Money Plant, Jade Plant, Penny Plant, Lucky Plant, Friendship Tree, Dollar Plant, Silver Dollar Plant, Kerky Bush – all these names, most of them suggesting prosperity and fortune, identify one and the same plant, Crassula Ovata.
An evergreen shrub that is as sturdy in constitution as it is in appearance, this plant can tolerate varying sun-shade balance, dry weather, and even drought conditions, and is super-easy to propagate. It is equally easy to grow and care for both outdoors and indoors, and its versatility extends even to being the plant of choice for learning bonsai: its toughness allows it to withstand rough pruning and its natural attributes make for a lovely miniaturised tree. However, the majority of Jade Plants grown by gardeners are neither outdoor plants nor bonsai but are potted houseplants.
Potted specimens typically attain heights of between 45 and 75 centimetres but in their native habitat, Crassula Ovata can grow as tall as 2 metres. The main stem or ‘trunk’ is not only brown and woody, it is often gnarled, giving the false impression that a Money Plant stripling is a senior citizen. At the same time, in curious contrast, newer stalks are distinctly chubby and shiny, suggestive of youthful bloom. These stalks bear leaves in opposite pairs, and these almost rubbery-looking leaves are glossy, smooth, and of a radiant, deep green hue.
When plants get a lot of sunlight the leaves develop an eye-catching red edging, specifically a deep ruby-red shade. Conversely, if nights are long and the overall temperature is on the cool side but the plant gets sufficient sunlight, older specimens will bloom in winter though this is unusual in indoor potted plants. When it does, the inflorescences are lush, even sensuous. Each one is about 5 centimetres both in length and diameter and bears a profusion of short-lived but charming flowers. These are star-shaped with lanceolate petals and are white, pink, white with pink tinges, or cream. Their gentle but heady scent attracts beetles, bees, and butterflies; however, it is safe to say that it is the entire package that is attractive to you and me.
Background, Origins & Varieties
The name Crassula Ovata is derived from the Latin words crassus meaning thick or solid, and ovatus meaning egg-shaped, in reference to the plant’s leaves. It is native to the South-Eastern part of South Africa and Mozambique, being especially abundant in the Eastern Cape. It was first studied and described in 1768 by British botanists and has been cultivated in Europe and the United States since the 1800s. Crassula Ovata is only one species of the approximately 350 in the rich and diverse Crassula genus of succulents.
This species has between 20 and 30 varieties of which some are quite well-known. Most are differentiated by the colours, forms, or shapes of their leaves. We present a few such well-known varieties along with a few less well-known but interesting ones.
Gollum aka Monstruosa. A curiosity that has leaves that are elongated and shaped like narrow tubes, often with red-tinted tips.
E.T.’s Fingers. Another curiosity that has leaves that are elongated and resemble stubby tubes and have a concavity at the tip which is often tinged with red.
The names Gollum and E.T.’s Fingers are sometimes used interchangeably but these are subtly different cultivars.
Tricolour. So named for its variegated leaves on which shades of cream, yellow, and green run together and intermingle.
Hummel’s Sunset. This cultivar is distinguished by the rich yellow swaths and shadings on its leaves and yellow and red edging.
Sunset Magic. An eye-catching cultivar whose perfectly ovate and flat leaves are different shades of light green with a thick red bordering that enters into the lamina and intermingles with green.
Minova Magic. This varietal has unusually-shaped leaves: instead of ovate they are spade-like or spatulate and are a dark, deep shade of green.
Crasmada. Patented in 2015, this variety is distinguished by large, dark green leaves that have an upward curl and an incurved margin.
Blue Surprise. Well, it is not actually blue but the leaves are a striking shade of green, call it slate grey-green with a bluish tinge. Moreover, they are curly and curvy, making this a very distinct cultivar.
Undulata aka Jitters aka Ripple aka Wave Jade. A highly distinct variety, the leaves of this cultivar are emerald green edged with red, they are thinner than normal, and are sharply wavy with a somewhat crinkly appearance reminding one of lettuce.
Dwarf Jade Plant aka Dwarf Green. Similar to the mother species except that, as the name implies, it is a dwarf variety; it attains a maximum height of only 90 centimetres.
Crosby’s Dwarf aka Crosby’s Compact. As the name suggests, it is both a dwarf and compact, reaching a height of only 90 centimetres. With adequate sunlight, its red-edged leaves become more red, including fully red, than almost all other varieties.
