Popularly as the Starfish Cactus, the Stapelia is also often referred to as the Stapelia Cactus or the Starfish Flower Cactus. The Stapelia is known mostly for being a hairy plant, as most of the Stapelia varieties have hairy textures on the foliage and blooms.
Another unwelcome description of the plant is that it is known to produce a very stinky odour, resembling that of dead meat, but it is essential as the odour is up to the task of attracting pollinators. Stapeliaflavopurpurea is the only variety of the plant that does not live up to this description as it is the only variety that produces a sweet-smelling fragrance.
Native to South Africa, the Stapelia plant is succulent and is very widespread around the African subcontinent. The plant is very popular in other parts of the world, as well and thus is often planted in containers, to have at home. The Stapelia plant does surprisingly well when bred as houseplants, and can even produce blooms with the proper care.
The natural Stapelia habitat is the tropical regions. Thus, it becomes important to certain conditions similar to the tropical area while taking care of a Stapelia plant at home. Here are certain things that one must be careful about regarding Stapelia Cactus care.
Planter and Soil Requirements
The accurate container fits the roots of the Stapelia plant just right and is neither too big nor too small. The planter must have enough drainage holes to let out the excess moisture that might be trapped in the soil. As a succulent, the Starfish Cactus prefers some light and airy soil that is not too acidic. The potting mix should have some natural and organic matter to enrich the growth of the plant.
Stapelia Light Needs
The Starfish Flower cactus loves some bright sunlight. But one should not allow the direct rays of the sun to fall on the plant as it can lead to the burning away of leaves and might even cause heatstroke in the plant. So, also use a curtain or something similar to filter the sunlight that falls on the plant to prevent it from any potential damage.
The water requirements of the Stapelia plant are pretty minimal. The plant must be watered only once the soil starts drying out, which happens once a week or two. During the winter season, the soil remains moist for a much longer time, and hence, the plant needs watering just around once a month or so. However, it is advisable to wait for the stems to wilt down a bit before deciding on watering the plant during the winter season.
Temperature and Humidity
The Stapelia Cactus prefers to stay in warm temperatures. They can very well be placed outdoors too, given that the temperature outside is more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit. As long as the temperature is more than that, it is all well and good. But once the temperature drops, make sure that you shift the plant to a warmer spot to keep it thriving.
Stapelia Fertilizing Needs
This might seem surprising to some people, but the Starfish Cactus does not require any fertilizing at all. The Stapelia plant can easily survive very well without being fertilized, as this does not require any fertilizer as such.
Stapelia Bloom Time
The Stapelia Cactus is referred to as the Starfish Cactus for a reason. The plant produces giant flowers that are shaped like a Starfish, and thus are commonly known as the Starfish Flower Cactus. The Stapelia flowers are bright in colour, have splashy markings and centres are shaped, just like that of doughnuts. These flowers generally bloom on the lower part of the plant, giving it a more attractive look with the stems towering high above the blooms.
Regardless of the stench, the Stapelia is one good-looking plant, especially owing to the big bright flowers. The plant blooms just for a few months, from the midsummer to the first few days of fall. But even in the absence of the Starfish flowers, the plant looks good enough to be a popular choice among many plant parents.
Although the Starfish Cactus is an exotic plant, it has several different varieties attributed to the genus Stapelia. Here, have a look at some of the most common and popular Stapelia varieties.
The StapeliaDivaricata is one of the smallest plants among the Stapelia varieties. The plant can grow up to a minimum height of just 6 to 12 centimetres and consists of pencil-sized angular stems. Native to Buffer Jachte, Cape Province and Swellendam, the StapeliaDivaricata produces fleshy star-shaped flowers towards the late summer season. These flowers are cream-white or pink and have a rather shiny surface.
The StapeliaGigantea is one of the most popular Stapelia Varieties. The plant is known mostly for its flowers that can measure up to 16 inches in diameter when completely open. The StapeliaGigantea flowers are pale yellow with perfectly thin red stripes running through. The stems of the plant are thick and velvety and can grow as long as 6 or 8 inches in height. The StapeliaGigantea is known to be one out of the few plant species that are known to produce the largest flowers known to mankind.
