Stapelia is a genus of Asclepiadaceae family, about 75 species of perennial stem-succulents from South Africa. The straight or trailing stems are four angles that are edged with toothed spikes, usually covered with short hair or bold, branching from the base and developing a purple-red color with sun stress, stretching up to 3 feet.
As an ornamental succulent, Stapelias are famous for their unusual "starfish" flowers that can be smooth or matted with fuzzy hairs. Some of Stapelias' flowers have a pungent smell that attracts flies to help the plant complete pollination, which explains why Stapelias' flowers are known as Carrion Flowers. Those stunning flowers typically grow from the base and can be white, yellow, red, and purple.
Image Credit: operationwildflower.org.za
This genus was historically merged with another genus Orbea. Orbea genus was first proposed in 1812 and soon got merged with Stapelias g enus. When Orbea genus was reused in 1975, many succulent varieties were assigned to Stapelia even though they were supposed to be classified as Orbea, resulting in identifying Asclepiadaceae family succulents is difficult as they look alike.
How to Care for Stapelia?
Sunlight: full to filtered sunlight.
Water: once per week.
Pot: a shallow planter pot with drainage holes.
Humidity: below 40%.
Propagation: stem cutting.
Pests and diseases: mealybug, fungal infection.
Stapelias, with their stunning flowers, prefer to bask in full to filtered sunlight. However, during the summer, protecting them from the scorching sun is crucial. Therefore, partial shade is necessary for their growth during these months. These unique plants are a favorite among patio and rock garden enthusiasts, who enjoy their beauty and planting them in their gardens.
Pot and soil
To ensure optimal blooming of potted Stapelias, it is essential to have a planter pot with a drainage hole at the bottom. Keep in mind that Stapelia roots are relatively short and therefore cannot tolerate a large, deep planter. Otherwise, a suitable-size of planter pot will encourage your Stapelias to bloom. Stapelia requires more gritty rocks, perlite, and sand for potting soil mix. To get granular soil mix, mix coconut peat, tree barks, regular potting mix, perlite, and gritty rocks as a ratio of 1:1:2:2:2. In spring and summer, you can add plant ash or other potassium fertilizers to the soil to promote plant blooming.
To maintain the optimal health of the Stapelia succulent, it is imperative to allow the potting soil to fully dry out between watering. Keep an eye out for wrinkled leaves as they signal a need for more water. Adjusting the watering schedule accordingly is necessary.
For those growing Stapelia outdoors, it is recommended to provide rain cover during rainy seasons to avoid overwatering and root rot. Click here to learn how to save overwatered succulents.
In colder climates, bringing the Stapelias indoors during the winter months is advisable to protect them from the cold when temperatures drop below 50°F. To ensure the successful growth of the plant, it is crucial to maintain dry potting soil and abstain from watering until spring.
The method of propagating Stapelia is similar to propagating cacti. Firstly, you need to use a clean and sharp blade to cut off a healthy stem. Ensure that the wound callouses for a few days before planting it in succulent soil. To minimize the risk of any fungal infections, you can apply cinnamon powder to the wounded area. After a week, water the plant, and fresh roots should begin to grow after a month. Once the roots are established, you can take care of the Stapelia as usual. For optimal success, it is recommended to propagate Stapelias during the spring and summer months. Click here to learn extra tips on succulent propagation.
Pests and diseases
Stapelias are often susceptible to black stem rot, which is typically caused by overwatering. The most effective solution is to excise the affected segments and subsequently relocate the succulent to a new planter once the wound has calloused.
Yellow or brown spots on the stems may be indicative of spider mites. A recommended method to eliminate these pests is to thoroughly rinse the affected areas on the stems and then use isopropyl alcohol to wipe them clean. This approach has been found to be effective in the eradication of spider mites from plants.
The issue of mealybugs is a common occurrence that affects succulent plants including Stapelias. It is recommended to address this issue by applying neem oil solution or utilizing a 70% alcohol wipe. These solutions have been proven to be effective in controlling the spread of mealybugs and preserving the health and vitality of plants.
Popular and Rare Stapelia Succulents
Stapelia gigantea, commonly referred to as the Zulu giant, is a succulent plant that poses no challenges when it comes to maintenance. Its most prominent feature is the magnificent pale yellow 5-petalled star-shaped flowers that can grow up to 16 inches in diameter. This plant's blooms produce a foul odor smell that attracts flies for pollination.
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Stapelia gariepensis is a rare specie from Namaqualand, South Africa. Hairy stems can crawl on the rock garden, shaping a marvelous view. The beautiful red-brown flowers can grow up to about 10cm in diameter. The surface of the corolla relatively appears smooth and shiny, with the edges of the petals being darker than the inner part. The flower has an odor of rotting flesh, attracting the carrion flies that pollinate them.
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Stapelia grandiflora is a type of succulent that bears a striking resemblance to cacti and is characterized by its stunning, dark red, star-shaped flowers. This species is renowned for its variability and has given rise to numerous hybrids over time. The flowers, which smell like rotting corpses, attract large numbers of flies and flying insects that help the plant pollinate and reproduce.
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Native to South Africa, Stapelia glanduliflora is a succulent small shrub with small star-shaped yellow-green flowers. The flowers have no smell. There are light red transversely stripes on the hairy corolla.
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Stapelia schinzii var. angolensis
Stapelia schinzii var. angolensis is very unique for different flowers from other Stapelia. The burgundy-red flowers feature long claviform hairs along the edges of the petals.
Image Credit: orquideasapiflora.blogspot.com
Stapelia Scitula is a relatively smaller starfish flower plant. The cute dark chestnut-brown, star-shaped blossom has a light foul rot odor, which can smell when you sniff closely. Click here to learn how to care for stapelia scitula.
Stapelia leendertziae is the most attractive succulent among Stapelia for its unique bell-shaped flowers. The dark red to purple blossom produces a strong rot flesh smell. Stapelia leendertziae is relatively frost resistant and popular in succulent gardens.
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Stapelia flavopurpurea blooms wonderful small flowers with a diameter of only 1-2 inches. There are irregular wrinkles on the flat, star-fish-shaped corolla. Red claviform hairs cover the edges of the petals. The typical color of flowers is greenish-yellow. Other colors include orange, purple, white, and maroon. Unlike other Stapelias, S. flavopurpurea has a light honey smell that attracts bees to pollinate.
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Stapelia divaricata blooms flat, star-shaped flowers in light yellow pink. The flowers, which smell like rotting corpses, attract many flies and flying insects that help the plant pollinate and reproduce.
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The flowers of Stapelia mutabilis have noticeable red cracks and a yellowish-white base color on their petals. The edges of the petals are adorned with long, club-shaped hairs that resemble those in the center of the flower, resulting in a stunning display.
Image Credit: pinterest@Stapelia Mutabilis
Stapelia gettleffii has attractive star-shaped flowers featuring dark purple cracks on a cream base. The purple hairs in the center of the flower contrast distinctively with the long white hairs on the edges of the petals, making it a unique look.
Image Credit: pinterest@Sharon Johnson