Succulent plants have become so popular because they offer low maintenance and diverse shapes and textures, both in gardens and indoors. Crassula is a diverse and extensive genus of succulent plants, with about 350 species total. Probably the most well-known of the group is the jade plant (Crassula ovata)—many know it as a houseplant, but in warm climates, it actually grows into a shrub.
Crassula plants range from annuals to perennials, herbaceous or woody plants, groundcovers to shrubs to small trees. Many species are small, including some miniatures and creeping ground covers. With the resurgence of succulent container gardening, these smaller Crassula species are becoming more readily available, and their easy-growing habit makes them worth getting to know. They are perfect container plants—low maintenance, evergreen, and eye-catching.
Most Crassula plants grown as houseplants originated from the eastern cape of South Africa. If you have the proper climate, the plants look terrific in the garden, but all look just as excellent indoors. Nearly all Crassula plants grow slow and steady, and can be tended to and cared for all year round when kept indoors.
|Botanical Name||Crassula spp.|
|Common Names||Popular species include jade plant, rattlesnake plant, living coral, string of buttons|
|Plant Type||Broadleaf perennial evergreen|
|Mature Size||Varies by species|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil Type||Moist but well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer|
|Flower Color||Varies by species|
|Hardiness Zones||9–12 (USDA)|
|Native Area||South Africa|
|Toxicity||Toxic to dogs and cats|
Crassula Plant Care
Depending on your climate, Crassula plants can be either garden plants or indoor potted specimens. Given their low water needs, jade plants and other Crassula species are ideal for people who tend to neglect their plants. They are very hard to kill and very easy to propagate from cuttings. Even a single leaf that falls from the plant will often take root in potting mix. However, don't completely neglect your plant—it still needs water!
Crassula can be sensitive to temperature. Too hot, and they will go dormant and drop their lower leaves—too cold, and they will fail to grow or thrive. Other than that, they tend to tolerate neglect just fine. With all species, you can aggressively cut the plants back whenever they get straggly or leggy.
Most Crassula plants need some shade in the hottest part of summer but require bright light to attain their most vibrant color. When grown outdoors, a site with morning sun and afternoon shade is perfect (if placed in full sun all day, the leaves may scald). When grown indoors, place your plants in a spot that receives bright indirect light all day, or direct sun for six hours of the day. A southern-facing window is ideal.
Crassula plants need soil that is very well-draining and will do best in sandy, rocky blends formulated especially for succulents. They prefer neutral to slightly acidic soil, but even extreme pH levels rarely kill the plant. Crassula plants will react badly to boggy, wet soils, as their roots can easily rot.
As a general rule of thumb, succulent plants prefer sparse watering. To avoid overwatering, soak the plant, allow it to drain completely, then wait for the soil to dry out before watering again. During cooler months, you can reduce watering, as the roots can rot in cold, wet soil. Crassula plants begin actively growing in the spring, so watch for a slight increase in watering needs. When grown indoors, watering should be minimized from late fall through winter, as the plants go semi-dormant during this time.
Temperature and Humidity
Crassula plants can be grown outdoors as perennials in zones nine through 12, but elsewhere you will need to bring them in for the winter or grow them as houseplants. Some species will tolerate a mild frost, but temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit may be enough to kill them off. Jade plants and other crassula species prefer low humidity, but they also survive nicely in very humid climates.
Feed Crassula plants sparingly. You can give them a little organic fertilizer in mid-spring when they start actively growing, but further feeding is not necessary.
Varieties of Crassula
There are so many species and cultivars of Crassula to choose from that you may become a collector. In addition to the standard jade plant cultivars (Crassula ovata), here are a few others that may catch your eye:
- Crassula 'Morgan’s beauty': This hybrid cultivar has silver leaves dusted in white, with pretty pink late spring flowers. It grows about 4 inches tall.
- Crassula erosula 'Campfire': This variety has long-branching lime leaves that turn blazing red in winter. It's a clumping plant that grows about 4 to 8 inches tall and spreads up to 2 feet wide.
- Crassula pellucida variegata : This plant exhibits a flowing mass of heart-shaped leaves variegated in pink, green, and creamy yellow.
- Crassula perforata: Also known as the stacked Crassula, this plant has leaves that circle around a central stem, giving it the common name string of buttons.
Propagating Crassula Plants
Crassula plants are generally propagated from leaf or stem cuttings, or by dividing the offsets. Starting new plants is as easy as removing a leaf, letting a callus form for a week, then sticking the end of a leaf or stem cutting into a pot filled with damp potting mix. Keep the soil slightly moist and wait for roots to sprout.
While specific pests and diseases may differ between species, most Crassul plants encounter issues with aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, and other common pests—especially when grown indoors. These issues are best dealt with using non-chemical treatments, such as neem oil or other horticultural oils.