The leaves of the Portulacaria Afra “Elephant Bush” are edible and safe for people and animals. On the website of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), you can find helpful advice as well as a thorough list of plants that are hazardous and harmless to cats, dogs, and other indoor pets. If you have any suspicions about poisoning, call your neighborhood vet right away or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.
Consider giving these Portulacaria Afra ‘Elephant Bush’ a try if you’re searching for a simple, low-maintenance succulent plant that will pay off for years and years to come. You won’t be sorry. I discovered this amazing plant because to a misidentification, and it has since grown to be one of my all-time favorites.
Where is Portulacaria Afra, often known as the “Elephant Bush”? For suggestions on where to buy these and other succulent plants online, visit my resource page.
You’ve come to the correct location if, like me, you enjoy succulents. This website is a repository for the succulent-growing knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years and am still learning. Although I am by no means an expert on succulents and cacti, this website was created as a result of years of hard work, love, and many mistakes and learning opportunities.
Can you eat elephant bushes?
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 opposing, 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.
Are cats safe around a trailing elephant bush?
You can keep the Elephant Bush/Plant (Portulacaria afra) around your cats and dogs without worrying about it being toxic to them.
Succulents are safe for dogs to eat.
Making a location that is secure for both pets and plants is one of the challenges of pet ownership. Thankfully, the majority of succulents are absolutely non-toxic to animals.
Additionally, most animals naturally shy away from succulent food. Simply said, they don’t taste or smell very enticing. Think about Los Angeles, which is covered in untamed jade plants. Jade has a mild toxicity, and there are numerous
2.6 million cats and dogs live in the city, yet pets rarely try to eat it.
There are a few outliers, though, that can be slightly hazardous if ingested. Being a good pet owner
Knowing which houseplants are risk-free and which ones could harm a curious dog or cat is crucial. For all the details, continue reading or watch the video.
How quickly does an elephant bush expand?
What Is the Growth Rate of Portulacaria afra? As long as they are in the proper circumstances for growth, fresh stem cuttings will begin to root in 4–6 weeks after being propagated. It only takes two weeks for established plants to regrow lush, vivid leaves after being stripped of them by grazing.
Why is it known as a “elephant bush”?
South Africa is the natural home of the succulent elephant bush (Portulacaria afra). The succulent plant’s popular name, elephant bush, derives from the fact that elephants eat it. The succulent’s fleshy leaves are consumed by elephants. The elephant bush plant’s variegated leaves are also edible to goats and tortoises. Elephant bush is also known by the names spekboom, dwarf jade, miniature jade, and porkbush.
Elephant bushes are prized for their adaptable leaves, which bonsai growers frequently mold into interesting patterns. The elephant bush is a simple addition to your bonsai succulent garden. South Africa is also known for its love of elephant bush soups and stews. The elephant bush succulent is drought-tolerant and does well in direct sunlight outside, like most desert plants. Elephant bush plants thrive in USDA hardiness zones ten and eleven.
What size can an elephant bush reach?
In habitats where it is a preferred meal of elephants, elephant bush plants can grow to heights of 6 to 20 feet (2 to 6 meters). It is considerably more likely to only grow a few feet (about one meter) tall inside the house. The bush has small, soft green leaves on thick, succulent brown stalks that resemble miniature jade plants.
Elephant bush houseplants do well in indoor environments like those found in homes. Warm temperatures and bright light are necessary for portulacaria care. The bush produces tiny pink blooms clustered at the terminals of the branches after a wintertime dormancy period.
How old is an elephant bush?
Sun burn is caused by receiving too much sunlight, and its symptoms usually include crispy or browning leaves, dry leaf edges, sunken leaves, or stunted growth. Although too much light will lead to overwatering problems, too little light will also harm the plant. Reduce the quantity of sun exposure significantly if yours has fallen short of this, and always be cautious of environmental shock (when two locations offer too different growing conditions). Eliminate some of the harmed leaves and slightly raise the water level.
On the other hand, specimens kept in overly dark conditions with extended soil wetness frequently get root rot. Rapid leaf browning, moldy soil, stunted development, and a rotten brown base are all symptoms. Examine the plant’s health below the compost line after removing it from the pot. You’re okay to go if the roots have a yellow tint, but you need to take fast action with brown and mushy roots. On this link, you may learn more about treating root rot.
Regularly clean the leaves. Although it’s not a big deal, a buildup of dust particles might clog the plant’s pores and reduce its ability to absorb light. In order to maintain low levels and enhance growing circumstances, rinse the topsides of the leaves once every month.
