Stargazer, Star of the Order, coral reef… As soon as flower growers do not call an amazingly beautiful plant – stapelia. Why else Goethe attributed stapelia to the number of the most beautiful and at the same time the most monstrous flowers in the world and how to grow an unusual succulent at home, we will consider in the article.
Characteristics of the plant
Stapelia belongs to the genus of perennial succulents and the family Kutrovaceae. In nature, it is found in the semi-arid regions of Southern and South-West Africa. The succulent has an interesting structure. Numerous fleshy stems branching from the center of the rosette have a tetrahedral shape. Each face is framed by thin protruding whitish teeth. “Coral reef” annually increases the number of spreading wriggling stems, forming the original “bundles” of a dozen shoots.
The color of the stems themselves, depending on the lighting, can include shades of gray green, emerald and even reddish-purple. The leaves of the plants are completely absent.
The main decoration of the stapelia is a flower. Buds forming at the base of young shoots are planted on graceful bent peduncles. Flowers, the diameter of which sometimes reaches 30 mm, can be both single and paired. The corolla of the buds has the shape of a five-pointed star, in the center of which sits an openwork crown towering above the petals. The petals, ending at the top, create that inimitable effect, giving the flower a perfect star-shaped shape. Buds open slowly. The beginning of the fascinating process will be marked by a loud clap. No less spectacular is the color palette of the petals. Cherry and brown spots and strokes on a light background in combination with an unusual texture create the illusion of the color of outlandish mollusks and luxurious fur of fabulous animals.
With all the advantages of an amazingly beautiful flower, stapelia has a single but significant drawback – a vile smell. During the flowering period, it spreads a putrid smell in the district, very reminiscent of the stench emanating from spoiled meat. So the plant attracts insect pollinators. For this reason, the famous German thinker and philosopher Goethe called stapelia the most beautiful, but at the same time monstrous flower of the world.
The maximum height of low-growing plants growing in natural conditions does not exceed the mark of 40-50 cm. As a room crop, stapelia are grown, the height of which is 10-20 cm.
Among the representatives of the extensive genus Stapelia, only six species of plants are used for growing at home. It is noteworthy that only two of them stand out with large spectacular flowers. The rest conquer primarily the original form of branching trunks, framed by an openwork edge.
A plant with spectacular large flowers and beautiful glossy shoots. The fleshy stems of the plant have a pronounced diamond-shaped shape. Young shoots with a glossy surface, initially painted in a light green color, eventually acquire a rough structure that has a coral-silver coating.
Large buds of succulent in a bloomed form reach a diameter of 16 cm. They have the form of wrinkled stars with sharp rays, crowned with a miniature crown. Light petals with chocolate and burgundy spots, bordered by the thinnest eyelashes, create a slight glow effect. Flowering of buds lasts 1.5-2 weeks. During this period, they spread a pronounced smell of carrion and rot in the district.
Stapelia gianta is another large-flowered species. The shoots of the plant, reaching a length of 18-20 cm, have pronounced edges, framed by whitish flat needles. The thickness of the fleshy shoots is about 3.5 cm.
The diameter of the triangular in shape flowers in the bloomed form reaches 30 cm. Petals have a contrasting graphic coloring: dark red dots and strokes on a white background. The edges of the elongated pointed petals are bent outwards and pubescent with the finest hairs. During the flowering period, the buds do not smell like anything.
Stapelia variegated or variegated is a highly decorative room species. The culture received the name for the ability to create unique colors of buds. Patterns are inimitable, like fingerprints, created from thousands of stripes, dots and specks. Flower growers note that among the representatives of this species it is almost impossible to find two buds with the same color.
The stems of the plant can also take an unusual shape. They can be straight and curved, shortened and strong branching. The sides of the stems are covered with rows of teeth.
The height of the formed bushes varies between 5-10 cm. At the same time, up to five buds can please with flowering. Flowers are interesting not only in color but in the structure of the surface. The outer side of the triangular petals has a smooth surface, and the inner side is wrinkled.
Stapelia is changeable – a spectacular succulent, outwardly resembling exotic representatives of the marine fauna. The plant is formed from thick relatively tough shoots 15-17 cm long, the edges of which are framed by large teeth.
The main decoration of the “thorny bushes” is massive flowers resembling starfish. The diameter of the buds at the peak of flowering reaches a diameter of 7-9 cm. Five wrinkled rays with pointed edges depart from the core of the bud. The picture is complemented by the original variegated colors in a brown-red palette. A scaled pattern of asymmetrical specks and dashes is duplicated on the crown of the bud.
Stapelia star-shaped is a succulent, the blooming buds of which in appearance have an incredible resemblance to the invertebrate inhabitant of the water element – the starfish. Brown-red “stars” with five pointed rays are covered with the finest pink hairs. The edges of the petals bent to the bottom are framed by translucent white cilia. Due to this, the effect is created as if the bud is covered with a fur cover. The diameter of the “stars” planted on long peduncles reaches 8-9 cm. During the flowering period, up to three buds can bloom simultaneously on one plant.
