Friday, January 14, 2011

Jade plant (Crassula ovata)

The jade plant can’t seem to get any respect. While succulents like agaves, aloes and of course cacti are the centerpieces in many contemporary gardens, the jade plant (Crassula ovata) seems to be out of style, considered old-fashioned. Maybe it’s because it’s so common here in California that it fades into the background and nobody ever bothers to actually look at it?

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One of our jade plant in its somewhat haphazard home on the edge of the driveway

I must say I was pretty disrespectful towards the jade plant as well. About a year and a half ago I was given two potted jade plants. I really didn’t know what to do with them or where to put them. Since I wasn’t that fond of them, I put one right next to the driveway up near the garage door and the other on the edge of the succulent bed on the other side of the driveway. Maybe I was hoping they’d bite the dust so I wouldn’t have to find a permanent location for them. They sat outside throughout the winter of 2009/2010, surviving 28°F nights without any cover. They sat outside throughout the summer of 2010, surviving 100°F days and reflected heat without much water (I gave them some when I remembered, maybe once a month). Here they are, in the winter of 2010/2011, still sitting where I had originally put them. And they’re looking mighty fine, thriving even and getting ready to bloom. A plant that puts up with everything I put it through and is no worse for the wear, that plant gets my respect!

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The other jade plant just starting to bloom

In hindsight, my neglect was actually of a good thing. I read that the most common cause of death for a jade plant is overwatering.

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From the thickness of the trunk you can see that this jade plant is actually quite a few years old

I was at a local nursery yesterday, and when I saw this variegated jade plant (Crassula ovata ‘Tricolor’) in a 3" container, I couldn’t help but bring it home. Maybe it was my way of doing penance for the mistreatment of our other two jade plants.

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Variegated jade plant

The jade plant (Crassula ovata) is a succulent shrub from South Africa where it grows on dry hillsides. In its native habitat—just like in California—most of the rain falls in the winter, which is why the jade plant blooms here in January and February.

In our zone 9 climate, jade plants do very well outside although according to the experts they don’t seem to tolerate temperatures much below 30°F for extended periods of time. Like all succulents, they require good drainage.

My advice: Don’t fuss over them too much. Benign neglect seems to work very well.

2 comments:

  1. Mom had a Jade plant on her front porch year round and would water it only when she remembered! It did beautifully, so I think your benign neglect was the correct course! They look very nice. Never knew there was a tri-color. Very interesting!

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  2. The climate in Salinas is just about perfect for most plants. If only it were a tad warmer in the evenings.

    Jade plants often a reddish margin around the leaves, more so in full sun.

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