Is Jade A Good Tree For Bonsai?

The Jade is a common house plant around the world and it is actually a succulent. There are a number of varieties that have slightly different leaf shapes.

Generally they are enjoyed more as house plants, but you can find them used as bonsai.  They can be okay, but the “dwarf jade” or Portulacaira Afra is the more preferred species for bonsai. It looks very similar to jade, but as the name suggest, is much smaller.  

I have been growing a Jade for a few years. You can follow its development in my Jade Bonsai Progression

Is Jade A Good Species for Bonsai?

Over all it’s not bad for bonsai. It is often looked down upon as some sort of beginner tree, which it certainly can be, but there is no reason why a more advanced person can’t still use them. 

They are succulents, so they are pretty much indestructible and extremely easy to care for (which is why they are good for beginners). They are fast growing and look pretty cool.

The fact they are succulents means they act a little differently to normal trees, but that isn’t so much of a problem and it does also mean they can be grown indoors.

They are quite small over all, but generally suit a larger style tree; if you want that really miniature shape you are best using the Portulacaria Afra.  

Is Jade Foliage Good For Bonsai?

Depending on what variety you have will depend on what your leaves look like, but the standard jade leaf shape is short and oval and is okay for bonsai, it certainly works better on a larger tree. They can get a little large and plump at times, so they are not perfect, but they can be okay.

The variety I have has a deep purple to the underside of the leaf, which I think looks awesome and adds an extra interesting aspect to the tree.  

Internode Length

The internode length can be pretty good, given the right conditions. If you tree is healthy and getting enough light, the leaves will be very tightly packed together which is ideal for bonsai.

You will often see jades sat in a dimly lit corner of a room and they will be leggy and look awful, but that is only because they do not have the right amount of light. 

Is A Jades Growth Rate Good For Bonsai?

The amount of light comes into play again when we look at the growth rate of a jade. The more light you give a jade, the faster and better its growth will be.

Growing Indoors

Jades are one of the few trees that most of us are going to have to grow inside. They don’t like the cold and wet, so they are going to need protection over winter, but you can actually keep them inside all year round.

The only issue with being inside is a lack of light. Jades are very common house plants and they are pretty tough. They will still grow when the light is not optimal, but its usually long and leggy growth that isn’t ideal for bonsai.

I have had my jade on a windowsill and it did it okay. I then put it under a grow light and it grows at such a stronger rate now with much denser, tighter foliage.

Jade can work really well as an indoor bonsai, but you can read my other choices in – The Best Trees You Can Use For Indoor Bonsai.

Is Jades A Response To Pruning Good For Bonsai?

Jades respond pretty well to pruning. They will predictably divide into two branches where you cut, which is ideal for growing bonsai.

Back Budding

Jades will back bud. You can prune them back to nothing and they will bud out. I have also found that I get random back buds growing along my branches, but this is down to my tree getting so much high quality light.

Ramification

You can build ramification quite easily on a jade. Every time you prune, they will divide and they have tight internodes, which is good.

However, the growth can be a little coarse at times, it does start to reduce, but it’s not super fine, like you can get on some trees. The growth is kind of clunky, which can spoil ramification and why I also think they are better suited to being larger trees.

Is A Jades Styling Ability Good For Bonsai?

Styling a jade can be just as easy as it is hard. They are naturally a little shrub, with no real tree like shape, so you can take them in any direction you feel like which is good for a bonsai.

However, they can also be hard to style as they are hard to bend. You really need to use clip and grow to direct where you want things to grow for best results.

Wiring

You can wire jades, but it’s hard. They are not like normal trees. Their branches are full of water, so they are easily damaged and it’s very easy to kill branches or fully snap them off.

It is also easy for the wire to cut in as the branches are soft with thin bark and also grow quickly. 

Is A Jades Fall Colours Good For Bonsai?

Jades are evergreen, so you will not get any change in colour throughout the year. This doesn’t affect their ability to be bonsai. In fact it can be quite the opposite. Given the right condition a jade will grow all year, so while your other trees are going to sleep, you can still enjoy working on your jade.

Is A Jades Winter Silhouette Good For Bonsai?

There is also no winter silhouette with jades, but you can remove all the leaves in the height of summer and they will quickly grow back. If you want to see the structure of the tree and make improvements, this is a good way to do it, as the branches can be hard to see when they are covered in leaves.

Is A Jades Bark Good For Bonsai?

The bark on jades can look really good after a while. When it is young it just sort of green and fleshy, but as its ages it starts to brown up and looks nice.  It contrasts well with the green leaves.  

It is quite thin bark though and can be easily damaged and as the jade is a succulent, it is very fleshy and wet underneath, so it does not look good if you damage it. However, a wound will dry out and heal over very fast. It doesn’t callus over; it just sort of dries out and turns the same brown colour as the rest of the trunk.

This does mean if you make flat cuts, they will easily fade with time. If you make concave cuts like you would on other trees, it will just heal in this shape, which doesn’t look good. 

Deadwood Opportunities

Deadwood will not work on jade. As it is a succulent, any dead areas will dry up and shrivel and fall off. It doesn’t look good at all and you should avoid trying to do sort of deadwood work with them.

Are A Jades Roots Good For Bonsai?

The roots are both a blessing and a curse for bonsai. They will grow very easily and you can basically grow a jade from any piece of the tree. It will just root no problem and they also grow pretty fast.

The issue is that they are kind of ugly and it is hard to get them to spread out nicely in a radial pattern. You can tame them after a number of years. It’s not too difficult, it is just a lot of work and you need a lot of patience to get them good. The main thing is that they grow strong. This is always something I prefer with a tree I am using as bonsai.

Is Jade Easy To Care For As Bonsai?

Jades are extremely easy to care for which is why they make great house plants and beginner trees. You really can ignore them and they will be fine. You can literally go for weeks without watering them and they will not be bothered.

This is why using a succulent as a bonsai is so good. You literally have to do nothing with them.

Conclusion

Jades can make good bonsai. They are especially good if you are not good at caring for plants or a beginner. You have to treat them differently to normal trees, but you can still get good results from them as bonsai.

They are okay. I maybe wouldn’t go hunting for one, but if you happen to come across one, or already have one as a house plant, they are worth playing around with and turning into a bonsai. You can have a lot of fun with them and learn a lot from them.