Pruning jade plants: when & how


Having studied organic farming, I enjoy trying out new cultivation methods and other gardening experiments with friends in our community garden. I care deeply about exploring sustainable and mindful approaches to working with nature. This is my biggest passion, but I am also a real ornamental plant enthusiast!

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In order for a money plant to keep its shape, it must be regularly pruned. Here, you can learn what to look for when pruning jade plants.

The jade plant
Sometimes pruning is necessary to keep the jade plant healthy and beautiful [Photo: svf74/]

Who would not like to have a jade plant (Crassula ovata) – also known as money plant – of their own? Unfortunately, this little tree does not grow banknotes, but it does have some very decorative leaves. In addition, the plant is considered easy to care for and prune. Even though the jade plant does not require regular pruning, there are plenty of reasons to reach for the scissors on occasion. For example, with proper pruning, the tree can be grown into an ornamental shrub, high trunk or even a bonsai. Below, we’ll tell you all about possible reasons for pruning jade plants, the right time to do it, and proper pruning procedures.

Pruning jade plants: possible reasons

Most jade plants never come into contact with pruning shears in their entire lifetime, because with proper care and the ideal location, this tree grows vigorously and compactly. However, if the conditions are not optimal, it can unfortunately look quite different. There are many reasons for pruning jade plants:

  • For denser leaf growth
  • For more regular growth
  • For a thicker trunk
  • As a bonsai
  • Propagation
  • In the event of disease or pest infestation

If the plant is threatened by disease or a pest infestation and does not recover on its own, is absolutely necessary to prune it. Even if the tree is growing irregularly or lacks dense foliage, pruning can remedy the situation. Pruning is absolutely necessary for those who wish to grow their money plant as a high trunk or even as a bonsai. Parts of the tree must also be cut for propagation.

A jade plant bonsai
There are many reasons to give the jade plant a pruning, such as growing it into a bonsai [Photo: pjatnica/]

When to prune jade plants

Fortunately, jade plants are very tolerant of pruning and reliably forms new growth afterwards. Therefore, it can also be pruned all year around. The spring is an especially good time to prune, as the money plant has not yet resprouted. Another option is pruning after flowering. This ensures you will not accidentally cut off any flowerheads.


Depending on why you want to prune your jade plant, there are of course a variety of different pruning techniques. We have outlined all these different methods below. It is best to use a sharp, clean knife for pruning. For extra safety, you can disinfect the knife with high-proof alcohol before cutting. This way you will not risk transmitting any unwanted diseases through the cuts.

Pruning jade plants for a more regular growth

If you want to encourage your tree to grow into a certain shape or maintain its form, so-called formation pruning is necessary. This allows you to determine the height and width of the plant according to your wishes. For upward growth, trim all side shoots by no more than half. For outward growth, shorten the trunk by one-third. You should prune new branches only at the tips of the shoots.

Relief pruning is also necessary when the branches of older trees begin to droop. Otherwise, the tree may even fall over. Cut off any drooping branches approximately three inches before they bend. However, some pairs of leaves should still be preserved above the pruning site. This allows new branching to occur on the shoot. Alternatively you can also tie up the drooping shoots. After some time these then grow upright again on their own.

Pruning money plants for denser leaf growth

Shoots may only bear a few leaves, especially in older trees. You can remedy the situation with a rejuvenation pruning. To do this, cut off all the old branches up to the point they meet the trunk. Also, shorten sparse branches by about one-third, but leave at least two pairs of leaves on the shoot, if possible. You can completely remove dried up and discoloured parts of the plant.

Jade plant leaves
Pruning the jade plant gives it a denser foliage [Photo: Barbara Maffei Granadillo/].

Pruning for propagation

The jade plant is uncomplicated and easy to propagate via cuttings. To do this, simply cut off a freshly sprouted branch at the end of the shoot after flowering.

You can learn more about the correct procedure for propagating jade plants here.

Pruning jade plants in the event of disease or pest infestation

If your jade plant has been affected by pests or disease, radical pruning may be the only way to help. This can help the little tree to regain its vitality. To do this, radically trim all branches to one or two centimetres before the point where they branch off further. If the trunk is also badly damaged, you should cut it to just above the lowest two side shoots. If the tree is already large, you can even cut the trunk to a hand width above the surface of the substrate. After pruning, the tree will have the opportunity to sprout again, and you will have virtually given it a “second life”.

Jade plant infested with small insects
If the jade plant is infested with pests, radical pruning is the salvation [Photo: limipix/]

Summary: Pruning jade plants

  • Use a sharp, disinfected knife
  • Formation pruning: trim side shoots by one third
  • Relief pruning: trim or tie up drooping shoots
  • Rejuvenation pruning: Trim old branches until just before the trunk; shorten light branches by one third
  • For propagation: take cuttings
  • In case of disease or pests: Radical pruning

Growing a money tree into a standard tree

If you would like to grow your money plant into a standard tree, you can do so with suitable pruning. Young plants are most suitable for this purpose, preferably one to two years old. If the plant has several stems, pick the strongest and thickest. Remove the old leaves and shoots from the lower part of the selected trunk. In the upper area, regularly trim the tips of the shoots. In this way, you’ll promote the formation of new shoots and thus a beautiful dense crown. It is best to stabilise your new tall trunk with a stick, and from now on, regularly clear the lower area of all newly sprouting shoots. If the trunk becomes stronger over time, the tree may eventually stand on its own, and you can remove the cane.

The trunk of the jade plant
With the right pruning technique, the jade plant can grow tall [Photo: Vania Zhukevych /]

Summary: Growing jade plants into a standard tree

  • Use young plants, one to two years old
  • Select a strong, thick stem
  • Remove all leaves and shoots on the lower part of the stem
  • Support the tree with a stick
  • Regularly trim shoots in the upper area
  • In the lower area, regularly remove new shoots

Growing a money plant as a bonsai

If you would like to try your hand at growing a bonsai yourself, the jade plant is the ideal place to start. If you prune your Crassula ovata regularly, you can get a mini version of it. Young saplings are the most suitable for this purpose Trim all side shoots to just before the main stem, except those that you want to form the crown. For the crown, you can shorten the branches to create a dense and full shape. Now, in order to maintain the typical bonsai shape, you need to regularly cut off unwanted branches. Cut cleanly and continuously, so you can easily determine the shape of the bonsai. It is important to shorten the branches whenever they have more than ten pairs of leaves. If you want to achieve a particularly upright growth, it is recommended not to direct the shoots with wire, but rather to tie them up.

Summary: Jade plant as a bonsai

  • Use small saplings
  • Remove lower side shoots
  • Trim all upper branches by one third
  • Regularly cut off unwanted branches
  • Always trim branches at ten pairs of leaves by one third

Of course, proper pruning is not all there is to caring for your plant. Learn everything you need to know on the subject in our dedicated article on jade plant care.

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