How To Turn Elephant Bush Into Bonsai

You can start an elephant bush bonsai from seed or by propagation. However, summer-propagated cuttings are the simplest to grow from.

Can you make an elephant bush bonsai?

Elephant bush needs great drainage, like with all succulents. Use a container with a sizable bottom drainage hole. It is best to use an unglazed pot because it will absorb extra moisture from overwatering.

Avoid using a pot that is too big for the plant, as with any succulent that is sensitive to water. Too much dirt in a big container will keep the moisture in for too long, which will promote root rot. An elephant bush can thrive in a shallow bonsai plant container because its roots are quite flexible.

Portulacaria Afra Soil

Elephant bush requires soil that drains properly. Use a succulent or cactus mix that drains well, or create your own potting soil.

An easy recipe for elephant bush potting soil is given below:

  • Potting soil in two parts,
  • a portion of sharp sand, optional
  • An equal amount of grittier amendment, such as perlite, pumice, pebbles, bark chips, fragments of shattered pottery, etc.

Maintenance and Repotting the Elephant Bush

Repot your elephant bush if it starts to yellow due to nutrient deficiency in the soil, if the soil cannot hold enough moisture, or if it starts to become out of control. A good indicator are roots that are poking out of the drainage openings. Usually, once every few years is adequate.

Portulacaria Afra Watering Guide

The elephant bush is hampered by too much water. However, the variegated type requires a little bit more water than the regular variety.

It’s crucial to strike a healthy balance. Elephant plants can withstand drought, but if they receive adequate water, they will develop more swiftly and healthily. On the other hand, over watering exposes the plant to more opportunistic bugs and increases the danger of root rot and leaf drop. As the plant rots from the ground up due to severe overwatering, dark brown or black blotches may appear on the plant’s trunk.

When watering your elephant bush during the growing season (spring through fall), keep it to once every two weeks or less and follow the “soak and dry method:

  • Verify that the soil is at least an inch deep and completely dry.
  • Gently water the plant in the pot in the sink until water begins to flow out of the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot.
  • Allow the water to soak into the soil for a few minutes so that it can spread as widely as possible.
  • To make sure the potting mix is completely saturated, soak the soil once more.
  • To prevent water from building up in the pot’s saucer, let it drain completely.
  • Return the plant to its location.
  • Before rewatering, allow the potting mixture to completely dry.

When the leaves start to slightly curl upward, the plant is likely thirsty. Water more often if the leaves start to shrivel, turn dull and lifeless, and feel deflated or flattened. Dropped leaves can also indicate underwatering, albeit they won’t be as wet as those that have been overwatered.

Pay attention to how quickly your plant dries out after being watered if the leaves appear to be shriveling more quickly than they should. Consider repotting your elephant bush into a medium with a larger proportion of soil and a smaller proportion of sand and perlite (or another drainage-promoting media) if the soil appears to be absorbing very little water.

Allow the plant to dry out before watering it less regularly if the leaves turn yellow and transparent or if the trunk or leaves get mushy.

Elephant plants don’t require sprinkling or additional humidity. When you water the plant, be sure to sometimes rinse the leaves in the sink because dust might block the pores.

Are you able to trim elephant bush?

Elephant bush, Portulacaria afra, is a South African perennial succulent shrub that is grown in succulent gardens all over the world. In our region of the world, it is simply planted as a seasonal accent plant or low-maintenance houseplant. It is a rocky outcrop or slope that can be found from the Little Karoo in the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape northward into KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland, Mpumalanga, the Limpopo Province, and farther north into Mozambique. It is also sometimes called elephant food or elephant plant; dwarf jade, miniature jade, or small leaf jade (but is not related to jade plant, Crassula ovata);

Although it is thought to belong to the Portulacaceae plant family, which only includes species found in Madagascar, molecular phylogenetic studies indicate this genus belongs to the Didiereaceae. According to recent studies, P. afra is a superior “carbon sponge” that can efficiently absorb more carbon from the air than most other plants (since it can grow using both normal and CAM pathways despite challenging climatic conditions) and remove more carbon from the atmosphere than an equivalent amount of deciduous forest.

