Do I Need To Plant My Portulacaria Afra In Direct Sunlight?

Most succulents aren't fussy about sunlight, but Portulacaria afra does appreciate a few hours of direct sun each day. Like most succulents, however, it will generally tolerate light shade, and in fact, will do better if cultivated on the shaded side of your yard where it is protected from drying sun in summertime.

Portulacaria Afra “Elephant bush” is a large succulent with woody stems that can grow to incredible heights with proper nutrients, enough time, and good growing conditions. The plant can develop into many sizes and can be placed in almost all the house spaces. The plant can grow anywhere between six inches and 20 feet tall, making them great for ornamental planting.

With proper growing conditions, this plant appears in many varieties, which often have reddish-colored stems and variegated foliage that is shiny and plump. Gardeners adore these sun-loving succulents because they are edible When planted indoor, they absorb carbon dioxide purifying your air.

Does Portulacaria Afra need direct sunlight? The Elephant plant will thrive well when it receives sunrays like other succulents; it needs bright indirect light for the better part of the day. Elephant bush plants can manage heat, but not the direct intense one from the direct scorching sun.

How Many Hours of Sunlight does Portulacaria Afra Need?

Like many succulents, Elephant bush will require at least 4-6 hours of sunlight a day to keep them happy and thriving. They love when placed in bright sunny spots because it represents their natural habitat. Under poor lighting, the plant will have elongated leaves as the plant stretches to reach the light. This weakens the stem leading to poor growth. 

Elephant bush exposed to sunlight.
Elephant bush will require at least 4-6 hours of sunlight a day to keep them happy and thriving.

The elephant in low light will also lose its pigmentation and paleness. If you want to see the true beauty of the Portulacaria Afra, place it in a bright spot. You will have broad blooming leaves all through. 

Sunlight Requirements for Portulacaria Afra

The Elephant bush plant needs plenty of bright light to grow properly, it can also tolerate full sun but during its early days, or when the plant is somehow old, you may need to acclimate the plant to full sunlight. Under very extreme temperatures, you can find a shade for your plant as it may experience mild sunburns.

Indoor Lighting

When you plant Portulacaria Afra indoors, choose a site where it can receive direct sunlight for some time and indirect light for the rest of the day. East or west-facing windows will work best for the lighting. While finding the right spot for the plant, you may need to move it as many times as possible to find the most appropriate site.

Ideally, the plant will require 5-6 hours of light a day to grow and thrive appropriately in a window. However, if your area does not receive adequate sunlight or there is poor lighting in your room, consider using artificial light sources. These include the grow light so that the plant can achieve the light requirements.

Portulacaria afra in a pot.
Finding the right spot for the plant, you may need to move it as many times as possible to find the most appropriate site.

Portulacaria Afra pot placed in a window may need to be rotated several times to ensure that all the sides of the plant receive proper lighting. The succulent leaves should be far from the window to avoid direct contact with the window panes. Direct contact may cause the leaves to burn. 

Proper lighting will also go hand in hand with high humidity. Use a humidifier in the room where you plan on growing your Portulacaria Afra. You can also achieve this by elevating the plant’s pot a little higher to increase the level of humidity. While the plant is receiving proper lighting, the moisture will ensure that the plant is not much affected by the lighting.

Outdoor Lighting.

Portulacaria Afra succulent loves a place where it receives plenty of sunlight and shade. Elephant plants can tolerate partial sun to full sun, but they will do well in bright filtered sunlight, preferably in the shade. During the afternoon hours or in full sun, acclimate the plant to prevent sunburn.

If you place your plant outdoor, put it in a bright sunny place. As the plant grows, slowly increase the sun lighting hours to fully get used to the sun and prevent the leaves from sunburn. When you plant your Elephant bush outside, keep in mind that intense heat and heatwaves can also cause sunburn.

Portulacaria Afra planted directly to the ground.
If you place your plant outdoor, put it in a bright sunny place.

During the intense summer seasons, sunshades can significantly save the plant. Taking the plant indoors during these seasons will help the plant because the sun outside tends to be harsh. Keep an eye on the water demand of the plant outdoor.

