Crassula is a very diverse genus, including over 200 species, originally hailing from the Eastern Cape of South Africa, perhaps the most well known of which is the common ‘Jade Plant.’ While that variety is beautiful in its own right, it is just scratching the surface of what this genus has to offer. From the chunky Crassula falcata, or ‘Propeller Plant,’ with its thick, oblong gray leaves resembling its namesake, to the dainty Crassula muscosa, or ‘Watch Chain,’ with its tiny and tightly packed bright green leaves, there is truly a Crassula variety for everyone – and with a few simple care tips, these plants can thrive in nearly any home.
Growth Habit and Appearance
Each variety features a unique combination of growth habit, leaf structure, and even leaf color, ranging from shrubs to creeping groundcovers. While Crassula ovata ‘Gollum,’ for instance, has a shrubby growth habit accentuated by its highly unique tubular leaves, Crassula ‘Jade Necklace’s delicate leaves grow on upright, tightly packed stems, which will begin to drape as they reach their full length. Be sure to read the description for each variety to learn exactly how it can contribute to the aesthetic of your succulent collection!
Crassula prefer bright sun, though they can tolerate afternoon shade. For those varieties with color variegation, such as red or pink margins, brighter light will help to deepen these shades even further. To help meet their light requirements, Crassula can be acclimated to live outdoors during the warmer months, though care must be taken to do so slowly, to avoid sunburning the leaves. However, it is important to note that these varieties are hardy only to Zones 9-10, and must be brought indoors when there is a threat of frost.
The thick leaves of most Crassula varieties store a great deal of water, so infrequent watering is ideal for these specimens. The best routine to follow is the ‘soak and dry’ method, watering the plant until the excess flows from the bottom drainage hole, and then allowing the soil to thoroughly dry before watering again. If you notice the leaves of your Crassula begin to wrinkle during that time, you know you may need to water a bit more frequently!
With the right conditions, many varieties will bloom in the spring or summer months, before going dormant as temperatures peak – be sure to water even more infrequently during this time, to avoid issues with rot.
Like many succulents, Crassula require well-draining and porous soil, low in organic matter that can hold too much water by the roots for too long. Adequate drainage from the bottom of the pot is also crucial, as is adequate airflow around the leaves and soil surface. Some Crassula varieties are especially prone to pests such as mealy bugs, and meeting these requirements will go a long way toward preventing such ills from taking hold.
Crassula propagate readily, and this can be accomplished from divisions, offsets, leaf/stem cuttings, or even seeds. Divisions can be gently separated from the parent plant, and potted directly into moist, porous soil mix. Leaf/stem cuttings and offsets can be separated from the parent plant with a clean, sharp knife, allowed to callous over for a few days, and then placed in (or on, for leaf cuttings), the same moist soil mix.
Starting from seed is the slowest method, but is doable. Surface-sow seeds onto moist, porous soil during the warmer spring/summer months, and expect to see germination within 1-3 weeks – though it can take much longer for the seedling to resemble its mature form!