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Question: stapelia

my stapelia has double pods: do they contain seeds? What process should I follow to use them?

The genus Stapelia is among the most appreciated by lovers of succulent plants: cultivation is not particularly difficult, on condition that you have a greenhouse or a well-lit room for winter shelter. On the other hand, they are capable of giving great satisfaction to their singular appearance and to the large, star-shaped flowers.Characteristics and origins of the Stapelia

Until now they have been identified, spontaneously, more than 60 species of stapelia, coming almost exclusively from South Africa. They are characterized by triangular stems, very branched, initially erect but which over time tend to become prostrate. The color is very variable: there are various shades of green and purple depending on the variety and intensity of the light to which they are exposed. The tips of the stems bear tubercles similar to non-pointed needles. From mid-summer to late autumn they produce beautiful flowers, solitary or in pairs, which are born from the lower parts.
They are very appreciated for their beautiful star shape and for their remarkable dimensions in relation to those of the plant: the smaller ones have a diameter of 6 mm, but there are also those that exceed 30! They are declined in white, pink, brown, red and yellow.
Their fragrance, however, is not pleasant: it resembles that of decaying meat. In fact, this feature is valuable in nature to attract flies and facilitate cross-pollination. The flowers are all hermaphroditic, with both pistils and stamens: once fertilized they produce seeds wrapped in a light silk that helps them to be carried by the wind.

Cultivation of the Stapelia

As we have said, cultivation is not difficult, especially if we are already familiar with the needs of "fat" plants. Indispensable is to respect the minimum winter temperatures, not to exceed in the irrigations absolutely avoiding the water stagnations, particularly in the coldest months.


All the species prefer very bright exposures, even in full sun: they are therefore not suitable to cultivate permanently in interiors. From mid-spring to mid-October the ideal is to keep them outside in a West or East position. Light will be an important stimulus to flowering, but we avoid the hottest hours to avoid burns. The partial shade is tolerated, even if it involves a slowing down of the already weak growth in addition to the almost zero resurrection hopes.
In winter the plants go almost everywhere withdrawn in a well exposed room or in an external shutter (but well insulated and possibly heated) equipped with transparent sheets.


They are certainly sensitive to low temperatures: some species are able to withstand even 2 ° C, but others already suffer when they reach 13 ° C. In general, it is good to take shelter of the plants before they fall below 15 ° C and avoid as much as possible sudden thermal drops. In any case, we need to know well the specific needs of our species or cultivar, especially if they are rare or collectible specimens.


Name, genus, species

Apocynaceae, gen. Stapelia, more than 60 species
Type of plant succulent
Height Up to 45 cm
Width Up to 40 cm
Foliage Persistent, succulent
Leafy color Green, purple, gray
Flowers Green, white, yellow, orange, brown, purple, purple
Perfume Usually unpleasant
Maintenance low
irrigations Frequent in spring-summer, read in autumn-winter
humidity Low, especially in winter
Substrate 1/3 loam flowering plants, 1/3 soil for cacti, 1/3 of sand
fertilizing Cactaceae + potassium
Growth slow
Resistance to cold Not rustic; temp. Minimum 13 ° C
Exposure Sun-shade
Container Jar
Propagation Talea; sowing, division
Pests and diseases Rottenness, cochineal


This is one of the aspects to be treated with greater attention to obtain good results and avoid the onset of rot. We can ideally divide the vintage into two periods: from spring to the end of flowering the irrigations must be light, but very regular so that the substrate is always slightly damp. However we avoid the use of the saucer, a certain cause of deterioration.
From the end of flowering onwards, that is to say in the coldest months, it is good to distribute water much more sparingly: the soil must have been dry in depth for a few days before getting it wet. We will thus avoid the unfortunate consequences of humidity.