The long and slim stems of the StapeliaGrandiflora aid the plant in easily growing up to a foot long. The stems of the plant are covered with some nice velvety hair and bear pretty red flowers that sometimes appear to be the colour black. The flowers are lined with white edges and can easily measure around 6 inches in width. The hair situated in both the stems and the petals of the plant are white. Another quality of the StapeliaGrandiflora is the slight concave surfaces of the stem that tend to widen up when watered.
Native to South Africa’s Southwestern Cape Province, the StapeliaHirsuta is another widely popular plant among the Stapelia varieties. The plant has slightly longer stems, and can usually grow up to a height of 8 inches. The plant produces blooms that are flashy and hairy, and are of a purplish-brown, and are around 4 to 5 inches in width. The hair on the blooms are bright red. The stems of the StapeliaHirsuta plant are of a quadrangle shape.
Also known as the Life Saving plant, the StapeliaHuernia is mostly known for the flowers of the plant as it is believed to resemble aliens. The StapeliaHuernia is a rather popular plant and consists of more than 45 different subspecies within the genus Huernia. The StapeliaHuernia also produces a stanching odour like the other Stapelia varieties.
The StapeliaLeendertziae is a variety of the Stapelia plant that was named after MsReinoLeendertz. MsLeendertz was an eminent botanist of the Transvaal Museum and is accredited with the discovery of this variety. The StapeliaLeendertziae has angular long stems that are of dull dark green colour. As the plant is native to the mountainous regions of Swaziland and thus, can easily tolerate frosts and low temperatures. The flowers of the StapeliaLeendertziae are shaped like bells and are purple or dark red.
Stapelia Variegata/ Orbea Variegata
Also known as the Orbea Variegata, the Stapelia Variegata produces bright yellow flowers with an interesting purple-and-brown colour pattern running through each of the flowers. The plant can grow up to a height of 6 inches, with the flowers making up for around 2 to 3 inches of width. The stems of the Stapelia Variegata also produce some branches that make the plant look much more beautiful. This easily makes the Stapelia Variegata, or the Orbea Variegata, one of the most popular houseplants among the Stapelia varieties.
Propagating Starfish Cactus
The spring season is the most adequate time to propagate or replant a Stapelia plant as the spring season comes right before the growing season of the plant. Here is a step-by-step guide on propagating a Stapelia Cactus.
- Spot a healthy baby stem in the main plant that you will be propagating from. Use a sterilized knife and carefully cut away the stem to use for propagation.
- Place the cutting on a safe spot and allow to rest overnight.
- Take an adequate planter, right in size and with drainage holes, and layer the bottom of the planter with some gravel and pebbles to aid in drainage.
- Fill the planter with some nice potting mix. Make sure that the potting soil is rich in organic matter as you cannot use any other fertilizer on the plant.
- Gently place the stem cutting into the soil in the planter, with the cut side being downwards.
Care for the cutting just like you care for the main Stapelia plant. With the right care, the cutting will soon establish roots and start growing into a healthy Stapelia Cactus.
Here we have answered some FAQS to help you know more about the Stapelia plant.
Do all Stapelia flowers stink?
The Stapelia plants are mostly known for giving off a bad scent. This stench becomes acceptable given the beautiful plant and its more beautiful flowers. All the Stapelia varieties stink, except the Stapeliaflavopurpurea.
How do you care for Stapelia?
To care for Stapelia, place the plant in some bright yet indirect sunlight. Make sure that the spot that the plant is placed in maintains a temperature above that of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, water the plant only as the soil starts drying out, not sooner than that.
Why do Stapelia flowers smell?
The smell of the Stapelia flowers is a way to attract pollinators. The strong stench that the flowers give off helps to lure organisms like bees, flies and other insects into pollinating the plant.
How long do Stapelia flowers last?
The Stapelia flowers generally bloom from the midsummer season and up to the early days of the fall. Once bloomed, the flowers can last around a week.