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Jade and family; miniatures, small-leaf types, variegated types.

Jade and family Jewels of the succulent world, jade plants earned their name from the beautiful sheen of their thick, dark green leaves. The commonest jade plant, Crassula argenteak, is popular as a potted patio or house plant.

If you already know the jade plant's charms, you might want to try one of its relatives or some look-alikes. Many nurseries now offer an attractive compact form, C.a. 'Crosby's Compacta'. This plant, shown in the collection on the opposite page, has smaller leaves (about 3/4 to 1 inch long). They grow more densely than leaves on the standard jade plant, giving a bushier effect.

Some nurseries sell a full-size jade plant that has variegated green and cream leaves. This is C.a. 'Tricolor'. In bright light, it develops a flush of magenta on the leaf edges. Don't let this one get too much sun, however, since it sunburns more easily than the solid-colored kind.

For a more delicate look, consider small-leafed Portulacaria afra. Often called "miniature jade plant," it closely resembles C. argentea, except that its gray-green leaves are much smaller, and its thin young stems are reddish brown. Look for kinds with solid green leaves, or with variegted green and white foliage (P.a. 'Variegata'), as shown in the photograph above. Although they can reach 12 feet, they stand much shorter if grown in a container (they can also be pruned).

C. argenta grows slowly but eventually can reach 9 feet. Its attractive pinkish white blooms appear November through April. P. Afra rarely blooms outside its native South Africa.

Care: don't baby them

All these thrive with little care. Water only after the soil has dried, and give only minimum fertilizer. C. argentea does best with bright light--but in inland gardens all suffer in hottest sun (provided overhead protection). P. afraz can tolerate hot, dry conditions if given moderate watering (don't let plants shrivel between waterings). All are damaged by freezing tempertures, so bring them indoors during the winter in all but frost-free areas.

If your nursery doesn't sell the plant you want, check with a cactus and succullent specialist (look in the telephone book yellow pages under Plants). Or order by mail. One nursery that stocks the plants mentioned here is Henrietta's Nursery, 1345 N. Brawley Ave., Fresno, Calif. 93722. Catalogs cost $1.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Dec 1, 1989
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