The Trailing Jade (Senecio jacobsenii) is a perfect houseplant for the busy days of September when school is back in session and autumn is getting underway. It's an attractive succulent requiring little or no maintenance but delighting one and all with its cascading branches of spoon-shaped leaves.
About the Trailing Jade Plant
Trailing Jade looks a bit like the common jade plant (Crassula ovata), with its oval leaves and drought-resistant ways. But the two "jades" aren't even in the same genus. Trailing Jade shares the Senecio genus with other engaging cascading succulents like String of Pearls. The hanging branches create their own drama as they mature into a dense "waterfall" of foliage up to four feet long.
The flat, overlapping leaves of Trailing Jade are uniquely shaped in elongated ovals of up to three inches tall, and they stand upright on the stems. And those green leaves put on their own color show. A spell of cooler temperatures or bright sun exposure can bring on vibrant flushing from lilac to magenta. One more reason to buy in September: that's just about when Trailing Jade produces brilliant orange/scarlet blooms.
Also, as an extra bonus, this plant is easy to share. A cutting from Trailing Jade will root easily to create a new little gift plant. Let then dry out for two weeks, then stick into soil.
Where to Find
When shopping for Trailing Jade, your toughest task is to fight off well-meaning garden store clerks who thrust regular jade plants into your hands. Better to shop by scientific name, both in-store or online. Try your local garden store first, or the garden section of big stores like Orchard Supply or Walmart.
If you are shopping online, choices range from cuttings to small plants, but since Trailing Jade grows fast, these options would work well. For a starter plant, visit Mountain Crest Gardens, offering a 2-inch beginner plant for under $5. If you want a larger plant, Evergreen Nursery offers Trailing Jade in one, two, or five gallon containers. Terrain has a very attractive Trailing Jade in a 6.5 inch pot, although it is considerably pricier. You might want to pick up cuttings on eBay to root and plant yourself.
Succulents are undemanding plants to begin with, but a Trailing Jade houseplant might bring home the gold medal in an easy care Olympics. In its native range in the highlands of Tanzania, Trailing Jade takes over fields as a creeping ground cover. But it is equally happy in containers as long as you provide gritty soil that is comprised of 50 percent coarse sand, perlite, or pumice. A cactus/succulent specific soil will work well. Trailing Jade grows happily in direct sun, but also thrives in some shade.
Extremely drought tolerant, this succulent will keep right on growing even when you forget to water for weeks. Ideally, water it thoroughly about twice a month during growing season, then drop that to once a month in winter. Don't even think about fertilizing Trailing Jade; it just doesn't need it. Prune only if the plant gets too long or leggy.
From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. A professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler has written about home and garden for Gardening Know How, San Francisco Chronicle, Gardening Guide and Go Banking Rates. She earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.