Never let the temperature drop below 10°C (50°F), since this may do irreparable harm to things like yellow foliage and decreased health. Never cut through softened yellow or brown growth when this happens; instead, remove the badly impacted sections and quickly correct the growing environment. Because of its slow growth, rehabilitation might take many months. To shorten this time, make sure to give the plant a stable place with improved growing conditions.
Several different factors could be the cause of unsuccessful leaf-cuttings. Elephant Bushes are best propagated in the spring when they are at their busiest, thus cuttings obtained then may root considerably more slowly and may even die in the interim. Check the surroundings to see if there is enough light to read a newspaper. If not, increase the amount of indirect sunlight it receives to improve the growing conditions. Never place the cuttings in the sun; doing so will cause severe dehydration and almost certainly death. Its success will also be significantly influenced by its overall size. There must be no obvious signs of damage or cuts, and the total height must be greater than 8cm. Smaller specimens won’t root properly since the stems have less energy stored in them. If the leaves are grown hydroponically, the water should be changed every week to reduce the chance of germs growing in the container. In order to prevent nasty infections from spreading to unaffected specimens, yellow or brown parts that are progressively withering away must also be eliminated. Those who are submerged immediately in cold water will also display signs of distress. Make sure to use a well-draining potting mix with the appropriate quantity of sand and grit if you’re interested in propagating via soil. The likelihood of roots developing will be drastically reduced if they are planted too deeply or in soil that is too wet.
Despite its slow rate of growth, Portulacaria can be easily shaped into a bonsai after years of cultivation.
Over ten species make up the genus Portulacaria, which has its natural distribution in Southern Africa. Its name is derived from the Latin word portula, which means “door” and relates to the fruit’s opening lid. Caria, which refers to the resemblance of the species Portulaca, means “related to.” The name of the species, afra, is a particular derogatory term for the continent of Africa. The sour-tasting leaf is a favorite food source for a variety of species, including elephants and ostriches. The species’ leaves, which are used in salads and soups, are also regarded as a local delicacy.
H1b (Hardiness Zone 12) – Can be grown outside in the summer in a protected place with temperatures above 12C (54F), but is also acceptable to stay indoors. Avoid exposing this plant to direct sunlight if you decide to take it outside because it could cause sunburn and dehydration. Watch out for bugs frequently, especially while bringing it back inside.
if replanted every other year, up to 1.5m in width and 2m in height. The final height will take 5 to 10 years to reach, but with the correct care, it may live for 20 years or longer.
To promote healthier growing conditions, remove yellow or decaying leaves as well as any plant detritus. Always use clean shears or tools when pruning to lower the risk of bacterial and fungal infections. Never cut through yellowed tissue as this could lead to severe harm from bacterial infections or other disorders. To avoid shocking the plant and resulting in decreased growth and a decline in health, always create clean incisions.
Stem Cuttings (Easy): Cut a 5 cm (2 inch) chunk from the end of the stem using a pair of clean scissors. Use a component that is brand new, undamaged, and free of pests because unhealthy divisions are more likely to fail. To hasten the development of roots, remove the older half of the leaves, leaving the lower third of the stem bare. Purchase some “Cactus & Succulent” compost, then push the cutting’s base vertically into the ground to prevent soil from getting on the actual foliage. Place the cutting in an area that is indirect, light, and has temps over 18C. (64F). Once there are indications of new foliar development, remove the bag and treat the plant as an adult specimen because the roots will grow first.
Mid-summer, mature specimens can produce tiny clusters of 2mm-wide, pink or white-scented blooms that can persist up to a few weeks. Due to the unfavorable growing circumstances and lengthy maturation period, elephant bushes won’t bloom in a home environment for many years.
Every two to three years, repot your plants in the spring using ‘Cactus & Succulent’ potting soil and the next-largest pot with drainage. Checking the health of the roots and, if desired, propagation can also be done now. Check the lower part of the root ball for any discolored or damaged root caps as Elephant Bushes are susceptible to root rot. If so, use clean tools to remove the damaged parts and gradually reduce the irrigations. For additional information on how to perform the ideal transplant, go on this page.
If you’d want a customized tutorial on repotting your houseplant, schedule a 1-on-1 video session with Joe Bagley. The appropriate branded-compost and pot size will be suggested, and a live video call will be made while you transplant the specimen to provide step-by-step instructions and address any other questions.