Learn how to care for a jade plant inside, outdoors, and over the winter!
All about caring for a jade plant
Today we’re talking jade plants, a plant I can’t believe it has taken me this long to write about! Jade is a popular succulent to have around the house. They are sometimes called a lucky plant, money plant, or money tree because they are thought to bring good luck to their owners. They are often given as housewarming gifts because of this.
The jade plant (aka Crassula ovata) is native to the deserts of South Africa and Mozambique but arrived in Europe and America about a hundred years ago. When caring for your jade plant, remember where they come from: strong sunlight, sandy slopes, open fields, and arid conditions. They are hardy, durable houseplants, but they still need some TLC every now and then.
Jade plant care overview
- Jade plants (Crassula ovata) are hardy, drought-tolerant succulents native to the deserts of South Africa and Mozambique.
- Require 4-6 hours of sunlight daily; can handle direct sunlight, but younger plants should be acclimated slowly.
- Let the soil to dry out between waterings.
- Use a succulent or cactus soil and plant in a pot with a drainage hole.
- Prefer temperatures between 65-70°F and dry air.
- Ideal for small spaces; slow grower requiring infrequent repotting.
- Propagate using cuttings or individual leaves.
- Produces small, starry white flowers in the winter; this can take years and requires a mature plant in an arid, cool environment.
What does a jade plant look like?
The jade plant often looks like an adorable mini tree. It’s got a woody trunk and stems that support vibrant, jade-green oval leaves. These leaves, like a lot of other succulents, are plump and fleshy to store water.
Jade plants grow to be about 6 to 18 inches depending on the conditions, but this could take a while since they only grow about 2 inches per year. But check out my mom’s monster jade above—it definitely grew more than 2 inches this summer!
How much light does a jade plant need?
South Africa averages a whopping 1,000 hours of sunlight every year, so it’s safe to say that jade plants LOVE the sun. Mature jade plants thrive in 4-6 hours of sunlight every day, so it’s best if you keep them in a bright, south-facing window. A red border around the leaves is a sign you’re giving it a good amount of bright light.
Unlike other succulents that can be damaged by direct sunlight, jade plants are hardy, and only in extreme cases can the green leaves turn completely yellow from the sun. If you want to put your plant in bright, direct light, make sure to acclimate it by increasing the amount of light each day incrementally. Baby jade plants aren’t quite as tough yet, though, and should only be exposed to indirect sunlight to keep the leaves from burning.
Water and soil needs
Jade plants can be a little tricky to water since they’re desert plants and can go long periods of time without water. To water your jade plant, soak the soil and let the water drain out of the bottom of the pot. Then remove any sitting water. Good drainage is absolutely essential for this plant! Overwatering can cause the leaves to fall or lead to root rot very easily.
If the leaves start to shrivel or turn brown, that’s a sign you need to water more often, but if the leaves feel too squishy, that’s a sign of overwatering. Also keep in mind that some jade plants are sensitive to tap water because of the salt concentration, so if you notice it’s not doing so well, switch to distilled or filtered water.
During spring and summer, jade plants require more water, but you should always let the soil dry out before watering it again. During winter, water it very scarcely. It’s all relative, so you might end up watering it once a week or even once a month. Let your soil moisture be your guide.
Like most succulents, jade plants need soil that drains quickly. Excessive moisture in the soil can cause fungal growth, root rot, and death. Remember they come from a desert where there’s loose, free-draining sand and soil, so their pot should mimic that. A simple cactus or succulent mix or a mix of potting soil, coco coir or fine moss, and sand will work.
Caring for jade plants as houseplants
Jade plants are perfect for people living in apartments or small places in the city. They don’t grow fast or large, and they are relatively low-maintenance. Pick a good, sunny place to keep your jade plant, like a south-facing window. They also prefer dry, arid environments, so avoid keeping it in the bathroom or kitchen where humidity is higher.
