Succulent leaves dropping


Hi there,

I have these previously very healthy jade plants (they’re labelled portalacar; I think they’re a type of variegated elephant bush) which in the last 2-3 weeks have really started to fair poorly. The leaves are dropping and shriveling at an alarming rate. You can see in the picture they look more like emptying stems, when they we’re previously full and lush (one is still ok-ish, but starting to drop its leaves, too). Any thoughts? It’s been left dry for a while (maybe a bit too much but I don’t know that that would cause all the leaves to fall?), it’s getting the same light as before, and I can’t see any visible pests, so I don’t think it’s the usual three, but maybe I’m wrong?
All help appreciated.


We are sorry to hear about your failing Portulacaria afra, Elephant Bush. This succulent shrub is endemic to South Africa. It possesses thick succulent brown stems with small tender green leaves that resemble a small jade plant. These plants thrive in a bright, warm draft free room. It’s ideal location is a south facing window, however in some cases too much sunlight can cause the leaves to turn yellow or red at the tips.

Over watering or under watering are two of the main causes of leaf drop. Overwatering any plant robs the roots of oxygen and invites fungal rot disease. The leaves of an overwatered plant become swollen and discoloured. Leaf drop may occur in severe cases. In order to save a plant that has been overwatered, repot the plant in well draining soil such as cactus soil after you have removed the rotten roots.

You mentioned that you left your plant to dry out for quite some time. It appears that the leaf drop your observing is due to the fact the you under watered your plant. Not enough water can cause the leaves to dry up and fall off. Elephant bush have a dormant period during the winter, as a result the plant should be watered more often during the summer and less often during it’s dormant period.  Make sure to let the soil dry between waterings; usually for 4-5 days. Make sure to give the plant just enough to keep the leaves from shrivelling.

Leaf drop can also occur if the soil does not have proper nutrients or drainage. Sudden changes in light, temperature and humidity can also contribute to leaf drop. Have you  recently moved your plant to an area of less sunlight or a cooler or warmer spot in your home?

Lastly, you should fertilize your plant in late winter to early spring with a half dilution of an indoor plant fertilizer such as 10-10-10.

Good Luck with your Elephant bush!