Anything in the Crassula genus contains about 200 separate species, all of which can be called jade plants. Most often, when someone says "jade plant" they are talking specifically about Crassula ovata. Characterized by dark green leaves, occasionally plants will have lighter green leaves with red margins. The ogre ears or gollum fingers jade is still a species of Crassula ovata. Most of the varieties available in cultivation originate from South Africa. Luckily for us, they all have the same basic care! They are a wonderful beginner succulent for those looking to get into the succulent craze.
Like other succulents, jades need bright light in order to thrive. Depending on their growing conditions beforehand, they may be able to tolerate full sun immediately, but giving them slow adjustments will always be the safest bet. If you move a plant that is used to dimmer conditions straight out into full sun without protection in the form of shade, the plants will get sunburn. On jades, sunburn will look like brown spots on the leaves where the sun hit them the most and will not heal. Slowly giving them more light over the course of a few weeks will mitigate this risk. Plants that don't receive enough light will lengthen, lean toward the light, and may tilt their leaves downward in an attempt to capture as much light as possible. The process of plants becoming leggy and leaning toward the light is called etiolation. If you notice your plant showing signs of too little light, but there is not a brighter location in your home to move it to, you can set up grow lights. Grow lights carry the same risk of sunburn as the sun does, so it is important to be sure they are mounted far enough away from the plant. Every grow light manufacturer is different, so it is best to follow the recommendation on the packaging. Most lights suggest being mounted 12-18 inches away from the highest point of the plant.
Succulents of all kinds are known for their lack of water and jades are no exception. Watering on a schedule, such as every Monday for example, is not going to benefit your plant. Jade need the soil to dry completely before the next watering. Alternatively, and a surefire method to prevent overwatering is to wait until the leaves become pliable before watering. The soil will have fully dried by this point. When watering, be sure to completely saturate the soil. With succulents, this may mean allowing the pot to soak in a water bath, as potting soil can become hydrophobic, meaning it will not easily absorb water. While it may seem counter intuitive to douse a succulent so the soil is completely saturated, this is the best way to water. Over watering is not the amount of water given in one session, but the frequency. If plants are given small amounts of water at a more frequent interval, the center of the soil is not allowed to fully dry. This will not allow the roots to perform the necessary gas exchange, similar to the process leaves perform. Without the ability to "breathe" the roots will suffocate and die. This is root rot. By saturating the soil and allowing it to dry to the plant's preferred level, in this case completely dry, this will prevent the root rot and will promote healthy growth. The best way to remember how to properly water is with a drought/flood cycle.
Succulents do best in well drained soils. While it is possible for them to thrive in typical potting soil, it is not always the most beginner friendly. Succulent soil is faster draining than typical potting soil and is more forgiving if you forget to check the moisture level in the soil or the leaves of the plant before watering again. Using a terra cotta or other unglazed, porous clay pot will allow the soil to dry from all angles and achieve the desired drought levels quicker. Typical potting soils combined with plastic pots do not allow for quick drying and can also potentially lead to root rot, as the soil will be moist for too long. Which pot and soil combination will work best for you is determined by the conditions in your home or the area you are keeping it in. A hot, dry climate in an area with cactus medium and clay pots may require you to water every other day, where the same pot and soil in the average home will require you to wait for weeks before it is time to water again. This is why you should always check to be sure the plant needs water before watering.
Jade are fairly disease and pest free plant. Not often do they suffer from diseases or pests, but unfortunately, it is possible. No plant is 100% immune! Here are a few of the most common problems and how to deal with them.
Mealybugs are a white, sap-sucking insect that produces honeydew that can lead to sooty mildew. They often hide on the underside of leaves and in tight crevices of new growth. They are easily treated with pesticides, an alcohol mixture, or beneficial insects. For more information on how to identify and treat mealybugs, check out the blog post titled Mealybugs and How to Deal with Them.
Spider mites are a common pest in plants that like it a little more on the dry side when it comes to humidity. They are a sap-sucking insect that will leave little pinpoint yellow spots on the leaves and extremely fine webs between the leaves. They can be challenging to remove if not caught early. To learn more about early identification, signs, symptoms, and treatments, check out the blog post titled Spider Mites and How to Deal With Them.
Shriveled or Wrinkled Leaves
This is a sure sign of it is time to water! If the leaves are extremely wrinkled, it has been too long between watering. Don't allow your plant to get visibly wrinkled every time, it is better to see if the leaves become pliable when you give them a light squeeze.
Jade plants are one of the more forgiving beginner plants. Lighting is the most important for their health. As always, if you are worried about your plant in any way, do not hesitate to reach out to me! Send a few photos, as well as a short description of how you've been taking care of it and I will be able to help. Send emails to email@example.com.