Stapelia - Apocynaceae - How to care for, grow and flower Stapelia plants

 Stapelia - Apocynaceae - How to care for, grow and flower Stapelia plants



The Stapelia they are succulent plants, very coveted by fans of fat plants that must absolutely not be missing in their collections because of their spectacular and unique flowers.






: Angiosperms


: Eudicotyledons


: Asteris











: see the paragraph on "Main species"


The genre Stapelia includes spectacular succulent plants, native to the tropical areas of South Africa, in particular Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia, belonging to the family of Apocynaceae.

These are perennials, succulents, which live in almost all habitats in their places of origin, but most are located in the driest regions and in well-drained soils.

They are plants that do not reach great heights but tend to develop in width.The stems are erect, very branched, usually of a beautiful intense green color, sometimes tending to reddish and in some species of gray - purplish color.

Their peculiarity, in addition to the beauty of the plant, are the flowers, with a flat distal shape, which usually form at the base of the plant in the larger species while in the smaller ones they are located at variable height along the stems. These flowers are truly unique in their kind and can even reach considerable size, in fact they can be 5 to 40 cm large.

The fruits contain within them numerous feathered seeds that are dispersed by the wind.

They are entomophilous plants par excellence, that is to say they depend on insects for pollination. In fact, the characteristic odor of the flowers, which in many species is poor and resembles that of decaying meat, serves to attract a large number of flies (and other insects).


The genus includes about 43 species among which we remember:


There S. variegata it is the species most commonly found on the market. It is characterized by very branched erect stems up to 15 cm long with a quadrangular section of a beautiful intense green color and often streaked with red.

It produces starry flowers, up to 8 cm wide, of a yellow-cream color spotted with brown with a sort of ring in the center.

Numerous varieties are found, including: 'Atropurpurea' with flowers characterized by a central purple part; 'Curtisii' with whitish petals with brown-red spots.


There S. hirsuta is another delightful specimen of this genus characterized by erect stems no higher than 20 cm of green-bronze color covered by a dense down.

The flowers, no wider than 10 to 20 cm, are purple in color covered with a dense down.


There S. gigantea it owes its name to the fact that its flowers are large, 10 to 40 cm wide, among the largest of the known species. They normally form at the base of the stems and are characterized by cream-yellow petals more or less streaked with red and covered with a dense down. At home it is very rare that it flourishes.

It is known ascarrion flower because of the unpleasant scent of the flowers that reminds me of rotting flesh.


There S. grandiflora it is considered the most beautiful among the South African species of this genus.

It is a plant that develops sturdy stems 30 cm high. The flowers are up to 15 cm in diameter, dark purple-brown in color and with fairly long white hairs along the flower margins.


There Stapelia flavopurpurea it is characterized by short erect stems, no higher than 10 cm, green in color tending to blue.

The flowers also in this case are very decorative and resemble a bright green starfish but flowers with shades tending to yellow, red and brown have been reported. Unlike other species of the genus, these flowers are pleasantly scented.


It is a small species whose stems do not exceed 15 cm in length. The flowers are small, purple in color, densely hairy with the petals rolled backwards to resemble a fur cap and with a star formed by reddish-colored hairs. The flowers give off a slightly less unpleasant scent than the other species.


We remember the S. leendertziae, a rare species in nature, characterized by a red-purple bell-shaped flower up to 12 cm in size.


The Stapelia like all succulent plants they love the sun, in all periods of the year.In this case the sun is an indispensable condition to stimulate flowering.What is a limit for these plants are the minimum temperatures that must not fall below of 10-13 ° C. Some species of the genus can also bear lower temperatures but in this case, if they are prolonged, there may be problems with the roots that risk rotting.

In any case, the environment in which the plant is housed must be dry.


During the spring - summer period it should be watered very generously so that the soil is well moist but taking care not to let the water stagnate in the saucer which is not tolerated. It is necessary to wait for the surface soil to dry before proceeding with the next irrigation.

During the autumn-winter period, watering must be reduced in order to have the soil just humid and never completely dry as the stems wither quickly. Only if the temperatures drop significantly, it is necessary to further reduce watering.


They are plants that are repotted practically every year in spring, using larger pots to stimulate the plant to grow in width, up to a maximum of 30 cm in diameter. In any case, you realize that the plant needs to be repotted when you notice that the stems are all piled up at the edges of the pot.