Minima. Similar to the mother species except that this dwarf variety is the smallest and most compact, reaching a maximum height of only 75 centimetres and a width of only 50 centimetres.
Feeding, Care & Growing Tips
This sporting plant will make do with virtually any mix of sun and shade provided that the afternoon sun is not too hot or direct. The ideal sun-shade mix is about four hours of morning sun and the rest in shade. The ideal temperature ranges for Crassula Ovata are 20° to 25° Centigrade during the day and 12° to 15° Centigrade during the night.
This plant requires a rich soil mix that drains well – make that very well. A sandy loam with compost, and including gravel and perlite in the topsoil, is ‘right on the money.’ The pH may fall anywhere from moderately acidic to slightly alkaline, with 6.0 being perfect. Because of the way Money Plants grow and use nutrients in the soil it is almost a necessity to repot containerised plants in fresh soil about every three years.
In the spring and summer growing season they should be watered freely but let the soil dry out completely before watering again – even consistently moist soil is a no-no. Winter is Jade Plants’ dormant season and during these three or four months, the plant should be watered infrequently and with little water so that its soil remains drier for longer spells than in summer. These lengthier dry periods in the winter combined with some bright sun and mostly deep shade in the day and cool nights are the triggers that bring mature plants, especially outdoor ones, to flower. Even mature plants do not flower annually but about once every three years.
Though fertilising is not necessary, to feed plants organically compost can be mixed into the soil, and in spring and summer they can be fed with a diluted 10-10-10 liquid fertiliser every two months; alternatively, in early-spring add the appropriate amount of a balanced controlled-release fertiliser to the soil.
How To Clean Money Plant Leaves
You can clean Money Plant leaves with water using two methods but in either case, do make sure that the water is at room temperature; it should not be either hot or cold.
The less time-consuming method is to use a spray bottle or a pinched hose to emit a gentle jet or spray of water on the money plant’s leaves, taking care to wash the undersides of the leaves as well.
Another method is to hand clean the plant. Put a small amount of mild, organic liquid soap in a basin of water, and with a soft cotton cloth, gently rub the soapy water on the leaves, including their undersides. Then use plain water and a different cloth for a wipe-off to get rid of the soapy residue.
Cleaning leaves not only keeps the plant looking fresh and pretty, it also prevents infestation and disease.
Pruning Crassula Ovata is not necessary; do so if you have a specific reason.
You can prune faded, dried-out flowers and browned or dead branches and leaves for aesthetic reasons.
If your Jade Plant is in a small pot and you wish to limit its size or if you wish to sculpt an outdoor or indoor specimen, you can prune it.
Annually pruning branches, especially emerging ones, will result in the plant becoming less bushy and developing a stout main stem or ‘trunk.’
To prune, use a sharp pair of secateurs that have been disinfected with diluted rubbing alcohol. Prune a branch either by cutting it at a node or flush along its parent branch. Be mindful that when a branch is pruned at a node, more often than not two new branches will sprout from the node immediately underneath.
At most, prune 20 percent of the plant’s branches and no more. It is advisable to prune in spring or summer to promote quick recovery.
Habitat & Growing Conditions
Crassula Ovata itself is hardy to U.S.D.A. Zone 11 but some cultivars are hardy to lower zones; for example, Gollum and E.T.’s Fingers are hardy to Zone 9.
They do best in warm and dry climates – think Arizona – and in their native South Africa they are often found growing among dense vegetation, primarily succulents, in valleys and in lonely clusters on stony hillsides. In damp soil or humid climes they are susceptible to stem rot and fungal diseases.
In U.S.D.A. zones below their designated hardiness zone Money Plant and its cultivars cannot survive cold weather outdoors and effectively become annuals. However, plants will survive the winter if they are brought indoors and the temperature goes no lower than 10° Centigrade.
Crassula Ovata roots so strongly that when leaves or stems of outdoor specimens in favourable climates break and fall on the ground, they often root and become new plants in two to three weeks. As such, one can conclude that it is very easy to propagate this plant.
Simply twist and pull a leaf so that it, along with its stalk, detaches cleanly from the stem. Let it sit in a dry and warm room for two or three days so that the cut end may heal and callus. Then place the leaf in loose favourable soil, gently pressing the stalk but a few millimetres under the surface. After a day put only some drops of water. Leaves should root in about four weeks.
You can also cut off a small length of the stem using sharp and disinfected secateurs. Allow it a period of two to three days in a dry and warm room so that the wound may heal and to reduce the chances of rot. Then gently insert the cut end of the cutting into a favourable soil mix. Stem cuttings should root in about three weeks.
