BABY JADE (Portulacaria afra) - Information & Care Instructions

Posted on 7 Nov 22:42

BABY JADE (Portulacaria afra)

BABY JADE (Portulacaria afra)

The Baby Jade or Portulacaria afra, also known as Dwarf Jade Plant, Elephant's Food, and Elephant Bush, is a small-leaved succulent found in South Africa. It is a soft-wooded, semi-evergreen upright shrub or small tree.
Similar in appearance to the Jade Plant (Crassula Argentea), but has smaller and rounder pads and more compact growth. It is much hardier, faster growing, more loosely branched, and has more limber tapering branches than Crassula. The fleshy trunk, branches, and leaves are used to store water. An excellent bonsai tree for the home or office, as long is it is provided enough light.

How To Take Proper Care Of Your Indoor Bonsai Tree
Bonsai is the reproduction of a natural tree form in miniature. This art form has its origin in Japan and China where it has been practiced for centuries. Bonsai are grown in pots and are totally dependent on you for their care.
With proper care, your bonsai will remain healthy, beautiful and miniature for many years to come. Since your bonsai is a living miniature tree, it will increase in beauty as it matures through the years. The instructions below are just the basics and, therefore, we recommend that you purchase one of the many fine books available on the subject.

The Baby Jade will thrive indoors in high light & will appreciate being kept outdoors during the spring and summer. Long term Insufficient light (approx. 6 months); will result in pale leggy & brittle new growth; the drying and shriveling of older pads; drying shriveling and loss of smaller branches.
When night time temperatures drop below 50 degrees we suggest you prepare to bring your Baby Jade indoors; that you place the tree on a windowsill or on a table in front of one.
Keep in a location with temperatures above 45F. Leaves turning black & falling off, stem ends turning black or going soft, roots rotting; are all signs of the plant being too cold and probably too wet. Pare off the blackened parts of the stem; dust with a hormone rooting powder which containing fungicide.

Once nightly lows begin approaching the 50 degree mark, it is time to bring your indoor bonsai inside. The ideal indoor location is on a window sill facing south. An east or west exposure is second best. A northern exposure will work, but will necessitate the use of "grow lights" to provide sufficient light to keep your bonsai healthy. Four to six hours of sunlight per day should suffice. If you can provide more, so much the better.

Watering & Humidity:
Baby Jade is an Indoor Bonsai in most locations in the USA; requires good sunlight or strong artificial light. Light and water need are linked for Baby Jade.
Unlike most Bonsai, lack of indoor humidity is a plus for Baby Jade, as this plant does not do well in humid locations. However good air circulation is important to ward off fungus infections.
Correct watering is to water well, then let the soil dry out almost completely. Assuming the tree is getting sufficient natural light; it will probably need watering approx every 4-5 days.
Soft, soggy, spongy branches are a sign of too much water. Chronic over watering makes this plant susceptible to fungus and root rot.
Keep in a location with temperatures above 40F. Leaves turning black & falling off, stem ends turning black or going soft, roots rotting; are all signs of the plant being too cold and probably too wet.
Pare off the blackened parts of the stem; dust with a hormone rooting powder which containing fungicide.

Fertilizing is necessary for your bonsai to remain healthy. However, too much water and/or fertilizer will cause leggy growth (up to 3 cm between nodes). Leggy growth is also caused by lack of exposure to sunlight.
Monthly feeding with any balanced fertilizer will do fine. We suggest that fertilizers be used at half their recommended strength. Fertilizer should be applied at least once a month except during winter.

This brief explanation of basic care does not cover training. Training deals with the art of bonsai and should be thoroughly understood before undertaking -- or left to a professional. However, most of the true bonsai trees you find have already been through their training period, thus requiring only periodic trimming and pinching to remain miniature.

Trimming and pinching keep your tree miniature and full. Never remove all new growth; some new growth is necessary to sustain the health of the tree.
Trim Baby Jade by pinching or cutting above a pair of pads will cause new buds will form within a week or two from the juncture of each of the pads removed.
Caution needs to be used when wiring the branches as Baby Jade break easily. Some recommend allowing the plant to dry a bit before wiring or manipulating the branches, so that the branches will then be more flexible.

Repotting must be performed periodically on all bonsai when their root system has filled the pot. The reasons for repotting are to supply your tree with fresh soil, and to encourage a more compact root system. As a rule, most trees require repotting every two or three years. Since trees grow at different rates, this schedule will not always hold true, therefore you should examine your tree's root system each year to determine if it has become pot-bound.
In most cases, the potting process is easy and safe, if performed properly, at the right time of the year. Repotting should be done in mid-summer. The tree, along with all of its soil, should be removed from the pot. The outer and bottom most fourth of the tree's root mass should be removed. This is done by raking the soil away, then pruning back the roots. In most cases, it is not good to prune back more than one fourth of the tree's root mass. After this, the tree can be placed back in its original pot or into another. The pot should have screen placed over the drainage holes. Then a thin layer of small gravel is placed in the bottom of the pot for drainage purposes. On top of this gravel is placed the new fresh soil. Place a layer of well-draining soil which is sufficient enough to elevate the tree to its previous height in the pot. After placing the tree back in the pot, the area left vacant by the pruned root mass should be filled in with fresh soil. This fresh soil should be worked in around and under the root mass in such a manner as to avoid leaving any air pockets. After repotting, your bonsai should be thoroughly watered. This can be achieved by submerging the entire pot in a tub of water. Moss or other ground covers can be used to cover the surface of the pot to help prevent soil erosion when watering.

Insect & Disease:
P. afra will not tolerate some chemical sprays, particularly petroleum-based chemicals. Defoliation, followed by quick recovery, has been noted after exposure to Isotox and Malathion.
However, Volck Oil Spray appears to have no affect. We recommend plain Soapy Water Spray or just the pressure from a garden hose; these methods seem to be sufficient to rid the plant of most insect pests.