How to take care of Elephant Bush?

Are you in love with the Elephant Bush Plant? It may be a good idea to know how they need care.

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Jimena Bolívar

May 16, 2021


How to take care of Elephant Bush? Water, Soil, Sunlight, Humidity, Repot, Propagation, etc. Thumbnail

Introduction

The Elephant Bush or the Portulacaria Afra can grow into various sizes. This is why I prefer these succulents for almost any space in my home. I have a few mature ones that are six to eight feet tall! With proper care and maintenance, the Elephant Bush can grow as tall as 12 feet!

The Elephant Bush needs six hours of direct sunlight, ideally with a temperature between 70°F to 85°F (21°C to 29°C). It needs watering more frequently than other succulents. Also needs well-draining soil. It is non-toxic to humans and animals. Grows well indoors at average humidity.

Elephant Bush 101

An Elephant Bush Plant resembles the Jade plant. But it is quite different from one! The leaves of this lovely succulent look like an elephant’s ears which explains where it gets its name from. It is also known as the Dwarf Jade, Elephant Food or the Portulacaria Afra.

A tall elephant bush plant in a pot.

Here are some details about this astonishing succulent:

  • Scientific name: Portulacaria Afra / Variegata
  • Popular name: Elephant bush, miniature jade
  • Family: Purslanes
  • Genus: Didiereaceae
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Native Country: South Africa
  • Flowering: Produces small pink flowers in the wild during growing season
  • Hardiness: USDA Zones 10-11

Caring for The Elephant Bush

The elephant bush can grow quite tall!

Below I summarize the things required by your Elephant Bush:

  • Ideal soil: Well-draining soil with sand
  • Drainage Needs: Requires good drainage
  • Water Requirements: Requires infrequent watering indoors, only when soil is touch-dry
  • Sunlight Requirements: Partial shade and direct sunlight for a few hours
  • Temperature: 70°F to 85°F (21°C to 29°C)
  • Humidity: Indoor humidity
  • Ideal pH: 5.6-6.5
  • Frost-Resistance: Very low. Place indoors at all times during winter
  • Fertilizer: A diluted fertilizer every month during growing season
  • Pruning: Dead leaves should be pruned. Shaping also requires pruning
  • Propagation: Can be propagated easily via leaves and pups
  • Repotting: Repot during the growing season, when the plant outgrows its pot
  • Toxicity: Non-toxic to animals and humans

Haven’t got an Elephant Bush plant already? How about trying out these lovely elephant bush cuttings that you can plant and propagate from!

Bundle of Healthy Portulacaria Afra Cuttings

This pack of 12 elephant bush cuttings is perfect for starters!

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Want to get a miniature version of the elephant bush? Check out these mini elephant bush plants in terrariums!

Miniature Elephant Bush plants in Terrariums

You can place these mini elpehant bush plants anywhere you like!

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1. What is the Ideal Soil for the Portulacaria Afra?

Choose a well-draining succulent soil mix for your elephant bush!

The Portulacaria Afra requires a well-draining succulent soil mix. The mixture should not hold excessive moisture.

Use a pot with drainage holes. You can also include perlite in your potting soil mix. Perlite allows for proper airflow in the soil, making the drying speed faster.

2. What are the Sunlight Requirements of the Elephant Bush?

Place your elephant bush where there’s partial shade for most hours, and direct sunlight for a few!

The Elephant Bush or the Portulacaria Afra needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. Intense sunlight for a long duration should be avoided. Keep in partial shade otherwise.

Warning

Keep an eye out for potential sunburns!

The miniature version of the Elephant Bush is intolerant of heat. It may be more prone to getting sunburned than its bigger counterpart.

Closeup of elephant bush leaves

3. What is the Humidity Requirement of the Elephant Bush?

The Portulacaria Afra does not need high humidity!

The elephant bush is not demanding a succulent for humidity. It thrives well in room-temperature humidity.

Warning!

Don't moisten the elephant bush!

The portulacaria afra requires normal humidity indoors. It is not a good idea to moisten it by spraying as it can lead to unnecessarily high humidity levels.

4. How Should I Water the Elephant Bush?

It’s good to water the Elephant Bush more when there is a heatwave!

The elephant bush has thin leaves so it doesn’t stock much water. It must be watered every week during the Summer. Water it after every 1.5 weeks during the winter or during cooler summer temperatures.

