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Crassula ovata (Mill.) Druce 1917
pronounced: KRASS-yoo-luh oh-VAH-tuh
(Crassulaceae – the stonecrop family)
common names: Jade Plant, Friendship Tree, Lucky Plant
Crassula is from the Latin crassulus, the diminutive of crassus, thick – rather thick; ovata is from ovatus, egg-shaped, referring to the leaves. In many cultures, it is reckoned lucky to have a Jade Plant growing near the entrance to the house.
These South African natives are evergreen, many-branched succulents with thick branches and smooth, rounded, fleshy leaves that grow in opposite pairs along the branches. Leaves are a rich jade green; some varieties may develop a red tinge on the edges of leaves when exposed to high levels of sunlight. New stem growth is the same colour and texture as the leaves, but becomes brown and woody with age.
Under the right conditions, these plants may produce clusters of small white or pink star-like flowers in early spring. The Jade Plant is often grown as an indoor plant in many regions of the world; but it can be grown just as successfully outdoors, so long as the climate is temperate to warm. The plants are tough and easy to grow. They can live for a long time and will grow into tall shrubs or small trees up to about 1.5 m high, even indoors. There are quite a few cultivars available, some of them with white to pink striping. Jades look very much like miniature trees, and often have an appealing bonsai quality.
Jade Plants are notoriously easy to propagate. In the wild, stems and leaves will often break off and fall to the ground, and, after a few weeks, many of these pieces will have grown roots and formed new plants. In cultivation, new plants are made by cutting new growth (stems or leaves) and letting them dry. Roots will develop, in or out of soil, although inserting the stem into moist soil will increase rooting speed.
The plants can live happily for years while root-bound. If repotting is necessary, it is best done as new growth starts. When the plant becomes older and top-heavy, it should be moved to a large, heavy pot to prevent tipping over. Like many succulents, Jades prefer full sun or bright filtered sun. They seem to do best when they receive about four hours a day of direct sunlight (perhaps a little less than that in our fierce summers). If they are receiving too much sun, they will soon tell you: damage will range from scorched leaves to loss of foliage and rotting stems.
Jades benefit from pruning. This is best done in the spring, before the growing season. Pruning can be done over a period of a few weeks, and involves cutting stems back to a lateral branch. The purpose of the pruning is twofold: for such a top-heavy succulent, its trunk has to be able to support the weight of its leaves, and pruning encourages the trunk to grow in size; pruning also encourages root growth. Calluses should form on new cuts after a few days, and new growth should emerge from the stump within a few weeks of the cut.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2010, 2012
Page last updated 31st December 2017