Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Elephant Bush, Elephant Food, Elephant Plant, Miniature Jade, Dwarf Jade, Spekboom, Small Leaf Jade
Portulacaria afra

Family: Portulacaceae
Genus: Portulacaria (por-tew-luh-KAR-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: afra (AF-ruh) (Info)

Synonym:Portulacaria afra f. macrophylla
Synonym:Portulacaria afra f. microphylla

3 vendors have this plant for sale.

59 members have or want this plant for trade.

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Tropicals and Tender Perennials
Cactus and Succulents

Unknown - Tell us

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun


Bloom Color:
Pale Pink

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
This plant is suitable for growing indoors
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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There are a total of 34 photos.
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7 positives
4 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive stevelvv On Jul 17, 2014, stevelvv from San Diego, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

Plant is in full bloom in San Diego. It seems the drier it is, the more it blooms.

Negative cactusmother On Jun 14, 2013, cactusmother from Scottsdale, AZ wrote:

Help! Help! All of a sudden my elephant food in an 8'x8' brick planter is yellowing off and looks like it is dying. Been there for about 3-4 years. Some of the top branches did freeze this year (Scottsdale, Az), but I just cut them off and the plant seemed to be doing fine. They now look like too much sun, but this has never been a problem. I've taken samples to two nurseries and they say perhaps too much water - but they look like they need water. I used Osmocote earlier this Spring. Any suggestions? The planter is centered in a large open-air atrium in a patio home, so sun exposure changes during the year and in 20 years, this has been the only plant that has thrived throughout the seasons - until now. Help!

Neutral stacym3 On Dec 11, 2012, stacym3 from New River, AZ wrote:

does anyone know what may be eating my elephant bush? It was so big now looks like maybe a bird has torn many of the branches off of it. I don't see any tracks and have had it outside for awhile now and never experienced any problems with this.

Positive Shelley47 On Aug 6, 2009, Shelley47 from San Diego, CA wrote:

Portulacaria does great in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego. I'd like to know more about it's root spread when planting it as a hedge in the ground. Anyone know about that? I'd like to let it grow 4-6' tall, but don't want the roots to spread to my neighbor's property.

Positive ffeeddee On Mar 30, 2009, ffeeddee wrote:

I have some plants of Portulacaria afra in pots, all from a small twig I took from a big plant 20 years ago.
They thrive without problems under the full sun of italian summer (up to 40 C), in winter protect them in a closed patio south facing (min. temp. 3C).
The biggest plant is about 1,7 meters.
Never seen flowers.

Neutral BlissfulGarden On Oct 24, 2008, BlissfulGarden from Baton Rouge, LA wrote:


Portulacaria afra ("Elephant Bush"), native to Africa, is known as "Spekboom" by the native Africans. In habitat, this plant forms large "thickets" known as "Spekboomvelds", and are fed upon extensively by elephants. A group of elephants can quickly strip all the leaves and smaller branches in a single feeding, but the regenerative property of the Portulacaria is so great that within two weeks the branches will have regrown lush new greenery. Portulacaria afra can form up to 80% of the elephant's diet. This is a somewhat symbiotic relationship between the plant and the elephant ~ during the feeding the elephant breaks off branches that later re-root and establish new stands of plants. Portulacarias grow to over 6' in height, forming reddish -brown stems to 3" in diameter, with many lateral sub-stems. Rounded, very succulent emerald green leaves accent the mahogany color of the stems. Excellent as landscape subjects, patio plants or to provide privacy screens in the yard or by the pool. Portulacarias are easily grown, fast-growing plants that prefer porous soil with ample airflow. Bright light to full sun to prevent etiolation of the stems. Water thoroughly when soil is dry to the touch. Protect from frost.

Positive pharazon On Jun 26, 2008, pharazon from Murrieta, CA wrote:

Here in Zone 9 Temecula, CA, this plant has grown very large over the course of five years. Mine is planted in the ground, and grows in every direction. I would not hesitate to tell someone else to grow theres outdoors year round in the same zone, unless they don't want too much of it.

