The best part about keeping house plants, but especially succulents, is the different shapes, sizes, and textures. The miniature pine tree is one of the most interesting however. Not only does it look cool, just like a tiny pine tree, but it is also easy to care for. It takes just a little water and a whole lot of sun.
Description of a Miniature Pine Tree (Crassula tetragona)
The miniature pine tree, Crassula tetragona, makes an excellent bonsai plant because of its unique look. The plant naturally looks like a small pine tree with its spiky green leaves that curve up slightly at the ends.
When the plant gets older and taller, the bottom leaves will fall off and the main stem will start to turn woody. This, combined with its straight and upright growing pattern, is what makes it mimic a pine tree.
Crassula tetragona, when cared for properly, will bloom white in the spring. To help your miniature pine tree bloom more reliably, make sure to allow it to cycle through a dormant season and an active growing season.
Where is the Miniature Pine Tree From
The Crassula tetragona originally comes from Southern Africa, like most succulent varieties. Most commonly, this plant is found between the Orange River and the Kei River in South Africa.
How Tall Does a Crassula tetragona Get
For the majority of succulent growers, the Crassula tetragona will reach about 12” tall. Of course, with optimal lighting conditions, good season cycling, and proper watering schedules, the miniature pine tree can grow much taller and reach up to about 48” in some occasions.
Why is the Crassula Tetragona also Known as a Miniature Pine Tree
This succulent, when young, looks only like a small pine branch planted in the dirt. It will have soft, yet spiky, green leaves that curve up and mimic a pine tree’s branches. The real similarities come when the plant gets older.
As the miniature pine tree ages, the bottom leaves will start to fall off naturally as part of the normal growing cycle. The older the Crassula tetragona gets, the more bottom leaves fall off which gives the appearance of a main tree trunk.
The main stem can develop a woody appearance as the plant gets older as well. This development of not only a bare central stem but also a woody appearance makes a convincing mimic of a small pine tree.
Are There other Succulents Similar to the Crassula tetragona
A succulent that is similar in leaf form and shape is the blue chalksticks. Just like the miniature pine tree, the blue chalksticks has thin, pointed leaves that erupt from a central stem. Both plants also have a similar upright growth pattern.
Caring for a Miniature Pine Tree
The care of the Crassula tetragona is simple, just like caring for all succulents. The key is to provide plenty of sunlight without too much heat and to water sparingly.
Plenty of sunlight and sparing water
How Much Sun does the Crassula tetragona Need
Just like other succulents, this is a plant that needs a lot of sunlight in order to grow well. If there is not enough sun, it could stretch or become etiolated. If you see signs of these issues, you need to find a window with more sun as soon as possible.
Indoor Light Requirements
If you would prefer to grow your miniature pine tree indoors, and many people do, you may need to supplement its natural light with a grow light to keep it healthy. For those with very sunny windows, make sure there is a sheer shade in front to prevent sunburn.
The best window for a Crassula tetragona is a south, east, or west facing window. Be sure to watch out for any signs that the plant needs more sun. If the leaves are yellowing or if the plant seems to be stretching toward the sun too much, find a sunnier spot.
Outdoor Light Requirements
The miniature pine tree needs as much sunlight as possible. However, it is somewhat prone to sunburn if the sunlight is too direct. Because of this, you will need to make sure the sun your plant receives is filtered.
If you do need to plant your Crassula tetragona in direct sun, make sure to adapt it to the environment slowly by setting it there for an hour or two at a time and increasing the time over the course of a month.
What is the Temperature and Humidity Tolerance of a Miniature Pine Tree
While the Crassula tetragona does not have a lot of preference for the humidity in an environment, the humidity will change how often you need to water it.
If you have your plant in a more humid environment, you will have to make sure not to overwater it. Of course, make sure that the plant can still get its roots dry between waterings or it will be susceptible to root rot and mealybugs.
A miniature pine tree plant can withstand a light frost for a short period of time. If you live in an area that will experience temperatures below 30°F for too long, plan on keeping your plant in a pot and moving it indoors over the winter.
What are the Soil Requirements for Miniature Pine Trees
The Crassula tetragona requires a rocky soil that gives great drainage and loose areas for its roots to push through. In general, when you mix your own succulent soil for this type of plant, use roughly 50-70% grit or gravel to keep things loose.
Soil should be 50-70% grit or gravel
How do you Water a Crassula tetragona
Make sure to water your plant as closely as possible to its natural environment. To do this, you need to wait until the soil is completely dry before you water the plant. If you are wondering, poke your figure in and if it’s dry up to the first knuckle, go ahead and water. You can also wait until the leaves shrivel or aerial roots start to grow as signs to water.
When you water your miniature pine tree, completely and thoroughly soak the soil. This is easiest when you allow the plant to sit deeply in water for about 20 minutes. Then, take the plant out of the water and make sure it drains completely. It helps to gently shake the pot up and down to get as much of the loose water out as possible.
Choosing a Pot for Crassula tetragona
The pot choice plays a large role in how healthy your miniature pine tree is and how easy it is to water it correctly. Start by choosing a deep shape of pot so that the roots will likely sit above any wet soil or pooled water.
Make sure the pot has multiple or very large drainage holes to allow water to easily escape the soil. If the perfect pot doesn’t have this, you can drill your own with the right drill bit.
Since overwatering is one of the most common killers of miniature pine trees, consider buying an unglazed ceramic or terra cotta pot since these two materials help to absorb moisture from the soil and keep it off the plant’s roots.
