Crassula tetragona is also called the miniature pine tree succulent because its leaves look like the needles on a pine tree.
This succulent can grow several feet tall when grown outdoors in a climate similar to its natural habitat, which is South Africa. It is fairly low-maintenance and does not require too much care and attention to thrive. It is also fine with a degree of neglect when it comes to watering because, like all succulents, it can store water in its leaves and stem.
In this article, we will discuss the proper care of Crassula tetragona, as well as how to propagate it. So, if you are thinking about adding the miniature pine tree to your succulent collection and wish to learn more about it, just keep on reading.
Crassula tetragona care
There is no set schedule to follow when it comes to watering your Crassula tetragona. The best way to know whether your plant needs to be watered is by checking the soil’s moisture level first.
Do this by poking your finger two inches into the soil, and if the top two inches of soil are dry, water the plant. If the soil is still damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.
Allowing the soil in the pot to dry out between waterings will ensure that you do not accidentally overwater your plant, which is important because if the soil is constantly waterlogged, it can cause root rot. This is a condition caused by prolonged exposure of the roots to wet soil, causing them to drown and die. The dead roots will start to rot and will become susceptible to attack by opportunistic pathogens such as bacteria and fungi in the soil. The pathogens will make the rot more aggressive and cause it to spread faster to the rest of the plant. Before you know it, the entire plant will be affected and it may be too late to save it.
The best time to water this plant is early in the morning, so it can get lots of time under the sun for the soil to dry out and lessen the risk of overwatering. It is also best not to water it from above, and rather try to water directly onto the soil. This is because, if water is left on the foliage for too long, it can lead to fungal growth.
The amount of water you give your plant each time will depend on the climate where you live, the season, and the current weather conditions.
Crassula tetragona plants that are planted directly in the ground will tolerate drought better than those planted in containers because they have a larger area of soil from which to draw moisture.
This plant likes around six hours of sunlight every day to thrive, but it will do just fine in filtered light indoors or on a patio or porch where it is in the shade for most of the time.
Indirect light is fine and never go over four hours of direct sunlight because this can lead to sun-damaged foliage.
If you live in a place where there is limited sunlight for several months of the year, you can help the plant out by using grow lights.
If you live in an apartment, place the plant near a west-facing window. If the only window in your home lets in light that is too harsh, you can diffuse it by placing a sheer curtain over the window.
Crassula tetragona can adapt to various types of soil, but the best growing medium is still a succulent or a cactus potting mix.
These types of potting mix are well-draining and airy and will retain just enough moisture to keep the plant happy without being waterlogged.
If you think your potting soil may be too dense and compact, it might be a good idea to take a trip to your local plant store and purchase a potting mix that is specially designed for succulents.
Using the correct soil is a big help in avoiding overwatering and root rot.
Temperature and humidity requirements
This plant likes to be kept in a place with a temperature between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but it is able to tolerate temperatures as high as 80 degrees.
Try to avoid exposing it to temperatures any lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, because it does not do well in such low temperatures.
This plant does not require a lot of humidity; it prefers humidity levels below 50 percent.
If you do live in a place with very little humidity, however, that may also be problematic and you should consider using a pebble tray below the plant’s pot. As the water evaporates from the pebble tray it will moisten the soil in the pot as well as the plant’s foliage.
Succulents do not typically need to be fertilized to grow well, but if you want to give your plant a bit of a boost, you can do so. Only fertilize it during the growing season, which is in the late spring.
Use a liquid fertilizer diluted to a quarter of the recommended dose, and water the plant thoroughly before fertilizing. The best kind of fertilizer is high in phosphorus and potassium but low in nitrogen.
The ideal pot for your Crassula tetragona is one that has drainage holes at the bottom. These plants grow best in pots made from terracotta or other porous materials that allow for good air circulation around the roots.
Make sure the pot you use can comfortably accommodate the plant’s entire root system. As a rough estimate, the root system of a single-stemmed miniature pine tree spreads about one inch in diameter every year.
If your plant has grown too large for its pot, you will need to replant it in a pot one size larger than the old one.
Repotting the plant
Crassula tetragona usually needs to be repotted every two years, which is how long it takes the plant to outgrow its pot.
The best time to repot the plant is in the late winter or early spring, roughly around the time the active growth phase starts.
Take the plant out of its old pot, being careful not to damage any roots. If you are having difficulty getting it out, try using a knife to dislodge the soil from the sides of the pot. If you are still unable to remove it, you might have no other choice than to break the pot with a hammer.
Rinse off any dirt or soil from the plant’s leaves and remove as much soil from the roots as possible. Use a sterile pair of scissors to prune off any rotten root sections, then lay the plant on a dry surface and allow the roots to air-dry for a few hours.
