I learned something new — at least to me — the other day. Jade plants, those succulents that are so easy to grow, bloom. I have one blooming in my bedroom right now.
Jades (crassula argentea or crassula ovata, as they’re also known) don’t require much to stay healthy. They’ll grow outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 9a through 11, mainly along the West Coast and in parts of Arizona, Texas, Louisiana and Florida. Hardy they’re not, and they don’t want things either too cold or too hot. The Gardening Know How website says they’re at their best when high temperatures don’t get much above 75 degrees.
Mostly, though, and surely always in Central Oregon, jades are strictly indoor plants. They need well-drained soil, and within limits they’re the forgetful indoor farmer’s dream. As succulents, they store water in their leaves. That’s one reason they do best in places where it doesn’t freeze. It’s also what makes them able to tolerate some shockingly sporadic watering.
I’m guilty of that. I do water the jade in my bedroom, of course. Not regularly, unfortunately, but enough to keep it alive and growing.
You’d think I’d be interested in much more than the mere survival of my limited number — three — of houseplants. Unfortunately, though my parents both grew up on farms in California, I didn’t inherit the agriculture gene. As is the case with my stabs at vegetable gardening, I want my indoor plants to look beautiful with almost no help on my part.
Not for me is the current fairy garden rage. I have trouble keeping pansies healthy; at my house you’ll never see a wee garden filled with tiny rock walls, wee plants and even wee-er furniture for ever-so-small guests to sit on.
But back to the jade. It’s also known as the money plant, the friendship tree and lucky plant. While it hails from South Africa and Mozambique, it’s popular in Asia as a good luck symbol that’s thought to activate financial energy. Hence the nicknames, no doubt.
Here are some other fun facts about jade plants — not that I recommend anyone try any of them:
Tortoises apparently like jade leaves as part of their diet, and jade plant roots are part of the human diet in parts of Africa. Too, some wasp species build their nests on those same green leaves.
Jade also has medicinal uses. It can be used to treat diarrhea and epilepsy, and for purification of the body. Again, I don’t know how they’re used or if they actually work for any of those purposes.
There is a downside to jades. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, jades are toxic to cats, dogs and horses. Fortunately I’ve never had an animal of any variety show any interest in them.
Even for those who water their jades according to the book, the plants are easy keepers. You can start baby jades with no experience, no special equipment and simple instructions available on the internet. You can prune them, though unless you have a real whopper of a plant, you probably don’t need to.
Getting your jade to bloom is trickier. It needs dark nights and bright days, and sporadic watering doesn’t hurt. My plant sits next to a bedroom window, there’s no streetlight close by, and traffic at night is almost nonexistent. I open the curtains during the day, and because the front of the house faces south, it gets plenty of sun. Except in the dead of summer, the room it lives in is generally cool.
It’s a little weird to think that for the first time in my life I’ve gotten the most recent in a long series of jade plants to bloom not because I take such good care of it, but because I managed to stumble onto the right combination of light, dark and dry but because I apparently neglect it correctly and have done for nearly a decade. I will say this, however. Accident or not, the blossoms of the jade are worth the lack of effort.
— Janet Stevens is deputy editor of The Bulletin. Contact: 541-617-7821, email@example.com