In mild regions, this upright, multi-stemmed shrub or small tree with soft woods can reach heights of 8 to 15 feet (hardy in zones 9- 11). Round to oval-shaped, fleshy, virtually sessile (lacks a discernible petiole), 1/2–3/4 inch long leaves are flattened and thick. The tapering branches and brittle, fleshy, reddish-brown stems that support the opposite, glossy leaves eventually turn a grayish color. The branches and trunk have a woody inner tissue despite being succulent. If not clipped, the stiff, disorganized branches will develop into a thicket. In the event that heavy branches break, they frequently take root where they land and start new plants. Jade plant-like in appearance, but with much smaller leaves that are typically closer together on thinner stalks.

The leaf was once employed as a medicine for a number of minor diseases. It is edible and is frequently consumed in southern Africa, mainly in salads or soups to provide a sour flavor. Because of its capacity to stay succulent through periods of scorching heat and dryness, it is commonly consumed by domestic and wild animals and is a favorite diet of tortoises. Elephants do consume the plant, leaving behind the lower, spreading branches and numerous broken twigs when they strip the branches of the leaves. These roots eventually help the colony to grow and thicken, giving rise to new thickets called “spekboomvelds.”

The plant cannot survive because other animals, including goats, devour it from the ground up. Except in places like parks or reserves where non-native browsers are restricted, overgrazing and inadequate regeneration are causing elephant bush populations to decline. This is because P. afra seed has a difficult time germinating in its native habitat.

After a dry winter without irrigation, plants in their natural habitat (or in regions like Southern California where they can be planted in the ground) produce a profusion of small, unnoticeable pink or white blooms in late spring or early summer. The flowers are difficult to cultivate. At the tips of the branches, clusters of flowers are created. Five pointed petals and conspicuous stamens are features of the star-shaped blooms. Tiny, clear to pink, berry-like dry fruits with one seed each follow pollinated flowers.

Elephant bushes thrive best in hanging baskets, as part of mixed succulent dish gardens, or as delicate bonsai specimens in the Midwest because of their dense branching, which lends even young plants a venerable appearance. By pinching or trimming just above a pair of leaves, the plant may easily be retained in practically any size or form because it readily generates buds whenever branches or even leaves are removed.

The succulent plant’s compact root ball fits into standard shallow bonsai pots nicely and requires less continual care because it can tolerate drying better than more classic bonsai subjects like maples or evergreens. To add contrast in color and texture, stage plants in containers alone with other potted plants. However, despite the fact that they may grow in very little soil, because of their top-heavy succulent leaves and stems, plants may need to be anchored with a rock or stake until they are well-established. The stems’ crimson hue works well as a color echo with plants with red, purple, or dark foliage, and the medium-fine texture of the foliage contrasts nicely with wide-leaved annuals or perennials like coleus or heucheras. To thrive, Portulacaria afra needs exceptionally well-drained soil and bright light. Avoid using a lot of sand since the particle size tends to be small and will fill pore spaces more quickly than other materials. Instead, use cactus mix or a bespoke potting medium with generous amounts of small pea gravel, poultry grit, pumice, or other non-porous minerals. The best pottery to use for better moisture evaporation is unglazed pottery. Typically, a south-facing window inside is the best option, but eastern or western exposures are also suitable. Too much direct sunlight may burn the foliage or cause the tips of the leaves to turn yellow or red, which some people love. To locate the best position for optimum growth, some location-testing may be necessary. After all threat of frost has gone, potted plants can be brought outside for the growing season. If a plant is suddenly relocated from inside a house to full sun outdoors, the leaves are likely to become burnt. Instead, gradually adapt the plant to the new environment. When the nighttime temperature falls below 40°F, go back inside. If there is less light indoors than there was outdoors, it can lose some leaves when it transitions.

Elephant bushes are quite drought resilient, yet with enough water, they develop more quickly and have lusher foliage. It is vulnerable to root rot in constantly damp soil, so take care not to overwater it. Winter irrigation should be minimized. Withhold water until the lower leaves start to shrink, which could take several months, unless the indoor climate is extremely light and warm. Once the day lengthens in the spring, begin watering sparingly once more, waiting until the soil has dried to a depth of one inch before doing so. Plants in pots need fertilizer every month during the growing season (or more frequently if pruning a lot to grow a dense plant in a small container). Repot the plant when the container is full or when the roots are poking through the drainage holes. Although mealybugs can be a problem, especially indoors, this plant has few pests. It does not tolerate some pesticide applications, like many succulents do. Chemicals with a petroleum base should be avoided, or tested on a small number of leaves first to ensure that the material won’t harm the leaves.

