Jade (Crassula ovata) is a succulent plant native to the desert region of South Africa. 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. 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 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 are not 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 do not like to stay wet all the time. Let the soil become dry in between thorough watering. Plant jade in containers with good drainage, in a loamy 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 plant 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. This variety produces pink and white flowers.
Miniature Jade Plants
Crosby's Miniature or Compact Jade is a dwarf variety with tiny leaves on 3-inch stems. Crassula argentea compacta variegata is a miniature jade plant with small, rounded leaves that grow so densely, the stem may seem to disappear. This variety and Crosby's are easily trained as small bonsai.
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. ET's Finger has spoonlike, tubular leaves instead of the flat, fat leaves of other jade varieties. 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. The plant has fleshy, tubular leaves indented at the tips and a very thick, gnarled, squat trunk.