How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Jade Plants
Thinking of adding a new indoor succulent to your houseplant collection? The Jade Plant has become a beloved houseplant to many indoor gardeners, for a number of reasons. In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton teaches you how to plant, grow, and care for Jade Plants!
Succulents are not ideal plants for indoor growth. They need plenty of direct sunlight to maintain their geometric and structural forms and are extremely sensitive to overwatering – one of the most common problems for houseplant parents. But there is one exception that has become a beloved houseplant around the world – Jade plants.
Scientifically known as Crassula ovata, these succulents are grown indoors around the world with little hassle. They are one of the most low-maintenance indoor plants you can find, ideal for beginners to succulent growth or to give as gifts. Plus, when you fall in love with them (as most do), they are quick to propagate.
Because of their ease of care, and their beautiful appearance, Jade plants have become one of the most popular succulents in many indoor gardens. Ready to learn more? Below you’ll learn how to plant, grow, and care for Jade Plants!
Jade Plant Overview
Plant Type Succulent
Species Crassula ovata
Native Area South Africa
Exposure Direct sun
Watering Requirements Low
Pests and Diseases Scale, spider mites, mealybug
Soil Type Sandy and well-draining succulent mix
Hardiness Zones 10-11
What Is The Jade Plant?
Jade plants are from the popular Crassula genus, known as Crassula ovata. The Crassula genus contains over 200 species of succulents and almost no two species look the same. There is incredible variety in forms and colors – some taking on a geometric and structural look while others have a gentle softness in the leaves.
The Crassulaceae family to which they belong includes a number of other popular succulent plants. Kalanchoe is just one example and another indoor flowering favorite with gorgeous succulent green leaves. It also includes other common succulents used more often in outdoor areas, such as Sedums.
Crassula ovata goes by many common names. The one used most often is obviously Jade plant, but they are also known as money plants and lucky plants for the shape of their leaves and use in Feng Shui. But, since there are several houseplants with the name money plant, it’s far easier to go by Jade or simply Crassula ovata.
Like many succulents, Jade plants are native to the African continent, concentrated around the Kwa-Zulu Natal and Eastern Cape regions of South Africa. They thrive best in warm, sunny and dry areas and grow in sandy soil in rocky open areas.
Following this native habitat, you wouldn’t suspect that they would make great houseplants. But thanks to their resilience and ability to adapt to a wide range of conditions, they also have the ability to grow well indoors. They can handle partial shade, high humidity and need very little water to maintain their lush green leaves and structural stems.
In most parts of the world, as they cannot tolerate low temperatures, they are therefore grown indoors. They may need an extra sunny window and could benefit from being moved outdoors in the warmer months. But other than those few quirks, they make wonderful additions to any indoor plant collection.
Jade plants are generally considered shrubs due to their height. But, their branching shape and interesting leaves make them look more like a very small tree when grown in a pot.
The plant features thick branches topped with rounded, plump green leaves. In high sunlight areas, these leaves can take on a red tinge at the ends, creating great contrast. New branches appear green and soft, slowly hardening and becoming woodier as the plant matures.
In full sun, long red flower stalks shoot up above the leaves, producing clusters of small white and star-shaped blooms. These flowers pop up in winter and produce a sweet scent that bees and other pollinators love. Unfortunately, due to the lower light levels, you are unlikely to see them flower indoors but if you give them enough full sun and supplement with grow lights, you may get lucky.
The standard Jade plant is stunning on its own, but there are also a few interesting cultivars to choose from. ‘Gollum’ is one example, with elongated tube-like leaves instead of rounded ones. There are also variegated options like ‘Lemon & Lime’ that add a completely different feel to this popular plant.
This plant is best kept away from your pets as it is mildly toxic to cats and dogs and can also be toxic to humans. Keep them out of reach on a high shelf or hang from the ceiling to avoid any potential accidents.
As Jade has slightly different characteristics from other houseplants you may already have, there are a few important things to consider when planting that can make or break the growing process.
The first thing is drainage. These succulents are incredibly sensitive to root rot and are accustomed to growing in open areas with dry, sandy soil. That means your chosen container must have several drainage holes in order to prevent potential rotting when watering. Don’t risk it with a pot without holes or use stones to replace drainage as you will likely end up harming the plant in the long run.
Choosing well-draining materials for pots can help wick some of that water away. Terra cotta is ideal as it draws moisture away from the soil and fits incredibly well with the structure and color of the plant. But any container material will do, as long as it has a few holes in the bottom. If there aren’t any, don’t forget to drill your own before planting.
