Stapelia similis N.E. Br.
Stapelia juttae, Stapelia noachabibensis, Stapelia portae-taurinae
Stapelia similis is a succulent plant that forms clumps of erect stems that taper slightly towards their tips. The stems are up to 6 inches (15 cm) long and vary in color between grayish-green and dark purple. They are commonly 4-angled, sometimes up to 6-angled, and covered in fine hairs. Regularly spaced tiny leaves occur along the marginal ridges but drop off early from young stems. The inflorescence consists of a few flowers developing in sequence on long stalks that emerge from near the base of a young stem. The sepals and the outside surface of the corolla are covered in tiny hairs. The corolla is stubby, 5-pointed star-shaped, up to 0.8 inches (2 cm) across, and purple or dark brown. The upper (inner) surface of the corolla is hairless but covered in finely irregular transversal wrinkling. The outer corona has five oblong lobes, hairless and nearly black. The inner corolla has tapering lobes above the anthers.
USDA hardiness zone 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 their habitat and prefer light shade rather than full sun.
A gritty compost is essential, and clay pots are advisable for the more delicate species. Some growers prefer mineral-only compost to minimize the chance of a fungal attack on the roots. A layer of grit on the surface of the compost 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 due to damage to stems by insects.
See more at How to Grow and Care for Stapelia.
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