How to care for and propagate Portulacaria afra Elephant BushPortulacaria afra Elephant Bush care and propagation informationPin

Portulacaria afra

Elephant Bush, Elephant Food, Dwarf Jade

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.”

Quick Look:

  • Full sun to partial shade

  • Typical water needs for a succulent

  • Plant grows up to 12 ft (3.6 m) tall

  • Zone 10 (Minimum 30° F | 1.7° C)

  • Not cold hardy

  • Propagation by cuttings

  • Generally non-toxic to humans and animals

  • Summer Dormant

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Care and Propagation Information

General Care for Portulacaria afra “Elephant Bush”

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.

Watering

“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”

Cuttings

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.

Variations

Portulacaria afra also comes in miniature and variegated varieties.

Uses

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.