Containers aren’t the only consideration you need when it comes to drainage. Soil choice is also important. Start with a high-quality succulent and cacti potting mix that drains quickly and contains sand that doesn’t hold onto moisture. Standard houseplant potting mixes will typically hold onto too much water for these plants, leading to root rot.
With your container and succulent mix ready, simply fill the pot and transplant the Jade into the new container, taking care not to damage or pull any leaves in the process. Center the branches and make sure they are anchored upright by pressing gently around the base. Water immediately after planting and wait until the pot dries out almost completely before watering again.
How to Grow
Jade plants are remarkably easy to care for, just one of the reasons why they are such popular houseplants. The key is not to fuss over them too much. Once they are placed in the right spot, they can be largely left alone and checked on about once a week. These plants prefer neglect over too much attention.
Sunlight is an essential part of keeping your Jade plant happy indoors. Succulents and cacti and usually accustomed to a full day of bright and unfiltered direct sun in their native habitats and Jade plants are no different. But, since the light levels are far lower indoors, it can be tricky to find the perfect balance to keep your plant happy.
Luckily, the Jade plant is one of only a few succulents that can handle some shade throughout the day. The leaves won’t be as compact as they would be growing outdoors and in full sun, but any stretching doesn’t look too out of place on these plants. Unlike geometric succulents that completely lose their shape in low light, they largely look the same, albeit with skinnier branches and smaller leaves.
But, that doesn’t mean they can tolerate low light either. These plants need at least a few hours of direct sun in your home to survive. They may not need the full 6 hours they would get outdoors, but they do need a minimum of about 3 to sustain growth.
Place your Jade in front of a bright south-facing window, unobstructed by any objects. Here, they can bask in the sun’s rays and if you’re lucky, may even produce a few flowers.
If this plant is your first ever succulent, there is one vital principle you cannot forget if you want to keep them alive – never ever overwater. These plants are incredibly sensitive to root and stem rot and need very little water to survive.
Thanks to their thick stems and leaves, they hold onto tons of water. This allows them to continue to photosynthesize and survive in their native habitats during the long months when there is little to no rainfall. The leaves remain plump, slowly accessing those water stores until there is moisture in the soil again.
Mimicking this watering pattern is the best way to prevent the number one Jade plant killer, excessive moisture. You can wait until the has pot dried out almost completely before adding any water. In their native habitats, these plants receive almost no rain in winter, meaning you need to water even less over this period.
It’s difficult to underwater these plants. But, if you often stress about whether your houseplants are getting enough water, make it a habit to check the soil once a week. Once the soil is dry and the pot is much lighter when lifted, you can water again.
Never water when the soil is still moist. Once rotting sets in, it is very difficult to fix. Also never leave them in a full drip tray after watering as this can lead to the same issues.
The most important characteristic of Jade plant soil is drainage. The chosen soil mix should drain incredibly quickly, especially when planted in a container and kept indoors where evaporation is slower.
Most high-quality succulent and cacti soil mixes should be suitable for Jade plants. These contain materials like sand or perlite that improve drainage and increase the spaces between soil particles. Some also contain some added nutrients to give your plants an extra boost after planting.
Succulent and cacti potting mix should be available at any local nursery or you can buy some online. However, if you already have some standard potting mix and don’t want to spend the extra cash, you can also make your own soil mix.
To do this, simply amend standard potting soil with river sand and perlite until the texture is coarse and chunky. The mix should drain very quickly and hold onto little water (make sure you test it out before planting).
As you may have already found, Jade plants are quite adaptive for succulents. However, one thing they cannot handle is cold. If temperatures drop below 40F for long periods, these plants may begin to drop their leaves to protect themselves and can even face cell damage.
To keep your Jade happy, keep indoor temperatures between 65F and 75F throughout the year. These averages are the closest match to what they experience in their native habitats. In winter, they are used to night-time dips to around 50F to 55F, and this temperature change can even encourage the plant to push out flowers.
Feeding is one maintenance task you don’t really need to worry about when growing Jade plants. They grow best in nutrient-poor sandy soils and are sensitive to overfertilizing.
If your plant suddenly stops growing or doesn’t seem to be performing as well as it was previously, apply a half dose strength fertilizer once to see if that resolves the problem. Try to eliminate any other potential causes of growth problems before fertilizing to limit the risk of burning the roots and leaves.
One of the greatest benefits of growing Jade plants is that they are one of the easiest houseplants to propagate. They grow well via stem cuttings and even single leaves, allowing you to grow as many of these plants as you can fit in your home.
Propagating From Stem Cuttings
Stem cuttings are the quickest way to propagate, giving you a mature plant faster than you would have propagating from a single leaf. It’s not always possible to propagate from stem cuttings with smaller plants but if you can, this is the best way to go.
