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HomeGardeningFind out how to Plant Develop and Care For Elephant Bush

Find out how to Plant Develop and Care For Elephant Bush

Typically referred to as the miniature jade plant, elephant bush just isn’t truly associated to the jade plant, which is a member of the Crassula household of vegetation. It’s thought-about a part of the Portulacaria household, generally referred to as Purslane, though there’s some analysis that implies that it ought to be labeled within the Didieraceae household.

This fascinating plant is often offered as a houseplant, however in its native South Africa, it’s fairly a big plant, rising as much as 15’ tall. This plant will get its identify from the elephants who prefer to graze on its foliage. The leaves are additionally eaten by people. It has a bitter taste and is often utilized in salads.

Elephant bush has just lately been acknowledged for its almost unparalleled capability to take away carbon from the air, which makes it a implausible home plant. This succulent plant is simple to propagate and makes a pleasant hanging basket plant as nicely.

Fast Care Information

Plant Sort:
Perennial Succulent
Full Solar to Half Shade
Native Space:
South Africa
Summer season
Watering Wants:
Low to Reasonable
8’-15’ tall
Plant Spacing:
Plant With:
Succulents and Cacti
Root Rot, Botrytis,
Powdery Mildew,
Southern Blight
Portulacaria afra
Planting Depth:
Hardiness Zones:
Soil Sort:
Properly drained
Spider mites, Mealybugs


Close-up of elephant bush plants in hanging flowerpots on a blurred background. The plant has long, sprawling purplish-brown stems with small, round, fleshy leaves with cream edging.
Elephant bush is a long-living succulent that doesn’t shed its leaves.

Elephant bush is a perennial succulent, though it may possibly technically be thought-about an evergreen, because it doesn’t shed its leaves for a dormant interval. It’s a very long-living succulent plant, and with the correct care, it may possibly dwell as much as 50 years.

If you’re searching for an easy-care, fast-growing houseplant that thrives in sunny home windows, look no additional than Elephant Bush. With its fleshy inexperienced leaves and hanging pink stems, this plant is eye-catching and enjoyable to domesticate.

Leaf Formation

Close-up of branches of Portulacaria afra, elephant bush or dwarf jade plant. The plant has red-brown stems, covered with many small, round, juicy, bright green cream-colored leaves.
Elephant bush leaves, that are small and fleshy, are generally eaten by people and animals.

The leaves of the elephant bush are small and resemble these of a jade plant. They’re oval to spherical and vivid inexperienced, sometimes with purple margins. These leaves are fleshy and plump and are the a part of the tree mostly eaten by each people and animals, because the trunk is woody and semi-hard.

A few of the medicinal makes use of of those leaves embrace remedy for sore throat, blister aid, and even remedy for zits. They can be utilized to deal with sunburn and bug bites as nicely.


Close-up of Portulacaria Afra flowering plants in white decorative pots. The soil mixture is covered with small decorative pebbles. The stems of the plant are branched, covered with variegated fleshy rounded shapes of pale green and cream hues. Clusters of pink star-shaped flowers bloom on the stems.
Elephant bush flowers prolifically with small pink star-shaped clusters.

Elephant bush does bloom, however it’s unlikely to bloom indoors. It usually solely blooms when grown in gentle climates outside. However by no means say by no means! These vegetation CAN bloom indoors, it’s simply not one thing to rely upon.

The circumstances wanted for the plant to bloom, curiously, are dry climate. If the elephant bush stays dry for a time period after which will get good rain, it may possibly bloom. This solely occurs when the plant is mature, and it usually blooms within the fall.

In South Africa, the place this succulent grows wild in its native habitat, it flowers prolifically, masking the tops of the shrubs with a sea of small, star-shaped, pink flowers in giant clusters.


Elephant bush might be propagated in 3 ways: from root cuttings, stem cuttings, and leaf cuttings. Root cuttings put pointless stress on the father or mother plant, so it is strongly recommended to keep away from this. Propagating from stem cuttings is simply as fast and will probably be much less taking over the father or mother plant.

Stem Cuttings

Close-up of Portulacaria afra Stem Cuttings in a clay pot with soil mix. The stem is short with rounded fleshy dark green leaves.
The best method to propagate elephant bush is thru stem cuttings taken in spring or summer time.

