Variegated Portulacaria Afra Bonsai Progression (2016 – Now)

This is my Variegated Portulacaria Afra tree that I started from nursery stock. l am trying to grow it as bonsai, and I will be going through its progression below.

It is still has a lot of development, but I still think it’s coming along nicely.

If you want to watch it in video format, you can watch the YouTube playlist below. The videos show the progression every month throughout the year, sort of like a time lapse.

Just be aware some of my earlier videos are not the best quality, but just like my trees, the quality slowly improves over time, so stick with them and they both get a little better towards the end.

The variegated portulacaria afra is a small succulent bush. It is the same as the green version, apart from its leaves are variegated.  This gives the leaves a cream colour, especially around the edges.

The variegation is caused by a genetic mutation that produces a lack of chlorophyll in certain areas, which is why they are not as green.

Portulacaria afra are a very popular house plant and can also make great bonsai.

You can read more about their suitability in Is Portulacaria Afra A Good Tree For Bonsai?

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I bought the tree as a small clump of 4 in a pot. It only cost a couple of quid and was from a garden centre.

I had wanted a portulcaria afra for some time, but had never seen one. I bought this so quickly I didn’t even realise it was variegated until I got it home and had a proper look at it.

When I got home I repotted them and separated them into individual pots.

They were then just pretty much ignored for the rest of the year and left to grow.

I had them on a windowsill and they were very slow growing. The fact they are variegated will have also added to this slowness.


I did nothing to the tree during 2017. It just sat on the windowsill and slowly grew.


2018 was exactly the same. It was just left alone.

I don’t think I can really explain just how slow growing this variety is. That lack of chlorophyll and the cloudy British skies are not a good combination.


I give the tree its first trim in 2019. I probably could have waited, but it was starting to get a little leggy. I was also moving house so pretty much everything I owned was cut back as much as possible to lower its size and weight.  

When I moved house the windowsill I was now using was nowhere near as bright as my old house. The tree really started to struggle as it was quite dark.

In an attempt to keep the tree alive I bought a grow light.

It saved everything and this tree suddenly exploded with growth for the first time.  It probably grew more now than it had over the last few years combined.

Once it was under the grow light it was just allowed to grow freely and it started to thrive. 


At the start of 2020 I trimmed the tree back. It had huge amounts of growth, so it actually needed the trim. The grow light was really making a huge difference.

I then repotted the tree in spring. Well, it was of an operation to place it in the pot better. It was planted quite low and a little wonky, so I wanted to correct that.

I didn’t do any real root work, apart from remove 2 weird upwards pointing roots. I just repositioned in the pot and that was all.

It was then allowed to grow out again and actually needed pruned back towards the end of summer.

It actually grew really well after this summer prune and I ended up pruning it back again near the end of the year.

It really started to get bushy at this point. The light and trimming are really making a difference.


It was already growing quite too long in early 2021, so I started the year with a trim.

After this it was allowed to grow out, and I then give it another prune in May.

Of course it bounced straight back from this and needed another pruning again in the summer.

It was then allowed to grow out for the rest of the year.


I started 2022 by pruning the tree and then allowed to grow.

and that is where we are with this tree.

The plan will be more of the same. I will just keep letting it grow and then prune it back.

It is starting to get quite bushy and a lot larger now. At some point I will need to remove some crossing branches and tidy it up.

When I do this I will prune it to style it, I think this will be soon. It seems to be strong enough to be able to start being styled.

If you also have a Variegated Portulacaria Afra and are wondering how I look after it, you can read my Variegated Portulacaria Afra Bonsai Care Guide.