How to grow and care for Gasteria Plants Indoors

Houseplant, Gasteria Plant

Botanical name: Gasteria spp
Family: Asphodelaceae
Sufamily: Asphodeloideae

Gasterias are recognizable from their thick, hard, succulent "tongue-shaped" leaves and hence their common names Ox-tongue, Cow-tongue, Lawyer's Tongue and occasionally Mother-in-law's Tongue. Gasteria's leaves are arranged in two rows forming a fan-like shape and as it gets older an untidy rosette is formed. Usually, young plants have flat strap-shaped leaves in an alternate (spiral) pattern, with each leaf arising at a different point (node) on the stem. Their inflorescence is also unique with their curved, stomach-shaped flowers hanging from inclined racemes (the oldest flowers are borne towards the base and newest flowers are produced as the shoot grows, with no predetermined growth limit).

Gasteria flowers This characteristic inflorescence has given this genus its name Gasteria. "Gaster" is Latin for stomach. The plant only flowers when mature after about 2-4 years. Plants in this genera are mostly native to Eastern Cape Province of South Africa and extends into the far south-west corner of Namimbia and the Lebombo mountains of Swaziland.

Gasteria plants are extremely difficult to divide into species as each plant can be highly variable depending on its location, its soil and its age. As many as 100 names have been listed. Current studies tend to agree that there are between 16 and 23 species. The leaves may be warty like in Gasteria verrucosa or smooth like in Gasteria maculata above. The colors vary from dark-green to light-green. Some are spotted with light shades of green or grey-green. Many hybrids have been developed, Gasteria bicolor features thick, flat leaves with striped patterns.

Gasteria verrucosa

Gasteria verrucosa

Gasteria bicolor

Gasteria bicolor

Gasteria genus is closely related to the genera Aloe and Haworthia. The species of these genera are known to hybridise relatively easily with each other.

How to grow Gasteria Plants

Light for Gasteria Plants

Gasteria Plants grow best under bright light with some direct sunshine. A few feet away from a south- or west-facing window is ideal. Avoid exposing you plant to too hot sunlight before acclimatizing it, as it can get sun burned. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

Watering Gasteria Plants

Water Gasteria Plants thoroughly during the hot season, when the soil begins to dry out. Water very infrequently in the cold season. Avoid waterlogging as it can lead to root-rot. Avoiding wetting the center of the rosette as it can lead to rotting of the plant. Watering from the bottom is a better option. Use room temperature water to avoid plant shock. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

Temperature for Gasteria Plants

Average warmth temperatures from 18-290C) are ideal for Gasteria Plants. The sudden change in temperature between day and night is excellent for the growth of this succulent.

Humidity for Gasteria Plants

Gasteria Plants have no need for high humidity. Average room humidity is ideal for these plants.

Feeding Gasteria Plants

Feed Gasteria Plants monthly during the growing period with a water soluble fertilizer; they are slow growing therefore don't need frequent feeding. Withhold feeding in the cold season as growth is minimal. Find out more on how to feed houseplants.

Repotting Gasteria Plants

Repot Gasteria Plants only when the plant becomes pot-bound. Use a shallow rather than a deep pot; they have shallow roots. The pot should be only 1 size larger than the previous one. Ensure that the pot has a drainage hole as waterlogging can lead to root-rot. Use sandy or rocky soil as it drains easily.

Pruning Gasteria Plants

Pruning Gasteria Plants involves removal of dead or diseased leaves. Cut the leaf at the base with a sharp knife or a pair of scissors to detach it from the stem. Avoid excessive injury to the plant to minimise fungal and bacterial infections.

How to Propagate Gasteria Plants

Gasteria Plants can be propagated from offsets(pups) which form at the base of the plant. Select an offset which has several leaves. Seperate the offset from the mother by cutting with a sharp knife or a pair of scissors. Allow the offsets to dry for 1-3 days before potting. Plant the offset in free-draining soil. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole to avoid waterlogging. Water sparingly, only when the soil is dry; avoid waterlogging as it can lead to root-rot.

Common Problems in Growing Gasteria Plants

  • Leaves wilted and droopy
  • Underwatering is the cause of wilted and droopy leaves in Gasteria plants; do not leave the soil to dry our completely. Immediately water thoroughly and the plant should perk up.

  • Brown soft spots
  • Leaf spot disease is the cause of brown soft spots in Gasteria Plants. The occurence of the disease is enhanced by poor air circulation; ensure proper air circulation for the plants.

  • Leaves wilted and discolored
  • Overwatering during the cold season is the cause of wilted and discolored leaves in Gasteria Plants; water sparingly during the cold season and always allow the soil to almost dry out between waterings.

  • Rot at base followed by yellowing and shriveled leaves
  • Basal stem rot disease due to overwet conditions is the cause of base rot followed by yellowing and shriveled leaves in Gasteria Plants. Avoid overwatering during the cold season. Use a fungicidal solution ocassionally to prevent infection. Water from bottom. Remove and discard the infected parts to prevent spread.

  • Pests
  • Common Pests in Gasteria Plants are Scales and Mealy Bugs. Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to other houseplants and treat appropriately.

Toxicity

Gasteria Plants are non-toxic to both humans and pets. They are safe to keep in the home.

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