Portulacaria Afra: Care Guide For Dwarf Jade Bonsai Tree

Found abundantly in the drier parts of South Africa, the Dwarf Jade is a beautifully succulent plant that naturally stores water for extensive periods. Unlike many other bonsais, the Jade Bonsai is practically undemanding and easy to care for. This makes it an ideal plant for people who travel frequently or the ones who have the tendency of forgetting to add water to their plant pots.

In the wild, this bonsai may grow up to 10 feet. However, when you keep it at home, it will only assume a height of 3 to 4 feet. Given the easy maintenance requirements, this is one of the ideal plants for beginners, and if you follow our care guidelines in the following sections, your Jade bonsai will be a beautiful element for the coming years.

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Planting Portulacaria Afra

Planting the Jade bonsai plant is fairly simple if you follow the right guidelines. So, in this section, we will share some of the details you should be keeping in mind while growing the plant at home.

Step 1

The first thing you need to do is invest in a quality Jade bonsai from your neighborhood store. Varieties like the Crassula ovata and the arborescent maybe your top options. Other contenders include the Tricolor or the Hobbit variants.

Step 2

Once you are done getting the plant try to find the right pot that will match your bonsai’s size. Make sure it has just the right balance. We recommend deeper pots as they tend to accommodate the thick trucks of bonsai really well.

Step 3

For the third step, you will need to cut down tiny bits of vinyl mesh that are slightly bigger than the drainage holes. Now place this mesh over the pot for preventing the soil from washing off as you water it. You also need to cut a tiny bit (around 6 inches) of wire and make long loops at the ends. There should be enough space between your loops and their width should be similar to that of the drainage holes.

Once you’re done with this, keep the wire at the external part of the planter and make sure the loops are positioned right at the sides of the holes. Their ends, on the other hand, should poke to the interior part. Now place the mesh cover right on the hole and then gently fold the ends of the wire to secure it.

At this stage, you can also install an anchorage wire at the lower edge of the pot. Make sure both the ends are duly pushed through small drainage holes. The wire alone will hold the tree in the proper position.

Step 4

For the fourth step, you need to create your bonsai soil mix. For this, you can always get your premade mixes from the local store. Alternatively, you can create your own mix. Just make sure the soil is extremely well-draining since that is a necessity for your bonsai plant.

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You can remove the Jade tree from its original pot and start loosening and removing the dirt that is still stuck to its roots. Give a gentle tig to untangle the roots and spread them properly with a solid hook. You will now have to trim those roots to make sure they perfectly accommodate your bonsai pot. Get rid of any root that is dead or growing downwards.

Step 5

The fifth part of the planting schedule requires pruning. At this stage, you need to prune off the twiggy or slightly leggy branches with a pair of super-sharp scissors. You can also remove the branches growing in opposite direction with any kind of concave cutter. This will develop an almost alternative pattern of branches. You should also tip the branches for an almost rounded shape.

Step 6

Once you’re done with the fifth step, take a tiny bit of the potting and place it in a medium-sized container. You can now transfer the tree to your pot while further ensuring that the roots are well-spread. At this stage, you might also want to use anchors for securing the correct position for your Jade plant. Make sure the planter is duly filled with bonsai soil with around half an inch space between the plant and the upper part of the planter.

Step 7

It’s now time to use a quality granular fertilizer right on the soil. Make sure to follow all the package instructions. The soil should be covered with a layer of moss or tiny pebbles. You might also want to water the plant at this stage. Water it thoroughly until it completely drains out at the lower part. Position your tree in a sunny spot where it receives both sunlight and the partial afternoon shade.

Watering Portulacaria Afra

Since the Jade plant can hold a significant amount of water within its leaves, it is best to avoid watering it frequently. Make sure the plant is sparsely watered and that it gets an opportunity to dry out slightly during your watering regime. In winters, you can reduce the watering to yet another notch. At this point, you should only water it once every two to three weeks. You should also monitor your plant to check if the soil is drying out during the dry winter months.

Ideally, you should keep the first two inches of the soil moist. This will prevent it from drying out frequently. Also, although we suggest you water the plant once in two to three weeks, you should also take the time to check it frequently. This will help you spot irregularities at the right time, so if the plant forms blisters around the leaves or the leaves seem to be drying up- you’ll know exactly what to do at the right moment.

In case you have shifted your Jade plant during the warmer months, consider bringing them right under the porch in your garage during the evenings or night. This way, if it rains for a couple of days at a stretch, the plant will be safe, and it will not be waterlogged at any stage.

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You will notice a steady decline in the plant’s growth during the winter months. However, this doesn’t mean you need to overwater them. Continue with the same watering regime and if need be, reduce the frequency of watering during the winter months.

