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Elephant bush

Portulacaria afra

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Belonging to the Portulacaria genus, Elephant bush has a botanical name of Portulacaria afra.

The porkbush or spekboom is an attractive, evergreen succulent shrub or small tree that can reach 2 – 5 m in height, although usually around 1.5 – 2m in a garden situation. It has has small, round, succulent leaves and red stems. Small, star-shaped, pink flowers are borne en masse from late winter to spring.

It also can be used as a bonsai

It is found in warm situations on rocky slopes and dry river valleys. It occurs on the eastern areas of the country from the Eastern Cape northwards into KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, Mpumalanga and the Northern Province in rocky areas of dry succulent karoo scrub, thicket and bushveld.

It is a flowering succulent and is treated mainly as a perennial, so it grows best over a period of time (3 years and greater).

Elephant bush normally grows to a bushy habit with a max height of 14.86 feet (that's 4.57 metres metric). This plant tends to bloom in late winter.

South Africa is believed to be where Elephant bush originates from.

Being a fairly low maintenance plant, Elephant bush is normally quite easy to grow provided a minimum level of care is given throughout the year. It will be helpful to note the correct soil, sun and water needs of this plant to ensure that this plant thrives.

This plant info is provided by the myfolia gardener's wiki. All details about Elephant bush have been kindly provided by our members.

How to grow Elephant bush

  • Full Sun

  • Partial Sun

  • Low

Propagation is by cuttings. Take a 4 to 6 inch cutting with a clean sterilized razor blade. Remove the bottom leaves, leaving a 2 to 4 section of the stem bare. Dip the bottom 2 inches of your Portulacaria Afra in rooting compound. Leave it to heal in a well ventilated area and form a callous for a few days to a week. Plant your Portulacaria Afra in four parts sand or perlite with one part potting soil. The container should be a 4 inch pot and the soil should be firmed down to level the surface.1

Position in a full sun / partial sun location and remember to apply water fairly sparingly. Use Zone 9 - Zone 11 as your guideline for the appropriate climate for this plant. A soil ph of between 5.6 and 6.5 is ideal for Elephant bush as it does best in weakly acidic soil. Keep in mind when planting that Elephant bush is thought of as tender, so remember to wait until your soil is warm and the night time temperature is well above freezing before moving outside.

See our list of companion Plants for Elephant bush to see which plants you should plant in close proximity to encourage growth.

Growing Elephant bush from seed

Transplanting Elephant bush

Spekboom or porkbush is usually propagated from cuttings as the seed is not often available. Cuttings or truncheons strike root easily and can even be planted directly into the ground where they are to be grown. Alternatively cuttings can be taken in the normal fashion and allowed to dry out for a day or two in a cool dry place and then planted in washed river sand and kept in a shady position until they are rooted and ready to be planted out. Cuttings root quickly and can usually be planted out after four to six weeks.

As Elephant bush is tender, ensure temperatures are mild enough to plant out - wait until after your last frost date to be on the safe side.

How long does Elephant bush take to grow?

These estimates for how long Elephant bush takes to sprout, grow and harvest are from real observations from real gardeners, right around the world.

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Elephant bush Etymology

The name Portulacaria is composed of Portulaca + aria suggesting a similarity to that genus. The word afra refers to the fact that the plant occurs in Africa.

Other names for Elephant bush

Elephant food, Elephant plant, Miniature jade plant, Spekboom, Small leaf jadeporkbush, Spekboom (afrikaans); intelezi (zulu), Isidondwane (zulu), Isambilane (zulu), Indibili (zulu), Isicococo (zulu); igqwanitsha (xhoza), Dwarf Jade Plant



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