The Crassula Tetragona ‘Miniature Pine Trees’ is easy to care for. Also known as the Chinese Pine and it’s a unique succulent. Needle-like leaves and its shrubby appearance of Crassula tetragona has led to the nickname Miniature Pine Trees. Pronounced KRASS-yoo-luh tet-ra-GO-nuh.
To clarify, this is not a type of pine. Indeed it’s a succulent plant. This South African native stands straight. Additionally, it adds texture and height to any succulent arrangement.
Water only when the soil is dry to touch
Full sun to partial shade, preferably morning sunlight
10a to 11b
Minimum 30° F or -1.1° C
May benefit from a balanced fertilizer in spring and summer
Up to 4′ tall (1.2M)
Miniature Pine Trees, Mini Pine Tree, Chinese Pine, Pine Tree, Crassula Mini Pine Tree
Generally toxic to dogs and cats
Stems are rather woody. Initially they are matte green. Eventually they take on a bark-like appearance as they mature. The “Mini Pine Tree” can grow up to four feet tall over time. If it receives proper care. Tetragona also makes a lovely bonsai plant. Caring for the “Mini Pine Tree” is especially easy. Perfect for beginner plant enthusiasts. Additionally, only a little pruning and maintenance are required. Above all, easy to love and easy to grow.
As with most succulents, Crassulas store water in the plump leaves to survive drought. Unfortunately, the most common problem plant lovers have with their Crassula Tetragona is overwatering. Replicate its natural habitat by giving your Crassula a deep watering. It should be given enough water so that it drains out of the bottom of the pot. Then, let the soil dry out completely before watering again. Water only when the soil is dry to touch. Avoid keeping the soil moist all the time as this encourages root rot.
Root rot is a sneaky disease. Although it typically isn’t obvious until it’s too late. However, if caught in its early stages, you may be able to behead the plant and save part of it. Most of the time succulents will not survive at this point.
Ensure you are watering a dry succulent by checking the soil before you water. This can be done with your finger or with a moisture meter. Insert the moisture meter or finger into the soil a few inches deep near the roots. If the moisture meter reads dry or if the soil feels dry to the touch, it’s safe to water. However, if the soil still contains moisture, you’ll need to wait at least a couple of days before trying again. Moisture meters are inexpensive and really helped me when I was new to succulents.
Crassula Tetragona only needs minimal water during the winter. In other words, less is more (as with most succulents). Watering on a set schedule can be helpful in remembering to water your succulents. However, you need to remember to adjust your watering schedule based on your climate and weather. Cool or humid weather may mean that you need to water your succulents less frequently, while hot and dry weather will mean more frequent water. Additionally, more water is also needed if flower buds are present.
Light for your Crassula
Crassula Tetragona has moderate light needs. It does well in full sun to partial shade, preferably morning sunlight. Make sure to acclimate your Crassula before placing it in direct sun. Just like humans succulents are susceptible to sunburn. If you notice your plant developing brown or black spots or patches on areas that are exposed to direct light, it’s getting too much sun. The darker the color, the more severe the burn.
Like etiolation, sunburn is mainly a cosmetic problem. However, if the succulent is exposed to too much direct sunlight for a prolonged period of time, sunburn could be lethal. By increasing the amount of direct light slowly over a period of several weeks, you can give your Crassula time to adapt which will help prevent it from burning. Although some direct light is fine, your succulent may need to be shaded during the hottest hours of the afternoon. Learn more about succulent sunburn here.
When grown indoors, Crassula tetragona prefers bright light. South, east, or west-facing windows should provide the succulent with adequate light. Indoors place the container on a windowsill or create a table centerpiece. If your Crassula is not getting sufficient light it will show. It will start stretching towards the sun and become etiolated. This doesn’t necessarily harm the plant, but it will become less desirable looking. Unfortunately, once this happens there is not a way to fix the elongated stems. Propagation is your best bet at this point.
A grow light may be necessary if your Crassula is not getting sufficient light indoors. Grow lights are an effective way to prevent etiolation and make sure your plant has enough light no matter where you place it indoors.
Temperature for your Crassula Tetragona
Crassula Tetragona grows well indoors or outdoors. It is not a frost-hardy plant, so it needs to be protected from freezing temperatures. Be sure to move your Crassula inside when temperatures fall below 28° F (-2.5° C). House your succulent indoors during winter temperatures to prevent frostbite.
