The Elephant Bush or Portulacaria afra is a stunning ornamental plant that has a lot of uses other than beautifying indoor spaces. They are used as food for Elephants and a host of other wildlife, hence the name.
Native to South Africa, this gorgeous plant is also used as dressing for salads and soups in South Africa. In addition to that, the Portulacaria is an air purifier as it gets rid of excess carbon in the air.
It is a succulent plant that features green succulent, waxy leaves, and thick brownish-reddish stems. It is easy to mistake the Portulacaria afra for a Jade plant as the two share a similar appearance and are sometimes called Mini Jade or Dwarf Jade Portucalaria afra.
|Botanical Name||Portulacaria afra|
|Common Names||Elephant bush, Mini jade, Porkbush, spekboom|
|Plant Type||Evergreen, perennial Succulent|
|Full Size||Ranges from 12 feet to 20 feet tall|
|Sun Exposure||Ranges from Full, direct sunlight to Partial shade|
|Soil Type||Well-draining, rich soil|
|Toxicity||Non-Toxic, Can be eaten by pets and people|
Portulacaria Afra Types
There are several cultivars of the Portulacaria afra, most of which have minor differences from the main plant species; here are a few popular varieties.
- Portulacaria Afra Elephant Bush
- Portulacaria Afra Minima
- Portulacaria Afra Variegata
- Portulacaria Afra Decumbent
- Portulacaria Afra Mediopicta
Portulacaria Afra Care
Elephant bush portulacaria afra is regarded as a low-maintenance plant that has similar growth habits as the Crassula ovata or Jade plant. By meeting its simple lighting, watering, and soil requirements, you help ensure a thriving plant.
Portulacaria Afra Light Requirement
The Elephant Bush would do well in an area with access to 5 or 6 hours of indirect but bright sunlight. They can tolerate direct sunlight but prolonged exposure can leave the plant a bit leggy.
In the course of caring for the Elephant bush, you might need to relocate it often around the house as providing access to the morning sunlight would be ideal for the plant. During the hot afternoons, you would need to provide partial shade for the plant.
A light curtain or cloth can help you achieve this goal. Any room is ideal for the plant, just ensure it is placed close to a window, so it gets its much-needed access to lighting.
Portulacaria Afra Water Requirement
Portulacaria afra plants are drought tolerant, meaning they can tolerate low watering levels. However, they do perform well when watered often.
You should aim for moist soil when watering the exotic plant as excess water can open the plant up to fungal attacks. So watering should be done once a week during the hot season and once every 10 days or 2 weeks during cooler climates.
When it’s winter, reduce the watering to once a month, and ensure you use dechlorinated water or rainwater to avoid stressing the plant’s roots.
A good watering practice would be to check the topmost layer of the soil’s moisture level before catering. You could use a moisture meter or feel the soil with your finger.
Portulacaria Afra Soil Requirement
The best soil type for the Elephant bush plant would be one that is well-draining and rich. To achieve this, a healthy mix would be needed.
Mixing two parts of Cactus potting mix and one part perlite would be ideal. You can also add sandy soil and compost to the mix and you have yourself a perfect soil for the Portulacaria afra.
Portulacaria Afra Temperature and Humidity Requirement
Humidity should be kept high for the Portulacaria afra, as they love a humidity level of 50% and above.
If you can’t maintain such a level of humidity, consider purchasing a humidifier or try regular misting.
Temperature requirements are also high for the Portulacaria, so a temperature range of 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees Fahrenheit should be ideal for the potted plant.
Portulacaria Afra Fertilizer Requirement
Little fertilizer would be needed to encourage proper plant growth, so it helps to do this during the plant’s growth stage.
Fertilizing once a month during fall and spring should be fine. Ensure you use low nitrogen fertilizer or a cactus fertilizer that has been diluted to reduce its strength.
Avoid overfeeding with fertilizer, as it can lead to a build-up in salt content leading to the plant’s succulent leaves getting scorched.
Portulacaria Afra Propagation
The Portulacaria afra or Elephant bush can be propagated by rooting the leaves, but the fastest and easiest way would be through stem cuttings.
When propagating through stem cuttings, ensure you sterilize the tools to be used, so you don’t damage the plant.
Common Health Problems of the Portulacaria Afra
- Root rot
- Spider mites
- Yellow leaves
- Leaf Dropping
Frequently Asked Questions
Elephant bush plants have an average growth speed with it taking a maximum of 6 weeks to produce roots.
Yes, the Portilacaria afra is edible, as it can be eaten by wildlife and humans in salad.
Although the Crassula ovata and Portulacaria afra share similar appearances, they belong to different genus and family.
Yes, using cactus-suitable potting soil is perfect for the Portilacaria afra
Overwatering the Portulacaria is the major reason the plant might be dying, as they require frequent but little watering.