Rainbow Elephant Bush
Portulacaria afra f. variegata
por-tew-luh-KAR-ee-uh AF-ra var-ee-GAY-tuh
Portulacaria afra Jacq. is the correct and accepted scientific name for this plant. It was named and described by Nicolaus (Nicolaas) Joseph von Jacquin in Collectanea in 1787. He was also the first to describe the genus in the same publication.
Portulacaria afra f. variegata H. Jacobsen was described by Hermann Johannes Heinrich Jacobsen in 1955. This infraspecific name is not currently an accepted scientific name and is considered a synonym of Portulacaria afra even though anyone can see it is variegated and not green… Dave’s Garden lists it as a cultivar, not a form.
I bought this Portulacaria afra f. variegata from Lowe’s in Greenville, Mississippi in August 2012. I was living at the mansion in Leland at the time and was collecting a lot of plants.
Portulacaria afra are a native to Cape Provinces, Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Mozambique, Northern Provinces, and Swaziland in south and southwest Africa. They like the heat, are drought tolerant and can handle cool nighttime temps as long as they don’t get a frost.
They aren’t really that particular about their soil as long as it is well draining and it must dry between watering. Well, unless it is during a rainy period and they seem to understand.
Family: Didiereaceae (formerly in the Portulacaceae)
Zones: USDA Zones 9a-11 (20 to 40° F)
Size: 4-6’ but much smaller in pots
Light: Sun to light shade
Soil: Fast-draining. Potting soil amended with grit and perlite or pumice.
Water: Regular watering during the growing season, barely in winter.
Propagation: Stem cuttings
I brought this plant with me when I moved from the mansion in Mississippi to the family farm in mid-Missouri in February 2013.
Portulacaria afra is not particularly picky about soil as long as it is well-drained. I always grow my succulents in potting soil amended with a little extra grit and perlite. Many cactus and succulent growers suggest pumice over perlite.
Well, it has been about five years since the above photo was taken and when I am writing this page. I don’t remember what happened to this plant but maybe someday I will bring home another one.
I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.