Elephant Bush (Portulacaria Afra): Care and Growing Guide (Including Rainbow Elephant Bush)

A succulent with tiny oval edible leaves and reddish woody stems, the Elephant Bush plant (Portulacaria afra) is a succulent. Due to its colorful trailing stems and jade-colored leaves, elephant bush is a popular hanging basket houseplant succulent. Rainbow elephant bush (Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’) is another variegated form available. Light green and cream-colored circular leaves make up the succulent rainbow elephant bush.

The elephant bush plant, as well as the rainbow elephant bush plant, are covered in this article. You’ll learn how to cope with some challenges related to elephant bush plant growing at home, in addition to practical care hints.

What is Elephant Bush (Portulacaria Afra)

Elephant bush (Portulacaria afra) is a popular indoor plant that can flourish in warm regions outdoors but may also flourish indoors. Elephant bush thrives in arid, bright places in the wild. Elephant bush is a drought-tolerant plant that thrives in arid, desert-like conditions.

USDA zones 10 and 11 are ideal for elephant bush plants (Portulacaria). Little elephant bush plants are not cold hardy, despite the fact that big Portulacaria afra bushes can withstand some frost. The plant is damaged and may die if the temperature falls below 30°F (-1°C). When cultivated in the ground and under ideal circumstances, elephant bush is a shrub-like plant that grows between 8 and 15 feet (2.5 – 4.5 meters) tall.

Elephant bush stems, on the other hand, only grow a few feet when they are grown indoors as a potted succulent. Succulent is excellent for displaying on high shelves or growing hanging in baskets because of its trailing leafy stems.

A blooming variety of succulent is Portulacaria afra, which grows outdoors. Portulacaria afra bears clusters of star-shaped blooms that grow in tight clusters when the growing conditions are ideal. At the end of branches, these pink or white blooms bloom. Elephant bush plants, on the other hand, are unusual bloomers indoors.

Because it’s a favorite food of elephants, Elephant Bush (Portulacaria afra) flowers are known for their beauty. Porkbush and spekboom are two more popular names for this plant. Elephant bush is also known as a dwarf jade plant because of its resemblance to jade plants (Crassula ovata).

However, the elephant bush and jade plants have nothing to do with one another. Elephant bush, for example, develops quicker and is more hardy than jade succulent plants. Elephant bush is a tasty succulent, while jade leaves (family Crassula) are mildly poisonous, which is another distinction.

Crassula ovata (jade plant) is shown in this photograph. They are not connected, but the elephant bush (Portulacaria afra) looks a lot like jade.

How to Care for Elephant Bush Succulent

Grow Portulacaria afra “Elephant Bush” in sandy, fast-draining soil and place it in the sun to care for it. When the soil is dry, water elephant bush succulents. Drenching the soil and allowing excess water to drain is the best watering method. In the spring and summer, fertilize monthly with a diluted houseplant fertilizer.

What is Rainbow Elephant Bush (Portulacaria Afra ‘Variegata’)

Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’ (also known as “Rainbow Elephant Bush”) is a tiny-leaved succulent with creamy-white and green leaves. In comparison to the darker jade-colored Portulacaria variety, this variation of elephant bush has brighter-colored leaves. Long, reddish woody stems create a big bush when combined with the Rainbow Elephant Bush.

In arid environments with plenty of sunlight, Rainbow Portulacaria plants flourish. Rainbow elephant bush plants may grow up to 20 feet (6 meters) tall in their natural environment. The variegated plant’s succulent stems grow to be around 10 feet (3 meters) in length in containers. Elephant bush plants make excellent hanging basket plants because of their trailing growth.

In ideal conditions, all types of Portulacaria bloom. After warm, dry winters, most outdoor elephant bushes bloom in late spring. Against the light green and cream foliage of rainbow elephant bush, small clusters of little inconspicuous white or pink-colored blooms are barely visible.

How to Care for Rainbow Elephant Bush (Variegated Elephant Bush)

Grow the rainbow elephant bush in bright indirect light to care for Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata.’ For succulents, plant the variegated elephant bush in a sandy soil mix. Only when the soil is completely dry should you water the succulent. Use a diluted houseplant fertilizer to fertilize in late spring.

Elephant Bush (Portulacaria Afra) — Detailed Care Guide

Elephants Bush Succulents (Portulacaria afra) are usually quite easy to take care of. However, there are a few essential care steps that must be followed to ensure the heat-loving plants thrive. Fast-draining soil, adequate light, and occasional watering are required for elephant bush and rainbow elephant bush. Let’s take a closer look at how to care for an elephant bush.

