I visited your site - http://hsny.blogspot.com/2007/03/jade-plant-on-long-island-ny.html - and was fascinated with the picture of the jade plant. I posted a picture of mine that we repotted this afternoon on my blog and linked to your site so that my readers could see what a beauty you are showcasing. Has this one been pruned a lot to achieve the shape? I am terrified of cutting on mine, even though it is really healthy, I'm thinking it could use some shaping. Are there any tips on how to prune, or do you just start cutting?
Answer:Your jade is gorgeous; thank you for sharing the picture and link to your blog.
As for that other fabulous photograph that was sent to me, the one on my blog that you referred to, I must be honest and say that I am not sure how much it has been pruned. It seems to me that that specimen receives enough light and therefore I guess that it has gone minimal pruning.
Most reference books on houseplants and succulents will tell you that jade (Crassula arborescens) do not require any pruning. As for your jade, I think it looks wonderful, but I understand if you would like to do a little pruning. One thing that you want to keep in mind which you already know is that jades are slow growing. In addition, because it is an older plant you want to prune as little as possible to achieve the look you are going for. The older a plant gets the more difficult it can be for the plant to recuperate after a heavy pruning. Pruning does redirect the flow of energy and carbohydrates within a plant to promote new growth, but with such a slow grower it may take a while before you see a lot of that new growth emerge. In general I might suggest waiting until this spring before beginning pruning your plant. Once the days are longer and there is more light in the sky the jade will be more active and resilient in the face of some pruning.
Regarding the cuts themselves, think about is the size of the cuts you will be making. Ideally you want to cut smaller stems and try to avoid making large exposed cuts so that the plant can callus those wounds as quickly and easily as possible. A few small cuts the plant will callus quickly and efficiently. Large cuts can take a longer time to callus, possibly allowing pests or diseases to penetrate the open wound. If you want to cut back some stems, cut them back to the lateral branch that they emerged from. You will most likely not get new growth from where you have cut, but new growth will emerge from the tip of the larger, remaining branch. If some branches have gotten long and leggy, you can cut them back a little, but be sure that there are some leaves remaining on the stem that can continue to photosynthesize. What you really want to avoid is leaving any large exposed stubs of branches that have no foliage. They will most likely just die back to the lateral branch that they emerged from, and again can be an entryway for pests and diseases.
It is very difficult to describe proper pruning cuts in writing, so if this is completely confusing, don’t hesitate to give me a ring in the office and we can chat about your jade in greater detail.