11 of the Best Types of Elephant Bush to Grow at Home

Elephant bush is an easy-care, low maintenance houseplant – and there are many different types to choose from!

A close up vertical image of a variegated elephant bush (Portulacaria afra) growing in a hanging pot pictured on a soft focus background. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

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Also known as “spekboom,” “porkbush,” or “baby jade,” this nontoxic evergreen succulent can have a trailing or upright growth habit, with foliage that is emerald-green, yellow, or variegated, depending on the variety.

We’re going to explore eleven different options so you can choose the type that will both suit your needs – and fit your fancy.

Here’s a sneak peek at our list:

Before we get started, if you’d like to review the care needs for this houseplant, be sure to check our complete guide to growing elephant bush.

1. Afra

The species plant, Portulacaria afra bears emerald-green leaves that are half an inch long.

A close up horizontal image of the succulent foliage and reddish stems of Portulacaria afra growing in a pot pictured on a soft focus background.
P. afra

Plants have an upright, sprawling growth habit, and reddish-brown stems.

Portulacaria Afra in 1-Gallon Nursery Pot

You can purchase a P. afra specimen in a one-gallon nursery pot from the Plants for Pets Store via Amazon.

2. Aurea

Also known as “yellow rainbow bush,” “gold elephant bush,” or “yellow elephant food,” ‘Aurea’ is a semi-trailing cultivar with a golden glow.

New leaves on this variety are bright yellow, held on purple stems. Mature foliage is light green to pale yellow, on stems that have a prostrate growth habit before growing more upright as they mature.

A close up of a hand from the bottom of the frame holding up a small potted elephant bush.

‘Aurea’ in 3” Nursery Pot

You’ll find ‘Aurea’ available for purchase in three-inch nursery pots from Winter Greenhouse via Walmart.

3. Bonsai

While any variety of P. afra that has an upright growth habit can be shaped into bonsai, you can get a jump start on this process by choosing a mature specimen that has already been trained into bonsai form.

A close up square image of five Portulacaria afra plants in a small bonsai pot.trained as bonsai.

Group of 5 Baby Jade Bonsai 10”-11” P. Afra Trees

You can purchase a forest of five elephant bush bonsai trees that are six to nine years old and 10 to 11 inches tall from Bonsai Boy.

4. Cork Bark

‘Cork Bark’ is an excellent cultivar for training as bonsai. It has an upright growth habit, emerald-green leaves, and develops rough and gnarly, grayish bark as it ages.

This variety was first discovered in a nursery in the 1960s, where its unique bark was thought to be the symptoms of a fungal infection.

Bonsai enthusiasts have since determined that there is, in fact, nothing wrong with ‘Cork Bark,’ and that it makes a wonderful bonsai.

In 2015, this cultivar was introduced to market via the Huntington Botanic Garden’s International Succulent Introduction.

5. Lilliput

‘Lilliput’ is a diminutive cultivar that has petite, emerald-green leaves.

This upright, dwarf variety is well-suited for use as a bonsai or in a small succulent planter. It’s a fast grower with compact foliage.

‘Lilliput’ is a naturally occurring variety that was discovered in a plant nursery in 2013, and patented by Altman Specialty Plants in 2019.

6. Macrophylla

Going from the smaller to the larger end of the spectrum, ‘Macrophylla’ is also known as “large leaf elephant food” and has more sizeable leaves than the species plant.

Emerald-green leaves reach an inch long, are held on upright plants, and are more spaced out along the stems, bearing a closer resemblance to jade plant (Crassula ovata).

This variety is also known as ‘Limpopo.’

7. Manny

‘Manny’ is a variegated cultivar that has mint green leaves with dabs of cream, and purple-outlined leaf margins held on thick, upright stems.

Leaves are thick and rounded, with some being slightly scalloped towards the edges, giving the foliage of this plant more texture than other varieties.

