The evergreen Crassula ovata, also commonly known as Money Plant, Money Tree, Jade Tree, and Lucky Plant, is a succulent native to the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces of South Africa as well as Mozambique.
It is commonly grown as a garden plant and a bonsai all over the world.
When grown as a bonsai, Jade Tree looks remarkably similar to the Dwarf Jade Tree (Portulacaria afra) which makes confusing these two plants a common occurrence.
Fortunately, C. ovata can be told apart from P. afra by closely inspecting these plants, especially the leaves.
C. ovata has bigger, more elongated leaves where P. afra has small, round leaves that grow in a more compact fashion.
Of these two plants, P. afra is the better choice for a bonsai due to its compact growth and smaller leave size but that’s not the plant we’ll be focusing on today.
If you’re worried that you’ve identified you’re tree wrong, however, you can rest assured that the care for both these plants is very similar even though they are unrelated.
One of the reasons Jade tree bonsai are quite popular is because they are great for beginners due to how easy they are to care for. They require very little maintenance and are quite hardy when neglected.
Care Guidelines For Jade Tree Bonsai
Jade Tree bonsai prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade when kept indoors. If you want your plant to flower, however, it is best to keep it in full sun preferably indoors since it doesn’t tolerate cold very well.
The shortening days will, however, trigger flowering in this plant in the fall (September to October).
You can tell if your tree is getting enough sun by looking at the leaves. If the leaves have red tips or edges the amount of sun it receives is spot on. If the leaves appear more green, your bonsai can do with a bit more sunlight.
As mentioned, Jade tree doesn’t handle the cold too well.
It is best to keep your tree indoors if you live in an area where the temperature outside drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10°C).
Jade trees tend to do best in a temperature range of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (21-24°C) during the day and 50 to 55 Fahrenheit (10-13°C) at night. Your tree might survive a few degrees below 50 Farenheight (10°C) but should never be left outdoors in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5°C).
Jade plants are adapted to dry climates so make sure you don’t leave your tree out if it rains most of the time. If you live in a dry, warm climate, you can safely plant your tree in your garden or just keep it in a pot outdoors.
Jade tree bonsai are succulents which means they don’t need excessive watering, in fact, less is more when it comes to these plants. Depending on your climate, season, and the humidity level in your home, you can water 10, 20, or even 30 days apart and your tree will still thrive.
You can usually leave your tree without water for up to 30 days during the winter months.
If you’re worried, water your tree every 10-14 days during the growing season and every three weeks in winter to be safe. This way your plant should have enough time to dry out between waterings to prevent root rot and other diseases.
You can also mist your plant on very hot days to take some of the strain of absorbing water off of the roots.
Misting will also sustain your plant in between waterings.
Soil And Fertilizing
Bonsai are grown in very little soil, and the same goes for Jade tree bonsai.
For this reason, they need frequent fertilizing since the nutrients in the soil get depleted quickly. Jade tree bonsai are usually slow growers but if fertilized too much they can grow quite vigorously.
It is best to get a balanced fertilizer to prevent this from happening.
Also, make sure to only use half the recommended amount of fertilizer for your bonsai.
Fertilize your plant every two weeks with liquid fertilizer or once a month with solid fertilizer during the growing season. In winter, reduce fertilizing to once a month for liquid fertilizer and only once at the start of winter for solid fertilizer and then again at the start of spring.
The best time to prune your Jade tree is during spring and summer. This is the growing season which means your plant will heal faster. Complete healing will usually take between 1 to 2 weeks in this time period.
Pinch back growth regularly if you want the base of your tree to grow stronger. Trim away unwanted branches just above the node with a sharp pruning implement. Avoid making deep cuts since they will take longer to heel and leave unsightly scars.
You don’t need to seal any wounds, but do make sure the soil is dry before you do heavy pruning.
Also, avoid using cut-paste methods on jade trees. Its trunk and branches are very susceptible to rot due to their natures.
Keeping your Jade tree in a small pot will help to limit growth. If you desire a larger plant, simply move your tree to a larger pot. A jade should also be repotted every two years, usually around early spring.
If you remove your jade from its pot and the root ball is the same size and shape as the pot, you’ll either have to do a lot of root trimming or move your plant to a bigger pot.
Makes sure to use well-draining soil when repotting your Jade tree bonsai. Jade plants don’t tolerate standing in water for long periods of time. After repotting, keep the soil dry for about one week before watering thoroughly. Also, keep your little tree in the shade for several weeks until new root growth develops.
Doing this allows the damaged roots to heel before soaking them. It also puts less stress on the plant overall.
Crassula ovata is very easy to propagate if done correctly. Usually, this is done by taking cuttings during the summer months.
Potential Pests And Diseases
Jade Trees are quite resilient and resistant to pests if cared for properly. The main problem comes in when they receive too much water and too little sunlight.
Insects such as aphids, spider mites, scale, mealybugs, and root aphids will take advantage of your weakened tree.
Another problem you should look out for is root rot. Root rot and mealybugs are the most common problems in indoor Jade bonsai while aphids affect outdoor trees particularly badly. To treat these problems, follow a proper watering schedule, give your tree more sunlight and treat any pests with their specific pesticides.
Make sure to never spray your tree with insecticides while the soil is dry. If you need to treat root rot, trim away all affected roots, disinfect your pot and repot your plant in fresh soil.
Make sure to follow a proper watering schedule to avoid reoccurrence.
Wiring Your Bonsai
Wiring on Jade tree bonsai should be done very carefully. If you get it wrong, you can damage the bark very quickly. Make sure to use the thinnest wire you can that will still hold the branch in place and avoid wiring after repotting.
Wrap the branch just tight enough to hold it in place. Wrapping the wire too tightly will damage the bark and cause scarring. Jade responds quickly to wiring so you should be able to remove all wires after 3 weeks.
Make sure to never unwind wires, rather cut them to avoid breaking the delicate branch.
Q. How Big Does Jade Tree Bonsai Grow?
A. Three feet (0.9m)
Jade is naturally very slow-growing. It can take this tree 20 years to reach its full height of three feet (0.9m). You can encourage stronger growth near the bottom by pinching back any new growth. It also does well with trunk reduction.
Q. How Do I Thicken My Jade Bonsai Trunk?
A. It is possible to help your Jade bonsai to grow a thicker trunk by doing regular pruning. It is advised to always leave a few leaves on, but prune the rest of the plant back quite aggressively. You can do this by cutting away the branch just in front of its first two leaves nearest to the trunk.
This way it is easy to keep the plant short and forcing it to focus more on making its trunk thicker.