How to Grow a Jade Plant into a Tree?

Jade trees are versatile plants that create a distinguished feel to the garden. But how do you cultivate your jade plant into a jade tree?

How to Grow a Jade Plant into a Tree


  • strategically pruning jade plant stems and leaves helps to encourage growth into a tree shape
  • ensuring you provide the proper care helps your jade tree to recover from the pruning sessions
  • understanding where to trim jade plants helps to thicken the trunk and prevents leggy growth

You may be trying to grow a jade plant (crassula ovata) into a tree to fill out some space in your ornamental garden, to line a driveway, or because you are trying to create a Jade Tree bonsai.

The key to achieving a beautiful jade tree is 1) patience and 2) understanding where and how to prune your jade plant to encourage vertical growth. You also want to encourage the main stem of your jade plant to thicken and resemble an old tree trunk – we’ll cover that later in this article.

How to Grow a Jade Plant into a Tree

We know you are keen to get into the pruning process for encouraging your jade plant (money plant) into a tree, so we’ll jump straight in.

However, it is essential to understand pruning is only part of the process. Successfully growing a jade tree requires a holistic approach. This includes providing the proper care AND conditions for it to recover and thrive.

1. Begin Young

One of the keys to developing a well-balanced jade tree is to begin training it early. When your jade plant is small (around 5-6 inches), begin to cut the top of the plant. Locate a brown ring around the stem and cut just above the ring.

This has a few knock-on effects.

  1. Continually cutting the top will encourage the main stem to thicken and develop into a trunk. At the point that you cut, new branches will develop that you can cultivate and shape into a beautiful tree shape.

Here is a picture of my miniature jade tree in my succulent bowl. You can see where I cut this Jade a few seasons ago, which has developed into a beautiful tree.

Jade tree showing where to cut for topping it off
Where to cut Jade Tree for thicker trunk

Unfortunately, we had a rat take a liking to our succulent bowl, and it broke a branch off my Jade tree this past winter (pictured below). You can see that the fallen branch has self-propagated itself into the soil and is now growing a completely separate jade plant.

Jade Tree Broken Stem with self propagated branch

You can read more about how to propagate leaf cuttings (and more about our troublesome rat) in THIS TUTORIAL.

2. Shaping a Jade Tree with Branches

This is the part that we sincerely enjoy – trimming and shaping your Jade tree.

Once your Jade plant has a few branches, it is time to embrace some artistic inspiration and take a step back.

Look at the shape of your existing jade plant and visualize the tree shape you aim to grow. Begin manipulating your plant to encourage (or discourage growth) in different areas of your Jade plant.

This means:

  • Pruning back any areas that are too bushy, or
  • Encouraging growth in areas that are too light is sparse. You can encourage growth by nipping off some leaves or topping new growth at the tips of the branches. Like the topping we discussed before, new branches will develop at the points you cut.

It may take a few seasons to get your jade tree growing in the shape and structure you want. But, believe us when we say the result will be worth it!

For example, in the image below you can see that new growth is already establishing itself on the broken part of our tree where the rat broke off one of the main structural parts of the Jade tree.

New Growth Jade Tree
New growth already replacing broken part of the tree

3. Pruning for Maintenance

By now, your Jade tree should be a larger plant and be moving in the right direction and slowly growing out in your desired shape. But don’t put your garden scissors down just yet. We’ve got some upkeep and maintenance to perform.

Regularly inspect your Jade tree and remove any dead or diseased limbs. This is important for two reasons:

  1. it keeps your Jade Tree healthy
  2. and prevents it from losing its shape.

Imagine, for example, if a lower branch developed an infection. By allowing the disease to fester, you could potentially lose a large section of your Jade tree, ruining the overall aesthetics. This could easily have been prevented by nipping the diseased parts quickly before it was able to spread.

In addition to removing rotting or diseased limbs, look for parts of the Jade tree that are growing against the overall aesthetics of your tree. Examples of these could be branches growing downwards or at odd angles.

The final part of the ongoing maintenance puzzle is thinning out any thick areas of your Jade tree. Unfortunately, this is a catch-twenty-two situation. The more you cut, the more branches sprout. We recommend cutting back small parts of the Jade tree. You can always cut more supportive stems if it still looks too thick. But you cannot undo already cut branches.

4. Set It Up for Success

Once the plant surgery has been completed, its now time to let your Jade do its thing.

Fertilize your Jade with a quality all-purpose slow-release fertilizer. This ensures it will have the necessary nutrients and minerals to fuel the new growth.

Make sure the soil has good drainage in a pot with drainage holes that allow excess water to exit.

Also, ensure it receives plenty of light and water through the growing season (spring and summer). As succulent plants, Jade trees will thrive in a sunny spot under natural direct sunlight and help to produce plenty of energy from photosynthesis.

Finally, please keep it in a position with plenty of air circulation. Stagnant air will inhibit the Jade trees’ internal processes, such as transpiration.

New Jade Trees Growing in succulent pot
New Jade Trees Growing in succulent pot

Mistakes to Avoid When Pruning Your Jade Tree

Now that we know how to train a Jade into a tree, we thought it would be helpful to cover some of the mistakes we’ve learned over the years of our jade tree shaping endeavors.

Slowly Does It

It is essential to remember your Jade tree or indoor plant is a living organism. With that in mind, remember that pruning is a traumatic experience. Removing too much too quickly can stress your Jade. It may even shock it to become too weak to recover, resulting in death.

We recommend not pruning more than one-third of the plant at a time.

This leaves enough foliage on your Jade to produce energy for recovery. Plus, reducing the likelihood of shock occurring.

Don’t Prune in Winter

We always prune in springtime. This is the growing season for Jade plants, meaning you will see results quicker from your shaping efforts.

The warmer weather also helps the wounds heal quicker, with less chance of diseases infecting the open wounds.

Frequently Asked Questions About How to Grow a Jade Plant into a Tree?

How do I support the Jade plant if it’s falling over?

If your Jade tree is starting to fall under its weight, you can usually prop it up by tying it to a stake.

However, for us, this is only a temporary solution. We prefer to correct the problem through pruning.

Usually, fallen jade plants are top-heavy. Try thinning the canopy out. Alternatively, you can top your jade plant and try to thicken the trunk up to support future growth.

How much should I prune from my Jade tree?

The maximum amount that can be removed from your Jade plant in one pruning session is one-third of the plant. Removing more than one-third risks putting too much stress on your Jade, and it can suffer from shock and stunted growth.