Thursday, February 28, 2008

Plant Profile: Crassula Ovata or Jade Plant, great succulent plants for dry gardens.

Right now is a perfect time to plant your succulent garden! It's still cool and we have rain so you don't have to water! Jades are in bloom right now.

Crassula ovata or Jade plants are shrubby succulent plants that make excellent choices for dry gardens and container plants. Xeriscaping with drought tolerant cactus and succulent plants has become popular in dry areas or places where water conservation is a concern. Jades have thick, deep green leaves sometimes tinged with red on the edges. The leaf shape, like the name ovata implies, are oval from 1 - 2 inches long. Crassula ovata develop thick, fat trunks that have an aged look and will eventually grow up to 8 feet tall. In late winter jade plants get 3 inch clusters of light pink to pale salmon flowers with five petals. These perennial plants are drought tolerant and only need water once a month or so.

Indoors, succulent jade plants make good houseplants. They prefer bright, indirect light and can take a few hours of direct sunlight but they are also adapted to low light. In a pot, Jade stay small and can even be used for bonsai. Crassula ovata is sometimes confused with Crassula argentia, which has a similar growth habit, but has silvery grey leaves. Crassula are usually not bothered by insects or disease. The biggest problem crassulas face may come from over watering. This will result in a soggy brown, rotting trunk.

In the garden, drought tolerant jade plants will grow in shade to full sun. In hottest desert areas, crassula do better when they don't have an entire day of full sun. Crassula ovata are hardy to 41 degrees (5 degrees centigrade). A light frost will show up at brown dots on leaves. Overhead protection is usually enough to protect succulents during a light frost. Heavy frost, or a deep freeze will turn leaves brown and shriveled. Frozen leaves will fall off, or you can brush them off with your hands. If the plant branch or trunk is not damaged, new sprouts will form in a few weeks.

Green jade plants are able to live off rainfall alone in many areas. In my southern California garden, crassula are happily growing in both full sun and shade, in heavy alkaline, clay soil. You can see photos of flowering jade plants at .

To root cuttings like jade plant or gollum jade, start with a 5 or 6 inch cutting. Bury about half of the stalk in soil. This will give you deep roots and helps the plant withstand drought better. Keep the soil moist (like a squeezed sponge). After a month, cut back to monthly watering. The leaves will probably shrivel a bit as the plant forms roots: it is living off the stored energy in its leaves. This is normal. You may also lose a few leaves, which is also normal. The plant will start growing again and may even flower in a year.

Crassula plants are versatile and easy to grow. Their winter bloom make jade plants a great addition to any garden or home.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Newest addition to the family - portulacaria succulent plant

Here's my new baby, a variegated portulacaria.  

Normally these succulent plants are lime green with brown stems.  This little cutie has has white edges with a little red here and there.

I'm working on a new portulacaria page for theGardenPages so I just HAD to get him!  I've got photos of the regular green plants up now, but I needed a variegated version.

I like to have lots of photos, and the plants in my garden don't make me get a Model Release signed.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Color Changing Succulent Plant Aeonium

I love my succulent plants. They change color with the seasons too!

Here's my aeonium.  Normally it's green with a little bit of red on the tips. In winter the centers get creamy white.  I have cuttings of this plant sprinkled around the garden - but I can't remember which ones they are until they change color in winter.

This plant had a lot of frost damage last year.  I took out the deal leaves and hoped for the best.  It seems to be doing much better.

I'm trying something new.  I am working on building the Ultimate Aeonium Page on Squidoo.  Please drop by, sign my guest book and let me know what you think!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Acacia Tree Flowering Update

Here are a few photos of the Acacia after the flowers had fully opened up.  They are so beautiful!  Big, bright yellow flowers, and they smell heavenly!

Bees like the blooms too, I'm glad to have them around.  We like bees - they pollinate our crops.  Read more about the disturbing loss of bees here... 
Yes, they sting, but only if they see you as a threat. Roses have thorns and we don't ban them from our gardens do we?

Since the flowers are very small, they are attractive to beneficial insects like the tiny parasitic wasps that eat whiteflies, and the tiny native bees I see around.

I like how this photo turned out, I just love the yellow clouds of color.  I'm thinking of turning this into cards for my online store, what do you think?

Container Garden Ideas

Containers are a great way to have a garden without a yard.

Plants can be grown in anything from an empty soup can to a whisky soaked wooden barrel.

Succulent plants are great choices for containers.  They are more willing to tolerate a pot you've forgotten to water the last few months.  Hey, you're busy, I know. 

Succulents and cacti do best in bright sunlight. If your window gets full sun all day these would be a good choice.  Bright, indirect sunlight will also work too.

Here's another idea for a plant container; your favorite coffee mug - after it cracks!  I just loved this little daisy mug (I keep meaning to do something like it for the store....).  But it cracked in a way that couldn't be fixed. 

It's about 16 oz, so, I popped in a plant growing in a 3 inch plastic pot.  It's a crassula (succulent plant) so it doesn't need a lot of water anyway.  When it's time I can just grab the handle and whisk him off to the sink.  The mug still leaks, so I have to make sure the mug is finished dripping before I put it back.  I'm pretty clumbsy so I am gathering quite a collection!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Acacia tree is blooming

Here are a few photos of my acacia.  Acacia trees can grow up to 20 feet tall.  
I planted mine because it is drought tolerant, will cover the back fence (and my neighbor) and they bloom!  Beautiful giant yellow flowers.  I have heavy clay, alkaline soil and no water.  So I was looking for something that fit into my little microclimate.  Along the back fence of my yard, I am trying to go California native, or at least all drought and Acacia fit the bill.  AND it blooms in February!

My tree was planted about two years ago.  The first year I gave him fairly regular watering, the second year, maybe once a month during summer, and now, I'll do a deep soak every few months.  Here's a photo just before all the blooms opened...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Plant Rescue: Crassula

I have a habit of rescuing plants I see at the market, or wherever. I just feel sorry for them. They usually look broken, wilted or tired. They just need a little love to make them all better. I can't resist.

Here's my latest rescue: it is in the Crassula species. It looks a lot like a crassula ovata (Jade Plant), except it is enlarged. The leaves are about twice the size of a jade. They're also much more grey. It think it's a crassula arborescens, but I'll have to do a little research first. I'll also have to figure out how to upload photos of our little project, so hang tight.

When I found it at the dollar store the tips had been broken off the tops and the leaves were laying on the dirt, and the two cuttings (with roots) were askew in the loose dirt. It hadn't been watered - ever. But since it's a succulent we're OK.

So far I've given it a slightly larger pot adding a little compost (from a bag) and a little of my nice heavy, clay soil. The existing potting soil was your basic mix with a lot of vermiculite. Layering the three different soil types into the pot, I settled the cuttings in the soil and tucked in two of the leaves just for fun.

I'm keeping the pot a little on the moist side to help the plant regroup, and to encourage the leaves to start rooting. The plant is outside in dappled sun. Check back later for his continuing adventures.

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