Portulacaria

Family: Didiereaceae (Portulacaceae according to the old classifications)
Habitat: Southern Africa
Cultivation: Easy to grow, Portulacaria needs very little attention. Place it in a warm place, in half sun, and water sparingly.
Curiosity: The small leaves of Portulacaria and the tendency of the stem to become woody make it very popular among bonsai lovers, who, by careful pruning and tying, can give them the shape of small trees.

KEY FEATURES

The genus Portulacaria includes very few species of succulents with a shrubby habit.

Portulacarias are from South Africa, and they grow on dry flatlands, in north-facing slopes, in the eco-region of Bushveld and in savanna thickets. The bushveld is, as mentioned above, an ecoregion of Southern Africa, rich in grassy plains with dense clusters of trees and tall shrubs, with Summer rainfalls.

They are mostly evergreen plants with purplish-colored stems that tend to become woody with age, small roundish leaves of a glossy green color, very fleshy.

Blossoming is insignificant or either totally absent, depending on the species.

The shape of the leaves allows to distinguish the various species: in some ones they are flattened, in others resemble many small bubbles, almost perfectly rounded or more elongated.

They are traditionally used as ornamental plants because of the vivid green and perennial leaves. Portulacaria afra, the most common genus in its native places is also used for human consumption.

VARIETY AND TYPES

The two “traditional” species of Portulacaria are P. afra and P. armiana.

Recently, however, the studies on the DNA of the plants have brought about a new classification that has seen the inclusion in the genus Portulacaria of the plants that were previously included in the genus Ceraria, merging the two genera. So, today we have also:

  • P. carrissoana (ex Ceraria carrissoana)
  • P. fructiculosa (ex Ceraria fructiculosa)
  • P. longipedunculata (ex Ceraria longipedunculata)
  • P. namaquensis (ex Ceraria namaquensis)
  • P. pygmaea (ex Ceraria pygmaea)

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TIPS FOR GROWING

Easy to grow and to take root, this succulent needs very little attention:

  • It prefers a half-sun position: bright, but sheltered from direct rays.
  • These plants love warm climates and it is good to leave them always at a temperature above 8-10 ° C.
  • Water every 3-4 days in spring and summer, always waiting for the soil to dry up completely before proceeding. In autumn and winter, instead, water sparingly but never suspend completely the irrigation.
  • Use a standard soil for succulents, or another well-draining and very light soil (for example, mixing a universal potting soil with sand).
  • Fertilize once a month with a product rich in microelements but poor in nitrogen.
  • Portulacarias have a rather slow growth, so repotting can be done every 2-3 years.

These succulents reproduce very easily by branch cuttings.

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