The fleshy stems of the plant are initially colored green, but with intense lighting, they acquire purple shades. Their height is about 20 cm. Blunt edges are covered with small teeth.
Stapelia golden-purple is a low-growing succulent up to 10 cm high The diameter of the spreading bush can reach 30-40 cm. Numerous shoots have blunt edges. White stripes along the edges favorably emphasize the emerald shade of the stems themselves.
During the flowering period, the plant is decorated with small star-shaped flowers with flat strongly dissected corollas. The surface of the white petals is dotted with purple wrinkles. Up to three buds can bloom at the same time. It is noteworthy that the aroma of flowering buds is quite pleasant. It resembles the smell of church wax.
Home care of stapelia
Succulent is one of the unpretentious plants in the care of plants. But to maintain the decorative qualities of stapelia when kept at home, a number of basic points should be observed.
The succulent is grown in containers with low wide sides. As a nutrient substrate, special soil mixtures designed for cacti and succulents are used. They contain an increased concentration of sand, due to which they have a loose structure and pass moisture and air well.
In the self-production of soil mixtures, turf earth is used as the main component, which is mixed with sifted sand in a ratio of 2: 1. To minimize the risk of high soil moisture, crushed charcoal is added to the composition. Its percentage in the mixture should not exceed the mark of 8%.
The presence of coal in the composition is beneficial in the sense that it, like a sponge, absorbs excess moisture, and as the soil dries, it gives it back.
Vermiculite and perlite also have a high coefficient of water absorption.
The succulent is afraid of transplants, so this procedure should be carried out only in exceptional cases. At a normal growth rate, the bushes are transplanted every 3-4 years. The procedure is performed in several stages:
- The bottom of the new tank is lined with a drainage layer of broken bricks, fine gravel or claydite. The thickness of the drainage “cushion” should leave 1/3 of the soil composition.
- The pot is filled to half with a nutrient substrate.
- Trying not to damage the earthen lump, the plant is removed from the old container and placed in a new container. At the same stage, old, broken and shrinking shoots are removed.
- The roots of the bush are sprinkled with earth, leaving a rosette on the surface.
- The first watering is carried out 5-7 days after transplantation.
If desired, the transplant can be replaced with a more gentle procedure for rejuvenating the earthen lump. To do this, carefully remove the top layer of the earth, replace it with a new nutrient substrate, and cut off the old woody shoots.
During the growing season, the culture needs regular fertilizing. To do this, every two weeks when watering, complex fertilizers intended for cacti and succulents are applied. In the autumn-winter period, fertilizing is not carried out.
Among succulents, there are no shade-loving plants. Stapelia is no exception. The “starfish”, which naturally grows in open sunny areas, when bred as a home crop, needs a sufficient amount of sunlight. The only thing to consider is that the starflower, when placed in the sun, can get burned. Lesions manifest themselves in the form of a change in the shade of the stems. Therefore, when placed on the southern windowsill on sunny summer days from 11 to 15 hours, it is recommended to shade the plant a little. For this purpose, it is convenient to use a veil, a rare grid or a tulle curtain.
In winter, when new buds are laid, it is worth taking care of additional illumination of the succulent. Lighting should be organized so that the plant is evenly illuminated from all sides. Additional lighting with energy-saving fluorescent lamps will help to avoid pulling out the stems.
Stapelia, like all succulents, shows a special attitude to moisture. It is able to do for a long time without watering because it accumulates large portions of moisture in the stems. Under natural conditions, during dry periods, the starflower does not die due to the ability to reduce transpiration. The effect is achieved due to the presence of a waxy coating on the stems. Evaporation of moisture at night occurs through the stomata, the location in the upper layers of the epidermis of the stems. During the day, the stomata are completely closed.
Water the stapelia, focusing on the temperature and humidity of the surrounding air. The main indicator is the degree of drying of the substrate in the pot. The soil should have time to dry out completely and also be in this state for about 5-7 days.
During periods of hot weather, the time between waterings is reduced. In the dry summer, the soil in a dry state should be only 2-3 days.
In the winter months, the plant can do without watering at all. But when kept at home, when the ambient temperature in winter does not fall below + 14 ° C, watering is carried out once a month.
Methods of reproduction of stapelia
The culture is propagated by dividing the rhizome during transplantation and by cutting the stems. Old shoots are used for cuttings. The stems are cut in half, forming cuttings 4-6 cm long. planting material is pre-dried for 3-5 days.
Root cuttings in moist sand. Clean water for these fir trees is not suitable – the planting material will simply rot. Rooting of stem cuttings on wet sand usually lasts 10-15 days. The main task at this stage is to maintain an optimal humidity regime.
The ideal period for breeding is from the beginning of spring to the end of summer. The autumn-winter period is not suitable for the reason that in conditions of insufficient light and heat, the culture simply rots in the damp earth.