Light Requirements for Growing Portulacaria Afra “Elephant Bush” Plants

Elephant bush thrives in bright light, so it requires a lot of sunlight. Portulacaria plants may survive in partial shade, but they must get at least six hours of sunlight every day to thrive. Elephant bush plants must be protected from direct sunlight as well. Leaf tips may become yellow or burnt if too much sunlight enters a window.

Elephant Portulacaria plants thrive in bright light, so they should be planted near a window. The rich jade color of elephant bush oval leaves is brightened by sunlight. In addition, avoiding too much shade prevents trailing elephant bush stems from becoming leggy and sparse.

Top tip for elephant bush care: When caring for Portulacaria afra plants, plenty of light is preferred over heat or water.

Light Requirements for Growing Rainbow Elephant Bush Plants

The leaf variegation of Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’ requires additional exposure to sunlight. In the brightest location in a room, you’ll need to grow rainbow Portulacaria plants. Make sure to shield the rainbow elephant plant from the scorching midday sun, or the leaves may melt and fall.

Overly shaded rainbow elephant bush plants will grow darker green leaves if they are in the shade for too long. Most of the variegation on the bright, creamy leaves could disappear over time. As a result, you may need to experiment with different locations to keep variegated succulents thriving indoors.

The Best Soil for Potted “Elephant Bush” Portulacaria Afra Plants

Elephant bush succulents must be grown in well-draining soil with rapid drainage, which is an important care factor. 2 parts regular all-purpose potting soil, 1 part horticultural sand, and 1 part pea gravel make up an ideal succulent soil mix. You can also purchase a commercial cactus soil or bonsai soil that is suited for cactuses.

One of the most important care aspects is to grow elephant bush plants in fast-draining soil. To improve drainage, you can add poultry grit, pumice, or tiny pea gravel to the soil. Perlite is the most commonly used soil amendment for drainage. While elephant plant succulents prefer sandy soil, having too much sand in containers isn’t recommended. The succulent soil may become too thick because sand is too fine.

Elephant bush plants don’t like to be in mucky, perpetually moist soil. Root rot and rapid death are common in damp conditions. Therefore, in order to keep Portulacaria succulents thriving, soil consistency, the correct pot, and adequate watering methods are desired. Here are some tips for ensuring that the moisture in your yard is perfect for elephant bush plants:

  • To promote moisture evaporation quickly, grow an elephant bush in a porous unglazed clay pot.
  • Always use large drainage holes in the bottom of terracotta pots to ensure that excess water drains quickly.
  • Don’t choose a pot that’s too big for your plant’s stature.
  • When temperatures are low during the winter, there is less sunlight, and plant development is dormant, hold off watering.
  • Always ensure that the watered soil is completely dry before watering.

How to Water Elephant Bush Succulents

Only when the potting mix becomes dry does “Elephant Bush” need watering. Succulents are commonly killed by overwatering, as is the case with elephant bush. Water this succulent pot until it drains out the bottom by pouring lukewarm water evenly inside. Wait until the dry season is over before watering again.

Elephants bush plants may need to be watered every week in hot, bright summer weather. But, your watering guideline should be the dryness of the soil. You run the risk of root rot in your jade-like succulent if you water the plant too much and the soil is excessively wet.

The drench and dry technique is the optimum watering method for elephant bush succulents. Pour enough water into the ground to thoroughly wet it. Allow all the superfluous water to flow away. Lastly, in the location where it wants to grow, put the elephant bush pot. To determine if it’s time to water the plant, check the soil for dryness after five or so days.

The Best Temperature For Growing Elephant Bush (Portulacaria Afra)

Average room temperatures are ideal for elephant bush plants. Portulacaria afra plants should be grown between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (18 and 27 degrees Celsius). A temperature range of 50°F to 55°F (10°C to 13°C) is ideal for nighttime temperatures. It’s important to remember that elephant bushes are affected by temperature changes. It’s also a good idea to keep the heat-loving succulent away from chilly drafts and warm air vents.

It’s also a good idea to recall that the plant may get overheated if it receives direct midday sunlight through a window. Scorched foliage and leaf drop may occur due to the intense sun and hot temperatures. USDA zones 10 and 11 are suitable for elephant bush succulents.

Choose the brightest area in your garden and ensure the soil has fast-draining soil if you want to grow these succulents. In the ground or in containers, elephant bush plants take a long time to grow.

In the Canary Islands, you may cultivate Elephant Bush plants in containers and bring them outside in the summer. Your patio, deck, or balcony can be enhanced with the jade-colored succulent trailing foliage. When the temperature drops below 50°F (10°C), you should bring the elephant bush pots inside. Leaf drop can occur when moving elephant bush plants indoors in the autumn. To reduce stress on the plant, put it in the brightest, warmest room.

