Common Name: Jade Plant, Elephant Bush, Elephant Food, Dwarf Jade, Miniature Jade
Botanical Name: Portulacaria afra
Rumor has it, Portulacaria afra, more commonly referred to as Elephant Bush bring good luck to their owners. While we hope this is true, what they are sure to bring is beautiful and lush greenery with very little care required. Small, green waxy leaves grow from red stems that become woody with time and give this plant a tree-like appearance. Portulacaria is an excellent indoor plant for novice bonsai enthusiasts and is a preferred genus over Crassula as a bonsai because of its smaller leaves and faster growth. If you intend on maintaining your Baby Jade Plant as a small tree, be sure to prune it regularly to maintain its shape and size. These succulents are native to South Africa, they are low maintenance and thrive with a certain degree of neglect.
Bright indirect light is mandatory for Portulacaria afra. Elephant Bush love lots of light and they need a minimum of 4 hours of bright indirect light each day to thrive. Keep the plant away from direct light which can burn the leaves.
Let the soil become dry before watering and remember that it's always better to err on the side of caution and let the plant be too dry instead of too wet. As a succulent, Portulacaria afra store water in their leaves, so they keep themselves hydrated between watering, making them a rather self-sufficient and easy-care houseplant.
Elephant Bush are not very thirsty to begin with, but they need more water during the warmer months when they are growing. It's completely normal for Portulacaria afra to need even less water when the plant becomes dormant during the colder months.
Anything between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit, or comfortable room temperature is good for these easy-care houseplants. If a Elephant Bush receives plenty of bright indirect light, then they can often handle cooler temperatures. Do not let the temperature fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. You can place your Baby Jade Plant in a shady spot on a deck or patio during the summer, but make sure to bring the plant back inside well before there is a chance of frost.
Low humidity is ideal for Portulacaria afra. Jade Plants prefer drier conditions, and they really do best when the soil can mostly dry out. Placing the plant in an area with high humidity may prevent the soil from drying out as much as this plant requires.
Help your Baby Jade Plant thrive by feeding the plant while it is actively growing during the warmer months. Fertilize once every four weeks, using a diluted complete liquid fertilizer or a fish/seaweed emulsion. Water the plant prior to fertilizing to moisten the soil and roots. This protects the roots and enables the plant to better absorb nutrients. A slow-release fertilizer amended in the soil is another effective option.
During the winter, or colder months, Jade houseplants may go dormant or stop growing. Do not fertilize your Elephant Bush if it is not actively growing.
- Baby Jade Plants are completely fine being root bound. Keeping this easy-care houseplant in a small pot is an effective way to maintain the size.
- When the time comes to re-pot a Portulacaria afra, make sure the soil is dry. Wait a couple of weeks after the plant is re-potted before watering in order to give the roots time to settle in.
- Portulacaria afra is very easy to propagate. Simply remove a single leaf and let the cutting sit for a few days, so the wound, or cut end scabs over. Next, place the cut end in soil. Make sure the cutting is in an area with warm temperatures that receives lots of bright indirect light, and give it time to start to develop roots. Roots should develop in a couple of weeks depending on the surrounding light and temperature. Water the new plant after roots have formed.