Jade tree (Crassula ovata) is a succulent which stores water in its leaves and stems. This succulent enjoys warm, dry conditions and thrives in containers. This long lived plant can grow 5 feet tall indoors. In its native habitat, a jade tree reaches 6 feet tall in dry rocky areas. The jade tree is used as an ornamental plant indoors and as a landscape plant in mild climate regions.
Jade trees have fleshy, oval leaves which are dark green and edged with red tones. The brown thick trunk-like stems and branches have a gnarled appearance. Jade trees produce round clusters of white and pink, star-shaped flowers at the ends of their branches during the winter. Cool temperatures, drier soil and shorter days place the jade tree into its flowering cycle. The blossoms are attractive to bees and butterflies.
Jade trees prefer exposure to at least 4 hours of direct sunlight. They also thrive in daytime temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees F. and nighttime temperatures of 50 to 55 degrees F. Keep the soil moist during the active growth period of this plant throughout the spring and summer. During the winter, protect the jade tree from drafts and do not let the leaves touch the windows. The cold temperatures outside may damage the leaves. Let the soil dry out between waterings in cool weather. Arid conditions can cause the stunting of growth, leaf spotting, leaf drop and plant death.
Prune the jade tree back in the spring before new growth starts. This creates a compact and vigorous growing plant. Cut the stems back to horizontal branches to encourage trunk growth. This also promotes stronger and healthier roots. The pruning cuts heal over in a couple of days and new growth shows up in a few weeks.
Watering a jade tree too much causes the soil to stay wet and the roots to rot. If the soil becomes too dry then the jade tree will suffer from leaf drop. Spider mites sometimes infest the jade tree. The most common insect pest of the jade tree is mealybugs which resemble tiny white puffs of cotton. Wipe them off with a cotton swab dipped into rubbing alcohol. Clean the jade tree frequently to keep pests under control.
Avoid splashing water on the leaves. This causes the leaves to stay wet and start to rot. Do not use insecticidal soap on the jade tree. The chemicals used in this product will damage the jade tree.
Jade trees come in a variety of colors and sizes. The blue bird jade tree produces blue-gray leaves with red edges. Copper jade trees have small coppery green leaves. The red jade tree grows purplish leaves with red edges. Golden jade trees have gold colors on the leaf edges. The tricolor jade tree produces creamy white and rose colored striped leaves that are pointed.