Gasteria Plant Care: Learn To Grow And Propagate Gasteria Succulents

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The Gasteria plant is a group of attractive succulent-type plants grown as houseplants from the Asphodelaceae family.

There are 20+ Gasteria species native to the Cape area of South Africa. New hybrids are being developed every day.

potted Gasteria plant (Ox Tongue) up close showing its white spots and parallel leaves.Pin

A bulk of the species come from the Eastern Cape. The cliff-dwelling species come from the Western Cape.

Interestingly, a bulk of the species come from the Eastern Cape. However, the cliff-dwelling species come from the Western Cape.

Gasteria Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Gasteria spp.
  • Common Name(s): Gasteria, Ox Tongue, Lawyer’s Tongue, Cow tongue
  • Synonyms: None
  • Pronunciation: gass-TER-ee-a
  • Family & Origin: Asphodelaceae family, native to Cape area of South Africa
  • Growability: Easy to grow
  • Grow Zone: USDA zones 3-8
  • Size: Grows up to 6″ – 20” inches depending on the variety
  • Flowering: Produces small, tubular flowers on tall stalks in the late winter or early spring
  • Light: Prefers bright, indirect light but can tolerate some shade
  • Humidity: Prefers low humidity
  • Temperature: Thrives in temperatures between 65° to 75° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Soil: Well-draining cactus soil, very porous, high mineral content
  • Water: Allow the soil to dry between watering
  • Fertilizer: Fertilize once a month with diluted liquid or cactus fertilizer every spring.
  • Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to mealybugs and spider mites, as well as root rot and black spots if overwatered
  • Propagation: Propagate through offsets or leaf cuttings
  • Plant Uses: Makes a great indoor or outdoor plant, and is often used in succulent gardens or as a houseplant. Can also be used for medicinal purposes.

Gasteria Plants An Aloe and Haworthia Relative

Gasteria plants resemble the Aloe. It was originally included in the same genus as the Aloe.

But, botanists came to realize that the leaf attachment differs.

Aloe plants grow in a rosette formation. Gasteria plants grow opposing leaf pairs (distichous) or grow leaves in a loose spiral formation.

The succulent leaves also differ. The Aloe has smooth leaves. Gasteria leaves are often marked with white tubercles, bumps, or warts.

Gasteria Succulent And Aloe Differences

There are also differences in the flowers of Gasteria and Aloe.

Ox Tongue plant flowers grow in clusters on the end of a long stem or spike. Aloe flowers tend to grow along the length of the flower spike.

Gasteria flowers are tubular with bulbous, inflated bases. Aloe flowers present a slim silhouette.

In fact, the name of the plant comes from the shape of the flowers, which is rather like the shape of a stomach. The Latin word for stomach is gaster.

Although Gasteria is no longer considered to be in the same genus as Aloe vera, the two plants are related.

Gasteria is also related to Haworthia from South Africa. All three types of succulents belong to the Family Asphodelaceae.

Close-up of a textured green succulent plant.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @shokubutu_dohraku

Along with most Old World succulent plants, these plants belong to the tribe, Aloaceae, along with Astroloba, Chortolirion, Bulbine, and Poellnitzia.

What Are Gasteria’s Common Names?

You may hear this succulent referred to as:

  • Ox-tongue
  • Cow-tongue
  • Lawyer’s tongue

Learn To Care For Gasteria Plants

Wide Ox Tongue succulent varieties are compact and do well as indoor house plants. Larger varieties are often very good choices for use in outdoor xeriscaping designs.

Size and Growth Rate

Gasteria plants are slow growers. They reach heights ranging from 6″- 20″ inches depending upon the variety.

Gasteria leaves are flat, stiff, thick, and roughly textured with a waxy surface.

Most varieties have grey-green leaves and white spots or warts (tubercles), which may be white, black, or pastel in color, depending upon the variety.

Some varieties have attractive banded leaves. Some resemble the shape of a tongue, and this accounts for the many tongue-themed common names.

