A Baby Jade, popularly known as Portulacaria Afra or Elephant’s Food is a succulent plant, native to South Africa (not be confused with the Jade tree). It is a fast growing plant with small, rounded leaves. Being a succulent, it can store water in the stems and leaves, and thus go for a long time with watering. The plant is mostly found in warm and dry areas. It is also interestingly known as Elephant’s Food or Elephant’s Bush as it makes for a majority part of the elephants diet in the southern part of Africa.
The plant is quite popular as a bonsai especially for beginners, due to its fast growth and low watering requirements.
The seeds are difficult to obtain so it’s better to grow from a cutting. The pot should be deep enough for the thick trunk of the tree. Being a succulent, the tree doesn’t need water for root growth. One can simply plot the cutting in the soil and wait for the plant to grow.
A miniature Jade bonsai should never be kept in the temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It is known to be an indoor plant and grows well in bright light. During spring and summers, it is best to keep it outdoors.
The tree doesn’t need much watering and one should allow the soil to almost dry out before watering again. In winters, the tree can go without watering for up to three weeks. The tree however, is not really sensitive to over-watering.
A balanced liquid organic fertilizer mix works best for the Miniature Jade. The tree should be fertilized once a month, except in winters when it should not be fed at all.
Since, it is a fast growing plant, the tree and branches should be pruned regularly to maintain the desired shape. As the trunk and branches of this plant are relatively soft, wiring for long periods should be avoided or the tree may bend.
The tree may be repotted every three years with a well draining soil mixture. An indoor bonsai is prone to being attacked by mealy bugs or may suffer root rot. Using a non-toxic spray, once a month is ideal.
More recently, the Jade has proved to be an excellent absorber of free carbon in the atmosphere which is one of the major greenhouse gases, responsible for global warming. With some dedication and proper tree care, one can easily grow the Baby Jade bonsai.