Though cuttings can be taken and rooted year-round, it is best and easiest to do so in the summer.
When To Plant
Money Plant can be planted round the year but it is not advisable to do so in the winter because this is the plant’s dormant season. Growing the plant in winter, especially in unfavourable zones or climates, may prove troublesome.
It is smart to plant it between mid-spring and mid-summer, which is plumb in the middle of this succulent’s active growing season, to facilitate strong rooting and fast growth.
Common Diseases & Problems
Though Crassula Ovata in the main are free of diseases and infestations, the one pest that poses a threat is the mealybug. Compounding the problem, should such an infestation occur it cannot be treated with any of the usual insecticidal soaps or oils, even organic ones. The reason is that Jade Plants (like almost all other succulents) are hypersensitive to (organic or other) insecticides and their foliage can suffer serious adverse effects.
One way to eliminate mealybugs is by pruning. If you spot an infestation that is localised in a small portion of the plant, you can prune that part using the technique described in section Pruning. Alternatively, clean off the infestation. Soak cotton buds or a small cloth in rubbing alcohol and gently rub the infested surfaces so as to kill and wipe off the mealybugs. You will need to repeat this cleaning and disinfestation every day for several days, even up to two weeks, until all the mealybugs are gone. Continue for a few days even after no mealybugs are visible so as to do away with any larvae and newly-hatched insects.
If your plant is outdoors you could fight fire with fire by simply letting loose beneficial insects that prey upon mealybugs. Release ladybugs, lacewings, and mealybug destroyers, and it’s “Hasta la Vista, Baby” to mealybugs.
Tip: With respect to diseases and problems, where succulents are concerned, use the methods described in the section How To Clean Money Plant Leaves and you will have practised the principle of Prevention is Better than Cure. Also, do not water frequently or allow the plant to stand in consistently damp soil.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should you water a money plant?
In the active growing season of spring and summer, Money Plants may be watered liberally but not frequently because they do not like moist soil. When the soil has completely dried out, you know the plant will appreciate another watering.
In the winter during the plant’s dormant period it should be watered even less, and also less frequently. Give the plant only a moderate quantity of water and allow the soil to remain dry for a few days before watering again.
How should you care for a money plant with yellow leaves?
The most common cause of yellowed leaves is overwatering, which can lead to more serious problems including death. Immediately and significantly reduce watering, both in amount and frequency, and allow the soil to dry out before re-commencing watering. If you have not been overwatering then that would indicate that the soil is not draining well. In this case, you would need to transplant the Money Plant into a favourable soil mix that is well-drained; see section Feeding, Care & Growing Tips.
Overexposure to harsh direct sun can also turn a Money Plant’s leaves yellow because such exposure causes the plant to produce different pigments for protection from sunlight and UV rays. In such cases put up a barrier to shield it from the sun except for two hours in the morning until it recovers, or, if the plant is containerised, simply move it to a location where it gets no more than two hours of morning sun.
If yellowed leaves are limp, soft, soggy, or falling off, then the cause is overwatering. If yellowed leaves exhibit no other symptoms or ill-effects, then the cause is too much sun.
Are money plants poisonous to dogs?
Yes, it is. Make that YES! It is poisonous also to cats and horses, besides dogs. Even a nibble can bring about ill effects and eating any amount will quickly cause pets to get out of sorts, lose balance and coordination, and start vomiting. If any animal has ingested Money Plant, immediate veterinarian attention is a must. Some plants just don’t mix with pets and unfortunately, the Money Plant is one of them.
Can crassula ovata be grown outside?
Very much so – they grow in the open in their native habitat; see section Habitat & Growing Conditions. You need to be aware of only two concerns when growing Crassula Ovata outside. First, it should not be kept outdoors in a zone lower than U.S.D.A. Zone 11; however, some cultivars are hardy to lower zones. Also, these plants should not be exposed to temperatures lower than 10° Centigrade. Second, they should not be exposed to direct afternoon sun in hot and humid climates.
Can I keep a money plant in my bedroom?
Some say yes, others say no, and we fall firmly into the former group. Although Money Plant is not considered one of the top plants to keep in the bedroom, like most succulents it is certainly a bedroom candidate. It produces oxygen and reduces carbon dioxide throughout the night, so it has a cleansing effect on the air. It also absorbs airborne toluene so if you have any new furniture in some room or have had a paint job done, place a couple of mature Jade Plants in the room to improve air quality.