Growing Elephant Bush: How To Care For Portulacaria Afra

Portulacaria afra is a succulent plant native to South Africa. It is also known as the “elephant’s food” or “pork bush.”

This is because this plant’s leaves are a food source for elephants and other animals. 

Growing PortulacariaPin

Portulacaria afra is a small shrub that can grow up to 15′ feet tall.

The leaves are green and fleshy with a slightly glossy surface. The flowers are yellow or white, and blooming usually lasts from late summer to early fall.

This plant is not frost tolerant, so it should be grown indoors or in a greenhouse in cold climates.

Some common names for Portulacaria Afra include:

  • Porkbush
  • Elephant’s food
  • Spekboom
  • Purple leaf jade plant

The Porkbush is so named because the leaves are eaten by livestock, especially pigs.

Elephant’s food gets its name because elephants are known to eat it in the wild.

Spekboom is Afrikaans for “fat bush” and gets its name because of the high water content in the leaves.

Purple leaf jade plant is simply another name for the purple-leafed variety of Portulacaria Afra.

Portulacaria afra is a low-maintenance plant that does not require much care.

With its glossy green leaves and low-maintenance requirements, Portulacaria afra is an excellent plant for both beginners and experienced gardeners alike.

Give this beautiful succulent a try in your own home and enjoy its easy care and unique appearance.

Quick Facts On Portulacaria Afra

  • Family: Portulacaceae
  • Light: Bright light with some direct sun
  • Temperature: 60° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Water: Allow soil to dry out between watering
  • Fertilizer: Feed with a balanced fertilizer
  • Propagation: Cuttings, seed
  • Common Problems: Mealybugs, root rot

Portulacaria Afra Care

What Does The Porkbush Plant Look Like, And How Big Does It Grow?

The Portulacaria afra plant is a small, succulent bush that typically grows to about 2′ to 3′ feet (0.6-0.9 m) tall.

It has thin branches that are covered in tiny, green leaves. The leaves of the Portulacaria afra plant are oval-shaped and have a slightly pointed tip.

They are arranged alternately along the stem. Each leaf is about 1″ to 2″ inches (2.5-5 cm) long.

When Does Porkbush Plant Flower? Are The Flowers Fragrant?

The Portulacaria Afra plant produces small, white flowers that bloom in the summertime. The flowers are not particularly fragrant.

What Are The Lighting Needs And Temperature Requirements?

When growing portulacaria afra, it is important to provide bright light but not direct sunlight.

This succulent can be grown in full sun or partial shade. Although it can tolerate shade, too much will cause the leaves to become leggy.

The ideal temperature range for portulacaria afra is between 60° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit.

How And When To Water And Fertilize Porkbush Plant?

Portulacaria afra is a very hardy plant that can tolerate many conditions

It is drought-tolerant, and when it comes to watering, Portulacaria afra should be allowed to dry out completely between watering.

During the active growing season, water once every 7 to 10 days. In the winter, reduce watering to once a month or less.

Fertilize Portulacaria afra during the active growing season with a succulent fertilizer or a weak solution of all-purpose fertilizer.

Apply fertilizer every 4 to 6 weeks. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

What Is The Best Soil For Portulacaria And When Should You Transplant?

The best soil for portulacaria afra is a well-draining succulent or cactus mix. This plant does not like to sit in wet soil.

It can survive in poor soils. However, it also grows best in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. 

Transplant Portulacaria afra every 2 to 3 years in the spring or summer. Be sure to use a pot with drainage holes to prevent the roots from rotting.

Does Portulacaria Need Special Grooming Or Maintenance?

No special grooming or maintenance is required for portulacaria afra

 However, if the leaves start to look yellow or faded, this is a sign that the plant is not getting enough light. Move it to a brighter location.

Portulacaria afra can be pruned at any time of year. However, it is best to prune in the spring or summer when the plant is actively growing.

Heavy pruning will stimulate new growth.

Simply use sharp, clean pruning shears to cut stems back to the desired length to prune.

How To Propagate The Pork Bush Plant?

One of the great things about portulacaria afra is that it is very easy to propagate.

If you have an existing plant that is getting too large, or if you simply want to create new plants, all you need to do is take a cutting from the mother plant and root it in some potting mix.

The process is straightforward and only requires a few supplies.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • First, you will need to gather a sharp knife or pruning shears, some potting mix, a container to plant the cutting, and some water. It is also helpful to have a spray bottle handy so that you can mist the cutting if it starts to dry out.
  • Next, cut a piece from 4″ to 6: inches long. It is best to cut just below a node, where the leaves attach to the stem.
  • Once you have your cutting, remove the lower leaves. This can be done by simply snapping them off with your fingers.
  • Once the leaves are removed, fill your container with potting mix and make a small hole in the center.
  • Next, insert the cutting into the hole and gently pack the potting mix around it. Be sure that the node is buried, as this is where the roots will grow from.
  • After the cutting is planted, water it well and place it in a warm, sunny spot.
  • The cutting will need to be misted daily, and you should see new growth within a few weeks.

Once the plant has rooted and begun to grow, you can transplant it into a larger pot or your garden.

Portulacaria Afra Pests And Diseases

This plant is generally very hardy and resistant to pests and disease, but a few problems can occur.

One of the most common is root rot, which is caused by too much water or poor drainage.

If you suspect your plant has root rot, remove it from its pot and check the roots.

If they are black or mushy, you must cut them away and replant the cutting in fresh potting mix.

Mealybugs can also be a problem, particularly if the plant is grown indoors. Mealybugs are small, white insects that feed on plant sap.

They can cause yellowing leaves and stunted growth. If you see mealybugs on your plant, you can remove them by wiping them off with a damp cloth.

You can also treat the plant with the following:

  • Insecticidal soap
  • Horticultural oil

Finally, spider mites can be a problem in hot, dry conditions. These tiny pests suck the sap from the leaves, causing them to turn yellow and eventually drop off.

If you see spider mites on your plant, you can treat them with insecticidal soap or oil. 

You can also try blasting them off with a strong stream of water from the hose.

Suggested Uses For The Pork Bush Plant

Portulacaria afra is a versatile plant that can be used in many different ways.

It makes an excellent houseplant or patio plant and can also be used in bonsai.

It is also a great choice for xeriscaping and can be used as a groundcover or hedge.