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How to Grow and Care for a Watch Chain (Crassula muscosa)

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Crassula muscosa is an interesting succulent plant that grows up to 12 inches (30 cm) tall by a little wider with a spreading habit of branching stems having tightly, overlapping, stacked, narrow, light green leaves. These leaves completely hide the stems, which start off erect but then trail over from the weight of all of the leaves. The small, pale yellowish-green, musty-smelling flowers appear along with the leaves tight along the stems in spring to mid summer or other times after rains or irrigation. It is a great plant for adding a unique texture to a mixed planting or as a small scale ground cover in a well-drained mound or rock garden.

The most common of the common names for this plant is Watch Chain for its delicate interlocking leaves that are much like the tight jewelers links that were used to attach a pocket watch to the vest. It is also called Princess Pine, Clubmoss Crassula, Zipper Plant and Rattail Crassula. The specific epithet "muscosa" is Latin for "mossy", in reference to this plants moss-like looks. It has also been called Crassula lycopodioides which is in reference to the plant being like Lycopodium, a genus of clubmoss.

Watch Chain comes from diverse habitats and is widespread in South Africa from the winter rainfall area of the Western Cape to the summer rainfall areas of the Eastern Cape and north into Namibia and Lesotho though often growing only in well-drained rocky quartz fields. It is hardy to around 20 °F (−6.7 °C) but seems to resent being cold and wet at the same time.

Photo via etsy.com

Growing Conditions and General Care

Plant in a well-drained soil in part to full coastal sun to light shade or indoors. If planting indoors, place in a room that gets a lot of sunlight, such as near a southern-facing window. Best color maintained with a little shade even on the coast.

Watch Chain has typical watering needs for a succulent. It's best to use the "soak and dry" method and allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings.

Since Watch Chain is not cold hardy, it should be brought indoors when the temperature falls below 20°F (-6.7°C).

During the growing season, the plants should be fed with a controlled release fertilizer. They can be fed weekly with a weak liquid solution.

While in summer it needs a lot more water and it should be not exposed to full sun, as it only values brightness but would suffer under excessive sunlight. When these conditions are not met the plant begins to dry and stiffen, generally starting from the base of the stem up to the tips.

Repotting

Watch Chain should be repotted during the warm season. It should be made sure that the soil is dry while repotting the plant. Any old soil must be shaken off the roots before planting the plant in a new pot. Any dry or damaged roots should also be discarded in the process.

Propagation

Watch Chain is an invasive species and easily propagated from stem cuttings. If the environment maintains a stable temperature of 68 to 70 °F (20 to 21 °C), with adequate humidity and brightness, the cutting will therefore root and grow rapidly.

Pests and Diseases

Watch Chain is quite vulnerable to some typical diseases like mealybug invasions and fungal diseases. Overwatering may cause the roots to rot.

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