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Jade "tree" needs some shaping

April 23, 2019
last modified: April 23, 2019

I've never grown bonsai before, much less shaped one but I have this Jade tree that I've been pinching and pruning to try to keep it bifurcation. I think it's time it got some expert input on it. If it's difficult to make out which limb is what, let me know and I'll label the pictures with numbers for each limb. It's hard to get a picture with all of the different branches in it. Thanks!

Comments (10)

  • laticauda

    I'm not sure why but it won't let me post pictures in the OP.

    It also removed the pictures from this post when I tried to post them. Is there a common problem that causes this to happen? Anything I can do to fix it?

  • cactusmcharris, interior BC Z4/5

    laticauda, I can't really answer your second question except to suggest clearing your Internet cache and restarting Chrome / Firefox / Explorer. This site has known and unknown hiccups from time to time. It's the price one pays for a free site, but you'd think they'd have the ad revenue to hire someone to put paid to these continuing problems.

    As to the first, there have been a million words, or slightly less, written on the very subject you're asking about. Just use the search function at the top of the Cactus and Succulent Forum page using some combination of the subject words, or 'Crassula ovata', or both, and you'll find lots of threads already covering this topic. Look for the threads that have lots of postings to start. Searching 'jade' brought us this compendium:

    Over Four Thousand Jade Threads But This Is One

    laticauda thanked cactusmcharris, interior BC Z4/5
  • PRO

    If you can't figure out how to add the image(s), you can send me a message with your email addy, I'll reply with my addy & you can send that way. I have a fair amount of experience working on trees that branch like jades. Your choice - thought I'd offer .......


    laticauda thanked tapla
  • kentc

    When you add a photo it will immediately appear as a lighter color but the entire image has not downloaded yet. You have to wait, sometimes quite a while if the image is large, until the photo appears in full color, that means it is ready to post. When I first tried adding photos I posted several times while the photo was in the light color stage. The photos never showed up in the post and I couldn't figure out why.

    laticauda thanked kentc
  • cactusmcharris, interior BC Z4/5

    It appears to be working OK - here's a photo from the web of a plant in the Karoo.

    laticauda thanked cactusmcharris, interior BC Z4/5
  • laticauda

    Al, you were just the person I was hoping would reply.

    Its loading the photos now, showing a green rotating circle noting that it's loading. It wasn't doing that before. I'm glad it's working for me now though.

    I know it's not the best Specimen and suffers quite a bit of neglect but hopefully we can clear up some of the mess and I can start taking better care of it!

    I'd also like to mention that I really like the horizontal "lean" to its growth pattern in the second photo. I don't intend on trying to put the main trunk upright.

  • laticauda


    Thank you for your responses! I'm looking for direction for my specific plant. I've read Al's explanations since before he started copy and pasting it for people. That's how I learned about bifurcation but at this point, I can't choose what I want to do and am hoping someone with an experienced eye can tell me what needs to be done here, where my understanding ends.

    I have a feeling I'm going to be told to take it away from the two-trunk growth into just one.

  • cactusmcharris, interior BC Z4/5

    Isn't it about what you want in the plant? And if a mistake is made, or you change your mind, the way it was shaped before isn't immutable.

  • PRO

    By what you said in the OP, I was sure you were looking for more than general help. Sometimes an older tree tells you how it wants to be styled, while younger trees can fairly easily be manipulated to whatever shape you've envisioned for them. I find your vision very often changes as you see things that increase the potential for the planting to be more evocative.

    Most growers go all gooey and warm when you tell them their plant has the potential for what would be termed in Bonsai a mother/daughter style. If the plant is rough and craggy, like an old scarred juniper or pine, it might be referred to as a father/son arrangement. Because of their round leaves and tendency toward o/a soft lines, jades would have to be put in the feminine category insofar as assigning trees a gender via their appearance; so, working toward the mother daughter arrangement is a viable option if you'd like to keep the second trunk; or, you could keep that trunk and use it as a branch.

    For reference - this is a mother daughter arrangement where the mother tree moves protectively to the left to shelter the daughter tree:

    The MD tree above and the grove below are examples of how, one or more of the trunks ends up fulfilling the the role of a branch in multi-trunked trees:

    I used maples because they have the same branching habit and leaf arrangement as jades.

    The subordinate trunk on on your plant doesn't need to be any more vertical than it already is.

    While Jades can be wired, or better, mechanically manipulated to change their shape or branch structure, it's best to use the clip and grow method with jades because they scar easily from wire, and they break easily if you're not careful when trying to change their shape mechanically. How you would decide (and I can help if you provide a couple of additional images) if the subordinate trunk stays or goes is: look at the plant with the subordinate trunk moving to the left and slightly toward you. See if there is an attractive lower trunkline that moves toward you as your eye moves bottom to top. Then, spin the tree so the subordinate trunk is moving right & slightly toward you.. If you find a good trunkline as described above, it can stay, if you cant, it might be better to turn it into a cutting. No sense in going forward until you decide. OR, you can ignore it for now and start working on the dominant trunk based on its best line. I would tend to keep it or lose it because it's so low on the dominant trunk it's not doing much to thicken it - just means a bigger scar to heal the longer you wait, even though that's not much of a concern. So, what direction?


  • laticauda

    I may have more trunk inside the pot but it was so long ago I cant remember.

    I'm going to think about it and maybe post some pictures with arrows and questions in the mean time. Thanks!

    I'm mainly concerned with how busy the larger trunk got, the growth got congested and is just ugly but I cant decide what should stay and what should go. My branches have branches and I think that's where I've gone wrong but pinching causes this to happen and that's where I'm at but I am going to give some thought to the M/D form. I hadnt heard of that one before. Would that mean the thicker trunk would come back around the sode/top of where the thinner trunk is? (I just want to be clear that I'm understanding you because if I'm not then I need to read what you said again.)

    Re: thickening of the trunks

    Will the two trunks not get any thicker together as they get older?

    Also a little background on this: I got it as a cutting in 2015 from grace here on the board. It was already pretty thick when she cut it off and gave it to me. I'll have to look through houzz and see if I posted any photos of it back then because I haven't noticed any gain in girth but I'm also looking at it everyday.

    I'll try to get those pictures for you and hopefully understand what a trunk line is. Do you mean a straight line from the base to the tip of the end of a branch?

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