You should only repot this type of succulent during the warm season so you don’t shock the plant too much. The Crassula tetragona is a delicate plant and you should be very careful not to break off too many leaves when repotting.
To keep the leaves from breaking off, you may consider gently using tweezers or pliers to grasp the central stem and transplant. Of course, repotting is only necessary to refresh the nutrients in the soil. You can avoid repotting your plant all-together by using a diluted succulent fertilizer once every couple of years.
Do you Need to Prune a Miniature Pine Tree
Don’t be fooled by the fact that this plant looks like a tree. The Crassula tetragona doesn’t really have to be pruned other than to maintain its shape or a specific appearance. If you want the plant to look nice, you may consider pruning back any extra long leaves and any shoots from the base of the plant.
How do You Propagate a Miniature Pine Tree
Propagating your new miniature pine tree is not difficult however, you shouldn’t expect the process to be fast or the plant to look good for a while. Be patient when propagating your Crassula tetragona.
Propagating your Miniature Pine Tree from Cuttings
The main method of propagating these plants is via cuttings. You can use the shoots you cut from the base of the plant to start a completely new plant. The top can also be cut off in order to propagate the miniature pine tree. It can take several weeks for roots to grow from the freshly cut stem.
Propagating our Miniature Pine Tree from Leaves
It is incredibly difficult to propagate this type of succulent from leaves. It takes much longer for roots to form and many growers give up before this happens. Even if you do manage to get roots to form and the propagation to take, you will probably have to repot the plant several times to make sure that it grows straight.
Pests, Diseases, Problems of the Crassula tetragona
This is a hardy succulent and not prone to many infections or infestations, especially if properly cared for. In general, only a stressed miniature pine tree will suffer from insect or fungal infections.
The biggest source of stress is overwatering
If you are concerned for a new plant you are introducing to your collection, you may consider setting up a quarantine area where the plant is away from your existing succulents until you know that your miniature pine tree is healthy.
What Leaf Problems do you see in Crassula tetragona
If your plant does get stressed by its environment, it will typically show in the leaves of the succulent. Keep an eye out for any of these crucial leaf conditions.
Brown leaves on a miniature pine tree can mean several different things. Of course, if they are toward the bottom of the plant, it is part of a natural process for the oldest leaves to wither, turn brown, and fall off.
However, brown leaves could also be a sign of scale or aphids infecting your plant. Look on the leaves, especially the undersides and the crevices where they meet the stem for any signs of bugs.
If the brown leaves are accompanied by soil pulling away from the pot, aerial roots, or shriveling, it’s probably a sign that the plant needs water.
Shriveled leaves are just a sign that the plant needs water. Since succulents are almost always killed by overwatering, some growers actually wait for this sign on purpose before watering their succulent plants.
The miniature pine tree will complain of getting too much water by the leaves turning yellowy-brown and mushy. Of course, by the time you notice leaves that match this description, the plant is only hours from death typically and far too gone to save.
If your Crassula tetragona is in intense sunlight, spots on a leaf could indicate sunburn. Try putting your plant in a more shady location and seeing if that helps prevent more spots from appearing. Of course, the ones that are already there will not go away. You should only watch for new ones.
Leaf spots may indicate a fungal disease of your miniature pine tree as well. Look for other signs of a fungus such as hairlike white fibers, mushy leaves, or soggy soil to help identify if this is actually the cause.
Does the Miniature Pine Tree Develop Scale
Yes! Scale is caused by a particular type of insect that works similarly to the aphid by sucking the sap out of the leaves of your plant. These insects also produce a protective waxy coating while they feed. The loss of sap as well as the waxy coating are a double whammy for the plant and could quickly kill a miniature pine tree.
What Insects Infest Miniature Pine Trees
- Spider Mites
Several different insects could infest your Crassula tetragona. For most, excess moisture and a warm environment are factors that give the pests a leg up on your plant and allow them to take over quickly. Especially water stuck in the crevices where the leaves meet the stem.
You could treat these insects with diatomaceous earth, which effectively cuts their exoskeleton and dries them out. Of course, the powder sitting on the leaves will keep the plant from absorbing enough sunlight. So wipe or dust it off after 2-3 days.
How do I Fix Root Rot on my Crassula tetragona
If you know that your miniature pine tree has developed root rot, you can fix it if you act quickly. Typically, by the time you see any symptoms on the leaves, the plant cannot be saved. But the rescue for an affected plant is simple.
First, uproot the plant and cut off any noticeably damaged or mushy roots. Set the plant in a dark, safe place and allow it to dry out for a day. Then, repot in fresh soil. DO NOT use the old soil or it will develop root rot again.
Does a Miniature Pine Tree Bloom
A miniature pine tree will produce beautiful white blooms from about spring to late summer, depending on its environment. The blooms tend to form in dense clusters right at the tips of the branches.
When your plant is blooming, it may need to be watered slightly more. Keep an eye out for shriveled leaves to make sure. Of course, to encourage your plant to bloom, it needs to go through a dormancy cycle in winter. Do this by putting it in a cool, dark place for 6-8 weeks.
Is a Miniature Pine Tree Toxic to my Family or Pets
The miniature pine tree is considered non-toxic according to ASPCA. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should ignore it completely if your dog or cat eats it. If your pet or child does eat some of your Crassula tetragona, keep an eye out for any signs of digestive discomfort.
A miniature pine tree is an excellent addition to any succulent garden or bonsai garden. Of course, its friendly and easy-to-care-for nature make it a great plant for any gardener learning to tend their green thumb.
Make sure not to overwater it and give it plenty of sunlight for best results. You’ll be rewarded with your very own small piece of nature in no time.