What is a ‘Jade Plant?’ Are they ALL Jade Plants?


Let’s just get one thing straight… Jade is not a genus or species, it is a common name given to some varieties of succulents. Common problems with newbies trying to get identifications for their new succulent acquisitions are generalised responses from other succulent addicts/newbies.

Over the years, the question is repeatedly asked – “I just bought this from a garage sale and I love it so I want to make sure I can care for it properly, can you please identify it for me?” It is important to give an ID using the scientific name for each variety, as each species has different requirements. A lot of gardeners have only been given the common name for their succulent therefore will not know its light or watering requirements.

There are several varieties of succulents with the common name ‘Jade’ in their title. The most common of all is Crassula Ovata (lucky Jade) which is winter active (grows more vigorously in winter). Lucky Jade has been a common collectable succulent by many who follow the Chinese philosophy of Feng-Shui which used properly claims to bring luck and money to your home. It does not like wet feet and does best in full morning sun/afternoon shade and will flower more freely if planted in the ground. Crassula Ovata will propagate freely from a leaf without any assistance (i.e. a leaf falls off onto dirt, it will sprout a new plant if kept in the right conditions).

Another ‘Jade’ is of a completely different genus and commonly named ‘Trailing Jade’ as the leaves look quite similar to that of a Lucky Jade. The issue with calling this guy a ‘Jade’ would be if you were attempting to propagate as per a Lucky Jade (via leaf cuttings) as it is only grown from seed or from stem cuttings. Trailing Jade is a Senecio which is in the same family as String of Pearls, String of Dolphins, Vertical Leaf Senecio and so on. They are also winter active however will seem to need more than just morning sun to flower come the winter season.

Variegated ‘mini Jade’ is actually Portulacaria afra and once again, not in the Crassula family as a lot of collectors have been lead to believe. It is called ‘Elephant Bush’ as a common name as it is eaten in it’s native habitat by elephants. This unique variety is also only grown from cuttings or seed, not from leaf. There is also a more common variety which is non variegated and a mid-stripe version called ‘Medio-picta.’

So remember – whilst many varieties of succulents are commonly referred to as jades, jade is not a species and they are not all related!

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