Elephant Bush Growing Tips: A Must-Have Plant for Garden

Elephant Bush is a bushy succulent shrub that comes from the Didiereaceae family of plants. The original growing region for this shrub is South Africa.

People will easily find it on dry, rocky slopes. This variety looks similar to a dwarf jade plant.

However, they are different. In this article, you will know more about this bushy succulent which includes its varieties, cares, and benefits.


Getting to Know Elephant Bush

These succulents commonly have a reddish stem and leaves that are green, but also a variegated cultivar is often seen in cultivation.
Elephant Bush ( Portulacaria afra )

The Latin name of this plant is Portulacaria Afra which is native to South Africa. Many varieties of this plant have reddish-colored stems.

Meanwhile, the leaves have green color that looks shiny and plump. This easy-to-grow plant is quite flexible.

This variety can be a great houseplant for both indoors and outdoors. It is better to have the bush in the garden if you live in a frost-free and milder climates areas.

The main reason it is called an Elephant bush is that this succulent is loved by animals.

The edible stems and leaves are also a good option for humans. Gardeners like to add them to soups or salads.

Furthermore, the plant can grow about 6 inches to 20 feet high.

Therefore, you can make the bush an ornamental plant. Also, it becomes a good option to be some kind of privacy screen.

Besides, people also called this plant spekboom, pork bush, or Elephant succulent.

Elephant Bush Varieties

Bonsai Elephant Bush
Bonsai Elephant Bush

Portulacaria Afra offers many varieties. However, there are some of the best types that many homeowners choose to grow in their gardens.

  1. Yellow Rainbow Bush

Yellow Rainbow Bush
Yellow Rainbow Bush

This variety is also known as the Gold Elephant bush or Aurea. It is a semi-trailing cultivar that comes with a golden glow.

When the new leaves pop out, they will be bright yellow with purple stems. The mature ones would change from light green to bright yellow.

The stems will go upright as they mature. Before that, they will have a prostrate habit to grow.

  1. Bonsai

Bonsai Plant
Bonsai Plant

Any kind of Elephant bush can be formed into a bonsai.

For those who do not want to make it themselves and go through the process, they can just buy the bonsai trees made from P. Afra plants.

It is a quite popular choice for a houseplant. Likewise, people have this in their houses as part of the zen decoration.

  1. Cork Bark

Cork Bark Plant
Cork Bark Plant

It is such an excellent choice for gardeners who want to turn the plant into a bonsai. That is because a cork bark has an upright growth habit.

Furthermore, the emerald-green foliage really supports the bonsai form. As it ages, the bark would become rough and gnarly with a grayish color.

Additionally, there is an interesting fact about this variety.

When it was first discovered in the 1960s, people thought that the weird bark color was a symptom of fungal diseases.

  1. Macrophylla

Macrophylla Picture
Macrophylla Picture

People know this as the large-leaf elephant food. Besides, this variety has more sizeable foliage than others.

It comes with emerald-green color on the leaves an inch long.

The plants are upright and there is more space between the stems. Therefore, it mostly appears like the jade plant.

  1. Medio Picta

Medio Picta
Medio Picta

This variegated cultivar comes with leaves that have two colors. The cream accent is in the center and green margins are on the side.

Also, many people know this variety as the Midstripe rainbow bush. Sometimes, the foliage has a pink accent.

Indeed, the new leaf bush will come in pink color too.

  1. Manny

Manny Plant
Manny Plant

This Manny variety was found naturally in 2014 in California’s nursery. The mint green foliage in this cultivar has dabs of cream with purple-outlined margins.

Moreover, it has a thick and upright stem.

Meanwhile, the leaves are rounded and quite thick. The foliage has more texture than other varieties.

  1. Lilliput

Lilliput Plant
Lilliput Plant

It is a dwarf variety that would make a great bonsai. Besides, this plant is a good choice for small succulent plantings.

Additionally, you can grow Lilliput quite fast since it comes with compact leaves. The emerald-green color of the foliage is such a privilege for bonsai fans.

  1. Prostrata

Prostrata Plant
Prostrata Plant

This low-growing variety will spread all over the planting area. People also know it as the Groundcover Jade.

Moreover, it is the right option to grow with hanging baskets. It would be a nice perennial decoration for your house.

Meanwhile, the leaves are smaller than Lilliput’s. Thereupon, it is called dwarf elephant food.

