Houseplants 101 – Crassula

Crassula is a hugely diverse group of succulent plants that includes around 350 different species, most of which come from the cape of South Africa. They come in many forms – from creepers and ground covers to small trees and even some that have adapted to become aquatic, they vary in shape, size, texture and color, but they are almost all relatively slow growers and make good candidates as houseplants.

Being a succulent, crassula is a relatively easy plant to grow. So what, exactly, IS a succulent? As defined by Britannica, a succulent is any plant with thick fleshy tissues adapted to water storage. These plants have adapted to survive drought not only by retaining water but by how they capture and use water.

Currently in the shop I have two varieties of crassula – Crassula ovata ‘Hobbit’ (Hobbit Jade) and Crassula ovata ‘Variegata’ and I will be receiving a third – Crassula pellucida ‘Variegata’ (Calico Kitten) later this week. So far I am in love with how different each species is, and I can’t wait to keep trying new varieties!

Hobbit Jade is an interesting plant. To me it almost doesn’t look real. The leaves themselves don’t resemble a traditional leaf at all – they are basically round tubes – some with red at the tip. These guys are slow growers but can eventually reach three feet in height. Their slow growth and woody, well branched stems make them a great candidate for bonsai, and they also fare well as a terrarium specimen.

Variegated Jade is a pretty crassula with leaves that are pale green with creamy variegation and pink tips if grown with enough sunlight. It is a little smaller variety that will probably reach about a foot tall, and like its cousin is a slow grower.

Calico Kitten is a beautiful little trailing crassula with heart-shaped leaves that are pink, white and green. It will only reach around 6 inches in height, but its stems can be as long as 12 inches, so it is a great plant to place on a stand or pedestal.

As crassula are succulents, they want well draining soil and not a lot of water – especially if they are in a closed pot, and like most house plants they will need a little more water during the spring and summer months than during the fall and winter. They will typically need water every two to three weeks. Fertilize your crassula two to three times a year with a water soluble fertilizer, making sure to water the plant first and then water with the fertilizer. They like plenty of light, so near a western or south facing window would be optimal, and some direct light will help to keep their colors vibrant. As they grow you will want to “pot up” your crassula, but keep in mind that it likes its roots to be relatively confined, so a large roomy pot is not ideal. They like a warm environment with relatively low humidity but from what I’ve read they can tolerate a little higher humidity as well. The rule of crassula is that of all succulents – do NOT over love them. They need to dry out between waterings, and they will let you know with wrinkled leaves if they aren’t getting enough. They are also toxic to pets, so if you have a dog or cat who likes to munch on leaves, these are one variety of plant that needs to be kept out of their reach.

Crassula’s easy care nature and slow growth rate makes them ideal for a beginning plant collector, and with the diversity of the genus and the stark differences between species you could base an entire collection around this one type of plant. I look forward to trying out many different varieties in my shop!

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