Ask a Question forum: Jade plant: healthy? How to bonsai?

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Jan 25, 2018 10:00 PM CST
Is this jade healthy? It used to have another branch but the stem/trunk was unstable so I cut if off. Felt horrible. Procrastinated for weeks. Hoping it's still healthy but since I'm new to plants I don't know what to look for. Seems healthy to me. Want to make sure.

Also, how do I get the stem/trunk to turn woody without compromising the branches? I want it to look like a bonsai. I've heard that people chop off everything but the stem/trunk and maybe leave two leaves on there and it goes woody but then I can't be sure it'll branch the way it is now. Any suggestions?
Thumb of 2018-01-26/PleaseGrow/1fba4a

Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Jan 25, 2018 11:06 PM CST
Yes, that one is a Jade and yes, it looks healthy. The woody trunk thing is an age thing. Jades will naturally grow into really nice looking bonsai if kept in a pot - the eventual size will be only about 3 ft x 3 ft. But that is if you give it good light and good care.

You have to decide now how big your eventual plant will be and plan accordingly. When the plant gets larger (and outgrows your vision) you can prune it back. New branches will sprout from the leaf nodes directly below your cuts. So, taking that into consideration, you may want to cut it back a node or two below that point.

If you want to start training now, you could pinch out the centers of the 3 branches you have left. Taking off entire branches limits the eventual overall look of the plant. When you prune the tops of the plant without doing equal pruning to the root system, the plant will grow rapidly to balance the root/canopy ratio again. Plants will only grow enough leaves to support the roots and enough roots to support the leaves. Its an interesting balancing act (don't think about it too hard).

I think the thing you lack right now is patience. Cactus and succulents are slow growers. Sit back and enjoy your new hobby. And if you can't leave them alone, find another hobby to take up the space between staring at your succulents. Smiling

Your pot seems very deep for long term Jade plant Bonsai growing. The next move should be into a shallow wide bowl. The convenient thing about Jades (other than, if left alone, they grow into pretty nice plants) is that they will tell you if they are recieving enough light. If the leaves are nice bright green, not enough sun. If the leaves develop red edges and spend the winter blooming, you are giving it enough light.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Jan 25, 2018 11:15 PM CST
How do I estimate how big of a container to use? I'm thinking 15cm in height would be nice. Ideally it could be around the same for the canopy (if it can support that).
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Jan 26, 2018 12:05 AM CST
My pots are always the smallest pot that will hold up the plant. Jades don't have big root systems.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Name: Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
Orchid Judge
Region: United States of America Echinacea Hostas Region: Michigan Butterflies Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Orchids Cat Lover Birds Dahlias
Jan 26, 2018 3:04 AM CST
As far as jade plants and bonsai goes have you considered buying a young jade bonsai from a dealer/grower and go from there?
In one thread you are killing a jade and another you are trying to propagate leaves and now you want to try jade bonsai. It seems to me that maybe you have the horse before the cart?!
Shouldn't you learn all you can about bonsai before plunging in head first?
I also seem to recall that you said that you have limited experience growing plants. I think that while these forums are an incredible source of information about plants, your questions indicate to me at least that you haven't done a good deal of research on your own about anything.
I know that here in the Fort Myers area there is at least one bonsai nursery. They attend many plant events down here and their bonsai inventory is vast. But while my experience in Orchids is vast and prolific my knowledge on bonsai is non existent. If I were to try and do what your doing I would find out as much as I could about bonsai growing before trying one. Bonsai done well are works of art, bonsai done without knowledge I imagine are in the trash or compost heap.
"Our children are the messages we send to a time that we will never see."
[Last edited by BigBill - Jan 26, 2018 3:06 AM (+)]
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Jan 26, 2018 9:01 AM CST
I've researched bonsai extensively online. I don't expect to get anywhere near expert level. I just want it to look like a tree. Guess I'll have to wait for it to age and get wooden. I won't bug it right now. I'll probably pinch it in the spring (won't do me too much good right now since it won't grow much). I really want it to grow strong and able to support any growth. Before I took off the one branch it was incredibly top heavy and the stem was tipping so I cut off a branch and tied (somewhere it wouldn't interfere with growth) the stem to a skewer. Stem is straight now and good on its own.

In this picture what's going on at the bottom of the stem? Is it turning wooden? 😍
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Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
Jan 26, 2018 9:44 AM CST
Looks to be Corking to me. Hurray!
Anything i say, could be misrepresented, or wrong.
Name: Will Creed
Professional indoor plant consultan
Jan 26, 2018 10:23 AM CST
I agree with Big Bill here. Reading a lot online is no substitute for actual experience, especially since there is so much contradictory information online. Bonsai is an artform that is not recommended for plant care beginners. I suggest that you concentrate on keeping your Jade alive and healthy. If you have success with that, you can experiment with pruning. Otherwise, it is best to purchase a Jade that is already in a bonsai pot and learn to care for it.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
Jan 26, 2018 10:39 AM CST
I think Daisy has given you some excellent advice. A couple of other things....

The "woody trunk" that you see on older jades is not woody at all, it is just brown and rough and hard. What many bonsai growers tend to do (where climate makes this possible) is grow the jade to a large size over time in a big pot, then cut off a fat stem and root it for display in a small, shallow (bonsai) pot. These plants do not normally grow that extremely fat in a bonsai pot alone. It's a trick before staging that is not obvious.

Also you will never have a bonsai jade with good form unless you provide very strong light (stronger than what you've got right now). The long green stems, with big distances between successive leaves, just will never work for bonsai. The look you're going for is fat and low and compact, which is quite the opposite of tall and leggy.

So maybe you need some strong lights to get the plant through the Canada winters, and you can certainly put the plant outside when the weather is warmer. Just be real careful going from inside to outside, because too much direct outdoor sun right away will fry your plant. Start in bright shade first for a couple of weeks, then some morning sun or filtered light maybe, and so on.

For illustration: a plant that gets maybe half a day of sun. Look at the size of the internodes (distance between successive leaves along the stem). Also note the red margins on the leaves. These are the hallmarks of properly strong light. Full size plant photo just so you can see it's a regular bush and nothing particularly bonsai-ish or huge.

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[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Jan 26, 2018 12:44 PM (+)]
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