Advice for turning one these unruly plants into my dream jade.
February 23, 2015 3:41 AM   Subscribe

A friend gifted me a jade clipping 13 years ago and I since propagated 2 more plants. While I’ve loved and enjoyed them, I’ve never learned enough about proper pruning. I'd rather love to see them grow into shorter, more compact and fuller plants with thicker trunks. Is it too late for this?Perhaps I've let them go too far. Should I make new plants from cuttings? Or can I work with any of these? I like the 3rd the best. Jade Jade 2 Jade 3
posted by Mikey51 to Home & Garden (3 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
shorter, more compact and fuller plants with thicker trunks

Thicker trunks will come naturally with age.

The thing to understand about stemmy plants like these is where new growth comes from. Each stem has a growing tip (the apical bud) and as long as that's active it emits a hormone (auxin) that prevent latent buds further back along the stem from becoming active. Latent buds will usually be tucked into the junctions between leaf and stem, though they may occasionally also appear in other places.

With a plant like jade, where the leaves come off the stem in pairs on opposite sides, removing the growing tip of a stem will cause the next pair of latent buds back from the cut to activate at the same time, and the stem will split into two.

If you don't remove any stem tips, you'll still see branching but not as much; auxin moves backward down the stems from the tips, but exactly how far it gets depends on the plant.

So you can make your plant grow compact and bushy by methodically removing the end of any stem that looks like it's getting a bit long, then leaving that stem alone until it's well and truly grown into a pair.

If you go in too hard and re-tip your stems before they've had a decent chance to get going again, you'll end up with too much branching in too short of a space and your plant will start to look lumpy; its leaves will also tend to get smaller, stunted by a relatively large concentration of auxin produced by lots of growing tips close together.

It looks like your plants naturally tend to branch about six or seven nodes back from the tips, so if you want to use tip pruning to make them bushier than they would naturally get, clipping off the stem tips about four or five nodes away from where they branch should be about right.

The other thing you need to do for healthy growth in pots is to avoid restricting the root ball too much. A good rule of thumb is that the root ball will want to grow about as big as the plant above, so all three of your photographed plants look to me as if they're a little overdue for moving into bigger pots.
posted by flabdablet at 5:10 AM on February 23, 2015 [21 favorites]

Second pinching the tips. That will make most plants bushier.

On pot size: jade plants are one of the plants that actually seem to enjoy being a little pot-bound. The pots you have are probably a little on the small side, but don't jump to a huge pot. The next size up should be plenty for a while.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:51 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

They look like they've not been getting enough sun to me. Jades are best when grown "hard" - lots of sun, slightly rootbound, gritty free-draining soil, very little water and fertiliser. That will encourage stocky, compact growth and also give you a bit of colouration in the leaves and stems.

I'm in northern Britain but my jade goes outdoors into full sun from spring until the first frost. I started it from a cutting from my grandmother's plant about 5 years ago, and it's now got a whacking great trunk, a canopy of red-tinged leaves, and flowers almost every winter. I've never pruned it. It's probably my favourite plant, and once you've got it in a happy situation it needs almost no attention.
posted by sobarel at 9:27 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

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