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annual

Elephant Food

Portulacaria afra

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Elephant Food (Portulacaria afra) at Echter's Nursery & Garden Center

Elephant Food foliage

Elephant Food foliage

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height:  10 feet

Spread:  5 feet

Sunlight:  full sun 

Hardiness Zone:  (annual)

Other Names:  Dwarf Jade Plant, Elephant Bush, Porkbush

Description:

An upright plant with interesting reddish-brown stems covered in small succulent green leaves; grows large in frost free areas; popular use in bonsai; very drought tolerant and great for rock gardens or containers

Ornamental Features

Elephant Food's attractive small succulent round leaves remain green in color throughout the season. It features dainty lavender flowers at the ends of the branches in early summer. The fruit is not ornamentally significant. The brick red stems are very colorful and add to the overall interest of the plant.

Landscape Attributes

Elephant Food is a multi-stemmed annual with an upright spreading habit of growth. It brings an extremely fine and delicate texture to the garden composition and should be used to full effect.

This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and can be pruned at anytime. Gardeners should be aware of the following characteristic(s) that may warrant special consideration;

  • Insects

Elephant Food is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Accent
  • Mass Planting
  • Rock/Alpine Gardens
  • General Garden Use
  • Container Planting

Planting & Growing

Elephant Food will grow to be about 10 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 5 feet. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of 1 foot from the ground. Although it's not a true annual, this slow-growing plant can be expected to behave as an annual in our climate if left outdoors over the winter, usually needing replacement the following year. As such, gardeners should take into consideration that it will perform differently than it would in its native habitat.

This plant should only be grown in full sunlight. It prefers dry to average moisture levels with very well-drained soil, and will often die in standing water. It is considered to be drought-tolerant, and thus makes an ideal choice for a low-water garden or xeriscape application. It is not particular as to soil pH, but grows best in poor soils, and is able to handle environmental salt. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This species is not originally from North America. It can be propagated by cuttings.

Elephant Food is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor pots and containers. Its large size and upright habit of growth lend it for use as a solitary accent, or in a composition surrounded by smaller plants around the base and those that spill over the edges. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.

 
 
Hardiness Zone Plant Height Minimum Sunlight
Characteristics
Accent  Massing  Rock  Garden  Container 
Applications
Flowers  Foliage Color  Texture  Plant Form  Bark 
Ornamental Features

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