Jade Plants (Crassula ovata) are some of the most popular succulents because they’re slightly easier to care for compared to many other cacti and related plants. However, these symbolic, and beneficial dark green houseplants still need occasional care to look their best. A little pruning now and then maintains both the shape and the health of the Jade Plant. Just avoid the urge to over-prune and make sure you’re making good use of the cuttings, which can grow into new plants. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about how to prune jade plants at home.
- Pruning Jade Plants – The Essentials
- How Does Pruning Help a Plant’s Health and Growth?
- How Fast, Tall, and Expansive Jade Plants Grow Indoors
- What’s the Best Time of Year to Prune a Jade Plant?
- What Are the Essential Tools for Pruning Jade Plants?
- How, When, and Where Should You Prune Jade Plants?
- How Do You Shape Jade Plants?
- Caring for Your Post-Pruned Jade Plant
- Wrapping Up
Pruning Jade Plants – The Essentials
Slow-growing Jade Plants only gain an inch or two every year, so they only need pruning once annually. Trim off any damaged or dead material at any time to avoid the risk of pests and diseases. Pruning can also serve to shape the plant so there’s not too much weight or foliage on any one stem, leading to breakage.
How Does Pruning Help a Plant’s Health and Growth?
Pruning is the practice of trimming or clipping a plant to remove some of its growth. This mimics the natural damage plants face in the wild from wind, fire, and hungry animals.
Like trees, most houseplants benefit from a bit of pruning now and then to shape them. Most plants respond best to having old or damaged material cut off, but sometimes it is necessary to remove new growth to train a plant or limit its size. Pruning helps the Jade Plant, in particular, after it flowers because the blooms eventually dry out and need removal.
Cutting off dead, yellowing or brown leaves and dry material prevents disease and discourages pests from hiding from treatment. Shaping the plant as it grows also prevents damage in the long run from unbalanced growth. Most Jade Plant varieties often grow top-heavy or with more foliage on one side than the other. This can crack or split the main stem as the weight grows with growth. Shape the plant much like a bonsai with a bit of pruning here and there for a tree-shaped Jade Plant that won’t crack or split.
How Fast, Tall, and Expansive Jade Plants Grow Indoors
Jade Plants can grow quite large given good care and enough time. Yet they are not fast-growing plants at all.
Even with the best care, Jade Plants tend to grow just two to three inches a year at the most. It can take these plants over a decade to reach their maximum growth of 3 to 4 feet tall and up to 2 to 3 feet wide.
Most indoor specimens tend to reach a maximum size of 3 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide. Outdoor plants, especially those in the ground, can grow up to 5 or 6 feet tall. However, this is unlikely even in the best conditions with Jade Plants grown in containers.
These houseplants don’t usually need pruning just to keep them from getting too large. However, pruning does help shape the Jade Plant and encourage denser growth. These plants tend to grow spindly and top-heavy over time since they mostly prefer to grow leaves at the tops of stems.
Trimming off outer stems and tips forces foliage from the main stems and base, making the plant’s growth thicker and more attractive.
What’s the Best Time of Year to Prune a Jade Plant?
Jade Plants do go partially dormant in the winter, so it’s best to avoid pruning them during that time. The cuts you make will heal too slowly and may encourage pests or disease.
It’s best to only prune Crassula ovata and other Jade Plants in the spring and summer when they are actively growing (this is also the best time to consider repotting a jade plant). This ensures rapid healing and recovery. Dead or damaged leaves and flowers can be removed at any time, especially after they dry up.
Don’t be afraid to give a Jade Plant a trim every year, but only if it needs it. There’s no need to prune a healthy and balanced plant just because it hasn’t been trimmed in a year or two. If it’s growing well on its own and loses its old foliage without needing pruning, there’s no need for extra cutting.
What Are the Essential Tools for Pruning Jade Plants?
Due to their growth habit, Jade Plants can be a little tricky to prune with basic scissors. Fine-tipped pruning scissors are better because they give you more control over exactly what you cut.
