Baby Jade is a good plant for beginners

Baby Jade is a succulent bonsai that is also known as the Elephant Bush, Elephant Plant or Small Leaf Jade. It is native to South Africa and is an excellent bonsai for home or office. It has pale green leaves that are almost round. Water is stored in the fleshy trunk, branches and leaves.

In natural environs it grows p to 3 or 4 meters in height. It is quite new in bonsai and is a good plant for beginners, because of its ability to survive for long periods without water. It develops very fast and can be adapted to any style.

Its bark is green when it is young and then can turn from reddish brown to slate grey. It is smooth and has conspicuous leaf scars. The fleshy leaves are almost circular and about 1.5 cm in diameter. They range in color from pale grey to pale grey-blue-green to dark green. The stems are reddish and each pair of leaves is at right angles to the next. The pink to purplish flowers are small and star-shaped.

It can be grown outdoors in full sunlight or indoors with sufficient light. It is a tropical plant and can tolerate a variety of growing conditions, though it needs to be protected from temperatures below 50 F.

The soil needs to be allowed to become almost dry, before you water it. The trunk and branches tend to droop from their own weight and are suitable for long cascades.

Drastic cuts can be made for styling this plant. Let the soil dry before removing heavy branches or roots. Water the plant sparingly till it recovers. Remove the terminal bud from any branch that you want to stop from growing longer. You can refine the tree by pinching out the buds and branches that are not growing where you want them. It grows fast and needs to be pinched frequently in the growing season.

While creating a small bonsai (mame) you can use 1 mm aluminum wire to rotate branches and leaves, though wiring is not as effective as it is with hard wood species. Spring is the best time for re-potting though it can be done at any time in the tropics. The soil needs to be allowed to dry, before re-potting is done. The plant needs to be kept in a shaded location till new growth commences. It can be watered, once new growth appears.

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