Composition of the vase and soil

For these plants we always choose rather small containers, slightly larger than their roots; ideal are those in terracotta because they allow transpiration and a perfect gutter of the waters. We work preferably at the end of winter, in April, or until July. In case of emergency it is possible to flare at any time of the year. It is crucial to extract it gently so as not to break the fragile stems. We eliminate the roots that appear to be compromised. On the bottom we create a drainage layer with gravel or expanded clay.
We fill with a compound for cactaceae (enriched with a bit of generic) or make up a suitable one ourselves: the ideal is to mix 1/3 of soil for flowering plants, 1/3 of soil for cacti and 1/3 of coarse sand .
Repotting should be done every year.


Good fertilization is very important to stimulate vegetative growth and to have a beautiful flowering. The products designed specifically for cacti are also suitable for stapelia but, especially from mid-spring to mid-summer, it is good to opt for a product in which potassium K is predominant compared to other macroelements. We carefully follow the recommended doses and times. In the winter months (from mid-October to mid-March) we can interrupt or delay the doses further.

Pests and diseases

Pests are not very frequent and rarely cause serious damage. The most common are scale insects: light attacks can be tackled by manual removal.
The most serious risks come from rottenness: they can be avoided by particularly taking care of irrigation. The most obvious signs of a problem are the appearance of roundish dark spots on the stems. Action is taken by allowing the substrate to dry well and by administering a specific fungicide for these problems.


New specimens can be obtained by sowing or division, but these techniques are used little because the cutting is very easily and quickly. It does not involve risks for the "mother" plant and guarantees the maintenance of the peculiar characteristics of the cultivar.
It proceeds from late winter to early summer, during the period of greatest vegetative growth. A stem is broken or cut at the level of a narrowing (sometimes it is already provided with roots). Let the segments dry for about ten days and insert them into a mixture of peat and sand in equal parts, in a very small vase. Alternatively we can put the twig horizontally.
We humidify well and later we intervene very rarely. We maintain a temperature of around 16 ° C and choose a bright position, but without direct light. As soon as the vegetative development begins we can transfer into the final compost.

Stapelia: Species and variety

It is not an easy plant to find on the market, but it is very much appreciated by collectors. If we are interested it is good to turn to specialized horticulturalists or visit the floricultural fairs: we will certainly find many species and varieties. Here are some:
- Stapelia acuminata It is formed by erect stems that can reach 40 cm in height, with a beautiful bright green color. The flowers create a beautiful contrast on the vegetation: they are layers in dark red with stamens and orange pistils. It is a rare species, but much appreciated by collectors.
- Stapelia clavicorona particular stems due to their greyish coloration and strongly dentate margins. The habit is creeping and the maximum height is 20 cm. The flowers fade from yellow to red, depending also on the exposures, and have thick hairs.
- Stapelia erectiflora the stems grow up to 15 cm and are quite thin. The flowers are covered by a thick hair and are of a beautiful deep purple. Plant suitable for those who do not like the typical fragrance of these succulents since in this case it is more delicate.
- Stapelia flavopurpurea this too is endowed with bright green vegetation, initially erect and then decombent reaching an overall height of about 15 cm. Specimens grown in a bright environment become purple. The flowers are very beautiful, clearly shaped like a star, in shades of yellow, orange and green. It is the only one to have a pleasant fragrance.
- Stapelia gigantea, among the largest: the stems are very toothed and reach 30 cm in height. They are of a nice light green that contrasts with the orange flowers (up to 40 cm in diameter) with brown stripes, with a hairy appearance.
- Stapelia grandiflora highly sought after for its beauty in every season. Its stems are up to 30 cm long, very thick and resistant. The flowers are quite small (10-15 cm in diameter), but their deep purple color and the thick and long tufts of hair make them very special.
- Stapelia lepidawith decombus posture, it reaches a maximum of 15 cm. The stems are green, but in the sun the tips turn purple. The hanging flowers are pale yellow with brown spots.
- Stapelia rubiginosa has stems up to 30 cm long, decombenti. Initially they are light green and then take on reddish shades, especially when exposed to the sun. The flowers are a beautiful deep purple.



Talea March-July
Composting Every 15 days (March-August); then every month
Winter retreat From mid-October to April-March