If I Could Be A Succulent, I’d Be An “ET’s Fingers” Jade Plant

Recently, the question was posed as to what succulent I would choose if I could be one - something rare and exotic, or something tried and true like the trusty and helpful aloe plant. Hmm, what succulent plant type is most like me? This one was hard, for about a minute. 

'ET's Fingers' Jade Plant

Previously known as the "succulent killer" by family and friends, I once found it difficult to successfully grow houseplants, especially succulents. I couldn't understand why they were always labeled as easy to grow - mine were almost always easy to kill. It wasn't until later that I figured out the problem. I was killing them with kindness by way of too much water. Succulents do not require the same attention as your average tropical houseplant. Once I got the hang of forgetting them more often (?), my pathetic looking succulents finally began to thrive. That's the key! Let them be. They'll actually let you know when a drink is needed as their plump succulent leaves start to pucker or shrivel. 

I've always been fascinated by succulent plants. All their many shapes, sizes and colors make them interesting, and some are even quite unusual looking, which are, of course, the ones that most appeal to me. After giving it much thought, I knew my choice had to be a "different" succulent plant type, maybe even a weird one. I scanned my collection for ideas and there it was staring right at me - my 'ET's Fingers' jade plant (Crassula ovata cv. 'Gollum').

Known by a number of monikers, including 'Jade Fingers,' 'Skinny Fingers,' or Gollum jade, this unique succulent plant is much like me. I've been told I'm a little strange, and I grew up thinking my dad was an alien (that's a story for another time). Its unusual fleshy foliage is where the plant gets its name. The tubular, finger-like leaves are light green with suction cup-like tips that become red in direct sun, reminiscent of ET's glowing fingertip in the 1982 movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (one of my all-time favs as a kid). 

As they mature, the foliage becomes more oval shaped, similar to the familiar jade plant. It's also similar to another jade cultivar - 'Gollum.' In fact, it's believed to be the offspring of the two. 'ET's Fingers' jade plant generally has slender tips while the 'Gollum' jade is more flared. Because of the different names and confusion between the two types, you may find them sold under Crassula ovata variegata 'ET's Finger' or even Crassula argentea 'Finger Jade.' They may even be mislabeled, so it's possible to have one or the other. Either way, they're quite cool. I can be pretty cool too, once you get to know me.

'ET Fingers' Succulent Care

I've managed to keep this plant alive for about a year or so now. I'm hoping one day it will produce the white star-shaped flowers I've heard about. Another strange thing about this cultivar is how much easier it is to care for than its jade parent, at least for me. I cannot get a regular jade to thrive no matter how hard I try, but this variety has done well. Come to think of it, I'm low maintenance and easy to care for too. 

The fact that it tolerates lower light conditions helps since the light here isn't always the greatest. I've learned that the leaves will start to fall more than normal when watering too much, so I water minimally. The plant grows slowly and is relatively small and shrubby, also like me. LOL

So, for a unique succulent out of this world and a lot like me in many ways, the 'ET's Fingers' wins hands down. Even ET would phone home for this one!

Nikki Tilley
Senior Editor

Nikki Tilley has been gardening for nearly three decades. The former Senior Editor and Archivist of Gardening Know How, Nikki has also authored six gardening books.