Start by identifying a healthy branch free of any damage or disease. It should also be long enough to anchor into the soil without falling over, keeping the top sets of leaves above the soil line.
Remove the branch just below a node (the rings on the stems where the leaves emerge from) with a pair of sharp and clean shears. The cut should be as clean as possible to prevent any damage to the node. When cutting, consider the shape of the plant after the cut and try to hide any potential unbalanced areas with other branches.
If there are any leaves on the bottom end of the cutting, remove them up to halfway, leaving a few sets at the top to facilitate growth. Place the cutting on a piece of newspaper and leave it out for about one week before planting. This allows the end to seal slightly, preventing any potential rotting in the stem when planting.
Once the end of the cut turns white, grab a small pot and fill it with succulent soil mix. You can also make a specialized propagating mix by combining equal parts coconut coir or peat moss and perlite or river sand. Once the pot is full, water before planting to premoisten the soil.
Make a hole with your finger and bury half the branch, pressing around the soil to anchor it in place. Ensure none of the top leaves are resting on the soil line to prevent rotting. Leave the pot in a warm spot, keeping the soil moist until new root growth develops in about a month.
Propagating from Single Leaves
For those who only have a small Jade plant but still want to propagate, opt for single leaves. This also allows you to propagate far more plants at once without risking shock in the parent plant or making it appear unbalanced.
When choosing a leaf, look for one that is relatively large, plump and rounded. Make sure it is not damaged and that the stem it is attached to shows no signs of disease. Peel or twist the leaf off from the stem, taking as much of the node with it as you can. If pulled correctly, the end should have a slight curve at the end where the leaf met the stem.
Like stem cuttings, any leaves you remove need to be left out for a few days before planting to prevent rotting. Luckily, this process only takes a couple of days versus an entire week.
When you’re ready to plant, grab the same propagating mix used for stem cuttings and fill a small pot. Water before planting and gently press the ends of the leaf into the soil at a slight angle. Most of the leaf should remain above the soil and off the soil line to stop it from rotting.
Keep the soil slightly moist until you see growth at the base of the leaf. This can take a couple of months, so don’t worry if nothing has changed in a few weeks. Once the small plantlet has grown enough to be planted, separate it from the original leaf and transplant into a new pot to continue growing.
Much like fertilizing, repotting is one thing you won’t need to worry about often when growing Jade plants. They are generally happy to remain in the same pot for several years as they are slow growers and don’t take up much space.
For younger plants in the early stages of growth, repotting every two to three years is sufficient. For mature plants, four years or even more is suitable. In fact, repotting too soon can do more harm than not repotting as it risks the chances of shock that may take a while for the plant to recover from.
Repotting should be done in early to mid-spring for the quickest chances of recovery. Choose a slightly larger pot and fill it with the soil mix mentioned above or anything close to what the plant has been growing in previously.
When pulling the plant from its current part, take care not to damage the leaves as they can fall off easily if damaged or twisted. Gently loosen the roots and lower the plant into the new pot onto a layer of soil, filling in the gaps until it matches the previous soil line.
Wait about a week to water to allow the plant to adjust to its new pot first. If any signs of stress appear, such as crinkled or dropping leaves, hold off a bit longer to avoid risking root rot.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are they toxic to pets?
Jade plants are mildly toxic to cats, dogs and horses. They can also be slightly toxic to humans and can irritate the skin. Keep them away from your animals indoors and out and potentially wear gloves when handling them if you have sensitive skin.
Where are Jade plants native to?
Jade plants are native to South Africa, found in the warm coastal provinces of Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Eastern Cape. Here they grow outdoors in full sun, typically found in sandy soils in warm regions.
Can they grow outdoors?
Jade plants can be grown outdoors, but cannot handle any cold temperatures in the cooler months. If you live in USDA Zones 10 and above, you can grow Jade plants outdoors. Those in lower zones should opt for indoor growth. When growing in containers, you can also keep them outdoors in spring and summer, bringing them inside for fall and winter to protect the sensitive foliage from cold damage.
Why is my plant dropping leaves?
The main cause of dropping leaves is overwatering. You will know if this is the cause if the leaves or the base of the stem are soft and mushy. Underwatering can also cause the leaves to shrivel and drop, along with low sunlight levels. Give your Jade the right conditions and care and the problem should rectify itself. In cases of root rot, you may need to repot or, if it’s too late to save, discard the plant.
If you’ve never given succulents a try, the Jade plant is certainly a great starter plant. Grown indoors or out, Jade is very forgiving and shouldn’t give you any trouble. Make sure you understand the differences in their care and the other houseplants in your home and you can’t go wrong.