The jade plant is an evergreen with thick branches. It has thick, shiny, smooth leaves that grow in opposing pairs along the branches. Leaves are a rich jade green, although some may appear to be more of a yellow-green. Some varieties may develop a red tinge on the edges of leaves when exposed to high levels of sunlight. New stem growth is the same colour and texture as the leaves, becoming woody and brown with age.
It grows as an upright, rounded, thick-stemmed, strongly branched shrub and reaches stature heights of up to 2.5 metres. The base is usually sparsely branched. Sometimes a single main trunk of up to 6 centimetres in diameter is formed. The succulent shoots are grey-green. The bark of older branches peels off in horizontal, brownish stripes. Although becoming brown and appearing woody with age, stems never become true lignified tissue, remaining succulent and fleshy throughout the plant's life.
When it matures, it produces small white or pink, star-like shaped flowers in winter. The terminal inflorescence is a top round thyrsus with numerous dichasia. It has a length and a diameter of about 5 centimetres. The stem has a length of 15 to 18 millimetres and a diameter of 2 millimetres. The flower stalks are 5 millimetres long.
The sweet-scented, hermaphroditic flowers have radial symmetry and double perianths. The five sepals, each about 2 millimetres long, are fused to one another at the base. The pink or white flower crown is star-shaped and has a diameter of about 15 millimetres. Its lanceolate petals are 7 millimetres long and 2.5 millimetres wide. The stamens have a length of 5 millimetres. The combination of shorter days, cold nights and lack of water for several weeks will produce flowering around the beginning of winter.