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Ron Finley Teaches Gardening

The jade plant is a low-maintenance succulent and popular houseplant that can live for several decades when cared for properly.

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Ron Finley Teaches GardeningRon Finley Teaches Gardening

Community activist and self-taught gardener Ron Finley shows you how to garden in any space, nurture your plants, and grow your own food.

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What Is a Jade Plant?

Jade plants (Crassula ovata) are succulents with thick, oval leaves and stout stems. There are many varieties of jade plants, but the most common types of jade plant include the Harbour Lights and Hummel's Sunset varieties. Even though they grow slowly—roughly two inches a year—jade plants can reach up to six feet in height and three feet in width.

Native to South Africa and Mozambique, jade plants are easy to grow indoors and can live for 100 years when cared for consistently. Sometimes called “money trees,” jade plants symbolize good luck, fortune, and prosperity in some cultures. Jade plants are toxic to cats and dogs, so it’s wise to keep them out of reach of pets.

Ideal Conditions for Growing a Jade Plant

Your jade plant should get four to six hours of indirect sun per day. When grown indoors, jade plants need well-drained soil and a room temperature between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. While its native soil can be sandy or even rocky, jade plants grown as houseplants thrive in potting mix that’s slightly acidic and includes perlite. Alternatively, you can buy a potting mix designed for succulents and cacti. When grown outdoors, jade plants require warm, dry weather to avoid frostbite and root rot.

How to Care for a Jade Plant

These succulents may have a low-maintenance reputation, but there are still a few considerations to keep in mind.

  1. Place jade plants in indirect sunlight. Too much direct sunlight can scorch the leaves of young jade plants or cause the leaves of mature plants to develop red tips. Not enough sunlight can stunt their growth or cause them to look leggy and stretched out. Aim for four to six hours of indirect sunlight a day, and move the plant gradually if you need to adjust the amount of light the jade plant receives. Depending on the season, you may need to move your jade plant into full sun.
  2. Water sparingly. Overwatered jade plants can develop root rot, so less is more when watering. Although jade plants may need a little more water in the spring and summer months, watering only once a week or even once a month should suffice. To check whether your plant needs water, poke your finger in the soil to check the moisture, and only water if the soil is dry. You can also check the leaves; puffy and swollen leaves indicate the plant is overwatered, while shriveled leaves indicate the plant is lacking in water. Since tap water can contain salts and minerals that may be harmful to the plant, filtered water is ideal.
  3. Use a pot with good drainage. It’s important to let the soil dry out between waterings—and how long that takes depends on temperature, sunlight, and pot drainage. Terracotta clay pots are a great option, as they’re porous and allow for quicker drying, though other clay-based pots work as well.
  4. Fertilize only once a year. After a dormant winter, jade plants enter a growing season that lasts from early spring to early fall. This window is the ideal time to apply fertilizer.
  5. Repot every few years. As the jade plant grows, so will its roots. To encourage growth, repot young jade plants every two to three years and older jade plants every four to five years. Repotting should happen at the beginning of the growing season in early spring.
  6. Experiment with propagating. Should your jade plant grow larger than you anticipated, you can experiment with propagation, or growing new plants from stem cuttings or leaf cuttings. Simply cut a piece of the stem or leaf, and place it in a cactus-specific soil mix to grow a new plant.
  7. Keep an eye out for bugs. Mealybugs are the most common bug to infect jade plants. These pests look like white, moldy patches on plants, and they’re typically found under the leaves. You can remove mealybugs by wiping them away with a cotton swab or small cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol. Other common pests include spider mites and soft scale, both of which you can remove with rubbing alcohol.

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Grow your own garden with Ron Finley, the self-described "Gangster Gardener." Get the MasterClass Annual Membership and learn how to cultivate fresh herbs and vegetables, keep your house plants alive, and use compost to make your community - and the world - a better place.

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