Starfish Cactus Flower – Varieties, How To Propagate And More

Table of Contents show

Unraveling the Enigma of Cactus: Stapelia Grandiflora – A Plant Care Guide to Indoors Cactus Starfish Plant (Carrion Flower)


  • Origin: Native to South Africa, the Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’ has a fascinating history of cultivation.
  • Height: Typically grows to a height of 6 to 12 inches, making it a petite and charming addition to any collection.
  • Propagation methods: Easily propagated through stem cuttings, which root quickly in well-draining soil.
  • Water requirement: Prefers infrequent watering, allowing the soil to dry between waterings to prevent root rot.
  • Maintenance: Requires minimal maintenance, mainly consisting of occasional pruning to shape the plant.
  • Tolerance: Adapts well to indoor conditions, tolerating lower light levels and drier air compared to many other cactus varieties.
  • Light: Thrives in bright, indirect light but can tolerate some direct sunlight.

Introduction to Starfish Cactus Care:

The Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’ is an extraordinary and captivating houseplant native to the arid regions of South Africa. Its unique star-shaped flowers and low-maintenance characteristics make it a sought-after addition to any plant collection. This article will explore its cultivation history, ideal care practices, propagation techniques, common issues, and the best ways to use this stunning cactus in your home or garden.

Cultivation and History of Stapelia grandiflora:

Botanical Background:

The Starfish cactus flower, ‘Stapella grandiflora,’ is a captivating flowering plant that belongs to the Asclepiadaceae family, which is now known as the Apocynaceae family. This plant family includes a diverse range of species, including milkweeds and other succulents. The Starfish cactus flower is a member of the Stapelia genus, which consists of cacti-like succulents known for their unique and fascinating floral displays.

Native Habitat and Discovery:

The Starfish cactus flower is native to the arid regions of South Africa, where it thrives in rocky, dry, and sandy soils. The plant was first discovered by botanists exploring the region in the 18th century. Its remarkable star-shaped flowers, which resemble a starfish, caught the attention of early explorers, leading to its introduction to the botanical world.

Treasured for its Unusual Beauty:

The unusual and intricate star-shaped flowers of the ‘Stapella grandiflora’ quickly captivated plant enthusiasts and collectors. The mesmerizing appearance of its blossoms, with their intricate patterns and striking colors, made it a sought-after plant among early horticulturists and botanists. The plant’s beauty and uniqueness earned it a place in private collections, botanical gardens, and greenhouses worldwide.

Historical Significance in Cultivation:

The history of cultivating the Starfish cactus flower can be traced back several centuries. Cultivating this succulent allowed it to be enjoyed and studied in various parts of the world, even beyond its native South Africa. Early botanical gardens and greenhouses showcased this extraordinary plant as a botanical curiosity, attracting attention and sparking curiosity about the rich biodiversity of the natural world.

Botanical Name:

The botanical name ‘Stapella grandiflora’ has its origins in the Greek language. The genus name, ‘Stapelia,’ is derived from the Greek word “stapeliads,” which refers to the group of cacti-like succulents to which this plant belongs. The specific epithet, ‘grandiflora,’ comes from Latin and translates to “large-flowered,” highlighting the show-stopping blooms that grace this remarkable succulent.

Exploration and Introduction to Europe:

In the 18th and 19th centuries, European botanists and explorers embarked on numerous plant-collecting expeditions to distant lands, including South Africa. They sought to discover new plant species and bring them back to Europe for scientific study and horticultural appreciation. Among these collected plants were fascinating succulents like the Starfish cactus flower, which were carefully documented and introduced to European botanical gardens.

Modern Cultivation and Popularity:

Today, the Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’ continues to enchant plant enthusiasts worldwide. With advancements in horticultural practices, it has become more accessible to home gardeners and collectors alike. This succulent’s captivating appearance, low-maintenance nature, and ability to thrive in indoor environments have contributed to its popularity as an ornamental plant.

Conservation Concerns:

Despite its popularity in cultivation, some species of the Stapelia genus face threats in their native habitats due to habitat loss and overcollection. Conservation efforts are underway to protect the natural habitats of these unique succulents and ensure their survival in the wild.

stapelia gigantea

Cultivar to Select:

Variety of Choices:

When it comes to selecting a cultivar of the Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora,’ you’ll find an exciting array of options to explore. Cultivars are cultivated varieties of a plant that exhibit distinct characteristics, such as flower patterns, colors, and growth habits. Each cultivar offers its unique charm and can add a touch of individuality to your plant collection.

