Jade plants were trendy in the 1970s. Known as money plants, people considered them good luck, and they were often given as housewarming gifts to bestow good fortune on their owners.
The unique jade plant is making a comeback. This is probably due to how attractive it is with its deep-green oval-shaped leaves, thick woody stem, and white flowers that bloom in winter. The good news is that you don’t have to be lucky to grow jade plants. Follow a few simple guidelines, and you will be rewarded with a thriving plant that will last for years, or even decades!
When browsing for jade plants, avoid the ones where the leaves appear shriveled and droopy. Rather, they should feel plump. With inappropriate lighting and hydration, the jade plant can wilt and look worse for wear. Jade plants can also get leggy when the conditions aren't appropriate, so avoid specimens that are tall but scarce on foliage.
Jade plants require a porous, well-draining potting mix suitable for succulents. An all-purpose soil medium with perlite is a good start. You'll need a 6-inch pot with draining holes for the average jade, and a moderate depth will work.
Basically, you want the pot to be an inch or two wider than the root ball. Fill the container with your soil mix until the top of the root ball is at the same level as the top of the pot.
A jade plant needs at least four hours of natural sunlight every day to thrive. Place it in the brightest part of your home, ideally near a south-facing window. If your jade plant starts receiving too much sunlight, the leaves may become a dark purple color. This discoloration will fade as the plant gets used to the light and eventually revert back to its original lush green color.
Your jade plant will still grow if it’s in a slightly darker place, but it won’t have the chance to flourish.
Jade plants are succulents, the same genus as cacti, so they store water in their leaves and stems. If you overwater them, your luck will soon run out, as your money plant won’t last long. Always wait until at least the top two inches of soil is dry before giving it plenty of water.
This probably means you will only need to water your jade plant every couple of weeks in the summer and even less in the winter. If you notice the leaves starting to blister, you’re giving your plant too much water. On the other hand, if the leaves start dropping, then your jade plant is thirsty.
The jade plant is from southern Africa and is accustomed to a dry climate. To make it feel at home, avoid high humidity levels if possible—average humidity should be okay. A hygrometer can help you determine whether your room is at 30% to 50% humidity, which is the ideal range.
In addition, the plant likes rooms that are about 65°F to 75°F. Conditions that are too humid with poor air circulation can lead to rot.
You don't need to fertilize this plant too often. A balanced fertilizer should work, but for even better results, try one with a high nitrogen component, like a 10-20-10 formula. Cacti or African violet fertilizer would be ideal, and a fish emulsion is a solid organic option.
Fertilize at half strength in spring and then during the latter part of summer. Apply the fertilizer every two to six months during the growing season.
When the jade plant has passed the first-year mark, you can encourage new growth and keep it in tip-top condition with a little pruning here and there. Premature pruning can jeopardize growth. The jade plant is top-heavy, so if some branches seem flimsy, discard them to stimulate the development of sturdier stems and a bigger plant.
Take out unhealthy leggy sections in late spring using a sharp pair of sterilized secateurs. Snip at a 45-degree angle above where the section makes a "V" with the trunk. You should also remove branches with dark spots before the disease spreads.
You can repot every two to three years if you want your jade to become larger. When the plant is mature, repot every six years. Look at the drainage holes to see if the jade is root-bound and wants to relocate. Then make the big move into a slightly wider terracotta pot at the start of the growing season in spring and let it settle without watering for a week.
You may also want to repot if the plant is infected and needs a soil change and a new start. Coax the plant out gently by maneuvering a shovel around the inside edge of the pot. Then flip the pot and separate it from the plant.
Jade is one of the easiest plants to propagate. Take a stem cutting below two pairs of leaves and allow it to sit for a few days in a warm place where it can dry out and form a callous on the cut end. When planting, take your cutting and place it upright in the soil. You may have to prop it up with a toothpick or some small stones.
You can also propagate your jade plant using just a leaf. After leaving it to dry out, lay it horizontally on top of the soil and cover the base of the leaf with soil. Whichever propagating method you use, roots should start to form after a couple of weeks and imbed in the soil. Wait around a month before watering the new plant deeply. Soon you will have little baby money plants sprouting up; they make ideal gifts for family or friends.
Here's what to look out for on your jade plant so you can protect it. Bacterial soft rot presents with soft brown leaves and an unpleasant odor. Cut off infected areas and repot. Powdery mildew is a fungus that may cover your jade with white, dusty splotches due to overwatering. Use an antifungal treatment and improve air circulation so the plant can dry out.
Pests include the usual suspects—scale insects, aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. Mealybugs suck the sap from leaves and leave a tell-tale residue behind that attracts other insects and can cause sooty mold. The pests look like white fluff. Quarantine the plant and apply a pesticide.
Dark, sunken spots on leaves may indicate spider mites or aphids, which require cleaning and natural or chemical control measures.
A nice neutral pot topped with white stones can give your jade plant a zen look and will fit with various interior styles. Pop the jade on a window sill, shelf, or floor where it can receive the right amount of sunlight—it will look like a mini tree.
Trailing jade plants in hanging baskets can add a touch of wildness to your space.
The elephant bush plant is also from South Africa. It looks a lot like jade but has smaller leaves, is hardier, and is also edible. Then there's the air plant, which is another safe alternative if you have pets.
Jade is mildly toxic for humans and dangerous for cats and dogs. If ingested, it can cause breathing issues, vomiting, and seizures. The sap can also cause skin irritation. It's best to give this money plant a skip if you have furry besties.
As well as the standard green-leafed variety, there are many different and interesting types of jade plants available:
Whichever kind of jade plant you opt for will require the same easy care regime. Look after your money plant, and who knows; maybe it will bring you luck for many years to come.