Portulacaria Afra “Elephant Bush” Humidity Needs

Elephant bush succulents can grow in high humidity settings. Succulents thrive in dry air produced by humans. As long as you aren’t watering the elephant bush excessively, you shouldn’t have to worry about humidity. Portulacaria afra may be harmed by sudden humidity fluctuations.

These problems are often caused by heating or cooling homes. Elephant bush plants should not be placed in drafts. Keep them away from airstreams in the summer, and warm heating vents in the winter. Too much dryness may cause the plant to lose its leaves.

Repotting an Elephant Bush (Portulacaria Afra) Plant

The succulent elephant bush grows slowly and doesn’t need regular repotting. When you see roots protruding from the drainage hole of a Portulacaria afra plant, it’s time to repot it. Choose a container that is one or two sizes larger than its current one to repot the trailing succulent. Select a fast-draining succulent soil mix for repotting the plant.

Repotting Rainbow Elephant Bush (Portulacaria Afra ‘Variegata’)

In comparison to the jade cultivar, variegated elephant bush plants grow at a slower pace. In addition, the non-variegated kind of rainbow elephant bush is smaller. As a result, compared to other types of Portulacaria, the Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’ requires less repotting.

Pruning Elephant Bush Succulents

To sculpt the plant and eliminate leggy, trailing stems, Portulacaria species can be pruned heavily. When branches are removed, this woody succulent forms buds. Elephant bush succulents are particularly easy to prune into the desired shape because of their growth habit. Snip off the unwanted leaf clusters at the ends of branches to prune Portulacaria foliage.

How to Propagate Portulacaria Afra “Elephant Bush” Plants

It’s simple to grow an elephant bush succulent. Cutting elephant bushes from their stems is the most basic and quickest way to grow them. Take a healthy stem with nice foliage and chop it off. Allow the wound to heal by allowing the stem to dry for a few days. Then keep the cutting warm and moist to promote rooting by placing it in an appropriate potting mix.

When repotting elephant bush succulents, you can also propagate them. Parts of the root with thick, healthy-looking stems may be divided into sections. Healthy elephant bush leaves develop roots when put in soil, as do many types of succulents. This method, on the other hand, takes longer to grow Portulacaria afra and is less effective.

Top tip for elephant bush propagation: Don’t remove any of the plant’s properly formed leaves that have fallen into the potting soil. They tend to root and create new plants that you may transfer to a fresh pot when they grow.

Are Elephant Bush Plants Toxic?

The plant Portulacaria afra is not poisonous. In delicious salads, leaves from elephant bush plants are utilized to provide a sour flavor and crunchy bite in certain nations. You’ll need a Portulacaria afra plant before experimenting with elephant bush leaves. Jade plants (Crassula) are poisonous and should never be consumed, so elephant bush looks similar.

Pest and Diseases Affecting Portulacaria Afra “Elephant Bush” Succulents

Mealybugs, spider mites, and whitefly are all susceptible to elephant bush. Get rid of these houseplant pests naturally by using a neem oil solution. 2 teaspoons of the above mixture 1 tsp. of organic neem oil A quart (1 l) of warm water is used to make liquid Castile soap. To get rid of pests from your elephant bush, fill a spray bottle with the solution and douse the succulent foliage.

Root rot is the most prevalent disease that affects elephant bush growth. If you water your succulents properly, this fungal disease will be avoided. When the soil is dry, water elephant bush plants are usually the only ones available.

Problems Growing Portulacaria Afra (Elephant Bush Succulents)

If you provide them with adequate light and don’t overwater them, elephant bush succulents are simple to maintain at home. However, Portulacaria afra plants may be impacted by a few problems.

Why do elephant bush plants drop leaves?

Temperatures, light, and humidity fluctuations can all cause Portulacaria afra succulents to lose their leaves. usually, Elephant Bush leaves fall when brought indoors in areas with less light. If these succulents are placed in drafts or near warm air vents, their leaves may start to drop.

Portulacaria afra leaves are turning yellow, what should I do?

Overwatering is the most common reason for yellow leaves on elephant bush succulents. Roots that are in wet soil can’t convey nutrients to the plant because they can’t absorb them. Yellowing leaves eventually die as a consequence of the mutation. You may move the Portulacaria afra plant to a brighter area and let it dry out faster in order to help it recover.

If the potting soil isn’t draining fast enough, you may need to refresh it. Elephant bush plants should be potted in a few days with an ideal potting soil. Perlite, pea gravel, or pumice must be added to the soil if it has been wet for longer. Also, make sure the plant isn’t rootbound. Water takes longer to drain and become waterlogged because of a dense root system.

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