‘Manny’ is a naturally occurring variety that was found in a nursery in California in 2014.

8. Medio Picta

‘Medio Picta’ is a variegated cultivar, also known as “midstripe rainbow bush,” with foliage that has cream centers and green margins.

A close up horizontal image of a variegated elephant bush Portulacaria afra 'Medio Picta' pictured on a soft focus background.
‘Medio Picta.’

While most of the foliage is variegated, some leaves may be all cream with pink margins, and some all-green leaves can appear as well. New leaf buds are pink.

Also known as ‘Kaleidoscope,’ the foliage of this cultivar is held on bright pink to red stems.

A close up square image of a hand from the left of the frame holding a stem of Portulacaria afra 'Medio Picta.'

‘Medio Picta’

You’ll find ‘Medio Picta’ in two-, four-, or six-inch nursery pots available to purchase from the Succulents Depot via Walmart.

9. Prostrata

‘Prostrata’ is a low growing, spreading variety of P. afra.

A close up vertical image of Portulacaria afra 'Prostrata' growing in a hanging basket set on a wooden surface.
‘Prostrata.’ Photo by Kristina Hicks-Hamblin.

Also known as “groundcover jade,” this is an excellent type of elephant bush to choose if you would like to grow it in a hanging basket.

This variety is sometimes called “dwarf elephant food.” Its leaves are smaller than the species plant but larger than those of ‘Lilliput.’

Also called ‘Minima,’ this plant can also be used as a ground cover in a mixed succulent planter.

A close up square image of a small 'Prostrata' elephant bush growing in a pot set on a wooden surface.

‘Prostrata’ in Hanging Basket

You’ll find ‘Prostrata’ available for purchase in a six-inch hanging basket from Altman Plants via Walmart.

10. Skyscraper

‘Skyscraper’ has a narrow, upright growth habit.

Emerald-green leaves are half an inch long and grow on reddish-brown stems that remain dark even when mature.

This variety is also called “narrow elephant’s food.”

11. Variegata

A variegated cultivar, ‘Variegata’ is similar to ‘Medio Picta’ but with reverse coloring.

This variety, known as “rainbow bush,” has mint green leaves with cream-colored margins that are sometimes edged in pink.

A close up horizontal image of Portulacaria afra 'Variegata' growing in a small pot pictured on a dark background.
Photo by Juan Ignacio, Wikimedia Commons, via CC BY-SA.

New growth is cream colored or cream with pink margins, inspiring the other name for this cultivar, ‘Tricolor.’

This variegated form of P. afra has a compact, upright growth habit and exhibits slower growth than the species plant. It is also less tolerant of direct sun.

A close up square image of Portulacaria afra 'Variegata' growing in a small pot.

Variegata Rainbow Bush in 2.5” Pot

Purchase a rainbow bush in a two-and-a-half-inch pot from Hirt’s Gardens via Walmart.

Learn more about growing and caring for rainbow bush in our guide. (coming soon!)

A Handsome Herd of Elephants

You herd it here first, there are enough different types of spekboom to create your own collection.

A close up horizontal image of the green, pink-edged foliage of Portulacaria afra pictured on a soft focus background.

Whether you are looking for a specimen for a hanging basket or an upright type to create a beautiful bonsai, I bet you found one or two baby jades that made you feel like trumpeting with delight!

Which elephant bush has struck your fancy? Do you have any other favorites that we didn’t include here? Are you trying to figure out which one you have? Be sure to post a photo and let us know in the comments section below!

If you’re up for an extended stay on the succulent side, here are some additional articles that are sure to keep you enthralled:

Photo of author
Kristina Hicks-Hamblin lives on a dryland permaculture homestead in the high desert of Utah. She is a Certified Permaculture Designer, holds a Certificate in Native Plant Studies from the University of North Carolina Botanical Gardens, a Landscape for Life certificate through the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Kristina strives towards creating gardens where there are as many birds and bees as there are edibles.

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