portulacaria afra bonsai

Portulacaria Afra (Dwarf Jade) Bonsai: How To Grow and Care

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Portulacaria afra – the name might sound like a mouthful, so it might be easier to refer to this plant by another name. Luckily, it’s a bonsai plant that has plenty of alternatives (elephant bush, porkbush, dwarf jade plant, and spekboom, in Afrikaans, just to name a few!). 

An easy to care for plant, it is often used in bonsai cultivation. However, if you’re lucky enough to live in a frost-free area, you can even use Portulacaria afra in your outdoor landscaping!

Most gardeners will choose to grow this plant as a bonsai specimen, though. Here’s what you need to know. 

Interesting Facts about Portulacaria Afra Bonsai

Height: 10 inches

Width: 2 inches

Sunlight: Full sunlight 

Flowering Time Length: 

Lifespan: 200 years

Scientific name: Portulacaria afra

Types of Portulacaria Afra Bonsai

A small-leaved succulent plant native to South Africa, Portulacaria afra is a small, succulent plant that produces compact growth and rounded pads. It grows quickly and is incredibly hardy. 

There aren’t many options when it comes to varieties of Portulacaria afra you can use for bonsai growing. However, there are both green and variegated options for you to choose from in most cases.

You can also choose from common bonsai cultivars like Limpopo (a large-leafed variety), Prostrata, (a low-lying option), Aurea (a cultivar with yellow leaves) and Foliis variegatus and Medio-picta (both of which are variegated types). 

Growing Portulacaria Afra Bonsai from Seed or By Propagation

Portulacaria afra can be grown from seed or by propagation. However, it’s easiest to grow from cuttings that are propagated in the summer. 

How To Care for Portulacaria Afra Bonsai

Sunlight

Grow your Portulacaria afra indoors if you live in a temperate zone. However, do keep in mind that you can keep it outdoors as long as it is placed in full sun and is kept at temperatures above 50 degrees or so at all times. 

Even when you keep your Portulacaria afra indoors, you will need to provide it with lots of light. In some cases, that may mean supplementing with a grow light. If you notice that the leaves have developed red edges, you are doing okay with the amount of sunlight you are providing.

Watering

Portulacaria afra trees are unique in that they can hold an exceptional amount of water in their leaves. As succulents, they don’t need to be watered very often.

In fact, it’s a good idea to let your plant dry out slightly between watering. In the winter, you can water as little as once every three to four weeks, especially if your plant is being grown in cooler conditions.

Once the soil dries out, though, be sure to water. This plant isn’t quite as sensitive to overwatering as other succulents can be. 

Fertilizing

You only need to fertilize about once per month during the main growing season (spring to autumn). Use a normal fertilizer that is well-balanced and apply it sparingly.

Potting and Repotting 

You will need to repot your Portulacaria afra once every two years. This should ideally be done in the spring. Place your new plant into a well-draining soil mixture. 

Although most bonsai plants benefit from a gentle watering after they have been repotted, this is not something you need to do with your Portulacaria afra

Instead, avoid watering for about one week. This will let the roots become dry and callous and can prevent fungal root rot.

Pruning a Portulacaria Afra Bonsai

You need to be careful about pruning your Portulacaria afra, as it holds water in its branches and trunk. These can cause them to bend from the excess weight.

However, when done slowly and methodically, Portulacaria afra benefits from pruning, which can force the tree to develop branches lower on its trunk. 

Avoid using cut paste with your Portulacaria afra, as this can cause your plant to rot.

Pests and Diseases

Portulacaria afra is not prone to many diseases or pests. As long as you water it correctly and give it enough sunlight, it will do just fine and not suffer from any of the most common bonsai ailments.

Where to Buy Dwarf Jade Plant Bonsai

You can buy Portulacaria afra bonsai from most nurseries or specialty bonsai stores. 

*Photo by RealityImages/depositphotos

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