Crassula ovata, commonly known as Jade Plant, is one of the most widely grown succulents. Many people enjoy growing Jade Plants in their gardens, homes, and offices. This succulent is an evergreen subshrub with glossy, rounded, fleshy, dark green leaves often adorned with red edges. The tip's coloration is more intense in full sun. Clusters of small starry white or pale pink flowers bloom in profusion from fall into spring.
If you want your Jade Plant to branch out and develop lateral limbs, pinch it back, and give it plenty of sunlight, water, and nutrients. The best time to pinch back Jade Plant is in the early spring before new growth begins.
Pinch or snip the tips of some of the branches back to the next healthy leaf node. Pinch back all or most of the growth on the sides of the Jade Plant to encourage it to form lateral branches.
Irrigate the Jade Plant after pinching it back to thoroughly moisten the soil and promote new growth. Continue to water the plant as often as necessary to keep the soil evenly moist during the spring and summer months, when Jade Plants are actively growing. Allow the surface of the soil to dry to the touch before watering in the winter.
Position the plant in a sunny location in your garden or within 4 feet (1.2 m) of a south- or west-facing window when grown indoors. The plant must receive four or more hours of direct sunlight per day.
Feed the plant an application of a balanced, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer to jump-start its growth. Mix and apply the fertilizer according to the directions on the product label.
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Prune lanky branches by cutting long, bare stems at a leaf scar. When a jade leaf drops off, it leaves a line that encircles the stem where the leaf previously grew. Cut across the stem at one of these lines with a sharp knife, and remove the long stem tip.
Pinch back small, tender-stemmed jade varieties using your thumbnail and forefinger at a leaf axis or existing branch joint. Encourage trailing varieties of jade to branch by cutting at a leaf axis along a trailing long stem. Two new branches typically develop at each removal point, so repeated, periodic trimming helps a plant develop profuse branches and foliage.
Water sparingly. Fertilize monthly after new growth appears, using a balanced, water-soluble organic fertilizer.
Although pruning scares many people, it is really the only leggy jade plant fix. It is best to prune your jade either in the spring or early summer months. Your plant will be in active growth during this time and will start to fill out and recover much more quickly.
If you have a very small or young jade plant, you may just want to pinch off the growing tip. You can use your thumb and forefinger to pinch this off. You should have at least two new stems growing from where you pinched it.
If you have a larger, older plant with several branches, you can prune your plant back harder. In most cases, try not to remove more than a quarter to a third of the plant when you prune your jade back. Use a sharp pair of pruning shears and make sure that the blade is sterilized so that you’re not spreading disease. To do this, you can clean the blade with rubbing alcohol.
Next, imagine where you’d want the jade plant to branch off and use your pruning shears to make cuts right above a leaf node (where the leaf meets the stem of the jade). At each cut, you will get at least two resulting branches.
If you have a plant that is a single trunk and you want it to look more like a tree and branch out, you can easily accomplish this with patience. Simply remove most of the lower leaves and pinch off the growing tip. Once it starts growing and develops more branches, you can repeat the process and pinch out the growing tips or prune the branches back until you achieve the desired look you are going for.
Pruning will be done in a different way depending on your jade’s condition and size.
If your jade is still very small (less than 6 inches) with no branches, you’ll be able to prune by topping off the trunk.
Two new sets of leaves will sprout from your cut, which will start two new branches.
For an added bonus, you can use this topped portion to propagate the jade, simply stick it in its own pot, or push it into the soil next to your first jade. We like to put the tops as well as pruned leaves into soil to start new jades.
Examine the jade and visually break it into quarters. You’ll be cutting off the top 1/4 of the plant or branch.
Look for brown rings on the stem approximately 1/4 from the top of the jade or end of the branch, and cut along the ring with a sharp pair of pruning shears or a knife.
Two new branches will sprout from this part of the plant, but be patient, it will take some time!
Alternatively, if you don’t want to top off your jade, but want to encourage branching, you can carefully remove a few of the leaves sprouting out of the trunk. This will encourage new branches to form where the leaves were removed. Be very selective with this process and don’t remove more than 2-3 leaves at a time.
Pruning a jade that already has a few branches will encourage more growth and help to balance the symmetry of the plant.
Simply snip off or pinch off the newly sprouted leaves on the end of each branch. I know this seems counterintuitive, but cutting off the newly grown leaves will in fact encourage more branching, making for a fuller jade plant!
If you’ve been pruning your jade all along, but now it’s out of control and has too many branches for the plant to support, it’s time to prune for the health of the plant.
First, cut off any diseased or dried branches right at the trunk but don’t cut into the trunk.
Next, remove and dispose of any leaves that are yellowing, burnt, shriveled, or spotty.
Finally, examine the plant carefully and identify any branches that are growing at odd angles, or blocking the light for other branches and carefully remove all or part of those branches.
Remember, you can always cut more, but you can’t go back once you’ve made the cut. Start conservatively so you don’t accidentally cut off too much!
After you’ve finished pruning the jade, be sure to keep up with watering and light needs.
Jades are slow growers, so it will take some time to see the benefits of the pruning, but before long your jade will be looking bushy and healthy!
Jade is one of the best plants to have in your home. Take a few leaf cuttings from a friend and learn how to grow a jade from scratch. Here’s a tutorial for doing that.