Discover the fascinating Stapelianthus


If you’re a succulent enthusiast, you may have heard of Stapelianthus (“carrion flower” or “toothbrush plant”). These fascinating plants are native to South Africa and are popular with collectors for their stunning star-shaped flowers and unique appearance. There are more than 50 species in the genus Stapelianthus, each with its own distinctive characteristics, so it’s worth exploring. In this article, we’ll dive into the world of Stapelianthus and take a closer look at their unique characteristics, growing requirements, and care tips.

Description of succulents in the genus Stapelianthus

The genus Stapelianthus is a group of succulents in the family Apocynaceae, native to southern Africa and the island of Madagascar. The genus was first described by the German botanist Rudolf Schlechter in 1913.

Stapelianthus is closely related to the better known genus Stapelia and was previously included in that genus. However, it was later recognized as a separate genus because of differences in flower structure and seed morphology.

"carrion flower" or "toothbrush plant"

Plants of this genus are low-growing, soil-dwelling succulents with fleshy, square stems. They are usually covered with small thorn-like projections that protect the plant from grazing animals. The plant has small, inconspicuous leaves that may fall off as the plant matures.

The most distinctive feature of succulents in the genus Stapelianthus is their flowers, which are often quite large and bright. The flowers are usually star-shaped, consisting of five separate petals fused together at the base to form a tube. The petals are often dark red, maroon, or purple, with a velvety texture. The tube is usually hairy or covered with short bristly projections.Фото цветов Стапелиантуса

Stapelianthus flowers are memorable not only for their appearance, but also for their strong, unpleasant odor. This odor is reminiscent of rotting flesh and is used to attract flies and other insects that pollinate the plants. Despite the unpleasant odor, Stapelianthus are popular with succulent collectors because of the unusual beauty of their flowers.

There are currently four recognized species in the genus Stapelianthus: Stapelianthus decaryi, Stapelianthus madagascariensis, Stapelianthus pilosus, and Stapelianthus rubricactus. All four species are endemic to Madagascar.

How to care for Stapelianthus indoors

These Madagascar succulents are relatively easy to care for. In our guide, we’ll show you what to look for when growing them.


As with other desert plants, use a well-draining soil mix specifically designed for succulents.Photo of Stapelianthus succulentus in a potYou can also add perlite or coarse sand to increase the drainage of the potting mix.


Stapelianthus prefer bright but indirect light. Although the succulent can tolerate direct sunlight for a while, too much intense light can scorch the stems and leaves. Place the plant near a south- or west-facing window and under grow lights in winter if there is little natural light in your area during the winter.


“Carrion flower” prefers a warm room with temperatures between 65 and 80 °F (18-27 °C). The succulent can temporarily tolerate lower temperatures, but it is not frost hardy.


Like all succulents, Stapelianthus prefers infrequent watering. Water deeply, making sure the soil is completely dry before watering (usually once a week or less). Overwatering can cause root rot, so make sure the soil is completely dry between waterings. In winter, water once a month during the dormant season.

Information about succulents


The plant does not need any fertilizer, but you can feed Stapelianthus with a balanced fertilizer once a month during the growing season (spring and summer). Be sure to dilute the fertilizer to half strength, as the roots of the succulent are susceptible to burning from an overdose of nutrients.

Prune the Stapelianthus.

This process is essential to maintain the health and appearance of the plant. How to prune Stapelianthus:

  • Identify the stems that need to be pruned. Inspect the plant to determine which parts of the stems need pruning. Look for dead or diseased stems, leaves, or branches.
  • Use sharp, sterile tools. Sterilize your knife or scissors with alcohol or another product to prevent the spread of disease. Do not use sharp tools to damage the plant.
  • Remove any dead or diseased stems, leaves, or branches from the plant. Prune back to healthy tissue, being careful not to cut into healthy stems and leaves.
  • If the plant has overgrown shoots, you can cut them back to encourage new growth and make the plant more bushy. Trim the stems just above the node where the leaves or branches appear.
  • After pruning, monitor the plant for signs of stress or disease. Water as needed and provide adequate sunlight and temperature control.

