Learn how to grow and maintain a Jade Plant bonsai tree.
Bonsai is a fascinating art-form that has been enjoyed for centuries. The cultivation and care of Bonsai art involves the long-term development of trees into miniature specimens in small containers. The comments below from two expert Bonsai sources describe the daunting task before each person desiring to create their own Bonsai.
“Bonsai uses cultivation techniques like pruning, root reduction, potting, defoliation, and grafting to produce small trees that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-size trees.”
According to japanology.org, “The techniques employed to do this are many, time-consuming and intricate.”
How to Grow a Bonsai Tree the Easy Way
However, in recent years the use of the Jade Plant, Crassula ovata and Dwarf Jade Plant, Portulacaria afra, have been recognized as excellent Bonsai substitutes. These two Jade Plant varieties do not fill the requirements of a true, classic Bonsai tree. However, they are perfect for a beginning Bonsai enthusiast. Bonsai trees for beginners are exactly what Jade Plants could be called.
A Jade Plant Bonsai can be created in a matter of months rather than years. Actually, your Jade Plant or Dwarf Jade Plant can have the appearance of a Bonsai from the day you trim and plant it in a small Bonsai pot.
The Jade Plant Crassula ovata and Dwarf Jade Plant Portulacaria afra are especially adapted for informal upright and clump styles but can also be quickly shaped into the following designs:
Broom Style (Hokidachi)
This broom style Bonsai trunk is straight and upright. The top ⅓ of the tree branches out to form a ball-shape crown.
Cascade Bonsai style (Kengai)
This is one of my favorite Jade Bonsai shapes. The natural growth of an Portulacaria afra produces cascading branches. Although it can be difficult to maintain a downward-growing tree with the classic Bonsai specimens (due to a plant’s natural tendency to grow upright) this is not the case with the Portulacaria afra. A mature Portulacaria afra extends several inches upward and then will drape gracefully over the edge of the pot.
Semi cascade Bonsai style (Han-kengai)
This Bonsai style is very similar to the Kengai shape. The main difference is the trunk does not grow below the pot bottom.
Formal upright Bonsai style (Chokkan)
As can be seen from the photo, the trunk is thicker at the bottom and tapers to a thin trunk at the top. This is a requirement of the Chokkan. At approximately 1/4 of the height of the Bonsai, branching should begin. Slanting the Bonsai branches is a technique to make the tree look older. As seen in the photo branches should be evenly placed on either side of the tree as they progress up to the top.
A Jade Plant, Crassula ovata or the Dwarf Jade Plant, Portulacaria afra can be found at most garden centers across the country. The purchase of a Jade Plant at the garden center is much easier, although probably not nearly as much fun, as searching for a suitable tree in the wild.
The Jade Plant, Crassula ovata is sometimes called Money Tree, Money Plant, Lucky Plant, Tree of Happiness, Friendship Tree, and Dollar Plant. You will sometimes find them for sale as a Money Tree Bonsai or Jade Tree.
The Dwarf Jade Plant, Portulacaria afra is sometimes called Elephant Bush, Elephant’s Food, Elephant Plant, Miniature Jade, Yellow Rainbow Bush, Small Leaf Jade, Spekboom and Porkbush.
Below enjoy a short video showing how to trim a beautiful Jade Plant bonsai tree.
The creating process of the Jade Plant Bonsai varieties can be achieved with a minimum of garden tools. You will need:
- Small Sharp Scissors or Bonsai Pruners
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Training Wire
Jade Bonsai Tree Care and Growing Conditions
Your Jade Bonsai can thrive indoors or outdoors if protected from frost or freezing. A true Bonsai tree is kept outdoors to allow the tree to experience the seasons.
Jade Bonsai Flowers
In late September to early October many Jades Plants will give you an added treat by producing beautiful blooms.
Watering Jade Plant Bonsai’s
Use the same watering technique for your Jade Bonsai as you would any succulent. Let the soil barely dry out and then water. Be sure your pot has a hole in the bottom to ensure water does not collect at the bottom of the pot.
Misting your Jade Bonsai and keep them healthy and green. However, the glossy Jade leaves may develop mineral deposit marks. If this happens, simply gently wipe the leaves with a soft damp cloth.
Jade Plant Bonsai Fertilizer
Fertilizing any Bonsai is an essential element to growing healthy plants. The Jade Bonsai should be fertilized with a balanced, organic or chemical fertilizer diluted to one half strength. Start fertilizing every two weeks in the spring when new growth appears. Reduce to once a month during the dormant winter months.
Pruning a Jade Plant Bonsai
Both Dwarf Jade Plant Portulacaria afra and Jade Plant Crassula ovata are prolific growers that must be pruned routinely. Pinch back the growth especially near the bottom of the plant and any area you want the bark to show. A distinct advantage of a Jade Bonsai is that there is no need to use a sealant when pruning. A Jade will naturally seal the wound.
Your Jade Bonsai can be easily trained into different shapes using the thinnest wire as needed to hold the branches into position. Do not wire too tightly. Wiring too tightly will result in unwanted scarring. Jades respond quickly to wiring and the wire can usually be removed as quickly as 3 weeks. Carefully cut the wire from the branch when removing it. Cutting eliminates the possibility of breaking the branch if the wire was to unwound.
Repotting a Bonsai Jade Plant
Generally your Jade should be repotted every two years the spring. Place your Jade Bonsai in a shaded location for several weeks after repotting to allow it to recover.
Best Jade Plant Bonsai Soil
A good cactus potting soil mixed with ½ sand or gypsum will be provide a growing medium that allows good drainage.
It must have drainage holes and preferably wiring holes. Ceramic, concrete, plastic, and porcelain pots work well. What is considered a classic Bonsai pot is usually made of ceramic or porcelain. The most important aspect is that the pot material does not absorb or retain water.
If a Jade Plant, Crassula ovata or a Dwarf Jade Plant, Portulacaria afra will be your first outing into the fascinating world of Bonsai’s we know the adventure will be an interesting one. Plan your trip to your local garden center soon and begin to enjoy the fun!