Frithia pulchra is a succulent perennial from the family Aizoaceae. These rare plants have an extremely low growth habit, are very adaptable, and thrive in their harsh native grasslands.
Frithia grows in a very small rocky grassland area of South Africa. These grasslands receive abundant rain in the summer and are cold and dry in the winter.
The plant was named Frithia by taxonomist N.A. Brown of Kew Herbarium in 1925 in honor of gardener Frank Frith who first brought the plants to Brown’s attention.
In 1926, Brown added the specific epithet pulchra, Latin, meaning beautiful. Common names include:
- Window Plant
- Baby Toes
- Fairy Elephants’ Feet
Frithia Pulchra Care
Size & Growth
The leaves are club-shaped and erect and tipped with clear windows. It’s why the plant is termed a “window succulent.”
The clear tip of the leaf allows light to enter and nourish the plant. Most of the plant leaf stays underground.
Flowering & Fragrance
The single, daisy-like flower blooms in shades of red, magenta and purple late in the wintertime. Flower stalks are short or nonexistent.
They transition into sturdy, spongy, barrel-like fruits (hygrochastic capsules) which open during wet weather to release seeds and then close when the weather is dry.
Light & Temperature
- Fairy Elephants’ Feet does well with a wide range of lighting.
- It thrives in full sun as long as the leaves are somewhat buried.
- In the wintertime, keep Frithia in a brightly lighted dry location.
- Frithia pulchra [FRITH-ee-uh PUL-kruh] can tolerate a vast range of temperatures from quite cold to very hot. It is important to note because in nature the leaves are mostly buried under the soil.
- In a home setting, strive to keep a reasonably consistent, comfortable temperature for your plant.
- Frithia needs cold in the winter months to become semi-dormant.
- Place the pot on a bright windowsill where it will benefit both from the natural light and the cooler temperature.
- Frithia can tolerate light frost in dry winter conditions.
Watering & Feeding
This succulent’s growing season is during the summer. This is when you should water the most.
Remember in South Africa, Fairy Elephants’ Feet gets heavy rain in the summertime and little to no rain in the winter. For this reason, you should water generously once a week throughout the summer months.
- Don’t be stingy with the water as this can cause the death of your plant.
- Double check drainage to make sure excess water runs off quickly.
- Withhold water until the substrate is completely dry.
- Do not water in the wintertime because cold weather can encourage root and leaf rot.
During growing season, fertilize every 2 weeks with a weak solution of nitrogen liquid fertilizer.
Another fertilizer option is to add a small amount of compost into the plant’s gritty soil to provide nourishment.
Soil & Transplanting
This plant naturally grows in rocky soil and is in its element sinking its roots into the cracks between rocks and rough, loose gravel.
Therefore, the soil should be sharply draining and quite coarse.
A no-soil substrate is preferred.
Make your own by combining equal parts crushed granite, surface (or other absorbent rock), finely ground or crushed pine bark.
Plant in a shallow container providing good airflow.
A terra-cotta saucer shape is best.
If you only have taller, cylindrical terra-cotta pots, fill the bottom half of the pot with coarse gravel to provide sharp drainage.
Frithia stays quite small and will do best (as with most succulents) when closely potted.
Grooming & Maintenance
There is no significant grooming or maintenance required in caring for this plant.
Propagating Frithia Succulents
Propagate Frithia by division or by rooting individual leaves.
Grow this succulent from seed following standard cactus and succulent instructions.
Frithia Window Plant Pest or Diseases
Frithia is a hardy little plant as long as its needs are met.
Take care not to overwater or underwater.
Provide proper ventilation and plenty of sun and it’ll be trouble-free.
Is Fairy Elephants’ Feet Considered Invasive?
The distribution of this delicate and sensitive plant is restricted to South Africa’s summer rainfall region.
It will not flourish anywhere else, so Frithia is Red Listed as “rare.”
Most of its natural habitat is contained in protected private or provincial conservancies.
It is illegal to gather this plant in the wild.
Suggested Uses for Glasies
Frithia pulchra makes a great houseplant, patio, or porch container plant.
It’s an excellent addition to a rockery.