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Plant type Succulents
Plant Uses Container Plant

Best uses

Great for patio or courtyard containers, as they require little water and prefer full sun.

Physical characteristics

A large, evergreen, rounded succulent that grows up to 2m tall.

Flowers and foliage

Sweetly scented, pinky-white, star-shaped flowers are produced in rounded bunches from winter to spring. Foliage is mid-green edged with red, glossy and oval.

Preferred site

Prefers full sun, good air circulation and well-drained soil. Add extra pumice to the potting mix or soil when planting. Crassula will also tolerate humid conditions and very bright light, which helps them flower.

Preparation for planting

Choose healthy, well-grown plants for best results. Plant in free-draining soil after autumn rains. Dig a hole in the ground twice the size of the root ball. Ensure that the root ball is saturated and remove planter pot with minimal root disturbance. Plant at the same level as in the container, press in and water well.

Jade plants flourish if they receive plenty of light and well-draining soil. The majority of succulents require loose soil and full sun. Heavy clay and wet soils are unsuitable conditions, but can be improved by adding plenty of coarse grit and pumice, or by creating beds filled with gritty soil. After planting, it is advisable to mulch using crushed stone rather than bark, which holds too much water in winter.

Maintenance tips

Mulching helps conserve soil moisture. Make sure to keep mulch away from the plant stem. Apply a succulent fertiliser 2 to 3 times in the growing season. Alternatively, use a watered-down general fertiliser. Let the soil to become dry between waterings; overwatering will cause root rot.

Water moderately in growth periods (winter) and sparingly when dormant (summer). The plant needs water when its lower leaves become soft or wrinkled. Plump leaves are a sign that all is well with the roots. Avoid getting the soil too wet. Water from the base by standing the pot in a dish of water. Never leave the plant standing in water for more than a few hours and make sure to pour away any excess afterwards.

A few leaves may drop off naturally, especially when it is hot or if the plant is kept dry for a long time. If the leaves wrinkle or drop off excessively despite watering, something is wrong with the plant. Do not immediately assume the plant needs more water if you have been watering it regularly. If necessary, check the roots by removing the plant from its pot.

Repot from spring to summer when the plant becomes root-bound or the soil needs renewing. A solid, heavy pot is best because jade plants are top-heavy. Gritty cacti and succulent soil mix is available to buy from plant centres.

Pruning is not required except to maintain shape. It is possible to prune back weak growth until there are no leaves left. New leaves will grow at the cut ends after a few weeks. However, such severe pruning should not be carried out too often.

Crassula are easy to propagate. Either carefully remove a single leaf or cut off a healthy growth tip (around 10cm long). Insert into a pot containing a mixture of well-draining compost, pumice and sand. Rooting doesn't take long; keep watering to a minimum, as too much will rot the cutting.

Ecological and biodiversity benefits

The flowers attract bees, flies, beetles and butterflies.

Pests and diseases

May suffer from mealybug, therefore, ensure soil completely dries out before watering again. Allowing too much water to sit at the bottom of the pot with the roots will cause them to rot. Examine the roots for signs of pests such as root mealybug. Look for soft and rotten areas at the base of the stem which can be caused by soggy conditions and which stop effective water uptake. If the bottom of the stem has gone soft remove the plant from its pot and allow it to dry off. Then assess the condition of the stem in an emergency it is possible to salvage the plant by re-rooting the healthy part. Cut the stem well above the damaged area. Allow the cut end to dry off for a couple of weeks and then re-plant into a dry, free-draining potting mix. Water very sparingly until root formation has started. It's not necessary to mist or spray water over the foliage, and excessive humidity may lead to mildews and other fungal problems. Spraying with water may also remove the attractive surface bloom from the leaves of some cultivars. However, putting the plant outside occasionally in the rain on a mild day helps to wash off dust and freshen up the foliage. Can be attacked by mealybugs, aphids and vine weevils. Check out our leaflet on Common Pests and Diseases.

Location at Auckland Botanic Gardens

Rock Garden

Interesting facts and tips

Crassulas have a special way of reducing water loss from their leaves without limiting photosynthesis. This is known as Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM).

All plants need carbon dioxide (CO2) for photosynthesis. Most plants take in CO2 during daylight hours via their stomata (pores in the leaves). They can't avoid losing water through these open pores. In Crassula, the opposite occurs: stomata are closed during the day and open at night. This is possible because Crassula plants store CO2 in the form of organic crassulacean acids. During the day, these acids are broken down and CO2 is re-used in the photosynthetic process. As a result, Crassula plants lose less water and are still able to photosynthesise.

Furthermore, during extremely dry periods, Crassula won't open their stomata at all and continue to recycle the CO2 within the cells. They won't be able to grow in this time, but the cells will be kept healthy. This is known as CAM-idling.

In addition to being a CAM plant and water-storing stems, leaves and roots, this crassula can also survive being grazed, trodden on or knocked over, as it is able to root from any piece of the stem (even a single leaf).