Carrion Plant, Starfish Cactus Indoors (Stapelia grandiflora)
This South African native sports some of the most unusual foliage, flowers and seed pods available to the home cacti enthusiast – although it should be noted that this plant is a succulent, not a true cactus. Stapelia grows in a bunching of upright, green stems, some with almost hairy spines, which will creep along the surface and spread to hang over the sides of the pot. Large showy star-shaped flowers appear in autumn followed by decorative seed pods. The flowers have the smell of rotting meat, hence the name “carrion plant.” In its natural environment, this odor attracts flies, one of the plant’s primary pollinators. Other common names include starfish flower, giant Zulu, starfish cactus and giant toad plant.
Interesting creeping foliage and unusual fruits and flowers make these plants suited to anchor a cacti-display. Perfect for all kinds of containers and a good choice for a desert-themed terrarium. Because some flowers may smell badly, do not display in dining areas or kitchen.
Fertilize monthly for best display.
Allow soil to dry between thorough waterings.
Well-drained potting mix for cacti and succulents.
Basic Care Summary
Does best in light, well-drained soil. Allow soil to dry between thorough waterings. Withhold water completely during winter months when plant growth slows. Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly during active growth.
If the plant was purchased in a pot, then it is probably already in a quality potting soil and requires little more than watering and grooming for a while.
If potting a flowering plant to bring indoors or to give as a gift plant, start with a good quality, commercial potting soil. These are usually lighter in weight than topsoil, sterile and pest-free. Many are available with a mild starter fertilizer in the mix.
Select a container with a drainage hole or be prepared to drill holes for drainage if there are none.
Prepare the container by filling with potting soil up to 2” (5cm) from the rim of the planter. Make a small hole in the soil slightly larger than the root ball either by hand or using a trowel. Insert the plant into the hole and press soil firmly around the roots and just covering the root ball. When all the plants are potted, water thoroughly to settle the soil and give plants a good start. Place plant in bright location for best performance.
Repot every 2 years in the same container or in a container slightly larger than the diameter of the roots.
Apply water at the soil level if possible to avoid wetting the plant. Water the entire soil area until water runs out the base of the pot. This indicates that the soil is thoroughly wet. Discard any excess water that has accumulated in the pot’s saucer.
Don’t water again until the top 1-2” (3-5cm) of soil is completely dry. Check the soil moisture with your finger. Plant may require less water during the winter months when it’s growing more slowly because of lower light levels. Some species may even go dormant for a few months in winter.
Remove the flowers as they fade. This keeps the plant looking tidy and may encourage more blooms depending on the type of plant. After flowering many blooming plants make attractive houseplants. Be sure to trim the foliage to maintain the desired size and shape. Occasional trimming encourages the plant to develop more side-shoots and flowers, and reduces the demand for the plant to develop a larger root system. This is important since the roots are in a confined space.
Some plants will re-bloom on their own, but others may have very specific day-length or temperature requirements to flower again. A bit of research may be necessary to determine what is needed to encourage future blooming. Some plants, such as bulbs or perennials, can be turned into wonderful garden additions after the flowers have been enjoyed indoors.
Fertilizers are available in many forms: granulated, slow-release, liquid feeds, organic or synthetic. Determine which application method is best for the situation and select a product with a nutritional balance designed for foliage plants.
Too much fertilizer can damage plants so it’s important to follow the package directions to determine how much, and how often, to feed plants.
Slow-release fertilizers are an especially good, care-free choice for container plants. Follow the product directions for proper timing and application rates.
|Height Metric Range||5-25cm|
|Space Metric Range||13-51cm|
|Available Colors||Purple, Red, Yellow|
|Companion Plants||Desert Rose, Spring Cactus, Mammillaria|
|Lowest Temperature||50° to 80°F|
|Lowest Temperature Metric||10° to 27°C|
|Plant Light||Bright Light|
|Hardiness Zone||11, 12|