AZ Arboretums

Portulacaria afra

Dwarf Jade

Common: Dwarf Jade, Elephant's Food, Elephant Bush
Family: Portulacaceae
Origin/Range: Mexico (Sonora, Baja California)
Light: Any exposure. Can take full sun in summer in Phoenix
Hardy to 30°F ( -1°C)

Water:  Moderate to little water, very drought resistant

A Fleshy, softly woody shrub or small tree up to 3m to 4m, often sprawling; occurring on dry rocky hillsides and in succulent scrub. Portulacaria afra, also called "Elephant Plant" or "Small leaf Jade".

The bark is green when young, becoming red-brown to slategrey, and smooth with conspicuous leaf scars. Leaves are simple, opposite, almost circular, about 1.5cm in diameter, up to 2.5x l.7cm, fleshy, pale grey, pale greyblue-green to dark green; each pair of leaves at right angles to the next along the reddish stems.

Flowers are small, star shaped. The pink flowers are seldom seen outside the wild.

Portulacaria will tolerate a variety of growing conditions. Since it is tropical it must be protected from cold temperatures (below 50). A good plant for the Phoenix area, you can grow it in pot with full sun part of the day in summer, water it every 2 weeks and it will look fine (of course it does better if you show more consideration). It can also be used to make outstanding bonsais.