The “Kerkei Bush” (Crassula ovata), commonly known as “Jade Plant”, becomes arboreal to a height of 10 feet, with thick, gnarly trunks and a canopy of elliptical, shiny jade-green leaves, often edged in red. Endemic to rocky outcroppings in the stark, arid environ of South Africa, the Jade lives amidst some of the most remarkably diverse flora on earth, including Spekboom (“Elephant Bush”,) Aloes, “Plakkies” (Crassulas), Euphorbias, and “Vygies” (“Rock Mimicry “).
“Jades” encompass several species of Crassula and many various cultivars. Crassula arborescens, “Silver Dollar Jade”, is so named for its more rounded, pruinose leaves of silvery blue, edged in light burgundy. This is a larger form of Jade and grows a bit more slowly than the other species. Crassula ovata has many cultivars, including ‘Pink Beauty”, with profuse clusters of starry pink flowers in November and December, ‘California Red Tip’, and ‘Whirlybird’. Other cultivars include the beautiful variegated forms ‘Sunset’ (bicolor green and yellow leaves strongly blushed red), ‘Tricolor’ (ghostly marbled white and green leaves, often blushed pink) and ‘Lemon ‘n Lime. “Mini Jade” is a miniature form, blushed strongly red and excellent for windowsills or patios. And finally, there are monstrose cultivars “Gollum” and “Hobbit” with convoluted tubular leaves or “Fingers with red “windows” at the tips.
Jades require bright light to encourage vigorous, strong growth. Bright light will enhance the red edges of the leaves and the colors of the variegated forms. Feed only during the warm active growing season with a general tomato or veggie food that is lower in nitrogen. Low light and high nitrogen will encourage spindly, weak growth. Excellent air circulation is essential if Jade plant is used as a houseplant or windowsill plant. As Jades have evolved strategies to survive in extremely arid regions, they do not require constant moisture, and in fact, it is better to water thoroughly when soil is dry to the touch. This watering practice encourages roots to grow, searching for water, and aids in preventing root disease.
The Jade is an excellent, low maintenance, easy care choice for windowsills, patio plantings, bonsai, and even as hedges or arboreal centerpieces in xeriphytic landscapes or intermixed with any other water-wise plants.