Propagation by stem cuttings is the simplest method to propagate elephant bush. As with most succulents, leaf or stem cuttings will root very simply underneath the correct circumstances. The very best time to take cuttings is in spring and summer time, throughout energetic development intervals, to provide the cuttings a superb begin.

Select a stem with plump leaves that has a common look of fine well being. Use clear hand shears to clip your cuttings slightly below a node and permit them to dry for just a few days earlier than planting.

Stem cuttings are one of the crucial common strategies of plant propagation.

 Place cuttings minimize aspect down right into a container of moist cactus potting soil, you’ll be able to enhance the drainage by including some pumice, which can maintain moisture however drain nicely. It’s essential to maintain the soil moist however not moist whereas the cuttings take root, which takes 1-3 weeks.

You possibly can propagate elephant bush from leaves in the identical means. Nevertheless, it should take longer, and stem cuttings have a better success fee, so it’s not the really useful technique.

 If you’re not in a rush and wish to produce a lot of these vegetation with out reducing away an excessive amount of of the father or mother plant, merely take away some leaves, permit them to dry for 3 days after which stick them right into a pot of moist soil with the hooked up aspect down. They need to root inside 3 weeks and you should have small vegetation subsequent 12 months.

Rising Elephant Bush

Elephant bush is taken into account straightforward to develop as a houseplant. It doesn’t require an intense quantity of consideration and might be fairly pleased with simply the occasional watering and a spot close to a sunny window.

The largest challenge with one among these vegetation will probably be overwatering. There are some further illnesses and pests that may have an effect on Elephant bush, however as an indoor succulent plant, these are principally preventable.

Planting Depth and Potting Wants

Top view of many young Portulacaria afra variegata plants in black plastic pots. The plant has short stems covered with small variegated rounded leaves of pale green and cream colors.
Elephant bush thrives in hanging baskets or bonsai pots resulting from its shallow root system.

Elephant bush has a shallow and delicate root system. This makes them good hanging vegetation, they usually additionally develop properly in bonsai pots. The best concern is supporting the highest portion of the plant, because the roots don’t act as a really strong anchor. Each indoors and outside, elephant bush has shallow planting wants.

It’s crucial to plant your elephant bush in a container with a minimum of one drainage gap so that you just don’t run the danger of fungus within the container. Unglazed pots are nice for succulents as they take up water, sustaining moisture within the soil, however stopping saturation.

As a succulent, elephant bush wants soil that drains very nicely. Cactus potting soil is a good place to start. Overwatering this plant can rapidly result in root rot, which is a serious killer of indoor succulent vegetation.

Common potting soil will usually maintain an excessive amount of moisture for these vegetation. If you wish to enhance the drainage of the soil, you’ll be able to combine in some materials with coarse particles, equivalent to perlite or sand. ratio of soil to perlite or sand could be 3:1.


Close-up of a Portulacaria afra plant against a blurred background of a green garden. This succulent plant has red-brown stems covered with small, round, fleshy, glossy green leaves.
Elephant bush prefers vivid, oblique mild with morning solar, however can tolerate full solar.

Elephant bush is a succulent and a solar lover. It’ll tolerate full solar, however the best publicity for this plant is vivid however oblique daylight for a lot of the day. Like most vegetation that develop nicely in full solar, there’s a distinct choice for morning solar.

Afternoon solar tends to be hotter and extra intense, which may burn the leaves and depart this plant wanting leggy.

This plant ought to be positioned close to a sunny window the place it may possibly obtain mild for a lot of the day. If an excessive amount of afternoon solar is a matter, you’ll be able to diffuse the sunshine with a sheer curtain, and this plant will really feel proper at house.


Close-up of the leaves of the Portulacaria afra plant covered with water drops. The leaves are small, rounded, smooth, fleshy, bright green in color.
Elephant bush has low watering wants, however common watering is important for its well-being.

These vegetation shouldn’t have excessive watering wants, though they’ll carry out higher in the event you don’t overlook to water them. They don’t thrive on neglect at fairly the identical degree as many succulents. When watering, purified or rainwater is greatest, as chlorinated water can stress elephant bush’s roots.

