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A picture of a Rainbow Elephant Bush

Rainbow Elephant Bush

Portulacaria afra 'Variegata'

Also known as

Variegated Dwarf Jade Plant, Variegated Porkbush, Variegated Elephant's Food, Elephant bush

Photo by Runia (All rights reserved)

Partial Shade
Easy care
Light watering


RHS hardiness


Minimum temperature

Expected size









  • spring
  • summer
  • autumn
  • winter

This plant has no fragrance

More images of Rainbow Elephant Bush

A photo of Rainbow Elephant Bush
A photo of Rainbow Elephant Bush

Rainbow Elephant Bush Overview

Portulacaria afra 'Variegata' is an attractive and robust succulent shrub that is grown around the globe and is often used ornamentally as a houseplant, pruned to resemble a bonsai. It has small, round, variegated succulent leaves coloured green and white and red stems. When grown as a houseplant, it likes more water than most succulents, but should still be allowed to dry out thoroughly between watering. In southern Africa, Portulacaria afra 'Variegata' is known by the names Rainbow Elephant Bush and Variegated Elephant Food and is used by people for culinary and medicinal purposes. Spekboom is also a popular common name for this plant and in some places, it is well known as Dwarf Jade Plant for its resemblance to the Jade Plant species, Crassula ovata.

Common problems with Rainbow Elephant Bush

A mistletoe, Viscum crassulae, also parasitizes this plant. Other mammals may graze on plants kept outdoors.

How to harvest Rainbow Elephant Bush

Pick leaves at any time, as needed to add to food, or to use medicinally.

How to propagate Rainbow Elephant Bush


Roots easily and can be planted directly into the ground where they are to grow. Cuttings can be taken in the normal manner(about 10-15cm, remove bottom leaves), allow to dry out and plant in washed river sand.


Seed is not often available.

Special features of Rainbow Elephant Bush

Attracts useful insects

They are a rich source of nectar and water for many insects, such as bees.

Pot plant

Just make sure that the pot has large drainage holes and that the plant never stands in water.

Indoor plant

Place the plant in a room with direct sun and without a draught.

Wind break


Attractive leaves

Attracts birds

It is a source of nectar or water for insects thereby also attracting insectivorous birds.

Hedge plant

Elephant Bush can be used as a screen or even a clipped hedge.

Drought resistant

In dry conditions when other plants have to shut down and wait for sufficient rain, Elephant Bush can use CAM (Crassulacean Acid Metabolism) to keep taking up carbon and continue growing.

Other uses of Rainbow Elephant Bush

Prevents soil erosion. Medicinal properties. Carbon sponge.


The leaves are used to treat over-exhaustion, dehydration, blisters, acne, insect bites and sunburn, and also to lower high blood sugar levels. Traditionally used to promote the flow of breast milk.


Leaves can be eaten raw from the plant or in salads or added to stew. Honey is made from the plant. It is also valuable stock feed.


Easy Bonsai start for amateurs!

Other uses




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