Portucalaria Afra (aka elephant bush)


(Ryan) #1

I’ve had this tree for about 10 years and as one can see it has been neglected. Most of the time it has lived indoors and while alive, it has never thrived. This year I moved it outdoors and resolved to resurrect it! That it is even still alive is a testament to the toughness of this tree. Sadly I lost some of the branching on the left side a couple years ago. Because the rest of the tree grows so vigorously everywhere else, I’m having a devil of a time getting any buds to pop on the left side of the trunk. Can anyone suggest techniques that would stimulate budding lower on the tree? Should I just do a trunk chop and start over with all new branching?


(Paul Kennedy) #2

I’m no expert and I’ve never worked on this particular species (in South Africa they are called spekboom, which literally translates to ‘bacon tree’), but here are my thoughts based on my understanding of how all plants grow…

If you feed the the tree strongly and face the area that you would like to back-bad towards the sun , I see no reason that the tree would not back-bud.

Another option would be to defoliate in order to encourage new growth, but you should only do that if the tree is growing strongly - I don’t know whether defoliation is advisable for this species.

One other idea would be to score the trunk where you would like new growth - this is very effective for some species but not at all for others.

I know that Portulacaria roots can rot very easily, have you looked at the root system recently? Its possible that there are no healthy roots on that side of the tree, which could have caused the die-back on the left-hand side.


(Ryan) #3

Paul, thanks for the reply. You and I are thinking along the same lines with scoring the trunk and placing in full sun. I tried that with no results so far. It’s only been a month though. The tree is growing very strongly right now but I think your point about the roots might be spot on. I repotted about 3 months ago and because of the neglect the feeder roots were in bad shape. The tree has pretty strong nebari on the right side but nothing on the left. I am currently feeding very heavily and pruning all new growth back as these trees grow quickly. My concern is that all the energy from feeding is going towards the existing foliage. I guess I just need to wait a season and let this guy recover.

Oh and I knew the spekboom but didn’t know about the bacon tree translation. How cool is that! Mmm bacon!


(Ward Coysman) #4

I have this tree myself , removed many branches on the left … Placed in the sun … shooting like hell for the moment.

I think there is something wrong your tree , I have new buds all over the place on the left side.

For your other questions :

stimulate budding lower on the tree? : No idea :frowning:

Should I just do a trunk chop and start over with all new branching? : You could do that but i don’t see a reason why with this tree …

I have heard this tree doesn’t like : defoliate at all , atleast not completly.

Good luck!

Ps : i hope to get a tree like yours in X years , so please don’t chop to mutch :smile: