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Variegated Elephant Food

Portulacaria afra 'Variegata'

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Variegated Elephant Food (Portulacaria afra 'Variegata') at Liberty Landscape Supply

Variegated Elephant Food

Variegated Elephant Food

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Variegated Elephant Food (Portulacaria afra 'Variegata') at Liberty Landscape Supply

Variegated Elephant Food foliage

Variegated Elephant Food foliage

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height:  6 feet

Spread:  4 feet

Sunlight:  full sun  partial shade 

Hardiness Zone:  9a

Other Names:  Dwarf Jade Plant, Rainbow Bush

Description:

An upright plant with interesting reddish-brown stems covered in small succulent green leaves with cream variegation; grows large in frost free areas; popular use in bonsai; very drought tolerant and great for rock gardens or containers

Ornamental Features

Variegated Elephant Food has attractive creamy white-variegated deciduous green foliage with hints of pink throughout the season. The small succulent round leaves are highly ornamental but do not develop any appreciable fall color. It features dainty lavender flowers at the ends of the branches in early summer. The fruit is not ornamentally significant. The smooth gray bark and brick red branches are extremely showy and add significant winter interest.

Landscape Attributes

Variegated Elephant Food is a multi-stemmed deciduous shrub with an upright spreading habit of growth. It lends an extremely fine and delicate texture to the landscape composition which can make it a great accent feature on this basis alone.

This is a relatively low maintenance shrub, and can be pruned at anytime. Gardeners should be aware of the following characteristic(s) that may warrant special consideration;

  • Insects

Variegated Elephant Food is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Accent
  • Mass Planting
  • Rock/Alpine Gardens
  • General Garden Use
  • Container Planting

Planting & Growing

Variegated Elephant Food will grow to be about 6 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 4 feet. It has a low canopy with a typical clearance of 1 foot from the ground, and is suitable for planting under power lines. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for 40 years or more.

This shrub does best in full sun to partial shade. It prefers dry to average moisture levels with very well-drained soil, and will often die in standing water. It is considered to be drought-tolerant, and thus makes an ideal choice for xeriscaping or the moisture-conserving landscape. It is not particular as to soil pH, but grows best in poor soils, and is able to handle environmental salt. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America. It can be propagated by cuttings; however, as a cultivated variety, be aware that it may be subject to certain restrictions or prohibitions on propagation.

Variegated Elephant Food makes a fine choice for the outdoor landscape, but it is also well-suited for use in outdoor pots and containers. With its upright habit of growth, it is best suited for use as a 'thriller' in the 'spiller-thriller-filler' container combination; plant it near the center of the pot, surrounded by smaller plants and those that spill over the edges. Note that when grown in a container, it may not perform exactly as indicated on the tag - this is to be expected. Also note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.

 
 
Hardiness Zone Plant Height Minimum Sunlight
Characteristics
Accent  Massing  Rock  Garden  Container 
Applications
Flowers  Foliage Color  Texture  Plant Form  Bark 
Ornamental Features