How to Care for Portulacaria afra (Elephant Bush)

Portulacaria afra  also commonly known as Elephant Bush, Elephant Food, and Dwarf Jade has fleshy leaves that are the food for the elephants. That is the reason for it to be called the Elephant Bush or Elephant Food. Due to its small leaves, it is also called the Dwarf Jade plant. They grow like a bush and spread around quickly. They are succulent plant so they like the hot environment and full sun in the winter.

But during the summer their leaves can wilt if they are exposed to extremely hot temperatures and full sun of the summer. This plant is native to the Africa region. This plant is expected to grow between 6 to 20 feet or up to six meters if placed outside, while in the indoor environments’ plants growth is limited to 8 to 9 feet.

The Elephant Bush is an extremely popular choice for an indoor plant due of its small and fleshy leaves along with its beautiful features.

How to Water Portulacaria Afra (Elephant Bush)

Elephant Bush belongs to the succulent family so; it has similar water needs. The plant likes to be watered when its pot has been completely dried up. If you are not sure about the pot if it is dry or not, you check it by two methods, one is to dip your finger in the soil and check and the other is to check its weight if it is heavy that means there is some water in the pot but if the pot is not heavy this means it has completely dried, and you can water it.

  • The first thing while watering the Elephant Bush is to keep in mind that you need to water it sparingly, not with the flooding method.
  • Make sure that water reaches the bottom of the pot and then place it where it faces the sunlight directly, such as a window that opens towards the east.
  • This plant has so many thin leaves that make it possible for it to store the water in them, that is why it can even survive the frequent watering.

Lighting and Temperature needs for Portulacaria Afra (Elephant Bush)

This is a succulent plant from the African region, and it can thrive if provided with full sunlight. The plant does a lot of photosynthesis with the help of its leaves and it requires more sunlight for the process. Therefore, full bright light is a plus for its growth.

When it comes to the temperature, the Elephant Bush can survive the temperatures as low as 25° degrees Fahrenheit. So, you can grow it in the cold regions as well. But you need to place it inside. The plant can resist the hot temperatures upto 113° Fahrenheit.

Soil needs for Portulacaria Afra (Elephant Bush)

This is a succulent plant and its soil needs are like other succulents. You need a little more sand in the soil. Sandy soil can drain excess water quickly and thus keep the plant healthy. Creating your soil mixture is also easy for Elephant Bush.

You need soil and some sand, some fertilizer if you like, then create a mixture of crushed perlite, pumice, vermiculite, add this mixture to the soil. Avoid the use of clay soil or soil that can keep the water trapped in it for long, this is harmful to the plant and it requires a quick drain.

Fertilizer for Portulacaria Afra (Elephant Bush)

If you have planted the Elephant Bush into a soil that contains all the nutrients, that is the best but if you think that you should provide nutrients from outside as well, then you can provide it the fertilizers. Try using the house plant fertilizer for the Elephant Bush. you can dilute the fertilizer and provide it to the plant once a month. This will help the speedy growth of the plant.

How to Repot Portulacaria Afra (Elephant Bush)

Elephant Bush grows very fast and it can soon grow bigger than the size of the pot, in that case repotting is recommended. Mostly it can stay in the same pot for over a year. The best time to repot this is the spring season. First, you need to prepare a bigger pot for repotting and then take the plant from its pot and shift it into the other with care, you need to provide it water after potting so that its roots adjust easily in the new soil. 

How to Propagate Portulacaria Afra (Elephant Bush)

Elephant Bush can easily be propagated by cutting, when your plant is mature, you can take cuttings, the best season for cutting is spring. Once cutting is done, you need to plant them in the soil that has been prepared according to its needs. This plant will show a better growth if you can keep it outside for a few days.

Growing with seeds:

This plant can be grown with seeds, but it is very difficult, that is why most of the gardeners recommend that it should be grown through cuttings because that is easy. Even if you decided to grow it from the seeds, you will only be able to see fewer results after a long-term effort.


Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can we grow the Elephant Bush from seeds?

Answer:  Yes, it is possible to grow this from the seeds, but it is very difficult. That is why it is recommended to grow by cuttings.

Question: Is the Elephant Bush poisonous?

Answer: No, this plant is not poisonous for humans, and animals. It is the food of the elephant. This plant’s foliage is also used for salads.

Question:  How often should you water an Elephant Bush?

 Answer: This plant should be provided with more water during the summer days and less water during the winter days, it is a succulent, but it can tolerate more often watering as well.

Question:  How much sun does an Elephant Bush need?

Answer: The Elephant Bush is a succulent plant and it needs more sunlight for fast growth. It can be grown inside but you need to place it near a window towards east side.