Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’ (Rainbow Bush)

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Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’ (Rainbow Bush) is a form of the South African “Elephant Bush”. Certainly, this beautiful shrubby plant has mahogany-colored stems that are accented by highly succulent yellow leaves and green midstripes.

For this reason, the Portulacaria makes a great hanging basket, gracefully cascading along some rocks on a walkway, bonsai style or a desert vivarium.

Yes, Elephants eat it, but no worries, your Rainbow Bush is safe. Unless you have a pet pachyderm.

Or, in our case, tortoises!

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The plant Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’ (Rainbow Bush) ” is a succulent with fleshy, glossy leaves that grows as a small bush. They are only hardy in zones 10 and 11.

Elephant bush houseplants (Portulacaria afra) thrive in bright light in a warm, draft-free room.

A few rules on how to care for elephant bush will help you grow a specimen of interest that may be a stand-alone plant or part of an intricate succulent garden.

Portulacaria Succulents Elephant bush plant may get 6- to 20-feet tall. In Africa, it is a perfect habitat for these plants and there it is one of the favorite food of elephants.

In the home interior, it is much more likely to remain just a few feet tall. The bush has thick succulent brown stems with small tender green leaves that resemble a diminutive jade plant.

The home interior is an excellent place to grow elephant bush houseplants.

Portulacaria care requires warm temperatures and bright light. After a dormant period in winter, the bush produces small pink flowers grouped in clusters at the ends of the branches.

Growing Portulacaria Elephant Bush Houseplants

These Portulacaria succulents need well-drained soil and an unglazed pot that will help excess moisture evaporate. The best mixture for this type of plant is cactus soil or potting soil cut by half with sand, vermiculite or pumice.

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Choose a location with indirect sunlight when growing elephant bush indoors. Overly bright sunlight can char the Portulacaria leaves and cause them to drop off. Ensure that the container you choose for Portulacaria has wide drainage holes.

Elephant bush succulents work well as part of a succulent display with plants that require similar care and situations.

How to Care for Elephant Bush Portulacaria care is similar to other succulent plants. If planted outdoors in warm climates, dig in 3 inches of sand or gritty material to provide well-drained soil. Watch for pests like whitefly, spider mites, and mealybugs.

The most common mistake made in succulent plants is watering. They are drought tolerant but do require watering from April to October.


Additionally in winter Portulacaria plants are dormant and you may suspend watering. In fact, Elephant bush succulents in the home interior should not have consistently wet feet.

Furthermore, make sure the pot drains well. Again, don’t leave a saucer with water sitting under the container.

Equally important, you should fertilize Portulacaria in late winter to early spring with an indoor plant fertilizer diluted by half.

Propagation of Elephant Bush Succulents

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In fact, like most succulents, elephant bush is easy to reproduce from cuttings. To emphasize, take Portulacaria afra cuttings in spring or summer for best results. Another great hint is to let the cutting dry out and get callous for a couple of days.

Next, plant the cutting in the damp gritty soil in a small pot. Furthermore, place Portulacaria cutting in a moderately lit area where temperatures are at least 65 F. (18 C.).

Finally, keep the soil lightly moist and in a few weeks the cutting will root and you will have a new elephant bush succulent to share with a friend or add to your collection.

 Old-hand gardeners know for best success indoor cactus and succulent plants require a certain amount of neglect.
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Succulents are the ultimate easy-care plant: versatile, effortless to grow both indoors and outdoors, and drought tolerant.

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Readers will find inspiration for imaginative and exciting new ways to use succulents in striking garden designs, containers, vertical walls, and indoor arrangements, as well as step-by-step projects, such as living bouquets and terrarium ornaments

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