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Portulacaria afra 'Variegata'

Portulacaria afra 'Variegata'

Common name elephant bush; dwarf jade plant
Family didiereaceae
Life cycle tender perennial (Z9-11)
Flowers inconspicuous pink
Size to 12'
Light sun
Cultural notes well drained soil

When you see this succulent grown as a house plant, it's hard to imagine that in its native habitat in southern Africa, it grows to 12 feet tall and serves as elephant salad. Of course it stays much smaller in the confines of a pot, but that doesn't prevent admiring the brilliant contrast between the dark bungundy stems and the pale emerald leaves. It can be easily pruned to keep it in a pleasing shape, and cuttings taken in spring will root readily. Be careful not to water too much in winter. We set our purchased plant in one of our hypertufa troughs, where it lived outside for the remainder of the summer, and indoors through the following winter (quite an accomplishment, since I usually kill plants I try to coax through a cold season indoors). Unfortunately, we set it out when warm days arrived in spring, and failed to retrieve it one night when temperatures dropped into the 20s. That outright killed the plant. We are now attempting to root a small cutting from a new plant.

We left this plant behind in our Pennsylvania garden (and wish it well); we don't grow it in Houston.

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