Originally from Africa, the Dwarf Jade tree is a fleshy, softly woody shrub or small tree up to 3m (10ft). The Jade has a thick trunk and a fine branch structure with thick oval green succulent leaves. During autumn sometimes small white flowers appear, but only when the tree has experienced droughts in the season. The bark is green and soft when young, becoming red-brown when it ages.

The Dwarf Jade (Portulacaria afra) looks very similar to the Jade (Crassula ovata) and the care guidelines below apply to both species. The Dwarf Jade, with its smaller leaves, is the most suitable of both species for Bonsai cultivation. See the photos below to see the difference between their leaves. If you need help identifying your tree, try our Bonsai tree identification guide.

 

Specific Bonsai care guidelines for the Jade Bonsai

Position: The Jade tree is considered an indoor tree in most temperate zones, although it can be grown outdoors in full sun (and sufficiently high temperatures). Keep temperatures above 5 degrees C (or 41F) at all times. It needs lots of light or even full sun, especially when kept indoors. If the leaves develop red tips or edges of the leaves this is a sign of enough sunlight reaching the plant.

Watering: Jade trees can hold large amounts of water inside their leaves. Water sparsely and allow the plant to dry out a little bit between watering. During winter time watering can be as seldom as once every three weeks - though only when the tree is kept relatively cold - monitor your tree closely and water the moment the soil dries out slightly. The Jade Bonsai is not as particular about over-watering as most other succulents.

Feeding: Once a month during the growth season (spring-autumn). A normal fertilizer (as described in our fertilize article) should be fine.

Pruning and wiring: As a succulent, water is contained its trunk and branches; they tend to bend from their weight. Jades respond well to pruning, which should be done regularly to force the tree to grow branches also lower on its trunk. Do not use cut-paste though, as this might lead to rotting. The bark of the Jade is quite soft, so keep an eye out when you have wired the tree as the wire will bite in fast.

Repotting: Repot the three every second year in spring, using a very well-draining soil mixture. After a repot, don't water the soil for about a week, to allow the cut roots to dry and callous. Otherwise you'll get root rot.

Propagation: Easy to propagate using cuttings during the summer.

Pests and diseases: The Jade is a strong plant, when watered correctly and receiving enough sunlight you should experience no issues with the plant's health.

For more detailed information on these techniques, try our Bonsai tree care section. Thanks to Adam Lavigne for the photos.

 

Portulacaria leaves

Portulacaria

Crassula leaves

Crassula

 

 

Example of a Dwarf Jade (Portulacaria afra) Bonsai tree

Portulacaria afra, Dwarf Jade Bonsai

 

Example of a Jade (Crassula ovata) Bonsai tree

Crassula ovata, Jade Bonsai