What is a Jade Plant?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The jade plant or Crassula ovata is a succulent which is often grown as an indoor plant in many regions of the world; it can also be successfully grown outdoors, as long as the climate is temperate to warm. You may also hear jade plants called friendship trees or money plants, and in some cultures people think that having a jade plant around the house is lucky. Many garden stores sell jade plants, and they are extremely easy to grow.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Many people can recognize a jade plant, thanks to the very distinctive leaves, which are rounded and grow opposite each other. The leaves of a jade plant are also very thick and fleshy, typically dark green and sometimes with reddish edges. When a jade plant flowers, it produces small clusters of white to pink blooms.

These plants are native to South Africa, so they like dry, hot, bright conditions. People who grow jade plants as houseplants sometimes struggle with them, because the plants largely like to be left alone. It is fairly hard to kill a jade plant, but constant fussy attention is probably the best way to do it; these plants thrive on neglect and conditions which could kill a number of other houseplants, including other succulents.

Jade plants take well to container gardening, preferring dry, loose soil which will not hold water. They like to be periodically soaked and then allowed to dry out entirely; if conditions are too wet, the plant will start to rot, with the thick, fleshy stems growing soft and mushy, and the leaves shriveling up and falling off. Rot can also damage the roots of the jade plant. The best place to grow these plants indoors is a warm, sunny spot, ideally near a window with a lot of light exposure, and if you grow jade plants outdoors, wrap them in blankets during the winter if you think it will frost, as the plants are very susceptible to frostbite.

Jade plants benefit from pruning, which helps to give them a solid shape and encourages slow, even growth of the trunk, creating a plant which will be able to support itself. If a jade plant is not pruned, the plant will grow top-heavy, and the branches will start to pull themselves off with their weight. Prune moderately in the early spring, clipping a bit every few weeks to avoid shocking the plant.

The easiest way to propagate a jade plant is to allow the plant to do the work. In the wild, these plants simply clone themselves, dropping branches which will take root on their own, and you can mimic these conditions at home if you want to increase your jade plant population.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@afterall, The one form of care jade plants do need, though, is pruning. I have heard that for this reason, many people like to grow bonsai jade plants.


If they hate attention, I clearly should buy jade plants. While I don't think I live in nearly the right climate, I can definitely handle the other requirements of jade plant growing. It's a wonder they are not more popular, if they are so easy to care for.

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