This plant can be grown from seed, however cuttings are the most common method of propagation. Within 4 to 6 weeks in any kind of potting medium at mild temperatures, stem cuttings can easily root. The optimum times to take cuttings are in the spring or summer, and the cut areas should be given a few days to callus before being placed in the rooting media. They can also take root in liquid. Even leaves that are broken off by accident while trimming or performing other tasks have the potential to take root.

There are many different kinds, but the majority of them can only be found at specialized nurseries. It is conceivable that some mislabeling occurs, which could lead to the sale of identical plants under several labels. The green varieties are typically larger and more robust than the variegated varieties.

  • ‘Aurea’ is a compact type, and in full sun, the young leaves are a vivid yellow.
  • Because of its fissured, corky bark, “Cork Bark,” chosen by a bonsai expert, is coveted for bonsai.
  • The slow-growing variegated variant “Foliis variegatus” is perfect for container culture.
  • The leaves on “Limpopo” are substantially bigger. It is the species’ most northern native form (P. afra forma macrophylla).
  • The variety known as “Medio-picta” has red stems and green leaves with pale patterns radiating from the center.
  • Low-growing varieties that are good for use as ground covers are “Prostrata” and “Low Form.”
  • Variegata has a more compact, upright form, lighter-colored leaves with pink accents and white or cream edges than the species, although it is less tolerant of direct sunlight.

How are bonsai cuttings made?

Use a sharp pair of twig shears to prune the branch at a 45-degree angle. Insert the cuttings into the soil about an inch (two cm) deep. Thoroughly water. In a few weeks, the cuttings will begin to grow if you keep the soil just a little bit moist.

Elephant bush: A jade or not?

The “Elephant Bush” or Portulacaria Afra is indigenous to South Africa. They can grow up to 20 feet tall and provide food for elephants and other animals in their natural habitat. They have glossy green leaves and reddish-brown stems. Porkbush and spekboom are among of Portulacaria Afra’s other names.

They begin as a tiny bush and gradually develop into trees. As the plant becomes older, the stem thickens. It is quite simple to develop and spread these plants. USDA zones 9 to 11 are where they are most hardy. They may hang, sprawl, or grow horizontally in an erect position, which makes them a fantastic option for hanging baskets.

Because they are similar in many respects, Portulacaria Afra, also known as elephant bush, and Crassula ovata, often known as “jade plants,” are frequently confused with one another. Although they look very similar, Elephant Bush and Jade Plants are unrelated. I admit that when I initially acquired an Elephant Bush plant, I erred in doing this.

I mistakenly believed I was buying a jade plant, and to further my bewilderment, the plant’s pot was marked “Dwarf Jade.” This is due to Portulacaria Afra’s popularity among bonsai tree producers, where it is also known as “Mini Jade” or “Dwarf Jade.”

Is elephant bush a plant of fortune?

Portulacaria afra, sometimes referred to as the Elephant Bush, the Good Luck Jade Plant, and Spekboom, is thought to bring luck and prosperity into your home.

Does elephant bush enjoy being rooted?

If you give elephant bush succulents ample light and don’t overwater them, they are simple to grow at home. Portulacaria afra plants, though, are susceptible to a few problems.

Why do elephant bush plants drop leaves?

Succulents of the genus Portulacaria afra can begin losing leaves when the temperature, light, or humidity changes. When an elephant bush is brought indoors, where there is less sunshine, the leaves typically fall. Additionally, if these succulents are placed near warm air vents or in drafts, their leaves may begin to drop.

Portulacaria afra leaves are turning yellow, what should I do?

Elephant bush succulents typically have yellow leaves since they’ve been overwatered. In order to “feed the plant,” roots need to be able to take nutrients from the soil. Yellowing leaves that eventually die are the outcome. You can relocate the Portulacaria afra plant to a brighter area so that moisture evaporates more quickly in order to aid in its revival.

If the potting soil isn’t evaporating quickly enough, you might need to replenish it. Elephant bush plants prefer potting soil that dries out within a few days. You will need to amend the soil with perlite, pea gravel, or pumice if the moisture content is prolonged. Make sure the plant is not rootbound as well. Water may take longer to drain and become saturated if the roots are dense.