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I have this large unidentified plant which I keep indoors. (a present from my aunt) I don't water it too frequently, and it seems to be doing OK - it's much bigger than it was when I got it a few years ago. I've even cut off a few branches and successfully planted them, but I'm never sure whether I'm watering too much or not, and these experiments die as often as not. It seems like after watering, some leaves turn yellow and fall off, almost every time. But the soil is completely dry both before and after I water - I'm not watering enough to keep the soil moist.

Can anyone identify the plant and give me watering advice?

Click image for full size

Mystery plant

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2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

This is the jade plant or Crassula ovata. The one in the picture you have has been grown in low light and has stretched out and dropped the older leaves which is why it looks so thin.

The leaves are plump and there are some yellow leaves so it does look to have been slightly over watered.

The wikipedia entry noted above agrees with my experience with them

they require a normal watering when the soil is dry in the summer, and very little watering in the winter. Overwatering will cause them to lose their leaves (it is easy to identify overwatering by the characteristic crinkling look that the fallen leaves have) and eventually the stem will rot away. Though jades can survive overwatering, it is best to keep them on a 10 - 20 day cycle in the summer, and even less (up to a month dry) in the winter. Letting the soil dry between waterings is essential for a healthy jade.1

They will grow in full sun to light shade. However, they do not tolerate extreme heat or overexposure to direct sun very well, showing damage ranging from scorched leaves to loss of foliage and rotting stems. Most of the common species will tolerate a limited degree of frost but overexposure to cold weather will kill them.

The intense summer sun where you live can scorch a jade plant so do not put this plant in full sun. It appears to need more light so an unobstructed eastern or north facing window should be just fine.

I recommend cutting it back to encourage new growth and give it a bushier look but that is just personal preference.

Cuttings can be rooted in the same pot or can start a new plant by letting the cut end dry or callous. Place it in bright light for a few days and then push into the soil.

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Yes, this is a Jade plant and I also recommend cutting it back for new growth - my uncle gave me this tip and I have tried it. –  nettle May 25 '12 at 15:20
    
If I cut it back, I should be able to plant the cuttings in the ground to grow new jades, right? –  Eyal Jun 3 '12 at 7:47

I'm a year late, but I'll answer, anyways, in case someone else finds this page. That's not Crassula ovata; it's Portulacaria afra - you can see the difference in the shape of the leaves. Common names include Dwarf Jade, Elephant's Food, and spekboom (in Afrikaans).

This is probably the easiest plant I have ever seen to cultivate from cuttings.

I'm in USDA hardiness zone 9b and have never had a problem with them in the heat, though full sun can make it harder to keep up with watering in the summer.

If you think you are overwatering, there is a simple procedure to follow: don't water until the surface of the leaves starts to look wrinkled, instead of smooth and taught as in the picture. Once you've watered and the wrinkles have gone away, make note of how long it takes them to wrinkle again, and the condition of the soil, and water slightly more often.

It is VERY easy to overwater these, and seems to be the most often problem with (and cause of death to) them, based on my own experience and talking to others who have tried to grow them. (They are often grown as bonsai.)

As a side note, if you haven't applied any pesticides, the leaves are edible and taste like a sour apple, only not as strong.

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