Sometimes, gardeners choose Prostrata in order to cover the ground for the mixed planter of succulents.

  1. Skyscraper

Portulacaria afra Skyskraper
Portulacaria afra Skyskraper

As the name suggests, this succulent will grow upright and narrowly. The foliage comes with an emerald-green color that is half an inch long.

Additionally, the stems are reddish-brown and it stays the same when mature.

Elephant Bush Care

They are drought tolerant but do require watering from April to October. In winter the plants are dormant and you may suspend watering. Elephant bush succulents in the home interior should not have consistently wet feet
Caring Elephant Bush Plant

As said before, this is an easy-to-grow plant. So, there is no need to give some special treatment to deal with it.

Several procedures to take care of the elephant bush are as follows.

The first thing first, you have to choose the right soil. Since it is native to desert and dry areas, make sure the soil is sandy, rocky, and well-draining.

Then, to give good results, provide nutrient-rich soil.

After that, the light and temperature for growing Portulacaria Afra are very important. You have to get the area with intense and bright light directly from the sun.

So, give the plants several hours a day. Moreover, growing them indoors is also possible.

How about the watering? This plant is tolerant to drought. However, it can grow very fast. If you water it enough, the leaves will be lusher.

Sometimes, it is quite tricky to care for this plant. Do not give too much watering.

Just water the plants thoroughly and leave them for a couple of weeks. Watch out for rainfall and excessive water.

Furthermore, make sure the soil is dry enough before the next watering session.

In addition, pruning is a way to make proper growth for the Elephant bush. You can prune it regularly to improve the shape of the plants as you want.

Prune the damaged foliage and dead branches.

Meanwhile, does elephant bush have pests and diseases? Of course. Keep an eye out for Whiteflies, Spider Mites, Mealybugs, Root Rot, and Leaf Drop.

When you spot one of them, deal with it as soon as possible.

Elephant Bush Benefits

Portulacaria afra is one of the best carbon sequestrants
Elephant Bush Benefit

This wonder plant has a lot of benefits. Growing them in your garden will give you this good stuff :

  • Several types of this plant have flowers that come with attractive pink color. Just looking at them, will be very soothing.
    It will be pretty helpful in reducing stress in your body. Imagine having it nearby.
  • The plants offer better air quality around them. According to research, P. Afra can purify the air by removing CO2.
    That is a great benefit a houseplant has to offer.
  • As said before, Elephant bush is edible. As something to eat for humans, it has health benefits for your body.
    Besides, it helps to cool you down and overcome dehydration and exhaustion. People in Africa, add the leaves to their food to give an extra sour taste.
  • Also, it gives value to the environmental aspect. Growing this plant will help to clean the environment easily.
  • It becomes a great choice of plant for noise blocking. This succulent can absorb sounds which is why you often find it in the fence.
    Besides its functionality, it also looks beautiful.

There are many other benefits you could take from growing this beautiful and greeny bush. Its unique and attractive looks are such a great addition to your house.

The Difference Between Jade Plant And Elephant Bush

The main difference between the elephant bush and the jade plant is size. Elephant bushes are much larger than jade plants.
Difference Between Jade Plant And Elephant Bush

Some people still get confused about identifying the Elephant bush because it looks similar to Jade Plant.

Actually, the main difference is the size of the plant. Jade plants are much smaller than Elephant bushes.

It means the size of leaves and stems also.

Another different thing is the edibility. One plant is edible, whereas the other is not. Here are some other differences:

The Family

Each of the plants comes from a different family species. Elephant bush is in the Didieareaceae family while Jade comes from the Crassulaceae group.

Other varieties that belong to the same family as jade can also thrive in cold regions.

The Flowers

The differences are easy to spot. Jade has pink or white flowers that grow at the end of the branches.

Furthermore, they shape like stars and grow in clusters. The elephant bushes have white flowers which are usually smaller.

They are not in a star shape and not growing in clusters.

The Leaves

This is when it gets tricky because their leaves are the same. The foliage is both thick and waxy. You have to look closely.

The leaves in jade plants are strictly oval in shape. Otherwise, they are more rounded and slightly oval on elephant bushes.

You can easily spot the difference by size. The jade foliage will be much smaller.


If you have a plant to grow an Elephant bush plant in your garden, all of the information above will be very helpful. You will have an amazing garden.

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