How to Plant Grow and Care For Elephant Bush

Typically known as the miniature jade plant, elephant bush is just not truly associated to the jade plant, which is a member of the Crassula household of vegetation. It’s thought of a part of the Portulacaria household, generally often known as Purslane, though there may be some analysis that implies that it needs to be labeled within the Didieraceae household.

This attention-grabbing plant is usually 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 title from the elephants who prefer to graze on its foliage. The leaves are additionally eaten by people. It has a bitter taste and is usually utilized in salads.

Elephant bush has lately been acknowledged for its practically unparalleled skill to take away carbon from the air, which makes it a unbelievable home plant. This succulent plant is straightforward to propagate and makes a pleasant hanging basket plant as properly.

Fast Care Information

Plant Kind:
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 Kind:
Properly drained
Spider mites, Mealybugs


Elephant bush is a long-living succulent that doesn’t shed its leaves.

Elephant bush is a perennial succulent, though it may well technically be thought of 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 well reside as much as 50 years.

If you’re on the lookout 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 putting purple 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 brilliant inexperienced, often 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.


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 sometimes solely blooms when grown in delicate climates outdoor. However by no means say by no means! These vegetation CAN bloom indoors; it’s simply not one thing to depend upon.

Apparently, the circumstances wanted for the plant to bloom are dry climate. If the elephant bush stays dry for a while after which will get good rain, it may well bloom. This solely occurs when the plant is mature, and it sometimes blooms within the fall.

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


Elephant bush may be propagated in 3 ways: root cuttings, stem cuttings, and leaf cuttings. Root cuttings put pointless stress on the dad or mum plant, so it is suggested to keep away from this. Propagating from stem cuttings is simply as fast and can be much less taking up the dad or mum 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 option to propagate elephant bush is thru stem cuttings taken in spring or summer season.

Propagation by stem cuttings is the best option to propagate elephant bush. As with most succulents, leaf or stem cuttings will root very simply underneath the appropriate circumstances. The very best time to take cuttings is in spring and summer season, throughout lively development durations, to offer the cuttings an excellent begin.

Select a stem with plump leaves with a normal look of excellent well being. Use clear hand shears to clip your cuttings just under a node and permit them to dry for just a few days earlier than planting.

Stem cuttings are probably the most fashionable strategies of plant propagation.

 Place cuttings lower aspect down right into a container of moist cactus potting soil, you possibly can improve the drainage by including some pumice, which can maintain moisture however drain properly. It’s vital to maintain the soil moist however not moist whereas the cuttings take root, which takes 1-3 weeks.

Leaf Cuttings

You may propagate elephant bush from leaves in the identical method. Nevertheless, it is going to take longer, and stem cuttings have the next success fee, so it isn’t the advisable methodology.

 If you’re not in a rush and wish to produce a lot of these vegetation with out chopping away an excessive amount of of the dad or mum plant, merely take away some leaves, enable 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 may be fairly pleased with simply the occasional watering and a spot close to a sunny window.

The most important concern with one among these vegetation can be overwatering. There are some extra ailments and pests that may have an effect on the 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 attributable to its shallow root system.

Elephant bush has a shallow and delicate root system. This makes them good hanging vegetation, and so they 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 stable anchor. Each indoors and outdoor, elephant bush has shallow planting wants.

It’s crucial to plant your elephant bush in a container with no less than one drainage gap so that you just don’t run the chance 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, an elephant bush wants soil that drains very properly. 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 sometimes maintain an excessive amount of moisture for these vegetation. If you wish to improve the drainage of the soil, you possibly can combine in some materials with coarse particles, equivalent to perlite or sand. A very good ratio of soil to perlite or sand can 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 brilliant, oblique mild with just a little direct morning daylight, however can tolerate full solar circumstances.

Elephant bush is a succulent and a solar lover. It’ll tolerate full solar, however the perfect publicity for this plant is brilliant however oblique daylight for many of the day.

Like most vegetation that develop properly in oblique brilliant mild, there’s a distinct desire for the cooler morning solar. The afternoon solar tends to be hotter and extra intense, which can burn the leaves and go away this plant wanting leggy.

This plant needs to be positioned close to a sunny window the place it may well obtain mild for many of the day. If an excessive amount of afternoon solar is a matter, you possibly can 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 critical for its well-being.

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

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

Overwatering is usually a downside for this plant, as it’s for many succulents. That’s the reason we are saying the soil needs to be moist however not moist. Extra water could cause root rot, a fast option 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 damp setting with 50% humidity and can’t survive a freeze.

In contrast to most succulent vegetation, elephant bush prefers a damp setting. A humidity degree of fifty% is nearly good for this plant. In the event you can not obtain this humidity degree within the house, you possibly can attempt utilizing a pebble tray or a humidifier to lift the humidity. Misting the plant can even serve this goal so long as it’s achieved often.

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

In the event you preserve your elephant bush outdoor within the hotter months and indoors within the cooler months, count on the plant to bear some stress while you make the transition. Make the transition regularly by shifting the plant to an intermediate area. A shaded spot outdoor 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 throughout the winter, and as soon as monthly can be adequate in spring and fall. You may improve this to bi-weekly in the summertime, however watch out to not overdo it.

