The answers to this question have two different answers.

I would have thought the initial answer about Crassula was the right one, but now I see the picture of the other, Portulacaria, and I don't know what to think anymore.

  • here is Crassula Ovata(creds. to wikipedia):

Crassula Ovata

  • and here is Portulacaria Afra (creds. to wikipedia):

Portulacaria Afra

Indeed from the initial question, leaves are very similar to both:

enter image description here

And wiki says it:

Similar in appearance to the unrelated "jade plant"!

I recon flowers would help see which one it is. But if there's none? Any idea how we could differentiate them when they are not bearing flowers?

  • Here in the far south-west of New South Wales we have a number of Elephant Bush / Jade plants growing in the home garden. The biggest is about 2 metres tall and at least one metre in diameter at this time, and they flower prolifically with a small densely clustered pink/purple bloom. They are in flower now, in the middle of our drought conditions, and I reckon they flowered earlier in the year. The stems are crisp and soft and can be cut easily with secateurs. A cut stem can be poked into the ground and it won't look back; it is very easily propagated.
    – Ian McQuie
    Nov 29, 2019 at 3:59

3 Answers 3


The primary difference between Crassula and Portulacaria is growth habit, and it only becomes evident over time. Crassula supports itself, whereas Portulacaria produces growth that may droop and may need support to keep it upright as a houseplant, although sometimes, its growth gives it a rather 'spiky' and untidily upright overall appearance. The stems on Portulacaria are also often noticeably dark, with a purplish red colour, seen in one of the images here http://worldofsucculents.com/portulacaria-afra-elephant-bush-dwarf-jade-small-leaf-jade-porkbush/. The tendency for new growth to droop or trail here https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/cacti-succulents/portulacaria/growing-elephant-bush.htm. It's certainly possible that the plant in the original question is Portulacaria rather than Crassula; if any new growth produced tends to trail, or has obvious purplish stems, then it's Portulacaria.

Either way, care instructions as a houseplant are similar. Portulacaria is less common as a houseplant, and is so similar it's sometimes given the common name of 'mini jade plant' or dwarf jade.

The flowers are different on each plant, but Crassula kept as a houseplant doesn't often flower - not sure how likely Portulacaria is to flower if kept in a similar fashion.


The reason ot is called Elephant Plant or Elephant Food is because it is indigenous to the Eastern Cape Province of Sourh Africa and the local elephants feed off it. I have not seen them bloom and I grew up there. Portulaca not Crassula or what is known as spekboom in SA, which has lovely pale pink flowers. There is another type of Portulaca which has smaller pink flowers but that is not the Elephant Food. I have several of the Elephants Food Portulaca growing as bonsai. Very easy to care for outdoors. Because this plant is so good for the ecology, it is being grown in large quantities, sometimes as a maze.


The smallest branches of the Portularia Afra appear to be red, while the smallest branches of the Crassula are green to yellow.

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