Portulacaria afra, or Elephant Bush, is native to South Africa. In nature they will reach 12 feet (4 m) in height with an equal spread. In containers, they will stay much smaller and their size is easily controlled with selective pruning and pot size. The attractive reddish-brown stems with dark green ¾ inch (2 cm) leaves make a great bonsai plant with very little care involved. They are hardy in USDA zones 10-11 where they are used as hedges.
Blooming Time: In the spring, they have clusters of small, inconspicuous pink flowers.
Culture: Portulacaria afra do best in full sun with a well-drained soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 2 parts sand to 1 part loam, with small gravel added to increase drainage. During the summer months, these plants are watered regularly, but we allow the soil to dry before watering again. During this period they are fertilized twice using a balanced fertilizer. Care should be taken during the winter months not to over water them. During this period, one should water only enough to keep the leaves from shriveling.
Propagation: Portulacaria afra is easily propagated by cuttings in April- May.
Portulacaria afra was featured as Plant of the Week June 6-12, 2003.
Guide to Past Plants-of-the-Week:
Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.