Scientific Name: Portulacaria afra
Synonyms: Spekboom, Bacon Tree, Pork Bush, Elephant’s Food, Elephant Bush,
Dwarf Jade Plant.
If you want to increase your collection of indigenous South African plants, you’ll definitely need to get the iconic Portulacaria afra… or Spekboom (bacon tree).
It’s a bit of a wonder plant due to its magnificent carbon sequestering properties which help the environment and the effects of climate change. It’s edible and will make a great garnish for a designer gin drink, or as a constituent in sauces and soups.
Spekboom is a sculptural low-maintenance choice for a warm, sunny spot; it likes bright, indirect light - a few hours of morning sunshine is perfect. This houseplant copes well with average household humidity and will thrive in a sandy, well-draining potting mix for cacti and succulents with added pumice. Water the plant thoroughly using water at room temperature, then wait until the compost has almost dried out until watering again. It’s a very forgiving option if you sometimes forget to water your houseplants!
Portulacaria afra has an extremely versatile growth habit which creates a variety of plant styling options - it can be grown upright in a pot on a table top, allowed to trail in a hanging planter, or even pruned into a bonsai form. If you like to create succulent ‘mini-gardens’ or bowls, Spekboom also looks great as part of multi-plant arrangement in your living space.
Note: This plant is pet friendly and safe for people that like to nibble…it’s actually edible and used in salads (just wash before use!).
Follow these instructions to keep your Spekboom healthy and happy.
Water: Through Spring and Summer, this succulent plant likes to be watered well using water at room temperature, then allowed to almost dry out before its next drink. Over winter, if temperatures are cool enough, the bacon tree will have a rest period which will be signalled by slower growth. At this point, reduce watering until signs of active growth resume.
Light: When grown outdoors the plant is quite tolerant of bright, direct light. But as a houseplant bright, indirect light is best - a location that gets a few hours morning sun would be the perfect spot.
Humidity: Portulacaria afra copes well with average humidity; in a more humid environment, less watering will be needed.
Fertilize: Spekboom enjoy fertilising during their Spring-Summer growth period; once a month is sufficient. Use a balanced fertiliser at half the recommended dilution level.