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Jade Tree - Lucky Jade Tree

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crassula 05-230x347Since ancient times the lucky jade plant has been the living symbol of the jade stone, the sacred royal stone of Asia.

It represents prosperity, good luck, fortune, wealth, nobility, and strength. 

Lucky jade attracts truth to all situations, providing insight into problems, attunes one to the needs of others, puts things in proper prospective and helps transform dreams into reality, making all things possible.

It alleviates anxiety and fear while enhancing wisdom, balance, confidence, assurance, and self-sufficiency.

Lucky jade encourages best spiritual practices that promote healing, hope, calm, and serenity resulting in a long and fruitful life.

Lucky Jade provides protection and enhances all its many sacred qualities, wherever successfully grown.

Most effective when planted near door or entrance-ways, as a protective hedge, a container plant in the south-eastern region of a room or any place where there is the wish to multiply money.

It is often given as a statement of love and devotion, as a symbol of loyalty and friendship, to promote the success of a business, or at the start of a new family and especially to promote personal growth, development and overall success and prosperity in life.

Overview, species & varieties:
The jade plant or jade tree is also known as the friendship tree or plant, the lucky (jade) plant or tree, as well as the money tree or plant. Botanically there are several species and more than fifty varieties.

The most popular and well known are:

Crassula arborescens ‘Silver jade’, ‘lucky silver plant’, ‘blue bird jade’:
bluebird jade-150x100A compact, stocky and bushy variety with distinctive silvery blue-grey bloom over the leaves usually with red margins.

Leaves often have a soft upward curve or curl and some varieties have a distinct crinkling to the foliage. Stems are fleshy, thickened and rounded segments in green, grey to soft brown.

Nearly round flat-topped panicles of starry pink flowers are produced in winter when grown in full light and cool night time conditions.

Crassula ovata syn. C.argentea:
crassula 02-150x100The classic lucky jade plant. The most popular and well know species. Leaves are dark jade green, smooth, shiny, firm, oval to nearly round, thick and fleshy.

Leaves appear opposite and often closely grouped along thick, fleshy round brown or beige stems.

Growth is fairly rapid, compact, bushy and well branched. Mature specimens often closely resemble bonsai trees on stout trunks.

Flowers are small panicles of white or soft pink starry flat flowers that bloom usually mid to late winter into early spring.  They make most decorative subjects for containers.

Crassula ovata ‘Bronze beauty’:
crassula-ovata-bronze-beauty-150x100Another classic species altogether smaller and slower growing.

With more rounded lighter green leaves with a distinctive coppery or reddish sheen when grown in strong light to full sun.

Leaves usually revert to medium green and somewhat enlarge when grown indoors.

Small compact heads of starry white, off white or pale pink blooms appear winter to early spring.

Crassula ovata  ‘red tip’ syn. ‘california red tip’
red tip jade-150x100Closely resembles the classic green jade in growth and habit.

But leaf margins have a distinct reddish or purple-red edge when grown in bright light to full sun.

Leaves revert to deep green when grown in shade or indoors and then become hard to distinguish from the classic green jade.

Flower panicles are starry white to nearly beige and appear in winter.

Crassula ovata ‘sunset’ and ‘sunset gold’:
sunset gold jade-150x100These are a relatively modern group of spectacular and very lovely varieties featuring various shadings of chartreuse, cream, yellow and golden, into orange and nearly red tones often in mixed combination shades in each leaf that become much more pronounced when grown in full sun and warm, very sheltered aspects.

In strong partial sunlight the leaf edges are edged in gold to red. Leaves often revert to soft or medium green shades when grown in lesser partial shade or indoors.

These are quite rapid growers like the classic lucky green jade and make imposing large specimens up to 2meters.  Often flowers heavily with oval or round flat-topped panicles of cream to soft pink starry flowers mid winter to early spring.

Portulacaria afra:
‘Ming jade’, ‘money plant, ‘elephant plant’ are lovely varieties quite distinctive from the rest. Most have quite small, sometimes rather thin but fleshy, nearly round or oval glossy leaves appearing opposite all along stout stems. Leaves vary in colour, dependent on variety, from deep jade green to light yellow chartreuse and bright gold, while variegated varieties are various shadings of yellow and gold or milky white through deep red crimson with purple highlights. 

Stems are usually dark brown, round, fleshy and segmented. Flowers are oval to round flat-topped panicles of starry blooms in pink, light purple and lavender shades. These usually appear over the top of the plant in late summer-early autumn after the first rains return. Flowering is usually much better after a period of summer drought. Portulacaria is faster growing, hardier, more drought resistant, more loosely branched and open in habit than the crassula ovata species. Most make spectacular container specimens. 

Within the wild and variable portulacaria species there are many varieties; at least five green varieties within the larger leafed p. Macrophylla and four varieties within p. Microphylla.  Portulacaria prostrata and var. Prostrata are variably coloured trailing, mat-forming and weeping varieties. There are very attractive variegated variety forms in both the upright and trailing varieties.

