How to Grow Portulacaria - Planting & Caring

By Sharon & Team   /   Succulents Category   /   2023

Portulacaria, also known as elephant's food, is a succulent plant native to South Africa. The plant is drought-tolerant and can grow up to 10 feet tall. Portulacaria is a fast-growing plant and can be propagated from stem cuttings.

How to Grow Portulacaria - Planting & Caring

Growing Easiness

Is it easy to grow Portulacaria plant? known as the "Elephant's Food", is a stem succulent that is native to South Africa. The Portulacaria is a small, slow-growing succulent that can reach up to 10 feet in height. It has small, round, green leaves that are arranged in opposite pairs along the stems. The Portulacaria is a very hardy plant and can tolerate a wide range of conditions, making it an ideal plant for beginners.

Plant Size

How big can it be? If left untrimmed, the Portulacaria can grow up to 6m high, but is usually seen in the form of small plants, 1.5-2m in height.

Growth Rate

How fast is the growth? Because it is a small, slow-growing plant, the average Portulacaria afra will only reach 2 to 3 feet in height and width. In its native habitat, it is often found growing in rocky, sandy soil in full sun to partial shade. It is an evergreen plant, meaning it will keep its leaves year-round. The leaves are small and round, and they are a deep green color. The stems of the plant are thin and delicate, and they are a reddish-brown color. The flowers of the Portulacaria afra are small and white, and they bloom in the spring.

Portulacaria Basic Knowledge

Plant Form Succulent
Family Portulacacea
Origin South Africa

Lifespan, Perennial or Annuals

How long is the lifespan? The Portulacaria is a drought-tolerant, fast-growing succulent that can live for many years. It is native to Africa and has been introduced to other parts of the world, including the United States. The plant is also known as the "elephant's food" because it is a favorite food of elephants in the wild. The Portulacaria is a low-maintenance plant that does not require much care. It can be grown in a pot or in the ground, and it is tolerant of a wide range of soils and climates.

Ideal Temperature

What is the ideal temperature? Eventually, the plant will acclimate to the temperature range of the room it is in. In the summer, the room's temperature should not be lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Portulacaria can tolerate a range of 50 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. However, in the winter it is desirable for the temperature to be no lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit.


What about the humidity? The reason why you might want to keep the humidity low around your Portulacaria is to prevent leaf drop. If the air is too dry, the leaves will start to fall off the plant.

Light Requirement

What amount of light this plant needed? Eventually, you will want to give your Portulacaria afra plant the best lighting conditions possible. This means bright sun. The southern window is best suited. The plant should be rotated every few weeks, so that it grows evenly. It is especially important for the city of portalacary to have bright illumination in winter. The best option is artificial planting of plants.

Soil Composition

What is good soil for Portulacaria? So, the best potting mix for Portulacaria afra should be a well-draining mix with a little extra sand added to it. A suitable store is weakly acidic or neutral infertile soil for succulents with a slight addition of sand. You could make your own mix by taking: 3 parts of coarse sand or perlite, 2 parts of garden soil, 2 parts of humus (leafy earth), 1 part of charcoal and bone meal, lime or a little egg-shell. Or you could just mix equal parts of leaf, turf and sand. It is also useful to add to the soil coarse sand, brick chips and other components that are disintegrating. Good drainage is required.

Watering Time

How much I must water Portulacaria? Unless the top layer of soil dries out, the Portulacaria does not need to be watered. It is best to water it approximately every 13-15 days. In November and February, the plant should only be watered once a month. In December and January, the plant should not be watered at all. The plant is drought-resistant and can withstand a prolonged lack of watering. When watering the plant, do not leave water in the pan. The need for irrigation of the portularia is evidenced by the appearing wrinkles on the leaves. After watering, the wrinkles should smooth out.

Fertilizing and Nutritient

About fertilizer. Eventually, you will need to fertilize your Portulacaria. I recommend using a soluble fertilizer for cacti with a moderate content of nitrogen. Apply the fertilizer at 1/4 the recommended dosage 3-4 times a year in April – July.


How to reproduce Portulacaria? Sometimes, in spring, it's easy to propagate the Portulacaria by stem cuttings. To do this, choose the thickest branches that have at least four pairs of leaves. These leaves should be about twelve to fifteen centimeters long. Once you have found a good branch, make an oblique cut. The cuttings should be dried for ten days before you plant them. You should also remove the leaves from the bottom of the cutting (about seven to eight centimeters from the cut). After ten days have passed, look for firm, wrinkled tissue and small white spots near the cut. These indicate the beginning of root formation. Roots will form best in a plastic pot that is five centimeters deep. The pot should be filled with a mixture of peat and sand. The mixture should be pre-watered with a quarter glass of water and allowed to dry. Next, make a pit in the substrate that is seven and a half centimeters deep. Put the cutting in the pit and cover it with soil. Roots will form best in a warm place with scattered light. The temperature should be 68-77 degrees Fahrenheit. Rooting usually takes two to three weeks. In two months, you can transplant the plant into permanent soil. If the place near the cut turns black, it indicates rot. Cut off the rotten parts, treat the area with coal powder, and dry it before you try to root again.


Why Portulacaria won't bloom? The Portulacaria is a small, succulent plant that blooms pink, star-shaped flowers from late winter to spring. It is very difficult to get this plant to bloom indoors, as they need a long period of dormancy and very little watering. However, older specimens that have been left uncut for a while may bloom if they are kept in a cool, dark place during winter.

Transfer or Repotting

How much I must water Portulacaria? known as the "elephant's food", is a fast-growing, succulent shrub from South Africa. It is drought-tolerant and can reach a height of 6 to 8 feet. The Portulacaria is a member of the Portulacaceae family and is closely related to the Purslane plant.

Caring The Portulacaria

How to care the plant? Although the plant is a succulent it cannot be neglected and needs regular watering, however, a layer of gravel at the bottom of the pot will help to prevent root rot. The plant is also known to blush (change color) in the bright sun. It is a good plant for bonsai and beginners can find success in growing this plant. It is also useful to take the plant out in the garden or on the balcony in the summer.

Pests & Challenges

What is the challenge when caring Portulacaria plant? Sometimes, leaves may drop due to lack of light or other issues. However, in the spring, the leaves will grow back. If shoots grow too tall because of a lack of light, water, or fertilizer, prune the plant.

Toxic & Poisonous Type

Are Portulacaria poisonous? Unless you have a very specific reason to do so, it is generally not a good idea to include Portulacaria afra in your diet. This is because the plant is toxic to humans and can cause a range of serious health problems if eaten. Some of the symptoms of portulacaria poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain and cramps. In severe cases, it can lead to coma or even death. If you suspect that you or someone else has eaten portulacaria, it is important to seek medical help immediately.