When you thicken the trunk of a jade plant (Crassula ovata, USDA zones 11-12), you give it a strong base that can support all of its growth well. Jade plants are known for their beauty and tolerance for a variety of growing conditions, and they're typically successful even for novice indoor gardeners.
A succulent plant, the jade plant generally grows well in a container with minimal care. If your jade's main stem is starting to tilt or bend over, the trunk might be too weak to hold the leaves or the plant isn't receiving the proper care. By ensuring you give your jade the appropriate light, water and nutrients, you can thicken the trunk on a jade plant over time.
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How to Thicken the Trunk of a Jade Plant
Step 1: Prune Long, Disruptive Stems
Look over the body of your jade to make note of branches that appear too long to be supported, stems that disrupt the overall bush shape, and branches that are bending down and touching the rim of your pot. Prune away these stems either where they attach to the main trunk or immediately after a branching fork to decrease strain on your plant.
Step 2: Repot Your Jade Plant
Transfer the jade plant to a new pot using a succulent potting mix if the plant has outgrown the pot it's in, or if you know the existing soil isn't made for succulent plants. Look for roots to be sticking out of the bottom of the pot as a sign your jade must be repotted.
Step 3: Support the Trunk
Insert a length of dowel rod into your pot an inch away from the trunk to act as a support rod. The stake should be as tall as the plant plus about 4 inches. Use twist ties or flexible plant ties to stabilize the main trunk with the support. Be careful not to knock off leaves or snap the main stem during tying.
Step 4: Place Jade in Sunlight
Place your jade on a bright windowsill that receives a high amount of light, even if it isn't always direct. A west or south facing window is generally best, but constant direct light may be too strong for your jade. Jade plants enjoy a warm breeze, but not a cold draft. During the summer, consider placing your jade outside away from hot direct sunlight.
Step 5: Water Jade Plants Regularly
Water the jade regularly using tepid, not cold, water from about mid spring to mid fall. It's okay for the soil to dry between watering. During the winter months, when the plant is dormant, cut watering back to once every six to eight weeks.
Step 6: Fertilize Jade Plants
Fertilize every other week during the summer with a 10-20-10 or 5-10-5 fertilizer. African violet fertilizer is also a good choice for jade plants. Follow the directions on the packaging for application method and strength. If the fertilizer requires being dissolved in water, then use this water as your weekly watering to avoid overwatering your plant.
Step 7: Give It Time
Allow new growth to follow and for the trunk to begin to thicken over time. Depending on when you're working with your plant you may see an improvement within two to three months or longer if starting just before or during dormancy.