Want to learn about common and rare Elephant Bush varieties? In this article we review 13 Portulacaria afra varieties.
Portulacaria afra is commonly known as Elephant Bush or Elephant Food Plant. Several Portulacaria afra varieties exist. Some are naturally occurring. However, some are actually bred in cultivation.
Let’s review 13 Elephant Bush varieties:
- Portulacaria afra
- Portulacaria afra Variegata
- Portulacaria afra Prostrata
- Portulacaria afra macrophylla
- Portulacaria afra variegata pink
- Portulacaria afra Medio Picta
- Portulacaria afra Minima
- Portulacaria afra Decumbent
- Portulacaria afra Bonsai
- Portulacaria afra Aurea
- Portulacaria afra Cork Bark
- Portulacaria afra Skyscraper
- Portulacaria afra Manny
The most common Portulacaria afra has emerald green leaves. In fact, with some sun exposure, leaf edges are tinged with red. Additionally, stems are initially light green and darken to reddish-brown to brown as they mature.
Portulacaria afra grows 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4 meters) tall and spreads indefinitely. In fact in their natural habitat they can grow as high as 20 feet (6 meters) tall. Definitely great in succulent arrangements as they add height and texture. Additionally, they can be grown as a hedge when pruned back.
Learn more about Portulacaria afra care here.
Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’
Variegated Elephant Bush
Also known as: Variegated Portulacaria afra, Portulacaria afra ‘Foliis variegatus’, Portulacaria afra foliis variegatis, Portulacaria afra f. Variegata, Portulacaria afra f. foliis flavo-variegatis, Portulacaria Variegata
The Variegated Elephant Bush are quite similar to Portulacaria Afra. However, tiny leaves are variegated with cream and light green stripes. Additionally, pink highlights can appear on the leaf edges with increased sunlight. Leaf color varies with new growth and color shades are influenced by the time of the year, water and fertilizer.
Their reddish-brown stems in these are also more pronounced. In fact, they tend to grow laterally as opposed to upright like Portulacaria Afra.
As with many variegated varieties, they grow a bit slower than their non-variegated forms. Also, like most variegated versions they do not tolerate as much light. Indeed common in cultivation and a great container plant or as ground cover.
Learn more about Portulacaria afra variegata care here.
Trailing Elephant Bush
Portulacaria afra prostrata
Also known as: Portulacaria afra cascade, Portulacaria afra ‘Prostrate Form’, Portulacaria afra ‘Prostrata’, Dwarf Elephant Food, Prostrata Elephant Bush, ‘Low Form’ Portulacaria afra, Groundcover Jade, Prostrata, Low Elephant Bush, Trailing Elephant Bush
The Portulacaria afra prostrata is a low-lying variety that is grown as a groundcover. In fact, the thick, reddish-brown stems and bushy, emerald green leaves of this plant trail beautifully. Making it perfect for hanging baskets and pots. ‘Prostrata’ or ‘Low Form’ typically grows less than 6 inches (15 cm) tall and usually grows flat to the ground.
Portulacaria afra macrophylla
Also known as: Portulacaria afra forma macrophylla, Portulacaria afra macrophylla gigantea ‘Bull-elephant Bush’, Limpopo Elephant Bush, Portulacaria afra ‘Limpopo’, Portulacaria afra big leaf, Large Leaf Elephant Food, Large Leaf Elephant Bush
Portulacaria afra macrophylla is a much less common variety in cultivation. In fact, this evergreen succulent looks a lot like the Jade plant. However, they are a smaller, more compact size.
Similar to Portulacaria afra, but leaves of the Mammoth Elephant Bush are about double the size and further spaced along the stem. This upright grower can reach heights of 8-12 feet (2.4-3.6 m) tall. Stems are reddish-brown with approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) long leaves.
New leaves are ovate and a shiny emerald green. However they do get dull as they mature.When grown in ideal conditions, they produce light lavender flowers in summer.
This rare beauty is a pink stunner. Portulacaria afra variegata pink is definitely a visual delight. On my wish list for sure!
Midstripe Rainbow Bush
Also known as: Portulacaria afra Medio-picta, Portulacaria afra MedioPicta, Portulacaria MedioPicta, Midstripe Rainbow Bush, Portulacaria afra Kaleidoscope, Portulacaria afra roulant, Midstripe Elephant Food, Pailulacaria afra var.foliis-variegatis
Portulacaria afra ‘Medio-picta’ has tiny, ovate, green leaves with broad white stripes in the middle. Some leaves are white in color and give a striking contrast. Also, it has attractive bright red stems.
Portulacaria afra minima has dainty, shiny leaves on ruby red stems. It is quite similar to Portulacaria Afra. In fact, Lilliput first appeared as a sport of Portulacaria afra Variegata, yet is smaller overall. Occasionally, it may flower with bursts of bright pink blooms when stressed.
Portulacaria afra is commonly known as Elephant Bush. This bushy succulent is a member of the Didiereaceae family. Elephant Bush plants can grow tree-like, making them popular among bonsai tree growers.
Portulacaria afra ‘Aurea’ is similar to ‘Minima’. However, Aurea leaves are yellow or chartreuse. In fact, they are quite vibrant in full sun. Beautiful reddish-brown stems compliment this upright variety with rounded leaves.
This slow-growing succulent is grown as a ground cover or in hanging planters. In spring it is possible to see tiny pink flowers bloom under the right conditions.
Portulacaria afra Decumbent is quite common in the east of South Africa. This succulent serves as food for elephants in its native environment–hence the common name “Elephant Bush”. Small, round, apple green leaves stand out against flexible red stems.
As it matures it can reach 8-15 feet (2.5-4.5 m) in the wild. In fact some have reported it teaching as high as 20 feet (6 m) tall.
Elephant Bush ‘Cork Bark’
Also known as: Cork Bark Elephant Bush, Cork Bark Elephant Food, Bonsai Elephant Bush, Portulacaria afra Bonsai, Portulacaria afra ‘Frank’, The Cork Bark Jade
Portulacaria afra ‘Cork Bark’ is a miniature succulent with rough stems. Cork Bark is often selected by bonsai enthusiasts for its fissured, corky bark. In fact, like most of its cousins, ‘Cork Bark’ has red-brown stems with ½ inch (1.3 cm) long emerald-green leaves.
Portulacaria afra ‘Skyscraper’ is a narrow upright growth habit. In fact, what makes this cultivar unique is that it grows very stiff and straight. Even the youngest bits of growth are about as stiff and dark in color as the branches on my mature green Portulacaria afra. Small, lime green/yellow leaves are a lovely contrast against dark red stems.
As they mature they can reach 8 feet (2.4 m) tall or more. Leaves grow to about ½ inch (1.3 cm) long.
Manny Portulacaria Afra is a lovely variation of the Portulacaria afra ‘Green’. Although, the leaves have more pronounced wavy patterns on the edges. Additionally, it has some white streaks that give it some flair. It stays compact, making it perfect for coffee tables, desks, or small spaces.
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