Utilizing a low nitrogen components is greatest, and dilute your fertilizer to ½ power to keep away from salt buildup on the roots. Salt buildup can contribute to leaf scorch, so watch out about over-fertilizing.

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 critical to keep up each form and measurement.

Pruning your elephant bush will assist to maintain it wanting shapely and sturdy. 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 rising season.

The quantity of pruning you do will depend on the dimensions of the plant and whether or not you wish to management the dimensions or encourage extra development. To take care of the dimensions of the plant, lower branches again by about ⅓. In the event you merely wish to encourage branching and development, lower a lot much less.

Be certain to trim away any branches that cross the inside of the plant, as these could cause leaf injury and create an setting through which each bugs and fungi will thrive. Pruning will assist preserve 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 youngsters as it’s non-toxic.

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


There are just a few completely different varieties you could come throughout in native backyard facilities or when purchasing on your plant on-line. let’s take a look at a number of 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 Identify: Portulacaria afra Minima

  • Solar Necessities: Vibrant Oblique Gentle 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 can flower when burdened. The trailing branches attain about 2’ lengthy and appears fantastic peeking out from the border of a rock backyard or hanging from a basket. Indoors it wants full solar, however as an outside plant, it may well 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 Identify: Portulacaria afra Variegata

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

Also referred to as Rainbow Bush, the variegated number of Elephant Bush is a stunning, sprawling plant that may have a ramification of as much as 6’ and in addition attain as much as 12’ in peak.

It has fantastic reddish-brown stems and pale inexperienced and cream-colored leaves. 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 simple-to-grow Portulacaria afra has brilliant lime inexperienced leaves and produces purple flower clusters when blooming.

Botanical Identify: Portulacaria afra Decumbent

  • Solar Necessities: Vibrant Filtered Gentle
  • Hardiness Zones: 10-11

This selection is understood for being straightforward to develop. Its brilliant, 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 well develop as much as 8’ tall when planted within the floor. It likes a number 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 Identify: Portulacaria afra Medio-picta

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

Also referred to as the Midstripe Rainbow Bush, medio-picta is a small selection that stays near 2’ tall and huge. It’s a sluggish grower with purple stems. The principle attraction for this plant are its leaves that are inexperienced with a white stripe down the middle, and sometimes, they don’t have any inexperienced in any respect. This selection prefers cooler temperatures and doesn’t do properly in direct solar.

Pests and Ailments

Elephant Bush is just not significantly prone to pests and ailments, however just a few points may crop up if the setting is simply too damp. Most pests come into the setting from new vegetation.

The easiest way 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 needs to be remoted and handled, ensuring that the difficulty is handled earlier than introducing it into the house the place different vegetation may 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 attributable to fungus development.

Root rot is a typical concern for succulent vegetation, usually attributable to fungal development attributable to overwatering. Moist soil is a breeding floor for fungi, and the fixed moisture causes a breakdown within the root tissue.

Root rot may be prevented by correct potting and care strategies. Be certain your container has sufficient drainage, and don’t water too typically. Keep in mind that the soil ought to dry nearly utterly 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 seem in cool, damp environments. Its favourite victims are fruit-bearing vegetation, however succulents will also be a number to one of these rot.

Also referred to as grey mildew, botrytis is extra prevalent in soil that has extra nitrogen and manifests as a grayish-white, velvety mildew. Therapy entails the removing of affected tissue and using 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 will see within the backyard. It exhibits up as a chalky white residue on leaves and can stunt the plant’s development because it inhibits photosynthesis.

That is extra widespread outdoor, because it travels on the wind, however it’s not unattainable to finish up with powdery mildew in the home should 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 tough to eradicate however uncommon in potted vegetation.

Also referred to as Sclerotium rolfsii, this soil-borne fungus could be very troublesome to cope with, so it’s greatest to forestall it. When it’s discovered within the soil, it must be handled with steam, which can even kill the roots of your vegetation. The excellent news is that it not often exhibits 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 may 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 point out 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, go away behind a sticky excrement known as honeydew, which might play host to sooty mildew, so bugs can actually wreak havoc in your houseplant assortment. You’re more than likely to search out them on the underside of leaves, and a powerful stream of water is the primary line of protection. Spray as many off as you possibly can, 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 arduous to detect and eradicate, leaving high quality 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 high quality 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 properly to rid your house of those guys, however multiple remedy is normally crucial. In addition they have a variety of pure predators, so leaving your vegetation outdoor might help, however it may well additionally 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 cope with and have a waxy coating that makes them arduous to take away.

In the event you’ve ever handled these waxy, white crawlers, you recognize that it’s nothing you wish to expertise once more, and also you doubtless examine your new vegetation a bit higher as of late. I personally have needed to cope with mealybugs, and they’re an actual ache. Their waxy coating makes them troublesome to do away with.

An alcohol-soaked cotton swab is a good weapon in opposition to these pests because it helps to interrupt down that waxy coating. That is one other pest with many pure predators, and leaving affected vegetation outdoor for just a few days is an efficient option to knock down their inhabitants.

Last Ideas

The elephant bush is a simple houseplant to take care of. It has only a few wants and might stand to be uncared for for average durations of time. This gorgeous succulent appears nice each by itself and in a blended succulent planter or backyard and makes a pleasant hanging plant. Whereas it not often flowers in cultivation, it may well, and it’s a stunning show when that occurs.

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