Positive BingsBell On Sep 28, 2004, BingsBell from SC, MT (Zone 5a) wrote:

I have this lovely plant in my sun room here in Montana. I will have to say that it can't be too close to the window or it actually seems to burn. The only problem I have with it is that mealy bugs love it. I think I finally have rid it of the pest. Mine has many, many limbs from the soil up and branches very easily to be very full and is about a foot tall. I have had it five years.

Positive whately47 On Jul 28, 2004, whately47 from Greenfield, MA wrote:

This is an excellent plant for Bonsai. It grows really well outdoors in my area (Western MA) during the summer with plenty of sun, water, and fertilizer. The plant is a welcome addition indoors during the winter when most other bonsai species must be outside. I had only one problem with the plant. That problem occured when the plants roots were cut back to fit into the bonsai pot. The process was done correctly because I was at a bonsai workshop. Over time the leaves began to fall off and the plant was failing. I took it back to the Bonsai grower where it recieved some TLC in their greenhouse. One month later it was like a new plant. I believe that if I had not taken the plant to be looked at it would of died. When autumn and winter is approaching make sure that you don't water the plant as much as you would during the heat of summer. If you overwater the plant at this time and it stays moist the leaves will fall off. That is the sign of an overwatered plant. During the winter water only when it absoultely necessary.

Positive rjbphx On Nov 5, 2003, rjbphx wrote:

For a very comprehensive overview of this plant, please see my 3-part monograph at . (Not selling anything!)

For pictures of a containerized plant in bloom (June 2003, near Kingman, Arizona), please see .

Definitely not poisonous -- leaf pads are edible, though slightly bitter tasting.

Cuttings root extremely easily in soil mix or in water. Cuttings do not necessarily have to be calloused over before setting out. Larger cuttings (1/2"+ diameter) should have most of the existing leaf pads carefully removed/cut in half until roots are established to reduce water loss through transpiration.

Neutral BotanyBob On Apr 7, 2001, BotanyBob from Thousand Oaks, CA wrote:

In Southern California, this species does very well in full sun, growing into a large, succulent shrub up to 10' tall. It has greyish, woody stems and numerous irregularly arranged branches covered with 2cm oval to circular flattish succulent bright green leaves, very similar to the leaves on a Jade plant, only smaller. Left unpruned, this plant (at least here) grows into a harmless thicket of branches and leaves. As the branches get too heavy, some break off, often rooting where they fall and beginning new plants. This is not a plant for a small area unless you plan on pruning it yearly (very easy to prune by the way). There is a variegated variety that is much more prostrate and slower growing. The woody stems on this version are redder and the leaves a striped pale yellow/ pale green. I have both in the yard and the former 'normal' variety has grown from a 6" plant to one over 6' tall in 5 years, and has had to be pruned yearly now to keep it from falling all over the nearby succulents.

Neutral Ehowell On Apr 3, 2001, Ehowell from Weyburn, SK wrote:

This is a small succulent tree. Grows slowly, (mine is only 3 inches tall after 5 years!). Needs bright light but not direct sun.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Gilbert, Arizona
Glendale, Arizona
Goodyear, Arizona
Hereford, Arizona
Mesa, Arizona
New River, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona (3 reports)
Queen Creek, Arizona
Scottsdale, Arizona (2 reports)
Tempe, Arizona
Brea, California
Brentwood, California
Canoga Park, California
Clayton, California
Desert View Highlands, California
Escondido, California
Los Angeles, California
Manhattan Beach, California
Murrieta, California
Pleasant Hill, California
Ramona, California
Reseda, California
Rowland Heights, California
San Diego, California (3 reports)
San Francisco, California
Simi Valley, California
Spring Valley, California
Tarzana, California
Winchester, California
Deltona, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Melbourne Beach, Florida
Pompano Beach, Florida
Venice, Florida
Greenfield, Massachusetts
Henderson, Nevada
Andrews, Texas
Austin, Texas
Bryan, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Harlingen, Texas
Richmond, Texas

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