Elephant Bush Indoor Care – Portulacaria Afra

Elephant bush, Portulacaria afra, also known as dwarf jade, and is a popular succulent plant that originates from South Africa. It is prized for its small, round leaves and its ability to thrive in both indoor and outdoor conditions.

If you are thinking about adding an elephant bush to your home, there are a few things you should know about caring for this unique plant.

Elephant bush Portulacaria afra

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about elephant bush indoor care, including watering, lighting, and potential problems.


Portulacaria afra has small, round,  fleshy leaves that grow in opposite pairs along reddish-brown stems.

The leaves are smooth and glossy, with a vibrant green color that deepens when exposed to bright sunlight.

The plant has a compact, bushy growth habit, and with time, it can develop many branches with woody stems.

Elephant bush will flower in spring or summer with tiny white or pink blooms in its native environment. However, it rarely flowers when kept indoors.

How Big Can Portulucaria Afra Grow?

In a suitable outdoor environment, Portulucaria Afra can grow to over 15 feet (4.5m) tall and 6ft (1.8m) wide. It forms a fairly upright, many-stemmed shrub.

Large outdoor portulucaria afra, elephants bush, plant

As you can see, these plants can grow quite large, so the name ‘Dwarf Jade’ doesn’t seem to make much sense. But this name comes from the likeness in appearance to Jade plants and the fact that the leaves of the Portulucaria Afra are much smaller. It is not a member of the Jade family. It’s well-suited to the art of bonsai because of the small leaf size and this is more likely where the name Dwarf Jade came from.


One of the great things about elephant bushes is that they can tolerate a wide range of lighting conditions, from full sun to low light.

However, if you are growing your plant indoors, it is best to provide bright, indirect light. Too much direct sunlight can scorch the leaves and cause the plant to lose its vibrant green color.

If you don’t have a lot of natural light in your home, you can use artificial lighting to supplement the sun. Grow lights are a good option for providing extra light to your plants.

Just be sure to position the grow lights so that they are not too close to the leaves, as this can also cause damage.

How Often Should You Water An Elephant Bush?

This plant is native to a dry climate, so it does not need a lot of water to thrive. In fact, overwatering is one of the most common problems people have with this plant.

When watering your elephant bush, always check the soil before adding water. The soil should be dry to the touch before you water the plant again.

Watering once every 2-3 weeks is usually sufficient. If the plant is kept outdoors, then it may need to be watered more frequently during hot, dry weather.

If you notice that the leaves of your elephant bush are starting to droop, then this is a sign that it needs more water.

Give the plant a good soak, making sure that the water penetrates all the way through the potting mix to the roots. Allow the soil to drain completely before putting the pot back in its place.

It is important not to let an elephant bush sit in water, as this can cause the roots to rot. If you are unsure about how much water your plant needs, then it is best to err on the side of caution and water less frequently rather than more.

An easy way to tell if an elephant bush needs watering is to feel the soil with your fingers. If it feels dry several inches down, then it is time to give the plant a drink.

If you live in an area with high humidity, then you may find that your elephant bush does not need to be watered as often.

The leaves of the plant will also tell you a lot about its watering needs – if they are starting to wrinkle or look dull, then this is a sign that the plant is thirsty.

In general, it is best to water an elephant bush in the morning so that the leaves have time to dry out before nightfall. This will help to prevent fungal diseases from developing. If you water in the evening, then make sure that the leaves have time to dry completely before darkness falls.

How To Water Indoor Succulents – A Complete Guide

Potential Problems

Indoor elephant bush can potentially suffer from a number of problems, including root rot, leaf spot, and stem dieback.

Root rot is caused by a build-up of moisture around the roots of the plant, which can lead to fungal growth and eventual death of the plant.

To prevent root rot, it is important to make sure that the pot or container in which the elephant bush is growing has adequate drainage holes and that the plant is not sitting in water. In addition, be sure to water only when the soil is dry to the touch.

Leaf spot is another potential problem for indoor elephant bush. This disease is caused by fungi or bacteria and results in small, dark spots on the leaves of the plant.

Leaf spots can be prevented by ensuring that the plant has adequate airflow and by avoiding overhead watering, which can spread the fungus or bacteria.

