Crassula Ovata, also known as the Jade tree or Money Plant, is a long time houseplant favorite. They have been traded for centuries, first as luxury items for collectors, then as good luck charms. Today this South African native succulent with fleshy stems and leaves is found in many homes and gardens across the world. It comes in the standard green leafed form, a red-edged form, a variegated form, and a curled or tube leaved form often called C. monstruosa or cristata. As it ages, the stems of Crassula ovata get slightly woody, swollen and grow a light brown bark. It can eventually reach sizes of 1.5m and live for over 100 years! Here are the basics of how to care for your money plant.
Money plants enjoy bright light and require a few hours of direct light daily for optimum health but can adapt to lower light levels. The amount of light you provide for your money plant will determine how fast it grows and how strong it is. Plants should always be grown in a window of some sort and are not considered a low light plant. Plants will grow and live for a long time in a North window but will be a little more leggy and sprawling in habit than if they were receiving more light. They are most at home in a bright east or west facing window. A south window is adequate as well but too much full sun can lead to purpling and even sun burning of the leaves. Money plants appreciate being outside during the summer where they can get a bit more light. Just be sure to slowly acclimate them to brighter light to avoid a sun burn.
Being a succulent, money plants store a lot of the water they need in their leaves and stems. They are susceptible to overwatering and need to dry out for a few days between watering, even when growing. This means watering, waiting for it to be completely dry, leaving it for a few days and then watering again. In the winter, they are almost completely dormant and should only be watered to prevent wilting. This means they should be allowed to be dry for up to a week at a time or you will run into problems with rot or fungus. Avoid chlorinated water as this can cause damage to the leaves and tender root system. Chlorinated tap water can be left out overnight to allow the chlorine to dissipate and make it safer for your plants.
Temperature and Humidity
C. Ovata are quite adaptable when it comes to humidity. Plants can thrive in a range of 30-90% humidity, just as happy in the average home as in a tropical hot house. They require temperatures around 20-28 degrees Celsius and can overheat and wrinkle at temperatures above 30 C, especially if in the full sun. Plants are more tolerant of cold during dormancy and can take temperatures as low as 10 C during this dormancy.
Soil and Repotting
A free draining cactus or succulent mix will do the trick for your money plant. These mixes can be bought or made by adding 1 part grit or sand to 1 part normal potting soil. The addition of extra perlite for drainage is also helpful.
Repotting should be done once or just before the plant starts to grow about every two years. This means in the spring or early summer when the plant is putting out lots of buds, it is time to repot. Repotting in this time ensures the plant will be growing new roots as well and will not be shocked or as susceptible to overwatering. The size of the pot will also determine how large your plant grows so if you do not want it to get any larger then you can just remove some of the old soil from the root ball and replace it with new in the same pot. A light root pruning of larger, older roots can also help keep you plant smaller or refresh an old specimen.
Like many succulents, money plants do not have large root systems so you have to be careful of overpotting them. It is best to find a heavy ceramic or clay pot that will keep a larger, top-heavy, plant upright.
Pruning can be done at any time of the year but you will not see regrowth until spring. The younger branches naturally break at old nodes and many people find this is the best way to prune their jade plant. Be sure to use sharp, double bladed sheers or snips to prune this plant as the stems are fleshy and prone to crushing which make a wound that does not heal well and can let in disease.
Jade plants are not heavy feeders but do benefit from light applications of balanced fertilizers while they are growing.
Although not grown for its flowers, many older Jade plants bloom quite readily. They tend to bloom in the winter when days are shorter and nights are cooler. They produce terminal clusters of small white, star shaped, flowers that are sometimes scented. Some people pinch off flower buds to save the plant from using up energy but it is up to you. Do not let your C. ovata set seed as this is a huge drain on the plant and can lead to unwanted die back.
Crassula ovata is one of the easiest houseplants to propagate. Anybody who has one of these plants eventually ends up with several to give away or sell. It readily forms adventitious roots on older branches and large plants even produce little branches with roots that then drop off and keep growing. Cuttings should be allowed to heal over to prevent rot while rooting. It roots best in soil with or without rooting hormone. Leaves that break off this plant will also form small plantlets when placed on the surface of soil and put inside a little tent for humidity.
Pests and Problems
Jade plants are long lived and generally pest and problem free but can run into some problems. They are susceptible to mealy bugs and spider mites, particularly in the winter. Treat with an insecticide of choice or insecticidal soap weekly until the pests are gone. The biggest problem people run into with their money plant is not providing it with enough light, this plant needs to be in or within a couple feet of a window or it is not receiving enough light. When it is not receiving enough light, your plants health will slowly decline and it will be more susceptible to all sorts of problems.