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Yard Care in Phoenix and Glendale AZ

Elephant Food Plant

Portulacaria Afra, mostly known as Elephant Food Plant, Small Leaf Jade, or Dwarf Jade is from the family Portulacaeae. These shrubs are great for small areas that you want to remain green all year round.

It has a small, circular, fleshy, bright green foliage on reddish-brown stems. Stiffly upright and branched and spreading, succulent, and informal. 

This awesome plant grows moderately vigorous and upright to 4 feet with greater spread. Good thing is that it has no thorns and does not shed. 

This wonderful plant sprouts numerous, small pink flowers on terminal spikes in late spring to early summer. It produces pink, star-shaped flowers in late winter to early spring, but rarely blooms in the southwest desert.

Elephant Bush Growing Conditions in Phoenix

Elephant Food Plant can grow in full sun or light/partial shade and is very drought-resistant.

Though the plant is evergreen it is freeze sensitive. It will need winter protection in freeze-prone areas of Phoenix. It favors warm weather and plenty of light.

As a vigorous landscape plant, when established, it needs deep watering every one or two weeks in the hottest months of the year, while monthly at most in winter. Soak the soil, then allow it to dry the weeks it is scheduled to bloom; if not it will fail to flower. 

In Phoenix, elephant plants need to be irrigated weekly during the summer, particularly if grown in a container. Otherwise, especially during cooler times of the year, it is not necessary.

Where should we plant these? Elephant Food Plants are tolerant to the soil here but do best in light, well-drained soil.

Elephant food plant.

Potential Problems with the Elephant Bush

Fungal root rot if the soil is chronically wet, scale, mealybugs (especially indoors and in greenhouses). Rabbits, Javelina, and other “urban herbivores” will feast on elephant plants growing in outdoor landscapes, especially when the weather has been prolongedly hot and dry and water is a sought-after scarce commodity.

NON-TOXIC for pets and animals. As its name suggests, this succulent is eaten by elephants but feeds goats and tortoises as well. It is used in Southern African cuisine, added to salads, soups, and stews to add a sour flavor.

Types of Elephant Food Plant

There are 5 types of Elephant Food Plant: 

  1. Portulacaria Afra – the most common.
  2. Portulacaria Afra “Variegata” (Variegated Elephant Bush) – the most common one available for cultivation, it has large leaves, almost 2 times the size of a regular Portulacaria Afra.
  3. Portulacaria Afra Elephant Bush Mammoth and the latest two that have been recently discovered.
  4. Portulacaria Afra Elephant Bush Minima “Lilliput.”
  5. Portulacaria Afra Elephant Bush Rainbow “Manny.”

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