The elephant tree (Operculicarya decaryi) gets its
common name from its gray, gnarled trunk. The thickened trunk bears arching
branches with tiny glossy leaves. Operculicarya elephant trees are natives of
Madagascar and very easy to grow as houseplants. Read on for information about
growing elephant trees as well as tips on elephant tree care.
Elephant Tree Plant Info
The elephant tree plant is a small tree in the Anacardiaceae
family. It is a succulent
related to cashews,
The trees are eye catching with their thick twisted trunks, zigzagging
branches, and tiny forest green leaflets tinged red in cool weather. Those
growing elephant trees say that mature plants bear red flowers and round,
Operculicarya elephant trees grow in the wild in southwest
Madagascar and are drought
deciduous. In their native range, the trees grow to 30 feet (9 m.) tall and
the trunks expand to three feet (1 m.) in diameter. However, cultivated trees
stay considerably shorter. It’s even possible to grow a bonsai
How to Grow an Elephant Tree
If you are interested in growing elephant trees outdoors, be
sure your region is a warm one. These trees only thrive in USDA plant hardiness
zones 10 or higher.
You’ll want to plant them in a sunny area, either in full or
partial sun. The soil should be well-draining. You can also grow elephant trees
in containers. You’ll want to use a well-draining potting soil and place the
pot in a window where it gets regular sunlight.
Elephant Tree Care
What is involved in elephant tree care? Irrigation and fertilizer
are the two main tasks. You’ll need to learn the ins and outs of watering
elephant trees to help these plants thrive. Trees growing outside in soil only
require occasional watering in the growing season and even less in winter.
For container plants, water more regularly but allow the
soil to dry out completely in between. When you do water, do it slowly and
continue until water trickles out of the drain holes.
Fertilizer is also part of the tree’s care. Use a low-level
fertilizer like a 15-15-15. Apply it monthly during the growing season.