Jade plants are a fine choice in which to apply the art and craft of bonsai because they’re low maintenance, easy to grow, and can tolerate beginner’s missteps.
To bonsai a jade plant, you’ll need to:
- Pick a great jade plant candidate for bonsai
- Gather the appropriate tools for bonsai
- Prune your jade plant
- Wire your jade plant
- Pot your jade bonsai
- Care for and maintain your jade bonsai
Below, you will learn everything you need to know to successfully create and keep a jade bonsai tree in your home or garden.
What Is Jade?
Jade is a succulent evergreen native to Africa.
Jade plants often grow white or pink flowers in the fall and, with enough sun, develop red tips on their leaves.
Jades can grow outdoors or inside as a house plant and thrive in US Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones 10 and 11.
Despite its hardiness, though, jade won’t survive long in temperatures lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 C).
Also, this slow-growing plant can grow upwards of 3 feet (0.9 m) tall, but it will take almost 20 years to do so.
6 Steps to Bonsai Jade
If you’ve decided you want to learn how to bonsai a jade plant, follow this easy guide to ensure you end up with a healthy, beautiful tree.
Step One: Pick a Jade Plant
To pick a jade plant for bonsai, look for these distinct features in a plant candidate:
- Bronze Beauty, California Red Tip, Hobbit, or Tricolor species
- A thick trunk
- Compact branches
The jade should also be large enough for you to begin bonsaiing.
These traits will make it easier for you to bonsai the plant.
Step Two: Gather Your Tools
To prune and maintain your jade bonsai, you’ll definitely want a good pair of cutters and heavy wire.
Additionally, you should pick up some mesh or vinyl, which you’ll cut to fit over the drainage holes in your bonsai pot.
You’ll need bonsai soil too, and the best products for bonsai have a mix of akadama, pumice, and lava rock.
Good bonsai soils also drain well.
In addition, you’ll want a balanced granular fertilizer to use as needed.
And to top off a jade bonsai, most growers add moss or small pebbles for visual effect and to keep moisture in the soil.
However, moss and pebbles aren’t necessary.
Step Three: Prune Your Jade Plant
While jade doesn’t require a ton of pruning and shaping, you will sometimes need to prune the leaves off the top of the plant.
Doing so allows the trunk of your jade bonsai to grow strong and sturdy.
However, don’t prune your plant until the soil is nice and dry in your jade bonsai.
You should also prune about ¼ inch (0.5 cm) of the roots before re-potting.
Step Four: Wire Your Jade Bonsai
Though jade bonsais don’t require wiring, you certainly can use wire to bend and permanently mold its branches into neat shapes, twists, and turns.
Yet, before you start, remember that if you’ve just potted or re-potted your jade bonsai, give it a couple of weeks to regain its strength before attempting to wire it.
Then, once you’re ready to begin, pick a wire that is just strong enough to keep the branches and trunk in place without creating permanent scars on your tree.
Next, begin wiring your jade bonsai at the bottom of the trunk.
At this stage, you should ensure you wrap the wire around the trunk at a 45-degree angle until you reach the top.
Repeat this process on the branches, wrapping the wire around the trunk one time first for sturdiness.
Now, allow your jade bonsai to grow for approximately four to six weeks before removing the wire.
And don’t forget that you must carefully clip the wire off your jade plant instead of unwinding it.
Otherwise, you’ll risk breaking the branches or splitting the trunk.
Step Five: Re-pot Your Jade Bonsai
Jade bonsais require a slightly deeper pot than other bonsai species because of their thick trunk and leaves.
Thus, the height of the pot should be approximately two-thirds the height of the bonsai tree.
Further, make sure your pot has at least two drainage holes, as you’ll need to thread a wire through these holes.
And make sure you thread this wire so that the loop is inside the pot.
Then, attach a wire to that loop and carefully thread it up the tree’s root system to keep your jade secured.
Afterward, cover the drainage holes with mesh or vinyl to keep the root system inside the pot.
You should now fill the pot with a small amount of your specific bonsai soil mix.
Next, place the jade plant into the pot, allowing the roots to fan out.
Fill in the gaps with additional soil until the soil level reaches approximately one-half inch (1 cm) away from the top of the pot.
Finally, add the granular fertilizer to the topsoil, and then you can cover it with moss or small pebbles.
Step Six: Care for Your Jade Bonsai
Luckily, it isn’t too hard to care for a jade bonsai.
Once you’ve re-potted your jade, water it until you see water coming through the drainage holes on the bottom.
The best thing about jade bonsai is that it will tell you when you need to water it again.
If its leaves begin to wrinkle, it’s time for more water.
Also, to keep your jade bonsai miniature, you’ll need to prune it back once or twice a week.
You should follow the instructions in step three to do this task.
And remember that if it’s warm outside, your jade bonsai would love some outdoor sun.
But as temperatures dip, keep it inside.
Don’t allow your jade bonsai to be in an environment where temperatures dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 C).
Once this happens, move your bonsai plant indoors until spring arrives.
Additionally, during the growing season, which lasts from approximately April through September, add fertilizer to your jade bonsai about once a month.
Lastly, you need to re-pot your jade bonsai every two to three years in the spring.
Or re-pot as soon as the soil and roots hold the shape of the pot on their own.
Roots holding the shape of the pot naturally is a good sign that your bonsai needs new soil and re-potting.
Jade bonsais are an excellent choice for beginning bonsai enthusiasts.
And learning how to bonsai a jade plant is a simple process that even novices will find enjoyable.
With their thick trunks, beautiful red-tipped leaves, low-maintenance care routine, and ability to adapt to indoor and outdoor environments, jades are an appealing addition to any home or garden.
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