A vibrant green potted houseplant which requires minimum taking care of, is the Jade plant or Crassula ovata. It is a native South African plant but is a very popular choice for household horticulturists worldwide, as a picturesque addition to any small or large garden. Be it apartment or backyard, the jade plant flourishes in all seasons and also makes an easy-to-grow bonsai plant.
It belongs to the succulent class of plants, where water is stored in its thick, fleshy leaves. The captivating rich jade color of the leaves lends the plant its name. But their thick, round shape and smooth to the touch surface makes this plant, the "money plant" or a "lucky plant" in Feng Shui principles. Caring for a jade plant is similar to that of a cactus but one area of confusion is with regard to its trimming. The plant is at its most appealing with a dense foliage of glossy leaves but there are some tips and tricks as to its pruning procedure.
How to Prune a Jade Plant
Tip #1: A jade plant is a top-heavy plant - where the top of the plant is abundant and heavy with leaves. Plus the leaves of this plant store water in them, so they can get very heavy. So a strong stem or trunk is needed to allow for such leaf cover. If the branches grow vigorously and with a lot of leaves, the stem will be unable to support such weight and will become weak and cracked. Pruning helps strengthen the trunk and increase its length and size. The overall design of the tree becomes very esthetically pleasing with a lovely green thick top and defined stem. Pruning also encourages the branches and roots of the plant to grow.
Tip #2: Pruning should ideally not be performed on a young plant. A young plant needs to grow and develop structure and form. This is a time of development and the plant is also very vulnerable during this time. If you prune too much of the leaf coverage, then the plant is exposed to pests and disease. Also incorrect pruning can result in trimming off a vital branch or stem, permanently stunting growth. So if your jade plant is a few years old and looks overgrown, that is the ideal age to prune. Do not prune plants younger than a year old.
Tip #3: When to prune jade plants? Jade plants are very adjusting in growth cycles and can be pruned all-year round. But the optimal time to prune them is in springtime and during the early summer season. During this period, the plant grows, so it can quickly recover from the pruning steps and regrow the right way.
Tip #4: Jade plants will grow back vigorously even after a severe pruning, so you can prune a lot or a little of the plant. Even if you trim away the plant's leaves and only roots are left in the soil, the jade plant will regrow.
Tip #5: Prior to pruning, imagine what you want your jade plant to look like. Lots of branches and a firm stem or a shrub-like appearance? Depending on your mental image of the plant, cut the appropriate branches. To make it easier, mark the branches you intend to cut, with colored tape or ribbon or paper, to avoid cutting the wrong branch.
Tip #6: Unless you intend on regrowing the entire plant, trim away only 20-30% of the plant's branches. In case of disease or if the plant is dying due to frost, trimming away to the roots might save it.
Tip #7: A leaf node is a branch which ends in a single leaf. If you want your jade plant to branch more, then prune just above a leaf node (section of stem from which branch grows). The stem will branch out and grow from that very spot. So cutting a branch back allows 2 new branches to grow out of the cut off node. Trim away dead or dying leaves as well. Prune out browning or decaying stems.
Tip #8: Tools needed for pruning include a sharp pair of scissors or clippers and a sanitizing or anti-bacterial gel. Very large gardening shears are difficult to maneuver in such a dense plant, so avoid using them. Sanitize the shears with the gel and cut the branch cleanly and neatly.
Tip #9: During the winter, pests are most attracted to a jade plant and the plant is most vulnerable during the cold season, so pruning can help reduce leaf coverage, meaning less pests. In case your leaves are damaged by insects, spray a little Neem oil on the leaves.
Tip #10: Do not throw away the leaves or branches from pruning the plant. It is very easy to propagate these plants through cuttings and trimmings, so use clippings to grow new little jade plants. Use a 3-4 inch long branch cutting, trim any leaves growing 1 inch above the cutting's bottom and leave this cutting in the open air to dry for 2-3 days. Then root the cutting in moist, sandy soil mix, about 1½ inches deep in the soil. Do not keep watering the soil, check first to see if the roots are growing. You can even propagate the jade plant using leaves, take a single leaf from a stem, leave it to dry for 1-2 days and then root it at a 30° angle in some soil.
Following such pruning steps will ensure a healthy, green plant all year around and a good parent plant from which to propagate. Remember, never over hydrate your jade plant and keep it in plenty of sunshine for it to flourish.