Elephant Bush or Elephant Food (also known as Portulacaria afra) is one of the world’s most popular succulent garden shrub or bonsai subject. This cutie is a perfect addition to both your indoor and outdoor succulent garden. Also being known as Miniature Jade or Dwarf Jade, it has nothing to do with Crassula ovata. The leaves are rounded, fleshy and small, growing on a red stem. As the name says, this succulent serves as food for elephants, as well as tortoises and goats. It has a pleasant, acidic taste, so people of South Africa often use in salads and stews.
If your Elephant Bush starts to lose leaves, this can be a sign of few problems. Whatever it is your plant is struggling with, these tips can help you have healthy Elephant Bush again.
The primary cause of Elephant Bush losing leaves is overwatering. Too much water prevents pant to get enough oxygen, which encourages fungal rot diseases. The first sign of overwatering is swollen and discolored leaves. If you spot these changes in your Elephant Bush, simply replant it in fresh soil and remove any rotten roots.
Leaf drop can also be a sign of underwatering. Not getting enough water can cause leaves of Elephant Bush to dry out and eventually fall off. You should water your Elephant Bush regularly in summer and cut the watering a little bit during the colder months. As with most of the other succulents, you can’t be wrong with using the “soak and dry” method. In the winter, you should keep the amount of water on a few drops, just as much to prevent leaves from shriveling.
If the soil you planted your Elephant Bush in is not well-drained or doesn’t have enough nutrition to fill the plants’ needs, this succulent will drop off its leaves. To solve this, you can use a specially mixed succulent soil or even make your own. As we all know, proper water drainage is the key to growing a healthy succulent. If your soil doesn’t have that, you can add some perlite to help with drainage as well as with airflow. Using some well-balanced fertilizer can also help your Elephant Bush to stop losing leaves.
Growing Condition Change
Like most succulents, Elephant Bush doesn’t respond well to sudden changes in growing conditions. If you move your plant without easing its way into a new environment, you can face some severe leaf drop. Lightning, temperature and humidity conditions can also affect the color of the leaves and overall, the shape the plant is in.
Elephant Bush loves the full sun. Moving it in less sunny areas can cause leaf drop. The same goes for the temperature. If you suddenly move your Elephant Bush from the warmer area to cooler one (and the opposite), the plant may react by shriveling and dropping leaves eventually. The ideal temperature for your Elephant Bush will be 70 to 85°F (21 to 29°C) during a day and nighttime temperatures should be 50 to 55°F (10 to 13°C). When it comes to humidity, try to avoid placing your succulent near air conditioning or heating vent, because it won’t appreciate drying of the air. To help humidity stay on a stable level, you can use humidifiers during winter.
Pests and Diseases
If your Elephant Bush is suffering from pests invasion or some infection, it will start losing leaves pretty fast. Leafy succulents as this one are commonly sensitive to wite flies and scale moths. Other pests that can invade your succulent include mealybugs, spider mites, and fungus gnat larvae. Diseases your Elephant Bush can suffer from are mostly fungal. However, you can prevent these diseases by proper watering, soil with good drainage and some pests control products.