Vibrant and Intricate Star-Shaped Flowers:

One of the primary factors to consider when choosing a cultivar is the appearance of its star-shaped flowers. The Starfish cactus flower is named for its stunning blooms that resemble the shape of a starfish. Some cultivars may have larger or smaller flowers, while others may showcase intricate patterns or unique color variations. Look for cultivars with vibrant colors and intricate markings to make a bold statement in your home or garden.

Complementing Your Aesthetic Preferences:

Selecting a cultivar that aligns with your aesthetic preferences is essential in creating a harmonious and visually appealing plant collection. Whether you prefer bold and vivid colors or subtle pastel shades, there is likely a cultivar of the Starfish cactus flower that will perfectly match your taste. Consider how the plant’s colors and patterns will complement your existing plant collection and enhance the overall aesthetic of your space.

Creating a Diverse Display:

Embrace the diversity offered by various Starfish cactus flower cultivars to create a visually diverse and captivating display. By choosing cultivars with different flower patterns, colors, and growth habits, you can showcase the broad range of this beautiful succulent species. A mix of cultivars in a single display can make your collection more visually intriguing and captivating to admirers.

Collecting Rare Cultivars:

For avid plant collectors and enthusiasts, hunting for rare and unique cultivars of the Starfish cactus flower can be an exciting adventure. Some cultivars may be more challenging to find, but the joy of discovering a rare gem can be immensely rewarding. Cultivating rare varieties can also contribute to conservation efforts, as it encourages the preservation of unique genetic traits within the species.

Consider Growing Conditions:

While aesthetics play a significant role in choosing a cultivar, it’s also essential to consider the growing conditions in your location. Some cultivars may be better suited to specific climates or environments, so be sure to select ones that will thrive in your particular setting. Additionally, consider the space available for the plant to grow and select a cultivar that fits well within your gardening space.

Seeking Recommendations:

If you’re uncertain about which cultivar to select, don’t hesitate to seek advice from local nurseries, experienced gardeners, or online plant communities. These resources can offer valuable insights and recommendations based on their own experiences with different cultivars.

Stapelia grandiflora - succulents plant

How to Propagate Stapelia Flower:

1. Easy and Rewarding Process:

Propagating the Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’ is a straightforward and gratifying experience for both novice and experienced plant enthusiasts. Successfully propagating new plants from stem cuttings allows you to expand your collection and share the beauty of this unique succulent with friends and family.

2. Preferred Method: Stem Cuttings:

The most common and effective method of propagating the Starfish cactus flower is through stem cuttings. This involves taking a healthy section of a stem from the parent plant and encouraging it to develop roots to form a new individual plant. Stem cuttings are relatively easy to handle and root quickly under the right conditions.

3. Selecting Healthy Stem Cuttings:

When selecting stem cuttings, choose healthy, disease-free stems from the parent plant. Look for stems that are plump, firm, and without any signs of damage or pest infestation. Cut the stem with clean, sharp scissors or pruning shears just below a node, where the leaves are attached.

4. Callusing Process:

After taking the stem cutting, allow it to dry and callus for a day or two. This callusing process helps seal the cut end and reduces the risk of rot when the cutting is planted in soil. Place the cut end in a dry, shaded area to facilitate the callus formation.

5. Well-Draining Soil Mix:

Use a well-draining soil mix, such as cactus soil or a blend of potting soil and perlite, for planting the stem cutting. Well-draining soil prevents waterlogged conditions that could lead to rot and other issues. Make a small hole in the soil with your finger or a pencil for the stem cutting.

6. Planting the Stem Cutting:

Once the stem cutting has formed a callus, carefully plant it in the prepared hole in the soil. Gently press the soil around the base of the cutting to secure it in place. Ensure that at least one node is buried in the soil, as this is where the roots will develop.

7. Watering and Root Development:

Water the planted cutting sparingly to avoid overwatering. The goal is to keep the soil lightly moist but not saturated. Overwatering can hinder root development and increase the risk of rot. Place the newly planted cutting in a warm and bright location, but protect it from intense, direct sunlight during the initial rooting phase.

8. Rooting and New Plant Growth:

With proper care and the right environmental conditions, the stem cutting will develop roots over the coming weeks. You can gently tug on the cutting after a few weeks to check for resistance, indicating that roots have formed. Once the cutting has established a robust root system, new growth will emerge from the stem’s tip, signifying successful propagation.

9. Transplanting the New Plant:

Once the new plant has grown large enough and has established a sufficient root system, it can be transplanted into its permanent container or location. Be gentle during the transplanting process to avoid damaging the delicate roots and stems.

