The Elephant Bush
Portulacaria Afra is commonly called the Elephant Bush, also known as Dwarf Jade Plant although it is a different species to Crassula Ovata and sometimes called Spekboom or Elephant succulent.
The natural environment is the dry rocky hills in the eastern parts of South Africa.
It comes in a number of forms including a variegated form called the Rainbow Bush and a rare ‘Silk Variageted Form.
When grown in containers it can reach around 2 meters over time, in its natural environment it can get 5 meters (15ft)
Characterised by small rounded leaves and reddish brown stems, this is an easy succulent to grow and to propagate.
Elephant Bush Propagation
Propagation of the Elephant Bush is best done by stem cuttings. And this is best done in spring, although you can do it at any time of the year if the plant can be kept in a warm position.
Simply remove a piece of health stem, around 6 inches long (15cm)
- Take the cutting lust below a node like this using a Sharp knife or secateurs.
- Leave the cuttings to callus over for around 7 days and then its ready to plant.
- Use a cactus and succulent potting mix like this, OR even a normal potting mix as long as you do not over water.
- Make a hole in the potting mix, firm in the cutting and water in.
- Keep the cuttings in good filtered light NOT direct sun.
- In around 6 weeks the cutting should have formed roots. During this period get the soil moist but never wet and soggy. Wait until the soil begins to dry before watering, usually around once a week.
Portulacaria Afra Varieties
Green foliaged as well as variegated foliage forms are available. The variegated form Portulacaria afra variegata is known as the ‘Rainbow Bush’. A variety with reverse or ‘Silk’ variegation is also available.
The Elephant Plant gets its common name not from its size, but because elephants find them a useful source of moisture in the heat of summer.
General Care and growing conditions
Best growth is in good filtered light or morning sun and afternoon filtered light. Full sun is OK however you will need to water more often and the plant can be subject to leaf burn so the foliage may not look as good as you may wish
In cold climates (frosts and freezes) you will need to grow the plant indoors over winter.
This is drought tolerant plant, when grown in the ground you may never need to water it once established, in containers it is a different proposition.
Water well once every week or two, the hotter and drier the climate the more you need to water.
Always wait for the soil to dry before watering and then give it a deep watering.
Fertiliser and Repotting
Fertilise spring with a liquid fertiliser or a slow release organic type fertiliser.
Repotting only needs to done when the plant outgrows the container or exhausts the soil. Every 2 – 3 years is adequate although they will survive in the one pot for much longer.
Always use a free draining potting mix, OR be very careful not to overwater. Repotting will provide a nutrient rich soil for the plant.
- Wet soils can cause root rot, so never let the plant sit in saucers of water like this.
- In containers the soil can dry too much, and sometimes the soil becomes hydrophobic, (the water just runs straight through) and the soil will not retain moisture at all. If this occurs either repot OR soak the pot in water for 30 minutes and then allow to drain. After the top of the soil drys out resume normal watering.
- Leaf drop is usually caused by under watering
- Yellow leaves are usually a sign of overwatering or soggy soil.
- Mealy bugs, Spider Mites and Whitefly can also cause problems, as can Fungus Gnats.
Portulacaria afra is available for sale from the following nurseries
Specialist succulent grower with a large range of Echeveria and other succulent genera, including rare and unusual varieties for the collector.
Online Retail Sales www.succulents-australia-sales.com
20 Swan Street, Lara, Vic. 3212