Warning

Do not overwater your plant!

Don’t get carried away with watering just because the Portulacaria has thin leaves!

5. How to Fertilize the Elephant Bush?

The Elephant Bush has minimal fertilizer needs!

The Elephant Bush needs little fertilizer. You can use one available for cacti plants. Give a drop every month during the growing season from Spring to Fall.

Warning

Don't give the plant fertilizer during winter!

Succulents hardly need intake during winter. That's more like their time off. They will react negatively to water with fertilizer in the cold!

6. How to Prune the Elephant Bush?

Other than cutting off dead parts, the Elephant Bush can also be pruned for shaping!

The Portulacaria Afra must be free of moisture before pruning. Use a sharp, disinfected knife before you begin to prune. Dead stems and offsets will need to be trimmed immediately.

You can also prune the Elephant Bush plant for stylistic purposes. Make cuts in the shape you want your Portulacaria Afra to be. If you want a miniature-sized Bonsai tree shape, you can do that too!

Pro-Tip

Sterilize your knife easily at home!

You will need some bleach and water. Pour some bleach solution into 90% water. Rinse your blade or knife thoroughly in the mix before you cut the plant.

7. How to Repot the Elephant Bush?

You will have to wait quite a long time to repot your Elephant Bush plant!

The Elephant Bush takes quite some time to grow. You will have to repot it only when it has outgrown its pot. After repotting, you should not water thePortulacaria Afra for at least seven days.

A tall elephant bush plant in a big pot

Warning

Don’t repot the elephant bush when its roots are still wet.

Things You Should Know About the Portulacaria Afra

We’ve seen how you can grow your Elephant Bush into a healthy and mature plant. Now let’s go through its propagation, toxicity and common issues.

Many leaves of an Elephant Bush or Portulacaria Afra plant

1. How to Propagate the Elephant Bush?

The Elephant Bush can be easily propagated by its cuttings!

You can easily use Elephant Bush cuttings for propagating. Make clean cuts using a sharp blade. Put these leaves aside to dry for propagation.

Once the stem cuts of the leaves have dried, you have two options:

  1. Put them slightly into the soil
  2. Simply place them on the soil base

Here are a few tips to follow after propagating your Portulacaria Afra leaf cuttings:

  • Avoid placing the pot in direct sunlight
  • Keep watering minimal, only when you feel the soil is touch-dry
  • You can sense the growth of roots by checking if the plant has become firm in the pot
  • You can expect it to get fully rooted in around a month

Warning

Never forget to sterilize your knife!

Whether you’re pruning or propagating, you’re making cuts. If you don’t use a sterilized knife, your plant can get infected!

2. How Toxic is the Elephant Bush?

The Elephant Bush will not cause any allergies!

You don’t have to worry about your pets coming near to the Elephant Bush. It is non-toxic to touch and consumption!

3. What are common issues with the Elephant Bush?

You need to keep an eye on the leaves of the elephant bush!

Falling Leaves Falling leaves of an elephant bush indicate a lack of nutrients. You can prevent falling leaves by regular use of fertilizer.

Discolored Leaves Yellow leaves are a sign of an unhealthy elephant bush. The discoloration happens because of watering.

Pests The elephant bush is prone to attacks from moths and flies.

Conclusion

The Elephant Bush is happy to be in at least 6 hours of sunlight, and partial shade otherwise. Don’t leave it outdoors in the cold as it has low frost-resistance. Its ideal temperature is 70°F to 85°F (21°C to 29°C) and average humidity is best. You can fertilize it during the growing season and propagate it using its pups.

Feeling interested in miniature plants and terrariums? Learn more about terrariums and whether they are good for succulents or not!.

Are Terrariums Good for Succulents? Everything You Will Need to Know!

Have you been wondering if growing succulents in terrariums is a good idea? Read ahead to find out if they will help your succulents flourish!

Jimena Bolívar Picture

By Jimena Bolívar

Easy Succulents Founder

My name is Jimena and I'm the the founder of Easy Succulents! I'm fascinated by this wonderful plants and I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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Jimena Bolívar Picture

Jimena Bolívar

Easy Succulents Founder

My name is Jimena and I'm the the founder of Easy Succulents! I'm fascinated by this wonderful plants and I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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