Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Indomitable spirit

When we moved to our present home 5 years ago, I was cleaning out the basement and setting up shelving when I noticed that the previous owner had installed a shelf right under the casement window. I thought this rather odd but I noticed a scattering of potting soil and two pitifully shriveled jade plant leaves (Crassula ovata). Now why would anyone grow plants in a basement window especially when the window is almost at ground level and not very much light enters?

Amazingly, I noticed that one of the leaves actually had a tiny wilted but still alive two leafed plant growing from the leaf base. I placed this in some potting soil, gave it water and left it in a bright window in the breakfast area where I could keep an eye on it. Well...I didn't have to worry because it thrived on just regular watering when the soil got dry and very little else. It grew to be an enormous plant about 2 1/2 feet high and at least 20 pounds including the clay pot. As it shed leaves more plantlets would form and I diligently planted these too. We gave a whole bunch of them away as Christmas presents one year and more keep coming.

The one pictured is actually a three year plant and not the original which was given away to a special friend which must be a monster now but it gives you an idea of how vigorous the plant is. The other plants are off casts from the bigger plant. We had a plant when we lived in Hawaii that was about 3 1/2 feet tall by 3 feet wide so they do get to be a good sized plant. I heard that in S. Africa - where the plant originates from - they use it as a hedge! I know they flower but have yet to see one of the ones I've grown in bloom.

All this abundance from a plant leaf that hung on for months without water or soil - such a tenacious spirit!

The pot looks too small for the larger plant and it is only because it's top heavy and tends to fall over. Crassulas like to be in small cramped pots.


Blogger Carol said...

Beautiful plants. My aunt gave me a few leaflets that fell from her Jade plant, and I am rooting them now, if they grow to be 1/4th of what these plants are, I'll be happy.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Blackswamp_Girl said...

Gorgeous! Thanks for the tip that they like smaller pots--I didn't know that, and was about to "pot up" a gift jade.

7:21 PM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

You really have the magic touch, KI. I've had luck with rooting leaves, but even my older Jade plants haven't attained that size or shape. Nice tribute to a plant that wanted to live.


9:13 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Carol,
I was very lucky that the shriveled leaf turned out to be a very good variety of Jade. Someone had some plants on their porch they were giving away so I took one but it was the smaller miniature which doesn't look quite as good. I gave it to a co-worker who has a black thumb and it's thrived so these are hardy plants that don't need much care. Good luck in rooting the leaves.

Hi Kim,
I only repot them when they get too top heavy and topple over easily. When you do repot, mix some sand in the mix. I have them in a rather heavy soil. I think I just used some of the clay soil we have in our yard with sand mixed in. Most importantly I read that you should let the soil go dry before watering again as succulents only need infrequent watering. You can kill the plant with too much kindness ;)

Hi Annie,
Aw shucks, I would like to think I'm a fairly good plantsman but I think in this case the jade deserves all the credit. As I wrote , I water only when the soil is dry and fertilize only very infrequently and sparingly maybe 4 times a year if that. I do put them outdoors when the temps are consistently in the 60's and above, in morning sun and filtered light for the rest of the day. The leaves turn a reddish color but when you bring them in for the winter they turn a dark green again.

Thanks all for your comments.

4:57 AM  
Blogger colleen said...

This is just amazing! I have a jade plant that I've had a few years, and it's just now getting to that top-heavy stage. Thanks for the tip about adding sand to the mix..I'll be sure to do that when I re-pot.

6:32 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Colleen,
I checked on jade culture just so I wasn't giving misinformation. Here's a website that pretty much confirms what I wrote.

Good luck in re-potting - it can be an unweildy job if the plant is large. They are heavier than they look.

9:31 AM  

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