Dwarf Jade Plant, Portulacaria Afra can be used in terrariums and garden dishes.

Dwarf Jade Plant, Portulacaria Afra – Details, Growing Tips

Dwarf Jade Plant, Portulacaria Afra can be used in terrariums and garden dishes.
Dwarf Jade Plant, Portulacaria Afra is a great succulent for terrariums.

If you are planning to make a succulent terrarium you should seriously consider adding a Dwarf Jade Plant.  They have a beautiful green leaf with a red stem and they look great combined with other succulents.

Common Names

Dwarf Jade Plant, Miniature Jade, Elephant Bush, Elephant Plant, Elephant’s Food, Porkbush, Spekboom, Yellow Rainbow Bush, Small Leaf Jade

Scientific Binomial Name

Portulacaria afra

Description of Dwarf Jade Plant, Portulacaria afra

It has small round soft green glossy padded leaves with burgundy red stems.  It looks similar to the unrelated Jade Plant but it has rounder and smaller pads than the Crassula ovate variety.  This variety of Portulacaria is slow growing.  One grower says that after 5 years his is still only 3 inches tall.

Max Growth:  Inside 6-8”; Outside up to 15 feet tall and spread of 4 feet.

Outside Spacing:  36-48” (90-120 cm)

Pot Size:  You can grow these in pots as small as 2”.

Uses:  This is a hardy drought-tolerant xeriscaping succulent.  Some use this plant as a privacy hedge.  It is used indoors as a Jade Bonsai Tree since it has a small root mass and thrives in shallow tray-like pots.  It does well in terrariums, hanging baskets and dish gardens.  It is also used as wedding favors and in wreaths.

Growing Conditions for Dwarf Jade Plant, Portulacaria afra

Light:  These plants thrive with indirect sunlight.  Too much bright light can cause the leaves to drop off.

Temperature:  They prefer a room free of drafts.

Soil:  Mix one-half potting soil and a mixture of sand, pumice or vermiculite.  The pH requirements are 5.6 to 6.5 acidic to mildly acidic.

Flowers:  Pale pink or lavender star-shaped clustered flowers that rarely bloom but form at the tip of the branches.  Bloom spring to early summer.  Some growers find that the dryer it is the more they bloom.

Outside Hardiness Zones:  9, 10 and 11.  When the plant is mature it is able to tolerate light frosts.

General Care for Dwarf Jade Plant, Portulacaria afra

Water:  Water sparingly from April through October.  They are dormant in the winter and normally do not need to be watered.  Plants in containers may go for months without needing water depending on the conditions.  Do not leave water in a tray or saucer.

Fertilizer:  Fertilize 1-3 times in late winter through early spring with a ½ diluted fertilizer.

Pests and Diseases:  Watch for spider mites, mealybugs, and whitefly.

Pruning:  It is easy to keep this plant smaller with regular pruning.

Propagation:  This is easy to propagate with cuttings and for best success do this in the spring or summer.  The cuttings should completely dry out and then callous for a few days first.  Then plant the cutting in gritty damp soil.

Medicinal and Other Uses

It is commonly used in soups and salads in southern Africa.

Native Distribution

Eastern South Africa and Swaziland.  This is a rare plant in the wild that can be found mostly on slopes and rocky outcrops.  They can grow up to 20 feet high and are a favorite food of wild elephants.  In a single feeding, they will eat every bit of the leaves and small branches from large thickets of these plants.  However, the plant is so hardy and resilient that within a couple weeks it is lush with new growth.  In some areas, the Portulacaria afra makes up 80% of an elephant herd’s diet.

Other Varieties of Portulacaria afra

  • Limpopo: This variety has larger leaves. It is the common variety in the far northern portions of the species’ range.
  • Foliis variegatus: As the name implies this is a variegated form.
  • Prostrata: A low-lying, variety often used as a ground-cover.
  • Aurea: A compact and more upright variety rounded leaves turn bright yellow.
  • Medio-picta:  This is a variegated variety that has a lighter center.

 Other Tips

These plants are resistant to fire and also deer.

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