Tips for Watering the Jade Plant

While watering the jade plant, you might want to follow the below guidelines:

  • Do not splash water on the leaves as you start watering the plant because this can potentially expose your plant to rot in a temperate or a humid climate.
  • Very often, Jades are known to be sensitive to the salt present in your regular tap water. That is why it is best to water the plant with proper and well-filtered water. This is especially relevant to people whose tap water is far from ideal.
  • If your Jade plant starts dropping its leaves or if the leaves start shriveling or browning with big and small spots, it is a direct indicator of the lack of proper watering. So, if this happens to be the case, water the plant immediately to avoid further issues.
  • If the leaves of your plant appear to be excessively squishy or waterlogged, it might be receiving excess water. In this scenario, it is best to reduce the frequency of watering the plant.
  • You should only feed your Jade plants sparingly. Ideally, the perfect food would be a mix of standard fertilizer and fertilizer made from a range of different succulents.
  • During the winter seasons, transfer your plants from the windowsills and place them at a drafty spot.

Sunlight

If you have a bunch of young jades, make sure they receive plenty of bright, indirect sunlight as excess sunlight might scorch its leaves. The more mature plants, however, can withstand around 3-4 hours of direct sunlight daily. They thrive best in rooms with windows facing the south or the southwest.

Temperature

The ideal temperature of Jade plants would be 18 to 24 degrees Celsius during the day and around 10 to 13 degrees Celsius during the nighttime.

Propagation Portulacaria Afra

Propagating Jade plants is one of the easiest tasks. All you need to do is snip off a small piece, get rid of the leaves at the lower part, and allow the bottom part to dry for a few days. Once the cutting is duly dried, dip it in some store-bought rooting hormone and transfer it to the potting mix.

Keep the soil moderately damp and water it regularly to witness the first roots. You can also propagate these plants by taking a full leaf and potting it in soil. Over the next few days, you will find tiny plants growing at your pot’s base.

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Repotting Portulacaria Afra

Since Jades are a type of bonsai, they won’t necessarily mind if you keep them root bound in a tiny pot. When you keep them root bound, the jade will be smaller and easier to manage. Thus, this practice is highly recommended.

When you start repotting your young jades, exercise all the right guidelines while doing so. For instance, you should only report these plants once in two to three years for boosting growth. If your Jade is a bit older, we recommend repotting once in 4 to 5 years.

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Make sure the plant is moved in the early months of spring right before the commencement of the growing season. Once you’re done repotting the plant, avoid watering it for a week or 10 days. You should also wait a month or 45 days before you fertilize the plant for the first time. Any time before this period can end up burning the new roots and therefore you should avoid it at all costs!

Pruning Portulacaria Afra

Jade plants do not require frequent pruning and the only time when you might need to prune it is when you locate dead or dying branches. Right after locating these branches, take your pruning tool, and snip the part off immediately. Since Jade plants are extremely forgiving, they will continue growing regardless of where you cut them. In some instances, you might also want to give them the structure of bonsai trees if need be.

Pests and Diseases

Jades may encounter a range of pest attacks and ailments. In this section, we will discuss them in detail.

Mealybugs

This is probably one of the most common ailments that your Jades are susceptible to. Most mealybugs take refuge under the plant’s leaves. So, if you are looking to spot them, observe these zones carefully. Once you’re done locating the bugs, take a bottle of water and splash it in that area. You can now gently wipe off the insects with a clean paper towel or a cotton cloth. Use rubbing alcohol for a better impact.

It is worth noting that this is not a one-time task, as you might have to repeat it from time to time for getting rid of the offspring of your pest. In case the plant is deeply infested, it is best to take a clean cutting and start afresh!

Mildew

Mildew, especially the powdery variant might appear to be an issue. However, your indoor variant of Jades may not necessarily experience them.

Root Rot

The roots will tend to rot when the soil has extra moisture. If this is the case, give some time for the soil to dry out along the watering.

Wrinkled Leaves

Wrinkled leaves indicate the plant isn’t receiving ample water. So, if your leaves exhibit this symptom, you might have to water it deeper.

Squishy Leaves

This indicates that your plant is receiving excess water. So, if squishy leaves are the problem, you might want to stop watering the plant so frequently. Note that in addition to squishy leaves, leaf drops may be yet another indicator or watering problems in your plant.

Well, since you are now well-versed with the nitty-gritty of growing a Jade bonsai plant, follow our guidelines and get started with your bonsai garden right away! Since we have covered all the aspects from planting to pruning and everything in between- growing and caring for this plant will be easier than you thought!

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About Susan Miller

Susan is inspired by gardening, gardens, plants and flowers. She started her journey into the world of plants when she was 12 years old. She holds a bachelor of science degree in environmental science from the University of North Carolina. She is a fanatical gardener, and is passionate about growing and enjoying organic food.