Throughout the hottest months, elephant bush ought to be watered as soon as per week. This may be diminished to each 10-14 days in spring and fall. In winter it may be additional diminished to as soon as monthly. It’s best to maintain the soil barely moist, and water when the soil dries. You possibly can verify by testing the soil with a finger. If the soil is dry ½” down, it must be watered.

Overwatering is usually a drawback for this plant as it’s for many succulents. That’s the reason we are saying the soil ought to be moist however not moist. Extra water could cause root rot, which is a fast method to a lifeless plant.

Local weather and Temperature

Close-up of a flowering plant Portulacaria afra in a large blue pot. The plant has round, fleshy variegated leaves of pale green and cream hues. Clusters of star-shaped, soft pink-purple flowers bloom at the tips of the stems.
Elephant bush prefers a moist setting with 50% humidity and can’t survive a freeze.

In contrast to most succulent vegetation, elephant bush prefers a moist setting. A humidity degree of fifty% is nearly good for this plant. When you can not obtain this degree of humidity within the house, you’ll be able to strive utilizing a pebble tray or a humidifier to boost the humidity. Misting the plant will even serve this objective so long as it’s finished often.

Elephant bush just isn’t chilly tolerant and can’t survive a freeze. The perfect temperature for this plant is between 65°-80°F, which can be within the best vary for many people, which is one other issue that makes this an amazing houseplant.

When you maintain your elephant bush outside within the hotter months and indoors within the cooler months, anticipate the plant to bear some stress while you make the transition. Make the transition steadily by shifting the plant to an intermediate area. A shaded spot outside will assist to reduce the quantity of stress.


Close-up of a young Portulacaria afra plant in a small brown pot. The plant has young stems covered with rounded shiny green leaves tapering towards the base. Small white granular fertilizers on the soil.
Elephant bush requires minimal fertilizing, with as soon as a month in spring and fall.

Elephant bush doesn’t want very a lot in the way in which of fertilizer. No fertilizer is required in any respect through the winter, and as soon as monthly will probably be ample in spring and fall. You possibly can enhance this to bi-weekly in the summertime, however watch out to not overdo it.

Utilizing a low nitrogen system is greatest, and dilute your fertilizer to ½ energy to keep away from salt buildup on the roots. Salt buildup can contribute to leaf scorch, so watch out about over-fertilizing. You can provide roots an Epsom salt rinse as soon as per season to assist scale back buildup.

Pruning and Upkeep

Close-up of a pruning Portulacaria afra bonsai plant against a gray wall. Female hands cut branches with black secateurs. The plant has wooden trunks and branched stems, covered with many small green leaves, slightly tear-shaped, tapering towards the base.
Common pruning is important to take care of each form and measurement.

Pruning your elephant bush will assist to maintain it wanting shapely and strong. Over time, these vegetation can get fairly giant and unruly. They develop rapidly, so if you wish to preserve the form and measurement of your plant, common pruning of most succulents ought to happen on the finish of spring. This manner, the plant has time to get well throughout its development season.

The quantity of pruning you do will rely upon the scale of the plant and whether or not you wish to management the scale, or encourage extra development. To take care of the scale of the plant, minimize branches again by about ⅓. When you merely wish to encourage branching and development, minimize a lot much less.

Ensure that to trim away any branches that cross within the inside of the plant, as these could cause leaf harm and create an setting that each bugs and fungi will thrive in. Pruning will assist maintain your plant from turning into leggy.


Close-up of a Portulacaria afra plant in a black pot against a white background. The plant has spreading woody stems covered with small, round, glossy dark green leaves.
Elephant bush is protected for pets and kids as it’s non-toxic.

Elephant bush just isn’t poisonous to people or animals, making it a protected plant for pets and kids. It’s a widespread meals for elephants, goats and different grazing animals in locations the place it grows wild, which embrace its native South Africa, in addition to the Western United States.


There are just a few completely different varieties you might come throughout in native backyard facilities or when procuring to your plant on-line. let’s take a look at among the most typical varieties you’ll doubtless encounter.


Top view, close-up of a Portulacaria afra Minima plant in a hanging pot against a white background. The plant has long drooping rose-red stems covered with small, round, bright green, glossy leaves.
Portulacaria afra Minima is a trailing plant with tiny leaves that thrives in full solar indoors.

