Crassula (2005)

PhotoBy Pam Schnebelen (February 2005)

The genus Crassula was named from the diminutive of the Latin crassus,” for thick. These Little Thickie Plants are mostly leaf succulents, though a few develop fat trunks as they get older.

The most common crassula is the jade plant, Crassula ovata. It also comes under a number of other names: C. argentea, C. portulacea and others. While this plant can survive as an ignored domestic houseplant, it is much more robust in full sun with plenty of root room.

There are many less common and more interesting C. ovata cultivars that do belong in plant collections. Hobbit, with its neat indented leaves, and Gollem, with leaves that end with suction cups, are admired by the bonsai crowd, as well as succulent lovers.

While these plants hail from both the winter and summer rainfall areas of South Africa, most will adapt to your usual summer growing regimen. When I find a plant that struggles or rots out in the summer, I move it to the winter-growing group. I use the same soil mix that I use for cacti – porous and quick-draining. They get light water in the off season to keep the roots from dying back completely.

Most crassulas are fairly short-lived. They reach their best appearance in a few years, followed by a slow decline. Fortunately, the plants propagate easily from stem cuttings. After a favorite plant passes its peak, you can take a few cuttings to begin your next beautiful specimen. And you will have a few to move on to friends and collectors.