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Stapelia gigantea (Zulu Giant)

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Scientific Name

Stapelia gigantea N. E. Br.

Common Names

Zulu Giant, Starfish Plant, Starfish Flower, Carrion Plant, Carrion Flower, Giant Toad Plant, Toad Plant

Synonyms

Ceropegia gigantea, Stapelia cyclista, Stapelia marlothii, Stapelia meintjesii, Stapelia nobilis, Stapelia tarantuloides, Stapelia youngii

Scientific Classification

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

Description

Stapelia gigantea is a spineless succulent, up to 8 inches (20 cm) tall, with 4-angled, multi-branched stems and large star-shaped flowers. The stems are green, initially upright, but as they grow, they tend to become more scrambling with only the tips growing upright. Plants grown in the ground may spread up to 2 feet (60 cm) across. Five petaled flowers are pale yellow with transverse maroon lines and fringed with hairs. The maroon lines become more closely spaced towards the center of the flower, and maroon coloration may prevail in this region. Flowers are up to 14 inches (35 cm) across and appear in fall.

Hardiness

USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Several species are fairly easy to grow. Others, often those with slightly hairy stems and the more unusual flowers, are more challenging and require careful watering (with some fertilizer) during the growing season and complete withdrawal of water during the winter months. A minimum winter temperature of 10°C (50°F) is acceptable, providing that plants are kept absolutely dry. A heated growing bench or incubator may help delicate plants to get through the colder months. However, many species live under shrubs in habitat and prefer light shade rather than full sun.

A gritty succulent soil mix is essential and clay pots are advisable for the more delicate species. Some growers prefer a mineral-only soil to minimize the chance of a fungal attack on the roots. A layer of grit on the surface of the soil prevents moisture from accumulating around the base of the stems.

Keeping Stapelias and their roots free of pests such as mealybugs is the real key to success as fungal attack often occurs as a result of damage to stems by insects.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Stapelia.

Origin

Stapelia gigantea is native to southeastern Africa (Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa).

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