Jade plants adapt to a wide range of temperatures, but they grow best in 65-70° Fahrenheit. Keep them away from cooling/heat vents and drafts, but aside from that they’ll grow just fine indoors. Be sure to wipe down or rinse off your jade plant leaves to remove dust and promote photosynthesis and growth.
Caring for jade plants outdoors
How well your jade plant grows outdoors really depends on where you live. Unfortunately, jade plants don’t thrive in colder climates (below USDA zone 8). However, if you live in a warm, dry area (USDA zones 10+), jade plants will grow perfectly fine.
Jade plants have an optimal growing temperature between 65-70° Fahrenheit, so if temperatures drop below 50° Fahrenheit, bring the plant indoors. They cannot withstand frost or cold damage, so don’t forget about your jade plants in the wintertime!
If it rains often where you live, jade plants might not be the best outdoor plant. Since they are from the desert, they like dry conditions best. They require very little water and instead store water in their plump leaves. Too much rainfall will cause root rot, fungal growth, or even death.
How to take care of jade plants in the winter
Whether your jade plant is an indoor or outdoor one, they should usually be inside during the winter. If temperatures consistently drop below 50° Fahrenheit, your jade plant won’t survive the cold. Winters are very mild in their home climate.
Indoors, move them away from any cold drafts like windows or doors that open frequently. Jade plants go dormant in the winter, so you shouldn’t have to water them but maybe once a month. A beautiful surprise are the small flowers that bloom for a short while in winter. They are delicate, starry white flowers that sprout from leaf stems, but they can take years to bloom. The plant has to be in an arid, cool environment, and it must be fully mature.
How to propagate a jade plant
Jade plants can be easily propagated using the same methods I outlined in my article about how to propagate succulents from leaves and cuttings. The jade plant below (first photo) is a jade propagation I did from a large branch cutting off of my mom’s jade plant. I rooted it in water for several months until planting it in well-draining soil. It did quite well with the transition!
Usually I do not recommend propagating a cutting this large for plants because they can have a hard time rooting. However, this cutting rooted like a champ! So that speaks volumes about how easy propagating jade plants can be.
You’ll also notice roots and leaves begin to sprout on your jade plant like the ones second photo below. Isn’t that cool? So if your plant loses leaves, don’t worry. The plant might take some time to do so, but it will fill back out. These areas will also grow into tiny bunches of jade leaves that you can gently separate and root to grow baby jade plants.
Jade plants can also be propagated from single leaves, but it takes a while. Remove a healthy leaf from a plant and set it in soil. Mist it occasionally, and soon roots will begin to sprout from the cut end. Eventually you’ll notice tiny leaves sprouting. Whenever I lose succulent leaves, I just throw them right back into the pot on top of the soil and let them do their thing.
Are jade plants vulnerable to any pests?
Jade plants are generally hardy and resistant to many pests. But they can still be vulnerable to a few common pests, including the ones below.
- Spider mites: These tiny pests can suck the sap from jade plant leaves, causing discoloration and a stippled appearance. Look for very fine webbing as a sign spider mites have moved in.
- Mealybugs: Mealybugs are small, white, cotton-like insects that can cluster on the leaves and stems of jade plants, feeding on plant sap.
- Scale: Scale insects can appear as small, raised bumps on the plant’s leaves or stems. They feed on the sap and can cause yellowing and weakening of the plant. A sign of scale is a brown sappy residue on or around the plant.
- Aphids: Aphids are small insects that can cluster on the new growth of jade plants, sucking sap and causing leaf distortion.
To manage and prevent pest infestations, I recommend regularly inspecting your plant for signs of pests. You can use insecticidal soap or neem oil to treat many pest problems—make sure to read the label and instructions on anything you use. Additionally, keeping your plants clean and isolating new plants in your home can really help to prevent infestations of new plants.
Jade is a resilient succulent that is easy to care as long as you give it strong sunlight, well-draining soil, and an appropriate amount of water. Whether kept indoors or outdoors, it requires minimal maintenance, making it an ideal plant for both experienced and novice gardeners. Let me know if the comments if you have a jade plant—happy planting!