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Huernia zebrina subsp. insigniflora (Lifesaver Cactus)


Scientific Name

Huernia zebrina subsp. insigniflora (C.A.Maass) Bruyns

Common Names

Lifesaver Cactus


Huernia confusa, Huernia insigniflora, Ceropegia zebrina subsp. insigniflora

Scientific Classification

Family: Apocynaceae
Subfamily: Asclepiadoideae
Tribe: Stapeliae
Genus: Huernia


Huernia zebrina subsp. insigniflora is a dwarf, stem succulent. It grows a branched clump of erect stems that become up to 4 inches (10 cm) tall and up to 0.8 inch (2 cm) wide and with protruding teeth, up to 0.25 inch (0.6 cm) long. The stems are dull grey-green and 4-angled. The acute teeth are spaced vertically along the ridges that separate the 4 smooth, wavy or shallowly channeled stem surfaces. The flowers grow solitary from the base of young stems on pedicels up to 0.5 inch (1.2) cm long. The 5-pointed, pale rose or ivory corolla lobes are triangular with long, narrow, attenuating tips. They spread star-like around the bright red, deep purple or liver-colored and shiny annulus around the flower tube.


USDA hardiness zones 10b to 11b: from 35 °F (+1.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Huernias require a potting mix with excellent drainage. A succulent plant mix of 50 percent pumice or perlite, 25 percent peat or organic mulch, and 25 percent sand helps prevent rotting and overwatering. Roots experience dieback in cool-season dormancy, so plants grow best in shallow containers that allow the soil to dry out quickly. Using clay pots further helps soil from staying too wet. An underlayment of coarse gravel below the soil mix also improves drainage. In climates with damp cool summers, a layer of gravel between the plant and the soil mix also helps prevent the stems from staying too moist.

Outdoor plantings do well in raised beds. Huernias prefer bright light or partial shade. In nature, they grow underneath shrubs or other plants. Too much sun causes stems to develop protective reddish or purple pigmentation and can actually scald the stems. Too little light leads to weak, thin growth with decreased flower production. These plants grow best between 50 and 80 °F (10 and 27 °C). Protect them from freezing weather… – See more at: How to Grow and Care for Huernia


Huernia zebrina subsp. insigniflora is native to South Africa (Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Wolkberg).


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