April 17, 2011

Jade Plants

I have a jade plant, which I grew from a surreptitiously-snapped piece of the nice big jade plant at the vet's office. Jades are some of the easiest plants to propagate (i.e., make more of): they snap cleanly and root easily, and all you need to grow one is a V-shaped 2-leaf snippet---or 4-leaf is ideal, because that gives you some stem to work with after you snap off the bottom two leaves. Stick it in a pot of dirt and it will grow. (Or you can even root a single leaf, but it won't grow more than that: the roots come from the snapped-off place, but the new growth comes only from the crook of the V. You will have a one-leaf houseplant. Nice for small apartments.)

(Note the neat leaf-growth pattern: two leaves,
then two leaves from that V, perpendicular to the first two leaves.
Then two more leaves from the new V,
perpendicular again so that they line up with the first two.
Two this way, then two that way, back and forth.)

In fact, they are so hardy and easy to propagate, I have a story to demonstrate: the same surreptitious piece I took from the vet's office, I dropped into my purse all casual-like and forgot about it until hours and hours later, or maybe it was the next day (I hope it was the next day, because that makes a better story---but it was definitely WAY LATER), because that was the day I found out our cat George was dying so I was preoccupied and moony and not rememberful of pieces of sneakily-snapped jade dropped sneakily into purses. When I remembered it, it had been in my purse for hours and hours (or maybe a day!) and was wilted and dry looking---but I put it in soil anyway, and it rooted anyway. Good propagators, are jades, as I say.

You have to be careful where you snip, though, because the plant you snip from won't grow anymore at that spot. Or so I learned in plant biology, though now that seems suspicious to me: why wouldn't they? What I remember is that a scab forms over the wound, and the new growth can't break through it, but I might have made that up and/or emotionally imagined it. But anyway, I always choose an inconspicuous spot---or ideally, a spot where I'd like the jade to stop growing anyway. The best is when a jade puts out a new two-leaf sprout from the V of a single leaf and the stem of that leaf: that little piece can be removed without breaking a back-and-forth branch.

Another thing I learned in plant biology is that plants grown in a breeze will be stronger than plants grown in still air: they grow stronger to keep from tipping over, which can make for some good analogies if you are in the mood for it. Wind resistance is important to consider when raising baby plants in greenhouses or indoors: if they're food or otherwise staying indoors their whole lives, it doesn't matter if they can't stand up to a breeze; but if they're trees or later-season plants or whatever and your goal is to transplant them into non-greenhouse air, they need to get used to air motion or else they'll fall flat the first time you put them in it. You can toughen the plants up ahead of time with a rotating fan. Start it pretty far away, then move it closer as the plant gets used to it.

I didn't think of that with my jade plant, and it's okay because it can't live outdoors in this region anyway. But when it leaned a bit, early on, I propped it up with a bamboo skewer. Today the skewer must have shifted, and without it, the plant fell. It was bent completely over. It can't stand up without the skewer now, and it's too late to strengthen it "as it grows," because it already grew that part. And it's getting too heavy for the skewer.

Jades are often weak: I see them in offices, propped with skewers, or grown several to a pot so they can prop each other up. It might not have strengthened, even if I hadn't propped it. The leaves are heavy, and this isn't where they grow naturally.

Mine needs a new pot, too. Another vaguely-remembered plant biology detail: a rule of thumb about plants needed as much room below the soil as above it. Or was that trees, and that their roots go as wide as the tree is tall? Well anyway, it needs a new pot.


Tara said...

Do your cats dig in your plants? We have never had one because I am afraid my cat would be super interested in eating it and/or digging in it.

Swistle said...

Tara- No, but they've chewed on plants before: I have a spider fern that looks pretty sad from chewing damage. They've never bothered the jade---I don't know why. It's not spiky or anything.

gwen said...

This was so timely - I just noticed that my favorite jade plant, which had been part of my bouquet at my wedding, is starting to falter and I wonder if you have any words of wisdom.

I planted it right away after our wedding about 8 months ago, and it did great -- four nice strong stalks about 6 or 7 inches long each. Lots of new growth, obviously had rooted, everybody happy.

