Bank on jade plants if you like the color of money

In 1978, a woman claimed to have won millions in a lottery by merely talking nicely to her money trees, plants more commonly called jade plants.

For superstitious-minded folks like me, this was fantastic news. Plus it somewhat validated the controversial hypothesis that talking to plants helped them stay healthy, and that talking nicely to certain types of plants literally paid off.

By the way, the U.S. economy in 1978 was in the midst of a deep recession, and my hope to make "friends" with a money-making house plant was one of several reasons why I started a house-plant collection.

Jade plants (Crassulaceae) are frost-tender succulents native to the arid areas of South Africa. Their leaves resist pests, are 1/2-inch long, 1/8-inch thick, smooth, oval-shaped and the color of jade —that is, the color of money. Jade-plant wood is soft and brittle. But even so, overgrown specimens can be pruned to look like manicured, miniature trees.

As house plants, jade plants grow best when they receive four or more hours of bright sunlight daily.

Having evolved in arid and dry conditions —similar to cacti —they require little water, and their soil must drain quickly and freely. Plus, they also prefer "pot-bound" conditions. In other words, cramped roots.

To propagate jade plants, I stuff 2-inch stem-cuttings upright into pots containing moist sand. Roots develop quickly.

Which reminds me, I've been doing my part to spread the wealth —so to speak —by giving away jade plants that I've started from our mother plant. In fact, some of the jade plants that I've given away over the years have produced clusters of pinkish-white flowers at the ends of their branches —for the gardeners that talk to them nicely. Better still, I've been told that the financial situations of some folks has improved, too —concurrently with the handsome growth of their money trees.

This week in the garden

Our amaryllis has been "dormant" (without leaves) since late fall. While it's been dormant, I've kept its soil barely moist. But because it's time for it to soon sprout a flower spike, I've moved it to a sunny window and have kept its soil moist.

Lou Boulmetis is a certified master gardener who lives in Littlestown, Pa. Call him at 1-888-727-4287 or email hippo

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