Botanical Title: Portulacaria afra Minima

  • Solar Necessities: Vivid Oblique Mild to Full Solar
  • Hardiness Zones: 10-11

This selection has tiny leaves, each not any bigger than a pea. It’s a low-growing trailing plant that may flower when confused. The trailing branches attain about 2’ lengthy, and appears great peeking out from the border of a rock backyard, or hanging from a basket. Indoors it wants full solar, however as an out of doors plant it may possibly thrive partly shade.


Top view, close-up of Portulacaria afra Variegata plants in brown pots. The plant has purplish-pink spreading stems covered with rounded succulent pale green leaves with cream markings.
Rainbow Bush has variegated leaves with red-brown stems and pale inexperienced and cream leaves.

Botanical Title: Portulacaria afra Variegata

  • Solar Necessities: Solar or Shade
  • Hardiness Zones:10-11

Also called Rainbow Bush, the variegated number of Elephant Bush is a beautiful, sprawling plant that may have a variety of as much as 6’ and likewise attain as much as 12’ in top.

It has great reddish-brown stems, and the leaves are pale inexperienced and cream-colored. It doesn’t bloom a lot in captivity, however can produce fairly lavender flower clusters.


Close-up of a Portulacaria afra Decumbent plant against a beige wall indoors. The plant has upright tall reddish-brown stems covered with light green rounded leaves with a glossy surface.
The straightforward-to-grow Portulacaria afra has vivid lime inexperienced leaves and produces purple flower clusters when blooming.

Botanical Title: Portulacaria afra Decumbent

  • Solar Necessities: Vivid Filtered Mild
  • Hardiness Zones: 10-11

This selection is thought for being straightforward to develop. Its vivid, lime-green leaves stand out in opposition to reddish-brown stems, and when it blooms, it produces clusters of purple flowers.

That is extra of a trailing selection, though it may possibly develop as much as 8’ tall when planted within the floor. It likes a lot of filtered mild and heat temperatures.


Close-up of a young Portulacaria afra Medio-picta plant in a square black pot against a blue wall. The plant has pink short stems covered with juicy, rounded green leaves with a white stripe down the center.
The Midstripe Rainbow Bush is a small, slow-growing selection with inexperienced leaves and a white stripe down the middle.

Botanical Title: Portulacaria afra Medio-picta

  • Solar Necessities: Mild Shade
  • Hardiness Zones: 10-11

Also called the Midstripe Rainbow Bush, medio-picta is a small selection that stays near 2’ tall and vast. It’s a gradual grower with pink stems. The primary attraction for this plant are its leaves that are inexperienced with a white stripe down the middle, and infrequently, they don’t have any inexperienced in any respect. This selection prefers cooler temperatures and doesn’t do nicely in direct solar.

Pests and Ailments

Elephant Bush just isn’t notably inclined to pests and illnesses, however there are just a few points that might crop up if the setting is simply too damp. Most pests come into the setting from new vegetation.

One of the best ways to forestall shedding your houseplants to insect infestation is to look at new vegetation earlier than bringing them into the home. Any vegetation with a illness or infestation ought to be remoted and handled, ensuring that the problem is handled earlier than introducing it into the house the place different vegetation might be affected.

Root Rot

Close-up of an Elephant Bush plant against a blurred background. The plant has thick stems covered with rounded green fleshy leaves. The lower leaves turn yellow and have brownish spots due to root rot.
Overwatering causes root rot in succulent vegetation resulting from fungus development.

Root rot is a typical challenge for succulent vegetation, and it’s usually attributable to overwatering. Moist soil is a breeding floor for fungus and the fixed moisture causes a breakdown within the root tissue.

Root rot might be prevented by correct potting and care strategies. Ensure that your container has sufficient drainage, and don’t water too typically. Keep in mind that the soil ought to dry virtually fully between waterings.


Close-up of the leaves of an Elephant Bush plant with grey-brown rotting spots. The leaves are small, rounded, juicy, green and glossy.
Botrytis cinerea is a fungus that may have an effect on succulents in cool, damp environments.

Botrytis cinerea is a fungus that may crop up in cool, damp environments. Its favourite victims are fruit-bearing vegetation, however succulents may also be a bunch to one of these rot.