Starfish Cactus


Transplanting the Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’ should be done with care. As with most succulents, it is best to avoid transplanting during its active growing season, which is typically in spring and early summer. When repotting, use a well-draining soil mix and ensure the new pot has drainage holes to prevent waterlogged roots.

Watering Requirements

The Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’ has low water requirements and prefers infrequent watering. Water the plant thoroughly and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other issues, so striking the right balance is essential.

Temperature Requirements

This cactus thrives in moderate to warm temperatures, ideally ranging from 65°F to 80°F (18°C to 27°C). It can tolerate brief periods of cooler temperatures, but extended exposure to freezing temperatures can be detrimental.

Humidity Levels

Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’ can adapt to various humidity levels. While it appreciates average indoor humidity, it can also tolerate drier air, which is common in typical indoor environments.


Managing Common Pests & Issues

1. Pest and Disease Resistance:

The Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’ is generally resilient and relatively resistant to common pests and diseases. Its succulent nature and natural defenses make it less susceptible to many issues that other plants might face. However, like any living organism, it is not entirely immune to potential problems.

2. Occasional Pest Problems:

Although not common, certain pests like mealybugs may occasionally find their way to the Starfish cactus flower. Mealybugs are small, soft-bodied insects that feed on plant sap. They appear as white, cottony masses on the stems or leaves of the plant. If you notice any signs of pest infestation, it’s crucial to take immediate action to prevent further damage.

3. Inspecting the Plant Regularly:

Regular inspection is key to identifying and addressing pest issues early. Check the plant’s stems, leaves, and soil for any signs of pests or unusual symptoms. Early detection allows you to take prompt action, minimizing the potential harm to the plant and making pest management more manageable.

4. Natural Pest Control Methods:

For a plant like the Starfish cactus flower, natural pest control methods are often effective. One approach is to use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to spot-treat mealybugs. The alcohol dissolves the waxy coating on the pests’ bodies, leading to dehydration and ultimately eliminating them. You can also introduce beneficial insects like ladybugs, which feed on pests, to help keep pest populations in check.

5. Preventing Root Rot:

Root rot is a common issue for many succulents, including the Starfish cactus flower, especially when overwatering occurs or the plant is in poorly draining soil. To prevent root rot, ensure that the plant is potted in well-draining soil and has proper drainage holes in the container. Avoid leaving the plant sitting in excess water, as this can lead to waterlogged soil and root damage.

6. Proper Watering Practices:

Water the Starfish cactus flower sparingly and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Stick to a consistent watering schedule, but adjust it based on the plant’s needs and environmental conditions. The goal is to keep the soil lightly moist, not soggy, to promote healthy root growth and prevent the onset of root rot.

7. Providing Good Airflow:

Good air circulation around the plant is essential for preventing moisture-related issues and maintaining overall plant health. Avoid crowding the Starfish cactus flower among other plants, as this can limit airflow and create a humid microenvironment that might favor the development of pests or diseases.

8. Isolation and Treatment:

If you notice any signs of pests or diseases on the Starfish cactus flower, consider isolating the affected plant from other plants to prevent the issue from spreading. Treat the plant with appropriate remedies promptly, such as using natural insecticidal soap for pest control or adjusting watering practices to address root rot.

Starfish Cactus

Best Uses for Starfish Cactus Flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’

1. Indoor Succulent Gardens:

The Starfish cactus flower is a fantastic addition to indoor succulent gardens and plant collections. Its compact size and unique star-shaped flowers make it an eye-catching centerpiece or accent plant for windowsills, shelves, or plant stands. Placing it alongside other succulents with varying shapes and colors creates a visually captivating and diverse indoor display.

2. Hanging Baskets:

The trailing growth habit of the Starfish cactus flower makes it an ideal candidate for hanging baskets. Its cascading stems adorned with striking star-shaped flowers add a touch of exotic beauty to any room or outdoor space. Hanging baskets with a mix of different succulents, including the Starfish cactus flower, create a stunning living tapestry of textures and colors.

3. Small Containers and Terrariums:

The Starfish cactus flower’s compact size makes it a perfect fit for small containers and terrariums. It thrives in limited spaces and can be an excellent choice for creating a mini desert landscape or succulent fairy garden. The intricate and unusual appearance of its flowers adds an element of fascination and intrigue to the tiny world within the terrarium.

4. Standout Feature in Home or Garden:

Wherever you place it, the Starfish cactus flower is sure to be a standout feature in your home or garden. Its exotic and distinctive star-shaped flowers draw attention and admiration from anyone who encounters them. Whether it’s placed on a patio, balcony, or in a sunny corner of your living room, this striking succulent will not go unnoticed.