Stem dieback is another potential problem for elephant bushes. This occurs when the stems of the plant begin to die back from the tips, eventually causing the entire plant to collapse.

Stem dieback is often caused by overwatering, so it is important to water only when the soil is dry to the touch. In addition, make sure that the plant has adequate airflow to prevent stem rot from setting in.

If you notice any of these problems with your indoor elephant bush, be sure to take corrective action immediately to prevent further damage. 

Elephant Bush care


When it comes to elephant bush indoor care, the type of soil you use is also important. This plant does best in well-draining soil that is high in organic matter.

A good potting mix for elephant bush should contain two parts peat moss to one part perlite. You can also use a cactus mix, as long as it is well-draining. If you are growing your plant in a container, be sure to use a pot with drainage holes.


If you want your elephant bush to thrive, then you’ll need to give it the proper care and nutrition. One important aspect of this is fertilizing. Fertilizing your elephant bush will help it to grow strong and healthy, and also produce more flowers.

There are a few things to keep in mind when fertilizing elephant bushes. First, you’ll need to choose the right fertilizer.

There are many different types of fertilizer available, so it’s important to select one that’s specifically designed for use on tropical plants like elephant bush. You should also be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

In general, you’ll want to fertilize your elephant bush every two weeks or so during the growing season. However, you may need to fertilize more often if the plant is not growing as vigorously as you’d like. If you’re unsure about how often to fertilize, ask your local nursery or gardening center for advice.

When applying fertilizer, be sure to distribute it evenly around the base of the plant. Avoid getting any on the leaves, as this can burn them. Also, be sure to water the fertilizer well so that it can reach the roots of the plant.

With proper care and nutrition, your elephant bush will thrive and produce an abundance of beautiful flowers.

Temperature And Humidity

This plant is native to a dry climate, so it does not need high humidity to thrive. In fact, too much humidity can actually cause problems with root rot.

The ideal temperature for elephant bushes is between 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in an area with hot summers, you can move the plant outdoors for the summer months. Just be sure to bring it back indoors before the first frost of winter.


Pruning an elephant bush is a relatively simple process that can be done to shape the plant, encourage new growth, or remove damaged or diseased branches. When pruning, always use clean, sharp pruning shears to make clean cuts.

Avoid using dull shears, as this can damage the plant. Elephant bush should be pruned in late winter or early spring before new growth begins.

To prune an elephant bush:

1. Start by removing any dead, damaged, or diseased branches. Cut these branches back to healthy wood.

2. Next, cut back any overgrown branches. Cut these branches back to the desired length, making sure not to cut too far into the main stem of the plant.

3. Finally, shape the plant by pruning any branches that are growing in an undesirable direction. Cut these branches back to the desired length, making sure not to cut too far into the main stem of the plant.

Can Elephant Bush Survive In Low Light?

While elephant bush can survive in low light, it will not thrive. The leaves will begin to etiolate or stretch out, in an attempt to reach more light. This results in a leggy, unattractive plant.

If your elephant bush is located in a low-light area, you should try to increase the amount of light it receives by moving it closer to a window or adding supplemental artificial lighting.

With proper light levels, your elephant bush will be more compact and have a fuller, healthier appearance.

How To Repot Elephant Bush

It’s important to repot elephant bush every two to three years. By doing this, you ensure that the plant has enough room to grow and doesn’t become pot-bound.

When you repot, be sure to use a well-draining potting mix and a pot that is only slightly larger than the current one.

Here’s how to repot elephant bush:

1. Prepare your materials. You’ll need a new pot with drainage holes, a well-draining potting mix, and something to protect your surfaces from dirt and water (newspaper or a drop cloth work well).

2. Carefully remove the plant from its current pot. Gently loosen the roots and discard any potting mix that is stuck to them.

3. Place the plant in the new pot and fill it around it with potting mix, being sure to firm it in gently. Water well.

4. Place the plant in a bright, indirect light spot and water when the top inch of soil is dry.

Wrapping Up

Elephant bush is an easy-to-care-for succulent that makes a great addition to any indoor plant collection. It prefers bright, indirect light but can tolerate some direct sun.


The Essentials

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