Use a soil composed of soil for cacti and coarse sand in equal parts and take care to arrange pieces of earthenware on the bottom of the pot in order to favor an excellent drainage of the irrigation water, essential for this plant.


The fertilizations of the Stapelia they are carried out throughout the spring-summer period by adding liquid fertilizer to the irrigation water every three weeks, slightly decreasing the doses compared to what is indicated in the package. During the other periods the fertilizations must be suspended.

Use a good liquid fertilizer equally balanced in nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) but also contain the so-called microelements, that is to say the compounds that the plant needs in minimal quantity (but still needs them) such as magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), boron (B), molybdenum (Mo), all important for a correct and balanced growth of the plant .


Flowering normally occurs during the summer. The flowers do not have a long duration but the flowering is very prolonged in the time for which the flowers are formed by rotation.


They are plants that cannot be pruned. Only the parts that gradually dry up should be eliminated to prevent them from becoming a vehicle for parasitic diseases.

Always remember to use clean and disinfected tools (possibly with a flame), to avoid infecting the tissues.


The multiplication can take place by seed or by cutting.

If you use the seed multiplication technique, always remember that, when genetic variability takes over, you will never have plants identical to the mother plant so if you want to get a very specific plant, it is better that you multiply it by cuttings.


The cuttings must be taken during the active growth period of the plant therefore take them at the beginning of the summer (June-August) .The stems with roots are cut from the plant or you can cut a small secondary stem by cutting it off with a sharp knife the tissues) at the point where it branches off from the main stem.

Wait 1-2 weeks before planting the cuttings to give the wounds time to heal. After this period you can plant them in a composite platform of one part of coarse sand and three parts of soil for cactaceae by planting them at a depth of about 1.5 cm deep and, if necessary, support it with wire.

Place the pot in a place in the house that is shaded and at a temperature around 16 ° C until you notice that the cutting resumes its development. soil as indicated for adult plants are treated as such.These new seedlings will begin to bloom as early as the following summer.


At the beginning of spring the seeds are sown in a soil formed by a part of soil for cactaceae and a part of coarse sand. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of sand to keep them from moving. Then place the pot or the multiplication box in partial shade and at a temperature around 20-25 ° C keeping the soil moist by wetting it with a sprayer to have an even humidity.After about a week the seeds begin to germinate.

Let the seedlings develop until they have reached the size to be handled (about 5 cm) and transfer them to the final small-sized pots (no more than 8 cm) using soil as indicated for adult plants and treat them as such.

The new plants thus obtained take a variable time to flower. For example, S. variegata takes about 3 years while the larger species take much longer.


The stems begin to wither from the tips

If plants show this symptom it is most likely due to a lack of water.
Remedies: water in moderation following the instructions given in the "watering" paragraph.

The base of the stems of the plant begins to rot

This symptom indicates too much watering.
Remedies: immediately eliminate the rotten stems and also check the roots and if you find roots that are soft to the touch, eliminate them. Treat the cut parts with sulfur-based fungicides. Allow the soil to dry quickly even simply by leaving it in the air until it dries. For the future, better regulate irrigation.

Spots on the underside of the leaves

They are plants that can be infested by cochineal, and in particular by mealy cochineal.If you use a magnifying glass and compare them with the photos on the side you can easily recognize them. They also come off easily if you try to scratch them with a fingernail.

Remedies: they can be easily eliminated using a cotton swab soaked in alcohol or by washing the plant with water and neutral soap, rubbing delicately with a sponge to remove parasites; after which rinse the proper plant to get rid of all the soap. Only in case of serious infestations is it advisable to use systemic pesticides, available from a good nurseryman.


The name Stapelia is It was introduced in 1737 by Linnaeus, in honor of Johannes Bodaeus vanStapel, a Dutch physician and botanist who died in 1636.

Some species of these plants are also known by the name of star of African flowers for their star-shaped but also like flowers carrion flowers for the unpleasant odor emanating from the flowers, especially on hot days, reminiscent of the carrion of decaying animals. This odor is much appreciated by the flies that run to provide pollination in this way. Furthermore, their smell causes many insects to lay eggs on the flowers, convinced that it will be a future nourishment for their larvae.

The species S. pearsonii it is listed in the IUNC Red List as a species under observation as, due to environmental degradation, it could in the future have problems with extinction even if at the current state (2006 assessment) it does not raise concerns.

They are highly sought after and coveted plants by succulent plant enthusiasts but not easily available.

Video: Stapelia Gigantea. Complete Flowering Season. Repotting of Star Fish Succulent