Portulacaria ‘aurea’:
Is a modern hybrid variety with small light green leaves with a yellow centre spot and pink beneath.  P. ‘gold has bright golden yellow leaves that mature to a lime green. The spectacular ‘rainbow bush’ p. Variegata displays a variety of variegations from milky white through various green shadings with carmine red-purple tips to new growth and around the edges of each leaf.

Culture & growing conditions:  all portulacaria and most crassula originated from wild native plants of South African, found especially along the warm temperate and subtropical coastal and upland regions of southern Africa. Consequently, they prefer warm, subtropical, drier climates with lower humidity. Most jades are quite long-lived. They range from ground covers to shrubs, up to 1.5 metres (5 ft.) Tall and wide.

Temperature range: jades grow best in moderate rather than hot temperatures. They prefer day time temperatures between 18-24 c/65-75f degrees and nights between 10-13c/50-55 f degrees. Their botanical tolerance limits range from short periods of near scalding heat and drought downward to weeks of light frosts and chilling weather provided conditions remain rather dry.

Flowering usually occurs in crassula jades in mid-late winter into early spring. Crassula jades need a short day length and a succession of very cool nights in order to set flower buds. Flowers usually first appear a few weeks after the shortest day of the year. If plants receive considerable artificial heating and light they often do not flower or produce smaller displays.

Portulacaria jades seldom flower unless climatic conditions are distinctly South African. There the best displays can cover slopes and hillsides in a pink, purple and lavender haze shortly after rains return in the autumn following a prolonged period of summer drought.

All jades are intolerant of severe frost or freezing and cannot withstand prolonged periods of cold, rainy weather or chilling winds, especially if combined with night time freezing.  Jades tolerate more cold when their root stock remains dry and sheltered from direct freezing or freezing chill winds. The tops of plants are often burned by frost and damaged collapsed tissue often mats together to create a protective blanket which helps protect the crown against deeper frost damage.  Once frost danger has truly past, this dead protective layer can be removed and the plant will usually fully recover by mid spring.

Jades also resent tropical heat combined with high humidity or monsoonal damp that can quickly ‘cook’ their succulent stems.  But they are quite adaptive to droughty conditions and will withstand higher temperatures provided some light sun screening is provided and they are not allowed to completely dry out.

Light requirements: while most jades grow best in full sun outdoors they are quite adaptive to lower light conditions. They can be successful grown in as little as four hours of sunshine a day. Jades are also capable of growing as under story shrubbery or matting groundcovers beneath the shading foliage of taller natives. The green jade upright and matting varieties are especially good for partially shaded lower light situations outside or indoors. Coloured jades are at their best in strong nearly full sunlight and almost always revert to green when grown in partial shade or lower indoor light. The secret for sustained successful growth under lower light is to always keep the plants on the drier side, further reducing both water and feeding during colder weather.

Indoors:
Jade’s ability to adapt to bright filtered light, drought and low humidity makes many jade varieties good container plant specimens for indoors.  The green jade varieties are the best suited to the lower light conditions often experienced indoors responding with even larger, glossy dark green leaves.  Coloured varieties are sometimes less robust, requiring higher light and warmer temperatures to maintain their colouration so often revert to green shades because of lower ultraviolet light indoors.

Jades respond very well to being pot-bound and once established seldom need repotting often for many years. Quite large specimens often thrive in disproportionally small containers. As jade plants mature into ‘trees’, their branching, stocky and compact habit of growth makes them resemble highly ornamental bonsai trees.

Indoors they do best when placed near a sunny window because of their need of four hours or more of direct sunlight each day for best growth. In order to keep jades symmetrical turn plants regularly so all sides receive adequate light.  Jades will also survive extended periods of light shade or bright indoor lighting provided surrounding conditions remain dry, warm and airy and they are not over-watered or chilled. Growth will probably be less and not nearly as robust. But if the idea were to simply maintain the potted jade in its present condition for several months before moving it into a better spot for recovery and regrowth, the jade makes a near perfect indoor plant.

Jades in containers:
crassula 03-230x153Small jades do very well in quite tiny pots. These are best placed to feature their highly decorative smooth and glossy leaves as seen from above.  When potting-on it is usually best to move one pot size up at a time rather than plant into a much larger container, which might promote richer, wetter, cooler soil that could result in root rot. Larger jades also perform well in unusually small containers, which should be decorative enough to enhance the dramatic bonsai tree-like character of the maturing plant as seen from side-on. These can be most imposing when the ‘bonsai’ jade is displayed on a raised stand or pedestal. Because jades can become quite big and top-heavy, it is best that these containers be heavy and wide rather than deep so as to keep jade trees from toppling.

Soil, water and feeding requirements: jades being succulents prefer quite light, freely draining soils. When grown outdoors, a very free-draining, gravely soil mix suitable for growing cacti with some screened compost or very well aged manure added is ideal. Jades also respond to a dusting of lime and blood and bone powders plus a pinch of a slow release plant food added to the soil mix. But it is best that the soil not be overly rich. Heavy or boggy sodden soils must be avoided. 