A set of long-handled plant tongs, bonsai clippers, or hemostats can also help you hold individual leaves or stems you want to trim off. Chopsticks are another good option for the job.
Pruning Jade Plants doesn’t require a lot of special equipment or practice, but keep the scissors sharp and sterilize them after every use. Wipe the tools with 70% isopropyl alcohol to ensure fungal spores and viruses are killed off of any tools you use for pruning.
Also – it’s worth noting that Jade plants are considered mildly toxic to pets and humans so it’s best to wear gloves during the process.
How, When, and Where Should You Prune Jade Plants?
It’s essential to consider the overall shape, weight, and health of the Jade Plant when planning to prune. Taking off more than 10% to 15% of the total foliage or stem length per trimming could seriously harm the plant.
When mature, the individual stems of the Jade Plant become somewhat bark-covered and appear similar to small trees or shrubs. Working with this shape and trying to balance the “branches” of the plant’s growth with help guide the pruning.
Give a Jade Plant an annual trim to shape where new growth develops so the plant doesn’t become unbalanced or unevenly weighted. Try to limit how much foliage grows on any one smaller stem since too much weight can pull it away from the larger main “trunk” of the tree shape.
Limit the number of branches rising up from the main stem to just a few, so they stay bushy and covered in foliage. Letting all the stem sprouts develop that grow on an older and mature Jade Plant will only lead to a spindly, leggy look.
Pruning Dead, Damaged, and Past-Prime Foliage
Dead and damaged foliage should be removed any time it is noticed. This is one time you can go over the 10% to 15% trimming limit since diseased or dry foliage won’t help the plant’s health if left in place. The shock of extensive pruning may kill the plant, but so will the damage or disease if it is severe enough. Support the plant with extra care and a little less watering than usual to ensure the cuts heal up well, especially if you have to prune in the dormant season.
Unwanted sprouts filling up the pot around the base of the plant can be trimmed off right at the soil level. Cut side stems off where they meet the main stem rather than leaving half of the growth in place. Trim individual leaves off at the base as well for a smooth, clean scar. With proper cutting to ensure the stem or leaves are intact, it’s possible to propagate even small bits of plant matter for new Jade Plants.
Pruning Mature Jade Plants
When the Jade Plant reaches the shape and size you want it to stay at, switch to tip pinching to maintain it. This type of pruning requires only your hands, so wash them well first. Check the plant over twice a year and pinch the growing tips on all the stems to maintain the size and shape. These tips will be two small leaves still pressed together in a cupped shape. Discard them since they’re too small to propagate as cuttings.
How Do You Shape Jade Plants?
The miniature tree or faux bonsai look is a popular option for shaping a Jade Plant. Simply let the plant grow naturally with minimal pruning until it establishes at least one strong main stem, then begin trimming the side stems back to mimic the look of branches on a tree.
Shrub-style shaping is also popular. Trim the tips of the highest stems and those growing furthest on the sides to help concentrate more growth on the main stem and around the base. Decide on a method early on and stick to it over the years since changing the plant’s overall shape can be difficult later due to the slow rate of growth.
Caring for Your Post-Pruned Jade Plant
Since Jade Plants don’t like a lot of fertilizer or too much watering, they mostly need to be left alone after pruning to recover.
Avoid cold drafts or hot temperatures for the first month or two after pruning since they can weaken the recovering plant. Ensure you locate your jade plant in a spot that receives sufficient light throughout the course of the day.
Jade Plants should generally spring back relatively quickly from minor pruning and shaping.
Jade Plants grow slowly enough that pruning is a relaxed affair that shouldn’t feel rushed. You can always prune or trim more later, so start slowly. Choose a standard form for the mature plant and give young growth time to get thick stems before removing too much. Always use sterilized tools and take advantage of the cuttings you create to propagate new Jade Plants to keep or give away.
If you’re looking for your next jade plant, see our in-depth guide to the best plant shops delivering jade plants nationwide.