But suddenly the leaves are wilting, looking like they're shriveling up. It's happening to all the leaves, but the older ones are in worse shape. I'm still watering it the same amount (kind of, uh, whenever I remember... but it was always fine before) and they're in the same very sunny window as always. It's been really cold in that spot, but my other jade plant never minded. I tried using some of that Schultz plant food in with the water but haven't done it regularly.

Any ideas? I am kind of emotionally attached to this guy and would be sad to lose him.

Mimi said...

My mom has a jade plant that my Grandma started over 50 years ago. I've heard that jades can be passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years.

lifeofadoctorswife said...

I love jade plants, both because my mother always had them and so they give me a comforting home-like feeling, and because they are difficult to kill. (Although I DID kill one once and cried about it for days, as I'd had that jade plant all through college.) They thrive on "benign neglect" and I am excellent at that type of plant care.

My current jade plant is very spindly. Lots of long branch-parts, very few leaves. And I don't really know what to do about that.

Nik-Nak said...

My sister is a florist so let me see if I can throw you another useful nugget. Potted plants aften get root bound. Fill your sink about a finger full of water. Set the pot and plant as a hole (there needs to be holes in the bottom of the pot obviously) in the water for several hours. The water will absorb up through the roots and often revive a sickly looking plant. If this method helps an amazing amount. Then it needs to be repotted in a bigger pot.

Or something like that but with bigger plant words ahahha.

Can you mail me some jade? Or could I go snap some off at a nursery? I'm terrible with keeping house plants alive (but great with outdoor plants, what's that about?)

Swistle said...

Gwen- I don't have experience with that, but I poked around a little online and everywhere I looked seemed to say NEGLECT IT: the problems tended to be too much water, too GOOD soil, too big a pot. I also saw some advice about a dying plant: take cuttings. If the plant isn't diseased but has, for example, root rot, the new cuttings will be perfectly healthy.

Swistle said...

lifeofadoctorswife- I THINK they get leggy like that if they don't get enough light. They're kind of like cactii: they like DRY and BRIGHT.

Swistle said...

Nik-Nak- You know, I wouldn't be surprised if a cutting COULD make it through the mail! But I think it would work better to keep your eye out for a jade at an office (our vet has one and so does our orthodontist) and snap an inconspicuous piece off of that.

gwen said...

Thanks, Swistle -- I will do my best to ignore it. I think it can tell I'm hovering over it and doesn't like that...

Kelsey said...

I want to run out and start a jade plant right now - I have visions of sending clippings off it to college with my children!

It is good for me to know about plants that are difficult to kill - I am not so good with the plants.

Lynnette said...

This might just get me over my own skittishness about calling the various doctors for appointments. Surreptitiousness - curing phone anxiety for all of us.

Swistle - I just love the imaginary picture I have of you with scissors, large bag, and shifty eyes.

Marlene said...

We call these dollar plants and the chinese believe they are supposed to bring good fortune. You can find them in almost all chinese restaurants in my part of the world (new zealand). Mom grows a few big pots outdoors (we 're chinese) and they do very well here. Although too much sun makes them yellow and pinkish.

Kate said...

I have a jade plant sitting in front of me on my desk. My friend gave it to me because she knows I'm horrible about watering my plants (and therefore kill them) and she said this one only needs to be watered once a month?!

I never noticed the leaf pattern before, that's pretty neat. Also, I have a little spiker that I can break off and plant! Also, also, I need a skewer.

Margie said...

I'm late commenting, but this was ridiculous timing for me - when I read the post (right after it had been published, no less), I had just repotted my jade, and kind of went fast and loose with how I did it, snipping off a piece or two and sticking it in a new pot, but not having any idea whether that would actually work or not. It was so great to come right in and read that I had managed to do the right thing! I tend also to be bad with houseplants. I killed my grandmother's violet a couple of years ago, and felt terrible about it, but the violet I bought to replace it has been seriously thriving to my complete surprise. My jade came to me from a friend who found it in a dumpster, and like so many others, I've become pretty attached to my sweet little jade. Thanks for all the hints!