The Jade tree plant, or Crassula ovata, is native to the Capetown area of South Africa. The jade tree plant is part of a classification of plants known as succulents. The jade plant has thick, glossy, deep green, oval-shaped leaves and thick brown stems.
Succulents tend to grow in dry areas such as deserts and their leaves retain water for long periods of time. The jade plant prefers thick, sandy soils similar to those found in its natural desert habitat. Because of this, jade plants are good plants for the beginning gardener, as they are very low maintenance.
Most people don’t know that the jade plant produces pink-tipped white flowers with a delicate star shape. This is because the plant does not bloom when kept indoors. The plant blooms in the winter due to the lack of natural light.
If the plant is kept indoors where the lights are turned on and off, it is unable to sense this change in the amount of daylight, which is what triggers flowering. Experts recommend that for this plant to flourish, it needs to be exposed to daylight outside starting in the fall.
Differences of a portulacaria (dwarf jade) with a crassula ovata or jade tree
There is much confusion in differentiating a portulacaria afra from a crassula ovata. Afras portulacarias are better suited for bonsai training as they have a smaller leaf and branch more easily. In addition, the blade of the portulacaria is more rounded and less thick. This is the best way to identify our bonsai since if we look closely, the leaves show significant differences.
Although succulents and bonsai may seem like an odd association, succulents, such as the jade plant (Crassula ovata), actually exhibit unique morphological traits that make them excellent bonsai. The jade plant’s fleshy leaves and swollen trunk lend interest to a miniature display and can be adapted even by a novice bonsai hobbyist. Guided by the plant’s natural structure, ideal styles for the jade plant include informal upright, slant, and root-over-rock.
Jade plant as bonsai
The flattened but succulent, pear-shaped bright green leaves characterize the jade plant. In some varieties, the leaves have edges tinged with red. Slowly, over two to three years, the plant develops a thick, knobby, light tan-colored trunk. New plants can quickly be started from a leaf cut. From fall to spring, clusters of star-shaped pink flowers appear on the plant in abundance.
Jade plants should only be placed outside in their containers in the warm and temperate zones. Bring them indoors if the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit—plant in well-draining potting mix and report every three to four years in spring. You don’t prune the roots too aggressively; It can weaken the plant. If your bonsai needs wiring to achieve the desired shape, use aluminum wire, which is more flexible than copper.
Casual upright style
Like the formal upright, this bonsai style creates an approximately triangular tree shape, but the effect is more irregular and relaxed, with the curvature of the trunk. The trunk tilts 15 degrees or less to the right or left, but never towards the viewer.
Probably the most popular bonsai design, the trunk line defines the style, depicting a tree in the wild struck by the elements. The bends of the trunk should be spaced closer the higher they are on the tree. Choose the side of the log that shows the most movement for the front of the bonsai. It can simulate the movement of the trunk caused by the stresses of nature from the use of wire.
Sometimes called the slant style, in this design, the trunk is angled for most of its length at an angle close to 45 degrees. Unlike the similar windswept style, the branches grow on either side of the trunk. Placed horizontally or with a slight drop, the branches appear to have been blown away by the wind.
The root system must be more voluminous on the side opposite to the lean to balance the tree. The lower branches can be left longer than the upper ones to balance the plant further. Place the bonsai in its container so that the sloping log reaches most of the pot rather than to the side.
Root on rock style
By requiring the most extended wait for results among the recommended jade plant styles, this design mimics how roots of a tree in nature, started by a seed landing in a crevice in a rock, can grow to enclose the rock.
In the jade plant bonsai, this effect can be achieved by burying a rock between the roots of a plant when it is potted. Let them grow for a few years before slowly exposing them and allowing them to harden. For a more established rooted plant, place a rock on top of the potting mix in a container and spread the roots over the rock and into the ground.
How to care for a jade bonsai tree?
As we have already mentioned, the plant of abundance is a coarse or crásule plant, perennial with tender leaves and brittle branches. However, it is effortless to care for as it is very drought tolerant. It can grow up to 6 meters in its natural state, and its trunk, although white, has a woody appearance.
How to water a jade bonsai?
It is important not to overdo it with watering, since being a succulent plant, it can retain water in its leaves and trunk. In such a way that we will let the substrate dry between waterings. In winter, we still have to space the watering more. We can even be a week without water. So it is an ideal species for bonsai specialists who do not want to have such a high level of commitment to the tree.
Where to locate a jade bonsai?
The optimum is exposure to the full sun since it is a plant native to South Africa, which lives in hot and dry areas. For this reason, it must be outside and with as much light as possible. However, indoors it can survive for a long time, but it will always decline and lose vigor.
How to transplant a dwarf jade bonsai?
It will be transplanted in the spring when the tree shows signs of resuming growth. They are very tolerant of drastic root ball pruning, as their ability to form roots is spectacular. The substrate used must be very draining and porous since an excess of water in the soil can be lethal.
How to prune a jade bonsai tree?
Jades respond well to pruning, but scar paste should not be applied on the cut since being provided with such softwood, there is a risk that part of the branch will rot.
How to fertilize a jade bonsai?
We will fertilize throughout the growth stage, supplementing weekly with a liquid fertilizer to enhance vigor and that the bonsai has all the necessary nutrients.
How to form a bonsai dwarf jade from 0?
Portulacarias work well from cuttings. You have to cut an interesting branch, leave it for 24-48 hours to dry, and then plant. The tree will form roots in a short time, and we can start working it as bonsai.
Portulacarias take time to get fat, so we will let the tree grow without pinching or pruning.
When modeling the branches, we must wire them more than once since being a softwood. It returns to its position to repeat the process a few months after removing the first wiring.
Where to buy a jade bonsai
Jades are usually sold in the garden center in the section of cacti and succulents. However, selling them as cuttings of just 10 cm in height without any training as bonsai is prevalent.
To get a specimen with a structure already marked and a future much more focused on its development as bonsai, I share this link to buy a jade as bonsai.
It is a kind of slow fattening, it is much more profitable to buy the specimen already with specific training, as this will save us a lot of time in its development.