Portulacaria afra Jacq.
Elephant Bush, Elephant Food, Elephant's Food, Elephant Plant, Miniature Jade, Dwarf Jade, Dwarf Jade Plant, Small Leaf Jade, Porkbush, Spekboom
Portulacaria afra is a densely branched succulent shrub or small tree with reddish-brown brittle stems and small juicy glossy green leaves. It grows up to 16.4 feet (5 m) tall. The older stems are wood grey. Leaves are obovate, up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) long, and up to 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) wide. Flowers are small, star-shaped, pink to mauve, and produced in profusion in dense sprays at the end of the short lateral branchlets. They appear in late spring and early summer.
USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b: from 25 °F (−3.9 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).
How to Grow and Care
Choose a location with indirect sunlight when growing Elephant Bush indoors. Overly bright sunlight can char the leaves and cause them to drop off. Ensure that the container you choose has wide drainage holes. The most common mistake made in succulent plants is watering. They are drought tolerant but do require watering from spring to fall. In winter, the plants are dormant, and you may suspend watering. Elephant Bush plants in the home interior should not have consistently wet feet. Make sure the pot drains well. Do not leave water in the saucer of the pot. Fertilize in late winter and early spring with an indoor plant fertilizer diluted by half.
Like most succulents, Elephant Bush is easy to reproduce from cuttings. Take cuttings in spring or summer for the best results. Let the cutting dry out and callous for a couple of days, and then plant the cutting in damp gritty soil in a small pot.
Forms and Cultivars
- Back to genus Portulacaria
- Succupedia: Browse succulents by Scientific Name, Common Name, Genus, Family, USDA Hardiness Zone, Origin, or cacti by Genus
Click on a photo to see a larger version.