Can Portulacaria afra be affected by too Much Sunlight?

Like other succulents, Portulacaria Afra can also be affected by too much sun or extended exposure to direct sunlight. Too much sun, especially the intense sun, will cause the beautiful leaves of the Portulacaria Afra to have sunburns and sun damage. Portulacaria Afra requires at least 4-6 hours of bright sun. Sunburn can happen quickly in less than an hour when the plant is exposed to much of it during the hot seasons. 

Sunburn can also be a gradual process. Brown sports start to occur, usually the first signs of sunburns. When you recognize these signs early, you still have time to save your plant. You can remedy the plant by placing it in the shade to cushion it from further damage. When the sunburn has progressed for some time, put the plant in a dark area to try and reverse the damage.

Though some succulents may toughen and survive in harsh conditions, is it essential to risk your Portulacaria Afra. Because you don’t want to take any chances. Always protect your plant during intense sunlight.

Can Portulacaria Survive without Sunlight?

Your elephant plant will survive indefinitely under very little sunlight or without sunlight. But the plant will only survive and not thrive. The plant will soon start exhibiting signs that tell you it is in trouble and needs proper lighting. Some of these signs include

  • The leaves of the Elephant bush will start elongating more than usual, as the plant stretches to reach for the light.
  • The plant will begin to experience stunted growth
  • When the plant is given much water and little light, it may begin to succumb due to root rot
  • And when root rot sets in, it will be hard to reverse the mess

For your plant to grow well, place it where it will receive proper lighting. Not giving the succulent enough light is trying to introduce a new nature that the plant is unfamiliar with and can’t survive in, for long.

Summer Care for Portulacaria Afra

Summer seasons are made of harsh conditions that are not favorable for the plant. However, don’t let the intense sun and the high temperatures of the summer months kill your plant. Although heat is not a significant concern for elephant plants, the plant will not thrive well in temperatures above 80 degrees. However, the heat is not the only concern during the summer season. 

Watered Portulacaria Afra plant.
Help your elephant bush by watering it early in the morning before the sun sets in to give it time to absorb the water.

The heat plus the sun will be deadly to your Portulacaria Afra. During this time, use sun protection to cover the plant from extreme temperatures. You can also move the plant to a place it gets shade and help your elephant bush by watering it early in the morning before the sun sets in to give it time to absorb the water. These will help the leaves from drying as there is available moisture for evaporation and cooling of the plant.

How to Fix an Etiolated Portulacaria Afra

Two factors could cause etiolated leaves. The first one is too much watering, and the second one is if the plant is receiving little light. The first sign of etiolating leaves is bending down of the lower leaves to create more surfaces to catch more light.

You can behead the leggy succulent and replant the top of the plant that is not much affected. These will help because the plant will not shrink down to standard size. However, if the lighting situation does not improve, the new growth will also start to etiolate, further weakening the plant.

To save the plant from this mess, give this succulent enough light for the new growth to come in the compact. Etiolated leaves don’t necessarily mean a lack of light. If your lighting is okay, try cutting down on the water to slow down the stretching.

How to Set-Up an Artificial Light for Your Succulent

 Indoor plants may need artificial lighting, especially during the winter when there is frost and no sunlight. To set up an artificial lamp, start by selecting the correct light bulb to use. Some light bulbs include incandescent, fluorescent, LED, and HID lights.

Several Portulacaria Afra in a pot.
Indoor plants may need artificial lighting, especially during the winter when there is frost and no sunlight.

The second step is to choose the right light fixture. You can use any fixture to hold your grow light if only it is appropriate for the type and size of the bulb you will buy. Most supplemental lighting should be placed 6-12 inches from the light source. For a plant receiving no sun from outside, leave the light for up to 16 – 18 hours a day. These will mimic the plant’s natural cycle and supplement the natural light from the window.

Bottom Line

Portulacaria Afra will be happy to be in at least 6 hours of sunlight and partial shade each day. Don’t leave them outdoors in the frost at night as the plant has low frost resistance. Proper lighting will give your plant a healthy look and a lovely appearance in your compound.

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