Crassulas are a large group of succulents, often characterized by pairs of alternately stacked leaves. Many have a very pleasing symmetry because of this leaf pattern. They have a huge range of different shapes, textures and sizes. Some create tall narrow stems of tightly packed leaves, and others trail loosely down the side of a pot. Some have fuzzy leaves, and others have bumpy or smooth leaves. Many get bright red highlights with plenty of sun, and a few prefer shade. I’ll be focusing here on the rare crassulas, which tend to be small and slow growing.
Needs can vary somewhat between different types of Crassulas, but this general care guide applies to most of them.
Light – Full to part sun. Crassulas love tons of sun, but still need some protection if your area gets very hot. High light levels will bring out the red or other colors, while in the shade they all tend to turn green and get stretched out.
Soil – Well draining gritty soil such as Vivid Root Bark Mix.
Water – Enjoy regular water year-round. Water deeply, then let them dry out before watering again.
Temperature – They can handle a brief frost, down to 25° F (USDA zone 9b). People in colder climates usually bring their plants inside with grow lights for the winter.
Propagation – Stem cuttings are the most reliable method. Cut the stem and strip off the bottom leaves so there is enough stem to stick into soil. Roots will grow from the place where the leaves were attached, so make sure one or two of those nodes are under the soil. Let the end of the stem dry and scar over for a day or two before planting. Some will grow from detached leaves and some won’t.
Blooms – Season varies by species. They produce clusters of flowers at the ends of their stalks. Some blooms can be quite large, and some can be amazingly fragrant. A few crassulas are monocarpic, which means they die after flowering. Thankfully these tend to produce lots of offsets to keep the plant going in your collection.
Origin – Many are endemic to southern Africa.
Mealybugs – Very susceptible. Mealies like to hide in the tiny spaces between the stacked leaves. Infested plants usually don’t show distorted leaves, but growth can be stunted. You will see the mealybug bodies and white fluff on an infested plant. It can be easy to miss on some plants since they can get very deep between the leaves. A toothpick is very helpful in manually removing these pests.
Trouble spots – Many crassulas get ugly brown fungus spots if the humidity is too high. This is only cosmetic, however once a leaf is affected it is permanent. If new growth has the proper conditions then it will be clear. Many rare crassulas are also very susceptible to rot. This is a fatal issue. If a plant is kept too wet you might start to see the stem turn black from the base. If you catch it early enough you can cut off the rotted part completely and re-root the healthy remaining part.
Many crassulas show a high level of variation, even in the same species. These examples showcase these differences.
Variation in Crassula ‘Buddha’s Temple’
Variation in Crassula elegans
Variation in Crassula deceptor
Variation in Crassula pyramidalis
Crassulas with mutations are rare and highly sought by collectors.
Variegation is a random mutation that happens very rarely. Plants propagated from leaves or seed of variegated plants will not maintain the variegation, however plants grown from cuttings of variegated plants do keep it. Variegated leaves usually have white or yellow stripes, and often white parts blush to pink. This leads to some extremely beautiful plants!!
This is another rare random mutation. No propagation method of a six-sided plant will maintain the mutation, so it can only be had by random chance. This makes these plants extremely rare.
Also known as a cristata, this is a random mutation that creates wide flat stems and a dense line of leaves across the growing edge of the form. This mutation is very rare in Crassulas but does happen occasionally. A crested plant can be propagated by cuttings to maintain the mutation, but not by seed or leaf.
Crassulas produce beautiful clusters of tiny flowers. Most are white, but some species produce pink or red flowers. Some are very fragrant as well.
Same plant different light levels
Monocarpic plants die after blooming. Most create lots of offsets that continue the plant, so you don’t lose it from your collection.