Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Jade Plant on Long Island, NY


I’m thrilled though to have learned that you will answer queries on plants as I have been trying to discern the state of my jade plant. It is of uncertain age, but I can tell you it was in an 8” pot and perhaps 8” high and not quite as round when I received it about 5 years ago. It had a quiet life in a city apartment then. In my sunny winter windows on the north shore of Long Island, it has been transplanted a number of times. It is currently in a pot measuring 12” high by 16” wide and the plant is about 18” high and almost 36” in diameter now!

I’ve attached a photo for reference.

It’s gotten too heavy to move outside in summer as of this year and was most recently repotted in the summer/fall of 2005. My question is do I need to repot it again? The soil is very hard, so I am tempted to water more, but I refrain. I get a small number of shriveled yellow leaves thru the winter but nothing alarming. I know that jades don’t want a lot of fertilizer, water or anything except sun, but I am suddenly in the care of a giant! I want to feed eat properly!

How long do they live? I’ve been taking a few cuttings but should I be cutting this plant back or thinning it? It has a wonderful symmetrical roundness now.

Also, I’ve seen the jades in the Camellia house at Planting Fields Arboretum flower in winter. Mine never has, and theirs appear ancient, not as full as mine, but almost 5 feet tall…what makes them flower?


And what a magnificent plant it is – I loved the picture! That is a certainly a beautiful specimen. To answer your first question, the plant will eventually need to be repotted, but I don’t think that is something that you are going to have to worry about for a few years, especially if you did it in 2005. It’s roots will continue to grow outward and downward, but at a slower rate. I do not see any need to prune it at all – it does have a fabulous shape. I have certainly seen plenty of jades perfectly content in almost pot-bound conditions, and continue to do fine for years. Otherwise you are certainly taking proper care of the plant. Never happy to be completely soaked, you can water a little more freely during the active growing season, (the summer months), but as you know already little to no water through winter.

As for how long they can live? They can go for a very, very long time. Growing up (I grew up out on the south fork of the island) I had a neighbor who had the largest, most unbelievable jade plants you can imagine. Honestly, she had four or five plants and they took up her entire sun room. Mrs. Fantini said that the plants were as old as she was, so that made them at least 90 years old! Granted as they get older they will not grow so aggressively, but you should expect to enjoy it for many more years.

Regarding getting them to flower, that is a question that I must admit I don’t have such a quick response to. The ones that I have seen flower have only been at aged conservatories where they have been settled and properly taken care of for years. I was recently up at the New York Botanical Garden and theirs was just beginning to bloom. There are ways of tricking various succulents into blooming, such as shocking them by putting them in total darkness, or dropping and raising the temperature of where they are growing, but I am very skeptical to suggest any of those for fear that the plant might get too shocked and go into decline. And it is certainly too amazing a plant, and too old a plant, to get experimental at this stage – at least that’s my opinion. I suppose regarding the flowers, all we can do is hope that as it gets more comfortable in its new home and pot it will eventually flower on it’s own.

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