When growing jades in containers the potting mix must remain light and freely draining. A cactus potting mix is ideal. Otherwise choose a standard potting mixing this with an equal portion of pumice, washed river gravel or sharp sand.  Also add just a pinch of slow release fertiliser, blood and bone plus lime or dolomite.

Watering is best done on warm, sunny days preferably in the morning so the pot can dry out before evening. Because these are plants native to arid zones, they need less watering than many plants but never allow the potting soil to dry out completely nor stand in water for more than a brief period of time. Always allow the pot to dry out a little before its next re-watering. Water just enough to keep the soil moist and liquid feed only lightly no more than once per month throughout the spring-summer growing season then reduce watering and stop feeding as cool weather and longer nights return in the autumn. Guard especially against freezing, chilling drafts, winds and cold, water-logged soil. In climatically controlled urban environments with constant temperatures and strong light, jades can be fed and watered lightly all year.

When in-ground planted, jades require little if any feeding or watering once established unless they begin to look sparse and even then apply only moderate liquid feeding or watering no more often than once a month until the plants recover. Alternatively dust over the plants with a little powdered blood and bone plus lime or dolomite and water this in well.

Container grown jades need regular but light feeding and watering only during the growing period usually from mid spring through to early autumn. Feed with a balanced 20-20-20 type liquid fertiliser or use a similar slow-release pellet.  Once days shorten and weather cools in autumn stop feeding and reduce watering so the potting soil just remains slightly moist. Container grown jades grown indoors usually respond well to a ‘summer holiday’ outdoors. Be sure the weather has thoroughly warmed before bringing the plant outdoors. Protect in a very sheltered and partially shaded position for several weeks from scalding sun and chilling winds. Sheltered positions exposed to strong morning sun best suit container-grown jades outdoors.

Pruning, propagation and problems:  jade plants are naturally compact, balanced and well formed growers so will need little pruning or encouragement to maintain a classic shape. But careful pruning can greatly enhance the dramatic forms of maturing jade trees.  This pruning includes pinching or cutting out shoots and growing tips heading in wayward directions or unruly heights. On mat-forming jades, vertical shoots are either removed or tied down. On shrubby upright varieties small, weak vertical shoots can be thinned leaving the rest to create a ‘grove’ effect. For that classic look, all shoots save the strongest are removed forcing growth into a single or multiple trunk to create a bonsai ‘tree’ effect.

In the wild and outdoors, jades naturally drop branches that eventually take root and form new plants. Thus any live part of the plant removed can be used to propagate new jades. This is especially successful in the warm and brighter spring and summer growth period and the warmer days of early autumn. Cuttings taken during the cooler winter months are sometime slow to strike or will rot if conditions become cold and wet. Cuttings often strike better when allowed to sit in a dry, shaded and sheltered location for at least a few hours to a day or more before planting. This allows the cut end to callous over the wound which seems to offer better protection against rotting or bleeding out of plant sap and offers a solid basal end upon which roots can form.

The ideal growing medium for cuttings depends on how wet and humid the growing environment remains. In wet, humid warm locations the propagating mix can be straight propagating sand. In drier climates good results come using cactus potting mix or from a mix of equal parts propagating sand and peat, or substitute a peaty african violet potting mix .

Cuttings of almost any length and size will strike rather quickly in warm bright sheltered conditions. Trunks, stems and even leaves can be either laid on their side so they evenly contact the propagating mix or inserted upright and will often produce a new jade plant within a few months.

It is often best to wet the propagating mix first before inserting the jade cuttings. Then water in again lightly to settle the cuttings snugly into the mix and place in a warm, airy, sheltered bright spot out of direct sun. Keep the mix lightly moist until new growth becomes obvious. Sometimes cuttings may need misting to keep tender small leaves from shrivelling.

After several months once some new growth is obvious, the plantlets should have developed at least a few fine roots enough to support themselves. At this stage they can be moved on into individual containers being careful not to damage the delicate emerging roots. Some growers elect to plant the young propagations in their own individual containers from the start. This way they can leave the plantlets to mature for upwards of a year or more in the mix so that they develop stronger root systems before moving them on into larger more permanent containers.

Few pests or problems affect jade plants. Most common would be ants, aphids, mealy bug and mites all of which are easily controlled. Pest problems are usually a sign that the plant is under some sort of environmental stress (too dry, drafty, dark, wet) that if corrected will almost automatically correct the plants health. Usually a simple hosing or washing over with soapy water will control the immediate problem. Jades are sensitive to some sprays so test a small patch of foliage and wait for a couple of days for adverse reactions before using strong insecticides or systemic pesticide sprays that can easily damage tender leaf tissues causing leaves to drop as quickly as the insects!

Over-watering and overfeeding are by far the greatest killers. Always water and feed during warm, bright conditions preferably early enough in the day for the plant and soil to dry out before evening.  Only feed during the spring to early autumn growing period. Avoid watering or feeding during cloudy, cool weather when the jade could chill.  If conditions become tropically hot and humid water only moderately and not during the heat of the day to avoid ‘cooking’ the plant. When conditions are cool to avoid chilling never allow the jade to become water-saturated by standing in water.

Lucky jade trees are highly self-reliant and as such perform at their best with minimum care. 

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