy to get more. Jade plants reproduce through seeds, leaf cuttings and stem cuttings. It's best to take the cuttings during pruning. Prune a piece about three inches in length and leave it to dry in the air for a few hours or even overnight. A protective layer forms over the end. Remove the bottom leaves, and place it in the soil or a plate of sand. There is no need to water it in, until the sand or soil dries out (approximately once a week).
First Aid for Jade Plants
Oh no! My jade plant has root rot.
This would be a good time to try propagating your jade plant, using cuttings as above. Unfortunately, when your jade plant reaches this stage, there is very little that can be done to revive it. If it's not too far gone, try not watering it for a month or two. Root rot occurs from over-watering - the most difficult part of keeping a jade plant is ignoring it.
I'm constantly picking the fallen leaves up from the floor, and they're tiny1. The stems fall off too, and it doesn't seem 'strong' to me.
Again it seems that this plant is a goner. It could be due to not enough light or again, too much water. The soil could also be too rich. If it's summer, try placing it outside in the sun where it won't get wet, or inside at a south-facing window. Keep it warm. If it's winter, the jade plant doesn't need as much light, it likes to be dormant at a temperature below 55°F.
Help! My plant's wilted and it won't stand up straight.
If the plant has wilted it could be due to water; too much, or too little. Remember, when watering to saturate the soil fully and allow to dry out completely between waterings. Over-fertilisation can also cause wilting.
1 Compared to the familiar big, juicy green jade plant leaves.