Stapelia gigantea N. E. Br.
Zulu Giant, Starfish Plant, Starfish Flower, Carrion Plant, Carrion Flower, Giant Toad Plant, Toad Plant
Ceropegia gigantea, Stapelia cyclista, Stapelia marlothii, Stapelia meintjesii, Stapelia nobilis, Stapelia tarantuloides, Stapelia youngii
Stapelia gigantea is a spineless succulent with 4-angled multi-branched stems and large star-shaped flowers. It grows up to 1 foot (30 cm) tall with a spread of up to 3.3 feet (1 m) if grown in the ground. The green stems are initially upright but tend to become more scrambling, with only the tip growing upright. 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 the fall.
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 relatively 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 water withdrawal during the winter months. A minimum winter temperature of 10°C (50°F) is acceptable, providing 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 their 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 mineral-only soil to minimize the chance of a fungal attack on the roots. A layer of grit on the soil's surface prevents moisture from accumulating around the stems' base.
Keeping Stapelias and their roots free of pests such as mealybugs is the real key to success, as fungal attack often occurs due to damage to stems by insects.
Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Stapelia.
This species is native to southeastern Africa (Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa).
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