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

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.


“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.

While this has similar watering needs to other succulents, due to it's thin leaves, Portulacaria afra can handle more frequent waterings than most other succulents. It will also "tell" you when it needs water by presenting limp, slightly wrinkled leaves.

And be sure to get our FREE watering cheat sheet so you can learn how to tell if your succulents are getting too much water (and how to save them if needed).

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.


Portulacaria afra also comes in miniature, variegated, and monstrose varieties. The variegated Elephant bush tends to like more water than the other varieties. It also grows out horizontally rather than upward, as does the miniature form.


The miniature variety of Elephant Bush, 'Decumbent', is an exceptional plant to add in arrangements as a trailing plant or "spiller". Given it's drought tolerance and resistance, it tends to do better than most "String of" varieties when mixed with other succulents.

It's also common for Portulacaria afra to be used for Bonsai. The woody stems are tough and easily manipulated to change it's shape and direction. This plant also responds well to pruning, both roots and branches, and the leaves get quite dense if branches are pruned often.

You can see incredible examples of Elephant Bush bonsai trees from Little Jade Bonsai.

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, as well as goats, tortoises, and other wildlife in its natural habitat. It is also used in Southern African cuisine, added to salads, soups, and stews to add a sour flavor.

The following experiences were shared by members of the Succulent Lovers Club

Tim K Elephant Bush Portulacaria afra with Moon CactusPin
Photo Credit: Tim K.

Tim K.

"I really like them, and they are one of my favorites. I have a few smaller ones, variegated, I believe; I also have put a couple in arrangements. They have been no problem whatsoever. I've been told they make great Bonsai."

Sherryl T.

"I have about 6 of them and I do water them about every 5-7 days. They are not in big pots. I have 2 of them that I’m training to be a bonsai and one of them is variegated. I love them and I don’t think I’ve ever lost one!🤷‍♀️ They are great for arrangements."

Lisa L head planter elephant bush trailing portulacaria afraPin
Photo Credit: Lisa L.

Lisa L.

"I have had the trailing elephant bush since April 2023 and the variegated since October 2023. Both are indoors under not very powerful grow lights and are doing well. They are potted in head planters so act as “hair”. The trailing bush was watered today, and I hope the wrinkled leaves will fill out. I find that I have to water these more often than other succulents."

succulent tracker app plant editor screen example

Stop killing your succulents with the help of this easy-to-use app

Keeping track of watering and remember the name of your succulent can be tricky. The Succulent Tracker App helps with both! Plus, it allows you to keep a photo history of your succulent, record when you repot or treat for pests, along with a number of other helpful actions.

Set a watering schedule for your succulent and the app will remind you when it’s time to water (so you’re not left wondering when you watered last).

Give it a try today to help you help your succulents thrive! Available on Apple and Android devices.