Prepare the new pot by filling it one-third of the way with fresh potting mix. Place the plant in the middle of the pot and fill it all the way with more potting mix.
Pat the soil around the roots gently to make the plant more stable and secure.
You do not need to water the newly repotted plant straight away. Wait a few days and check whether the top two inches of soil are dry before watering it again.
Pruning the plant
This succulent does not grow as fast as many other plants, so you will not need to prune it that often.
If you want to trim your Crassula tetragona, you will want to start on the latest growth. Cut it as close to the older stems as possible.
If you see diseased or dead branches on your plant, trim those off as well, to stop the disease from spreading and to preserve the plant’s aesthetic. If any stems have become too long and are affecting the overall symmetry of the plant, you can cut those shorter, too.
Try not to over-prune the plant, because it does grow slowly and it will take some time to regrow any of the parts you pruned off.
Leaf spot is one of the most common diseases observed in Crassula tetragona. It presents as brown or black spots on the plant’s leaves, and these spots will spread and become yellow lesions as the plant deteriorates.
This disease is caused by a fungus called Cercosporidium. It can spread across an entire area of foliage and may even cause it to fall off the plant.
You can cure leaf spot disease by spraying the plant with a fungicide.
One of the most commonly seen pests on Crassula tetragona is the mealybug. This insect is white with black spots on its body, and it feeds on the plant by sucking the sap from its leaves and stems.
Another pest to look out for is the scale insect. One or two of these bugs may not pose a threat, but the longer you allow them to stay on your plant, the more they will multiply. These insects also suck the sap from the plant and can cause considerable damage in greater numbers.
Spider mites create webs between the plant’s leaves and also feed on the sap of the plant.
Aphids are also known to attack succulents. They like to attack the roots, which stunts the plant’s growth in the long run. Not only do they cause damage by feeding on the sap; they also inject a virus into the plant.
These pests can be removed by spraying them directly with rubbing alcohol, or you can use a dish soap and water solution.
Spray the plant with either substance once a week until all of the pests are gone.
Crassula tetragona propagation
Propagation using stem cuttings
This method is the easiest and most successful. First, choose a healthy stem from the parent plant and cut it off using a sterile pair of scissors. Let the cutting callus for 24 hours.
Place the callused stem cutting in a container of potting mix, water it once a week, and make sure that it gets six hours of indirect light every day.
Do not expose the sensitive cutting to harsh, direct sunlight, because this can cause sun damage that can kill it.
After six weeks, the cutting should have established roots. You can check this by tugging on the plant; if there is resistance, it means the roots have grown out well and you can now care for the plant in the same way you would a regular plant.
Propagation using leaves
Another method of propagation uses leaf cuttings. This is more effective in warmer climates because the leaf cuttings will be able to get lots of light that will help them grow new roots faster.
Choose leaf cuttings from the part of the stem nearest the ground, cut the leaves into three-inch sections, and place each section into a container filled with well-draining potting mix.
Refrain from watering the cuttings for two weeks while new shoots grow from the cutting sites. When the new shoots are visible, you can start watering them every couple of days with a small amount of water.
If you use leaf cuttings, you will need to be patient; it can take anywhere between six months and a year before the roots are sufficiently established for you to transfer the plant to its own pot.
Propagation using seeds
You can also use seeds to propagate Crassula tetragona.
Plant the seeds in a well-draining potting mix and water them very lightly, just enough to moisten the soil around the seeds. Place the container in a spot where it can get lots of indirect light.
The seeds should germinate after about two weeks, but it can take up to three months if the growing conditions are not ideal.
You will know the seed has sprouted when you see green leaves growing from the potting mix that look a bit like small cacti.
Once the seeds have sprouted, it means that roots are growing, too.
Over the next couple of months, the plant will grow a few more inches and should establish its roots nicely. You can then pot each plant individually and start caring for them as you would a regular plant.
Is Crassula tetragona toxic to pets?
No, this plant is not considered toxic to pets, so it is safe to have as an indoor plant without the risk of your furry companions ingesting it and coming to harm.
Crassula tetragona is also called the miniature pine tree succulent because its stems and leaves grow out to resemble those of an actual pine tree.
These succulents are great starter plants for people who want a low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plant that does not need too much time and attention to be able to thrive.
This plant likes around six hours of bright, indirect light every day, and water only when the top two inches of soil in its pot are dry to the touch. If the soil is still damp, wait one or two days before checking the moisture level again.
It likes well-draining soil and a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom to lessen the risk of overwatering and root rot.
You do not need to fertilize this plant, but if you want to, do so only in the spring when the plant is actively growing.
Crassula tetragona is a slow-growing plant that does not need to be pruned often.
You can propagate it using stem cuttings, leaf cuttings, or seeds. All three methods are effective, but using stem cuttings is the easiest and most successful.
Image: istockphoto.com / soniabonet