The plant may be resistant to a light frost, but temperatures above 40 °F (4° C) are best. Especially if the soil is dry and the plant is covered. However, your Crassula cannot survive a hard freeze. Don’t let the winter temperatures stop you from adding plants to your collection. Place it on a sunny window or under a grow light until the weather warms up. If you live in Zone 10 or above, you should be able to grow your succulent outdoors year-round without any problems
Soil & Repotting for Crassulas
Crassula tetragona has a similar soil requirement as most other succulents. Well-draining soil is essential for keeping Crassulas happy. If your succulent is left sitting in water, it’s susceptible to rot and fungal diseases. Add pumice or perlite to the soil to help increase extra drainage and be sure to pick a pot with a drainage hole. I also like adding coarse sand with perlite to commercial potting soil for 2:1:1 ratio. Not only do these ingredients promote proper drainage, but they also encourage airflow around the roots. Indeed essential to good succulent root health. Even when I use cactus soil mix I still like to add perlite for increased drainage.
Putting a layer of rocks below the soil in the pot is not an effective way of promoting better drainage. Despite the frequent claims of uninformed gardeners. Doing so actually creates a perched water table which brings the water closer to the roots of your succulent. Rather than allowing it to drain away. I do however recommend putting a layer of rocks on top of the soil. It gives your plant a finished look and helps keep soil in the pot when watering.
Repotting Crassula Tetragona
Crassulas need to be repotted every few years to avoid compacted soil. If it has been in the same pot for several years, it may have depleted the soil’s nutrients. Repot during the summer when the soil is dry. This will make your job easier and result in less damage to the roots.
Make sure you have the right type of container. There’s no point in choosing well-draining soil if you also choose a container without a drainage hole. Most gardeners recommend terracotta pots as they tend to be the most forgiving. Terracotta pots absorb some moisture from the soil, which can be great in preventing overwatering. However, it also means you’ll need to water more frequently in warm weather as the soil will dry out faster.
Start by gently brushing the soil off the roots. Inspect the roots for rot or other problems that are usually underground. Place in fresh well-draining soil and hold off on watering for a few days. This will allow the roots to get comfortable and heal from any damage during transfer.
Fertilize your Crassula
Most succulents like Crassula tetragona, can survive without fertilizer. Many plant lovers find that it can improve Miniature Pine Trees growth with an occasional dose of fertilizer. If you want to give it a try though, do so during the summer with cactus or succulent fertilizer. It should be liquid and balanced or low-nitrogen. Follow the instructions on the packaging as it may need to be diluted prior to application.
When fertilizing your succulents, be careful not to splash any on the leaves or stems as it could result in a fertilizer burn. Even if the fertilizer claims to not burn plants, it’s still worthwhile to carefully apply the product to the soil and avoid contact with the plant itself.
Toxic Crassula Tetragona ?
Crassula Tetragona are very easy, low maintenance plants. They naturally propagate via offsets. If you want to speed up the propagation process, this can be done by leaf and stem cuttings. Once you have the process down, you can easily multiply your Crassula collection. One of the easiest succulents to propagate from stem cuttings, in my opinion.
Offsets are the easiest way to propagate Crassula Tetragona. As the plant grows, it will eventually produce tiny offsets around the base of the stem. These pups can be easily removed and repotted in their own containers.
To separate the offsets from the mother plant, use a clean sharp knife. Gently divide the plant’s roots. Be sure to handle these tiny plants carefully to avoid damaging them. Allow the offsets to dry out for a few days. This ensures that any wounds callus, before planting them in succulent soil mix. Once you’ve placed the offsets into their own containers, be sure to keep them out of direct sun. Once they establish roots, you can immediately begin treating them just as you would a mature Miniature Pine Trees.
Leaf cuttings are taken by carefully removing the leaf off of the stem. Keep in mind that leaf propagation typically has a lower rate of success than with stems. Just be sure to choose healthy mature leaves to start with.
Gently twist the leaf to ensure that you remove the entire leaf. Do not leave any parts behind. This will increase the chances of successful propagation. The section in between the leaf and stem is what enables the cutting to grow roots.
After removing the leaf, let it dry out for a few days so that the ends can callous over. Once dry, set it on top of well-draining soil and mist it with water. Keep the soil damp until new roots have grown in. As the leaves begin to take root, return to a regular watering schedule.
Stem cuttings follow almost the exact same process as leaf cuttings. Take a sharp pair of clean shears or scissors and cut 2-3 inch long stem cuttings. This may be a frightening experience at first, but eventually you will be happy with the results. When removing offsets or stem cuttings, allow them to dry for three to five days (depending on your climate) before planting in soil or propagating in water. Water propagation is one of my favorite methods and you can read more here.
