Sunday, February 3, 2008

RAINBOW BUSH: Portulacaria afra 'folis varigata'

I was confused about this plant that I picked up and potted yesterday. I mean they had two at OSH (Orchards Nursery), and they looked the same, but one was called "Elephant Bush" and the other was this one called "Rainbow Bush." And guess what? I couldn't find a difference between them! I went home and did some "online" digging around and realized that this is the same as the Elephant Bush except it is a variegated version of it.

(Definition from Varigated - Having streaks, marks, or patches of a different color or colors; varicolored.

I'm not sure which is the original Elephant Bush, but one has shiny green leaves as seen in this photo from

...and then my Rainbow Bush, a.k.a. Elephant Bush has the light green stripe going down the middle, and the lovely "blush" magenta shade on the edge of the leaves and stalks.

It was named Elephant Bush simply because it provides elephants with needed nutrients and water. Elephants simply pull the leaves from the plant for sustenance. Doesn't that make these Elephant/Rainbow plants even more lovely?

Here's the not so lovely, but necessary scientific info from my favorite vendor and website, The Cactus Collection:

Family: Portulacaceae
Genus: Portulacaria (por-tew-luh-KAR-ee-uh)
Species: afra (AF-ruh) meaning a female from Africa
Variety: variegata
Common Name: "Rainbow Bush" - Variegated Elephant Bush
Min. Temp to: 36°F
Origin: South Africa
USDA Zone ZONE: 10
Exposure: Bright Light/Sun

Here's their write up on it too!

"Portulacaria afra variegata (Rainbow Bush) is a form of the South African "Elephant Bush". Beautiful shrubby plant with mahogany-colored stems that are accented by highly succulent yellow leaves with green midstripes. The habit of this plant differs from the upright stance of the "Elephant Bush" in that it is somewhat cascading and spreads quickly laterally, rather than vertically. Often used as a bonsai subject as the the stems are easily trained, and the contrast of the gnarly mahogany stems with the delicate round colorful leaves creates an Oriental ambience. Great as hanging basket in atrium or patio, or as a gracefully cascading bonsai. Porous soil with adequate drainage. Bright light. Water thoroughly when soil is dry to the touch. Protect from frost. "
Oh, and by the way, they call my Rainbow Bush an Elephant Bush too.


bigroblee said...

Hi; I have one of these that I purchased at Lowes a couple weeks ago and repotted. It seemed to be doing well but now there is brown starting to appear on the tips of the leaves. Any suggestions?

Steve Krause said...

@bigroblee --- too much water? Succulents like to get dry between watering, and then don't drown 'em!

How has it done since March 27? I hear they are VERY easy to start from cuttings.

Lori Janeiro said...

Funny I am looking at on variety of my elephant brush and saw your post, tho long ago it was written i to have both the rainbo yes is varagated and the other is green with brown stalk, much darker stalk then the varagate. This as well will bloom and it's one of the many I have found that will not preform unless you stop looking at it, meaning the less attention the better it will do for you and VERY drought tolerant. Just helping. You have a wonderful blog page if you dont mind me posting helpful hint, i too can use help and you are full of information. Thanks for the shares... Lori.