Portulacaria afra “Elephant Bush” is a large, bushing succulent with woody stems that can grow to incredible heights when given the proper time, nutrients, and growing conditions. It can also be used in hanging baskets to add “spiller.”
Portulacaria afra is a perfect addition to your indoor or outdoor succulent garden. Although a popular name for this succulent is “Miniature Jade,” it is not related to Crassula ovata. “Elephant Bush” also comes in miniature and variegated forms. The non-variegated form is more heat tolerant.
Portulacaria afra is a popular succulent for bonsai.
“Elephant Bush” 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. Portulacaria afra needs less frequent watering during its dormancy period.
Because the leaves on Portulacaria afra are so thin, it can handle more frequent waterings than other succulents.
Where to Plant
Portulacaria afra is not cold hardy, so if you live in a zone that gets colder than 30° F (1.7° C), it’s best to plant this succulent in a container that can be brought indoors. It does well in full to partial sun. Plant in an area of your garden that gets 6 hours of sunlight a day.
If planting indoors, place it in a sunny window. This succulent tends to stretch easily if not given enough sunlight, however the stretching isn’t as noticeable as other succulents.
How to Propagate Portulacaria afra “Elephant Bush”
To grow Portulacaria afra “Elephant Bush” from cuttings, use a sterile, sharp knife or pair of scissors. Remove a stem from the main plant, and allow it to callous for several days before placing on well-draining soil. Water whenever the soil has dried out completely.
Portulacaria afra is an incredible “carbon sponge,” absorbing high levels of carbon from the air.
As the name “Elephant Food” suggests, this succulent is eaten by elephants, but feeds goats and tortoises as well. It is also used in Southern African cuisine, added to salads, soups, and stews to add a sour flavor.