Jade (Crassula ovata) is a succulent plant native to the desert region of South Africa with different types of jade plants to add a little variety to your indoor plant collection. Also known as dollar plant or money plant, jade are easily identified by their fleshy, bright green leaves and thick main stem.
Usually grown as a houseplant due to its cold intolerance, jade can grow as tall as 6 feet and takes on a treelike appearance not unlike bonsai. Jade needs plenty of light, but the smooth leaf margins may turn reddish if the plant summers outdoors in direct sunlight. Jade is easily propagated with leaf or stem cuttings. Jades may be labeled Crassula argentea or Crassula portulaca. The plant is highly toxic to dogs.
Common Types of Jade Plants
Dozens of jade plant varieties are available from plant nurseries and mail order suppliers. Except in very dry conditions similar to their origins, jade plants aren't appropriate for planting directly into the garden but do well in containers outdoors as long as they spend the winter indoors.
The most common cause of plant death is overwatering. Succulents need a lot of water but don't like to stay wet all the time. Let the soil become dry in between thorough waterings. Plant jade in containers with good drainage, in fast-draining potting soil. Kept as a houseplant, jade may not flower at all. Those that do usually produce clusters of small, white flowers.
Some varieties of jade plants are grown for their color. 'Bronze Beauty' is a slow grower that produces leaves with a bronze overtone. 'California Red Tip' develops dark red to purple leaf margins when exposed to bright light. 'Sunset' jade develops golden leaf margins in full sunlight. 'Tricolor' jade has pointed leaves striped with white and pink, and this variety produces pink and white flowers.
Miniature Jade Plants
'Crosby's Miniature' or 'Crosby's Compact' jade is a dwarf variety with tiny leaves on 3-inch stems. Crassula ovata 'Compacta' is a miniature jade plant with leaves that turn yellow with contrasting red margins when conditions are hot and dry. This variety and 'Crosby's Compact' are easily trained as bonsai. Mini jade plants grow slowly, keeping the plants small and compact, which makes them ideal as houseplants when you don't have a lot of room.
Unusual Jade Plants
Although several dozen varieties of jade plant are readily available, new cultivars are developed by succulent enthusiasts and scientists all the time. Many new varieties are bred for color, texture, trunk shape and leaf form, creating unique looks.
'ET's Finger' has spoon-like, tubular leaves with red tips instead of the flat, fat leaves of other jade varieties, and the plant is sometimes called 'Shrek.' 'Lemon and Lime' is a variegated variety of jade plant with yellow stripes on its green leaves. Place 'Hummel's Sunset' in full sun and watch its leaves turn bright red, yellow and green. 'Gollum' jade plant grows 1 to 2 feet tall, and the plant has fleshy, tubular leaves indented at the tips and a very thick, gnarled, squat trunk, while 'Coral' jade has long, thick, tube-like leaves that grow in a coral-like shape up to 12 inches tall.
Audrey Lynn has been a journalist and writer since 1974. She edited a weekly home-and-garden tabloid for her hometown newspaper and has regularly contributed to weekly and daily newspapers, as well as "Law and Order" magazine. A Hambidge Fellow, Lynn studied English at Columbus State University.