Portulacaria and Crassula

Dwarf jade

Bonsai care and maintenance

Originally from the dry regions of South Africa, the Dwarf Jade is a fleshy, soft, woody small tree that grows up to 3m (10ft.) It has a thick trunk, but a fine branch structure with thick green oval-shaped succulent leaves.

Jade or dwarf jade Bonsai video

Jade Bonsai Care guidelines


The Jade is considered an indoor tree in most temperate zones, although it can be grown outdoors in full sun and high temperatures. Do not let temperatures drop below 40 °F (5 °C). It requires substantial light, full sun if possible, especially when kept indoors. You'll know if your Jade tree is getting enough sunlight when it's leaves develop red tips or edges.


Jade trees can hold large amounts of water inside their leaves, so water sparsely and allow the plant to dry out a little between watering. If the tree is kept relatively cold during winter months, watering can be done as seldom as once every three weeks. Monitor your tree closely and water the moment the soil dries out. The Jade Bonsai is not as particular about over-watering as most other succulents. Continue reading about watering Bonsai trees.


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Fertilize your Jade tree once a month, spring through autumn, during the growth season. Any normal fertilizer, as described in our fertilize section, should be fine.

Pruning and wiring

Because the Jade tree is a succulent, it retains water in its trunk and branches. The water retention makes the tree limbs heavy which naturally bends the trunk and branches. It responds very well to pruning, and you should prune it regularly to force it to grow branches, especially in the lower part of the trunk. Do not use cut-paste on Jade trees. The nature of its trunk and branches make it very susceptible to rotting. The bark is very soft, so be cautious when wiring. If you do wire your Jade tree, make sure to monitor it closely as the wire will cut into the bark quickly. Continue reading about pruning Bonsai trees.


Repotting a Jade tree should be done every-other-year in spring. Be sure to use a well-draining soil mixture and don't water the soil for about a week after repotting. This allows the cut or damaged roots to dry and callous. Watering after repotting leads to root rot, which can severely damage your jade tree. Continue reading about repotting Bonsai trees.


Jade trees are particularly easy to propagate using cuttings. This should be done during the summer months.

Pests and diseases

The Jade is strong when it's watered correctly and is receiving sufficient sunlight. If taken care of, you should not experience any issues with its health. For more detailed information on these techniques, check out our Bonsai tree care section.

General information about the Jade Bonsai tree

The Dwarf Jade is native to the dry regions of South Africa and widespread in Mozambique, Eswatini and in the South African provinces of Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. It is a fleshy, soft, woody small tree that grows up to 3m (10ft.) It has a thick trunk, but a fine branch structure with thick green glossy oval-shaped succulent leaves which can have reddish margins. The leaves grow in a cross-opposite pattern on the soft shoots. In autumn the dwarf jade sometimes produces small white flowers if it has endured some drought periods during the growing season. The bark of younger plants is soft and green. Later it turns reddish brown with age. In Africa the dwarf jade is often used for hedges or fed to cattle.

The dwarf jade is often sold as indoor bonsai and can grow quite well inside the house as long as it is not overwatered and gets enough light. The bark is green and soft when it's young, and it transitions into a red-brown color as it ages.

The Dwarf Jade (Portulacaria afra, or Elephant bush) is very similar to the Money tree or Jade (Crassula ovata) and the same care guidelines apply to both species. As the name suggests, the Dwarf Jade has smaller leaves which makes it more suitable for Bonsai cultivation. See the photos for the leaf comparison of the two trees. If you need help identifying your tree, take a look at our Bonsai tree identification guide.

Portulacaria leaves

Portulacaria afra (Dwarf Jade bonsai)

Crassula leaves

Crassula ovata (Money tree, or Jade Bonsai)

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Learn how to fertilize your tree

Fertilizing Bonsai
Tree species

Tree species

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How to repot your tree

Repotting Bonsai