Succulents in the genus Crassula are native to South Africa. They include shrub (branching) varieties commonly called jade plants, as well as "stacked crassulas" with leaves pancaked along thin stems. See examples of both in the gallery below.
Green jade (Crassula ovata) is a common houseplant worldwide. Nearly any nursery sells it, and it's often added to wreaths, container gardens, topiaries and used as a bulletproof garden shrub. Newer cultivars are more interesting, as easy to grow and well worth having. Look for those with rippled or tubular leaves; diminutive varieties; and others variegated with gold, yellow, cream, pink or red.
Crassulas prefer mild, frost-free regions with low humidity (but not desert heat) typical of Southern California from the Bay Area south. The thicker the stem, the more drought-resistent the plant.
Although jades appreciate regular water, they're often the last plants standing in neglected gardens---an indication of their ability to do without. Leaves shrivel as plants draw on stored moisture, then plump when rains return.
Like aloes, many crassulas stress beautifully to shades of red, yellow and orange. Sun makes the difference. In low light, even the reddest jades will revert to green.
Pests seldom are a problem. The biggest challenge with these basic, low-maintenance succulents is protecting them from temperatures below 32 degrees F.
It's easy to take stem cuttings from shrub crassulas: Cut off the top few inches and stick it upright in the ground. As with most succulents, new roots will grow where old leaves were attached.
But how about stacked crassulas? These look delicate, their stems no thicker than spaghetti. The method is basically the same, except you need to gently remove the lowest leaves. One stem can yield a dozen cuttings! See my video: How to Propagate Stacked Crassulas.
Plants that prune themselves
A remarkable thing about jades is that random limbs will shrivel and fall off. This enhances air circulation, allows more sunlight to enter, and starts new little plants which root below the mother plant.
Eventually you get a sort of bonsai---a nicely balanced shrub that resembles a small tree. This is most noticeable in old potted specimens with thick trunks. Simply pull any baby plants that you don't want.
Where to buy crassulas
Articles on this site
How to Stress Succulents (And Why You Should) Plenty of sun brings out brilliant reds and yellows in certain succulents... [continue reading]
Frost and Succulents: What You Need to Know Depending on how long temps stay below freezing...[continue reading]
A Colorful Succulent Garden to Copy This three-dimensional showcase of succulents superbly suited to mild, frost-free regions...[continue reading]
Debra Defends Jade Plant (4:04) Some have tubular leaves, others are yellow, red or variegated...
Plant a Pink Jade Succulent Container (3:02) Debra combines pink-flowering jade with Echeveria agavoides 'Lipstick'...
Grow Sunset Jade! (0:50) See a slope planted with golden variegated jade in midwinter, in full bloom...
How to Propagate Stacked Crassulas (3:53) You'll be amazed by how many new little plants you can get from an 8-inch stem!
For more information, see the Crassula sections of Succulents Simplified and Designing with Succulents.
Crassula Photo Gallery
Because varieties can look quite different depending on growing conditions and when flowering, you may see more than one photo of the same plant. If a crassula is mostly green, it was likely in bright shade; if red, orange and/or yellow, in full to half-day sun.
I'm confident these names are correct, but if you believe I've made an error, do let me know. Thanks! — Debra Lee Baldwin
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