5. Complementing Other Succulents and Cacti:

The Starfish cactus flower beautifully complements other succulents and cacti, making it an excellent choice for mixed plant arrangements. Pair it with plants that have contrasting textures, shapes, and colors to create an intriguing and visually dynamic display. Its unique flowers stand out amidst the various forms of its plant companions, adding a touch of extraordinary beauty to the ensemble.

6. Drought-Tolerant Landscapes:

The Starfish cactus flower can be a valuable addition to drought-tolerant landscapes in regions with dry and arid climates. Its ability to withstand periods of limited water makes it a low-maintenance and water-efficient choice. Use it in rock gardens, succulent beds, or alongside other drought-tolerant plants to create a captivating and water-wise landscape design.

7. Educational and Botanical Gardens:

The Starfish cactus flower is an excellent plant to include in educational and botanical gardens. Its unique floral structure and adaptation to arid environments offer educational opportunities to showcase the fascinating world of succulent plants and their adaptations to survive in challenging conditions. As a part of themed displays or exhibits, it can pique visitors’ curiosity and inspire a deeper appreciation for the diversity of the plant kingdom.

8. Plant Collectors and Enthusiasts:

For plant collectors and succulent enthusiasts, the Starfish cactus flower is a must-have addition to their collection. Its rarity and distinctiveness make it a sought-after plant, especially when seeking out unique and uncommon cultivars. It can be a rewarding challenge to cultivate and propagate different varieties of the Starfish cactus flower, contributing to the beauty and diversity of one’s plant sanctuary.


In conclusion, the enigmatic and captivating world of the cactus starfish plant, scientifically known as Stapelia grandiflora, leaves us spellbound with its morbidly beautiful carrion flowers. As a part of the succulent family, this remarkable plant possesses unique star-shaped flowers that entice and deceive, attracting flies with their unpleasant odor, resembling carrion to a mesmerizing degree. Despite its eerie allure, taking care of a starfish cactus indoors is surprisingly easy, making it a popular choice among plant enthusiasts.

For propagation, stem cuttings can be effortlessly rooted in a well-drained potting soil mix. The starfish cacti thrive in a variety of light conditions, from full sun to partial shade, making it adaptable to different environments. Their ability to withstand low light conditions also makes them an ideal indoor plant for those seeking a touch of exotic fascination within their homes.

Though commonly referred to as the carrion flower, this unique plant is more than just its name; it belongs to the carnivorous family, possessing insect-attracting flora that enhances its intrigue. Ensuring proper care, like keeping the soil well-drained and refraining from overwatering, will contribute to its overall plant growth and bloom. When the wide flowers appear, attracting flies like a magnet, they leave us in awe of the plant’s ingenuity, but as they die back, it’s essential to remove them near the base.

Native to South Africa, the cactus starfish plant’s extraordinary features extend beyond its appearance. Its giant toad plant, also known as Stapelia gigantea, is an impressive member of the genus Stapelia. With starfish flowers several inches wide, it’s no wonder this plant has earned its star-studded reputation. Additionally, its cousin, Stapelia variegata, possesses variegated foliage, adding even more charm to this already fascinating succulent group of plants.

The Starfish plant, to some more morbidly called the carrion flower, has rightfully earned its place as a captivating addition to any indoor plant collection. Its ability to thrive in a variety of light conditions, coupled with its intriguing carrion-like flowers, make it a standout among other succulents.

So, whether you’re a seasoned plant enthusiast or a beginner seeking a unique botanical experience, the cactus starfish plant promises to be a rewarding and mesmerizing addition to your garden or living space. Embrace its allure, and you’ll discover a world of wonder within the star-shaped petals of this extraordinary plant.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How tall does the Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’ typically grow?

The Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’ usually reaches a height of 6 to 12 inches, making it a petite and charming addition to any collection.

2. How can I propagate the Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’?

Propagate the Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’ through stem cuttings, which root quickly in well-draining soil.

3. What are the water requirements for the Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’?

The Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’ prefers infrequent watering, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings to prevent root rot.

4. What light conditions does the Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’ prefer?

The Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’ thrives in bright, indirect light but can tolerate some direct sunlight.

5. Can I use the Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’ in hanging baskets or indoor succulent gardens?

The Starfish cactus flower ‘Stapella grandiflora’ is an excellent choice for hanging baskets, indoor succulent gardens, and small containers due to its unique star-shaped flowers and adaptability to various conditions.

Similar Posts