The jade plant is a succulent with distinctively shiny, waxy leaves. It originated on the eastern cape of South Africa. Today, jade plants are especially popular in the southwestern United States, and they are hardy outdoors in USDA gardening zones 9 through 11.
Jade plants feature teardrop-shaped leaves. The leaves are shiny, waxy, and fat. Young jade leaves are smaller than a U.S. dime, while the leaves of a fully-grown jade plant are larger than a U.S. half-dollar.
The jade--like all succulents--stores water in its leaves. This enables the jade plant to go for long periods of time with no water intake. With proper care, the jade plant can grow several feet tall, with a thick, tree-like trunk.
Jade plants need very little water during the spring and summer months. Jades survive on one light watering every two to three weeks. To water a jade plant, give enough water to moisten the soil all the way through. Allow the soil to dry completely before watering again.
During the winter months, the jade plant becomes dormant, and requires rest. Jades should not be watered during the winter, because the root system will not drink the water provided.
Jade plants need fertilizers with a ratio of 10-5-10 or 20-10-20 every month during the growing season. Because the plants are dormant during the winter months, it is essential that you avoid using fertilizer from November through March. Fertilization at this time results in burned roots and leaves.
Jade plants are native to Africa, and require the bright light that their ancestors were accustomed to. They prefer daytime temperatures of 75-80 degrees F. For this reason, they are usually grown indoors, as house plants. Indoors, jade plants must be placed in sunny windows in order to gather the light that they need in order to grow.
Jade plants are propagated through stem or leaf cuttings. To propagate, pinch or slice off a piece of an existing jade plant. The cut end of the cutting must scar over and dry out before it is transplanted into another container. Once the cut is healed, dip the cut end into rooting hormone or directly into soil. Jade plant cuttings take root very quickly.