It is important to avoid over-pruning Stapelianthus as this can cause damage and stress to the plant. Prune only what is necessary and avoid cutting healthy tissue.

How to propagate Stapelianthus

You can propagate “Carrion flower” from stem cuttings.

  • Choose a healthy Stapelianthus stem that is at least 8-10 cm long. Make sure it is not damaged or infected with any disease.
  • Cut the stem from the mother plant with a sharp, sterile knife or scissors. It is best to make the cut at a 45-degree angle to increase the surface area for rooting.
  • Leave the cutting in a cool, dry place for a few days. This will allow the cut end to dry out, which will help prevent rot when planting.
  • After the cuttings have hardened, fill a small pot with well-draining soil, such as cactus mix. Use your finger to make a hole in the soil and insert the cuttings with the end of the cuttings facing down. Press the soil around the cuttings to hold them in place.
  • Water the soil until it is moist. Be careful not to overwater the soil around the cuttings, as this can cause them to rot. Place the pot in a bright, warm location out of direct sunlight.
  • After a few weeks, the cuttings should put down roots and grow new leaves. Once the new shoots appear, you can start caring for the succulent as usual.
  • When the plant has outgrown its pot, it can be transplanted to a larger container.

This method of Stapelianthus propagation can be used throughout the year. With proper care and attention, your new plant will grow and thrive in its new home.

Stapelianthus Pests and Diseases

“Carrion flower”, like any other plant, is susceptible to various pests and diseases. Some common insects that can attack this succulent include mealy bugs, spider mites, and scale insects. These pests can damage the leaves and stems of the plant and can also spread disease.

Photo of a healthy succulent Stapelianthus

To prevent and control pests, it is important to keep the plant clean and healthy. Inspect the succulent regularly for signs of pests, such as tiny cobwebs, spots, or poor growth. If you notice pests, remove them by hand or with insecticidal soap, being careful not to damage the stems of the plant.

It’s also worth remembering that Stapelianthus are susceptible to various diseases, including root rot, leaf spot, and stem rot. These diseases can be caused by excessive watering, poor soil drainage, or mistreatment of the plant. To prevent these diseases, it is important to provide the plant with well-drained soil, allow the soil to dry out between waterings, and avoid getting water on the leaves and stems.

If you notice discoloration of the stems or poor growth, remove the affected parts of the plant immediately and give it proper care to prevent further spread of the disease. It is also helpful to treat the stems of succulents with a fungicide to prevent the disease from spreading.

Popular species of the genus Stapelianthus

Let’s briefly describe some popular succulent species and varieties.

Stapelianthus decaryi

This succulent usually grows as a low bush or mat, and its stems are green and slightly hairy. The flowers are racemose.Stapelianthus decaryi
The petals are reddish brown and hairy, and the center of the flower is decorated with small dark hairs. Stapelianthus decaryi is a popular plant among succulent collectors because of its unique and interesting appearance.

Stapelianthus pilosus

A common succulent plant native to South Africa, commonly known as “hairy stapelia” because the stems and flowers are densely covered with long, soft, white hairs. The plant has star-shaped, reddish-brown flowers with hairy edges and a characteristic, unpleasant odor reminiscent of rotting flesh.

Photo Stapelianthus pilosus
Photo Stapelianthus pilosus (

“Hairy stapelia is a low-growing plant, which usually reaches a height of 4-6 inches (10-15 cm). The succulent is often grown as an ornamental plant because of its unique appearance and interesting colors.

Stapelianthus madagascariensis

A succulent plant species belonging to the Asclepiadaceae family. It is native to Madagascar and grows as a stunted mat or clump of stems that can reach 4 inches (10 cm) in height. The stems are green, quadrangular, with small, fleshy leaves reduced to scales.

Stapelianthus madagascariensis
Phhoto Stapelianthus madagascariensis (

The flowers are large, up to 2 inches (6 cm) in diameter, star-shaped with five pointed petals that are yellowish-green with purplish-brown spots. The flowers have a strong, unpleasant odor that attracts flies for pollination.

In general, Stapelianthus species and varieties are prized by collectors for their unusual and distinctive appearance and for their ability to thrive in hot, dry conditions.

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