Before placing the Crassula cuttings in soil, you can dip them in rooting hormone powder if you’d like. This isn’t a necessary step, but it can speed up the rooting process. When placing in soil make sure the stenstem cutting is upright, and in well-draining soil. You can also take several cuttings to help fill out a pot. If you want to test if it has roots, gently pull on it. If there is resistance, it has established some roots. The base should eventually produce new babies. Follow the above watering suggested watering instructions for leaf cuttings.
Tetragona leaves are a vibrant green and are well-spaced in pairs along the stems. The leaves are often described as being shaped like an awl. In the late spring or early summer look for dense clusters of creamy white star-shaped flowers at the tips of the branches. Snowflake-white blooms appear small, yet plentiful. For all of this to happen you will have to take great care of this succulent and provide adequate amounts of light as well as water.
Be wary of overwatering your Crassula, which is the number one killer of succulents. Overwatering kills succulents much faster than underwatering. Symptoms of overwatering include yellow, mushy leaves that easily fall off. Remedy this issue by removing your succulent from the overwatered soil and place it in fresh well-draining soil. Hold off on watering for a week or so. If you still aren’t sure of when to water, a moisture meter will take out the guesswork.
Underwatering is harmful to Crassulas, but much easier to fix. You may notice brown shriveled up leaves. Give your succulent a good drink and it will usually perk up. When underwatered, the succulent leaves will shrivel up and the plant will wilt. They can also send out air roots. Read more about air roots here.
Etiolation is a common, but easily preventable problem with succulents. When the plant isn’t getting enough sunlight, it stretches toward the sun. If you don’t keep your crassula in a bright location, it will grow stretched and less attractive.
Once stretched out, it will not return to its natural form. Propagate the stem as mentioned above to give it a second chance and increase your collection size.
What's in a name?
Crassula comes from the Latin word ‘crassus’ meaning “thick”. Indeed referring to the thick plump leaves of many of the genus. Tetragona comes from the phyllotaxy of the leaves. The specific epithet meaning 4-angled, comes from the arrangement of leaves in four distinct ranks. It is popularly named the “miniature pine tree” among ornamental plant enthusiasts, for its popular use as a “pine tree” in Bonsai.
They generally do not require a lot of maintenance. The bottom leaves will brown and die off as the Crassula grows, and this is normal. Be sure to remove these to keep the plant healthy and so that it does not attract pests like the evil mealybug!
Mealybugs are the biggest pest threat to your succulents. They love to hide in crevices on your Crassula so be sure to inspect your plants regularly. If signs of mealy bugs appear in the form of a white cottony web or disfigured leaves, be sure to eradicate them immediately. These small white scale insects drink the sap out of plants and secrete honeydew that attracts ants. A Q-tip dipped in alcohol or a spray from an organic pest killing soap will do the trick. Read my complete post on mealybugs eradication here.
Aphids are less common but still a potential threat to Crassulas. Like mealybugs, they suck out the sap. If left untreated, they will eventually kill your succulent. Protect your echeveria by applying diatomaceous earth to the soil and neem oil to the succulent. Use insecticidal soap to control existing infestations.
Learn more about Mealybug and pest eradication here.
Make sure you never let your Crassula stand in water or else the chances of root rot and other fungal diseases will increase. Root rot is caused by consistent moisture and can lead to bacterial infections. The good news is that it is easy to prevent. Avoid overwatering and use a well-draining soil.
Root rot is best caught early, so routinely check for rot on your Crassula. Rotted sections will be brown or black and mushy. The rot usually starts in the roots and spreads up the stem. If you find an infected part, you’ll have to remove it or else it will spread. After cutting away the rotted section, leave your succulent out of the soil for a few days so it can dry out and callous over. Repot in fresh well-draining soil and keep an eye on watering.
There are at least 6 subspecies and cultivars that have been cultivated:
C. tetragona subsp. acutifolia, stems decumbent, rooting at internodes, and sharply acute leaf apices.
C. tetragona subsp. tetragona, plant with multiple erect branches, and densely flowered inflorescence.
C. tetragona subsp. rudis, plant with a single main erect branch, but loosely branched inflorescence.
C. tetragona subsp. connivens, young stems are papillose, rounded flower thyrse
C. tetragona subsp. lignescens, young stems are smooth, mature stems are woody, leaves relatively small. The most widespread subspecies.
C. tetragona subsp. robusta, young stems are smooth, stems all carnose, leaves are large and robust. The most commonly cultivated subspecies.
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Crassula Tetragona Care - Miniature Pine Trees
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