Also called grey mould, botrytis is extra prevalent in soil that has extra nitrogen and manifests as a grayish-white, velvety mould. Therapy includes elimination of affected tissue and the usage of fungicidal brokers.

Powdery Mildew

Close-up of an Elephant Bush plant with powdery mildew infested leaves, in front of a white background. The plant has burgundy stems covered with juicy, smooth, glossy, rounded green leaves covered with a thin gray-white bloom.
Powdery mildew is a standard fungus that prefers dry climates inflicting stunted development.

This fungal illness is one which prefers dry climates and is the commonest fungus you can find within the backyard. It reveals up as a chalky white residue on leaves and can stunt the expansion of the plant because it inhibits photosynthesis.

That is extra widespread outside, because it travels on the wind, nevertheless it’s not inconceivable to finish up with powdery mildew in the home in the event you transfer vegetation out and in.

Southern Blight

Top view, close-up of an Elephant Bush plant in a large red pot, outdoors. The plant has branched, thick, woody stems with few tiny, smooth, round, green leaves.
Sclerotium rolfsii, a soil-borne fungus, is difficult to eradicate however uncommon in potted vegetation.

Also called Sclerotium rolfsii, this soil borne fungus could be very troublesome to take care of, so it’s greatest to forestall it. When it’s discovered within the soil, it needs to be handled with steam, which will even kill the roots of your vegetation. The excellent news is, it not often reveals up in potted vegetation, so except you’re planting within the floor, it’s not a difficulty.


Close-up of a whitefly on a green plant. The whitefly is a tiny, white, moth-like insect that sucks sap from plants.
Whitefly infestation might be attributable to extra nitrogen within the soil.

An excessive amount of nitrogen is a think about managing a whitefly infestation. These guys have a tendency to indicate up in vegetation which have an extra of nitrogen within the soil. These little flying bugs are associated to aphids. They lay their eggs on vegetation and when the larvae hatch, they feast in your plant’s sap.

These, like many bugs, depart behind a sticky excrement referred to as honeydew, which may play host to sooty mould, so bugs can actually wreak havoc in your houseplant assortment. You’re almost definitely to seek out them on the underside of leaves, and a robust stream of water is the primary line of protection. Spray as many off as you’ll be able to, after which deal with the plant with an insecticide or neem oil.

Spider mites

Close-up of the stems of a Portulacaria afra plant infested with spider mites. The stems are long, red-burgundy in color with small rounded juicy green leaves. There is a thin web around the leaves.
Spider mites are exhausting to detect and eradicate, leaving fantastic webbing on the leaves, and draining the plant’s sap.

These tiny terrors are troublesome to identify and troublesome to deal with. They’re mostly recognized by the existence of their fantastic webbing on the underside of leaves, and typically within the plant’s container. They feed on the sap, sucking the life out of your vegetation and abandoning honeydew.

Neem oil works nicely to rid your private home of those guys however a couple of remedy is often needed. In addition they have a whole lot of pure predators, so leaving your vegetation outside may also help, however also can result in different bugs indoors, so train warning.


Close-up of a mealybug on a purple-pink succulent stem. The mealybug is small, has an oval body, covered with a white wax coating.
Mealybugs are troublesome to take care of and have a waxy coating that makes them exhausting to take away.

When you’ve ever handled these waxy, white crawlers, that it’s nothing you wish to expertise once more and also you doubtless examine your new vegetation a bit higher lately. I actually have needed to take care of mealybugs and they’re an actual ache. Their waxy coating makes them troublesome to do away with.

An alcohol-soaked q-tip is a good weapon in opposition to these pests because it helps to interrupt down that waxy coating. That is one other pest that has a whole lot of pure predators, and leaving affected vegetation outside for just a few days is an effective method to knock down their inhabitants. Ensure you don’t use pesticides earlier than inserting them outside, otherwise you danger killing helpful bugs.

Closing Ideas

Elephant bush is a simple houseplant to take care of. It has only a few wants, and may stand to be uncared for for average intervals of time. This beautiful succulent seems to be nice each by itself in addition to in a blended succulent planter or backyard, and makes a pleasant hanging plant as nicely. Whereas it not often flowers in cultivation, it may possibly and it’s a beautiful show when that occurs.



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