The leaves of some Gasteria varieties can grow to be a foot long. Some very large varieties have triangular leaves.

On very young plants, the leaves grow in opposing pairs (distichous). As plants mature, leaves tend to grow in a spiral formation.

In addition to developing a spiraling growth habit, some mature plants grow small clumps of rosettes.

Flowering and Fragrance

All Gasteria varieties have the same stomach-shaped, tubular flowers. They are scentless, orange-red with green tips, and grow on thin, upright stems.

The bloom time may vary depending on the species. However, most flower in the late winter or early spring.

pretty tubular bellies of the Gasteria flowerPin

Light Conditions and Temperature

The Gasteria succulent like a lot of light but does not appreciate harsh, direct sunlight. High temperatures will result in yellowed foliage or plant death.

As a houseplant, they do very well in a bright north window or partial shade in the summertime. These houseplants can vacation outdoors in an area with high shade.

Be sure to acclimate and transition your houseplant from indoors to outdoors to avoid shock. Gasteria plants are part of a succulent group that does well in low light.

Moreover, it prefers warm temperatures between 65° to 75° degrees Fahrenheit.)

Moreover, it thrives outdoors in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 through 8.

Watering and Feeding

Gasteria succulents are drought-tolerant and can tolerate desert environments.

Gasteria grows and flowers in the wintertime. During winter, reduce watering, allowing the soil to dry almost completely between waterings.

During wintertime, provide a couple of feedings with a water-soluble cactus fertilizer.

In the summertime, allow your plant to rest, and only water it when the soil is quite dry.

Adjust water according to the temperature and the amount of light.

Your plant will need more water in bright light with a warm ambient temperature. In a cooler dimmer setting, waterless.

You can also fertilize your Gasteria plant once every spring with a cactus fertilizer or diluted liquid fertilizer once a month.

Aloe plant with spotted leaves.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @washiharatabito

Related: Succulent Root Rot – What Can You Do About It?

Soil and Transplanting Gasteria Succulents

Gasteria plants send out lots of little offsets and can outgrow their pots. When this happens, it’s time to transplant.

Like all cacti and succulent plants, Gasteria likes a light, well-draining soil mix.

Use a cactus mix or make your own succulent potting mix by combining equal parts potting soil and pumice or perlite.

To prevent rapid evaporation of moisture, cover the soil surface with a layer of attractive gravel or decorative rock.

As with all succulents and cacti, excellent drainage is of the utmost importance.

Terracotta is the best material for succulent planters. Drainage holes in the bottom of a larger pot are a must.

Gasteria Little Warty Care

Grooming Gasteria

There is no need to prune or trim Gasteria. On occasion, leaves tend to develop brown spots or bruises. Remove them if you wish.

How Do You Propagate Gasteria?

The easiest way to propagate Gasteria is to remove pups with a sharp knife from the mother plant and pot them in their own pot.

You can also leave the parent plant in its original pot and remove the pups from the parent plant without repotting.

Baby Gasterias are miniature adults and need no special care.

It is also possible to start new plants from leaf cuttings or seed propagation, like any other cactus or succulent.

Both of these methods are slow and unreliable.

If you are looking for a specific Gasteria and cannot find an offshoot or a cutting, you may have to order seed. Follow the directions that come with the seed.

Always remember, plants grown from seed are variable.

Pests, Diseases & Problems

Gasteria plants are generally resistant to common pests and problems. Watch out for root mealybugs which can become an issue.

As long as you are not overwatering, you should not experience any difficulties.

Overwatering can cause root rot, which shows up as black, mushy spots at the base of the plant or on the leaves.

If this happens, saving the plant is rare, but you may be able to grow a new plant from cuttings.

Cut off healthy leaves and root them, as demonstrated in the video above.

To avoid rot:

  • Water only at the base of the plant
  • Don’t get the leaves wet
  • Allow the soil to dry out almost completely between waterings

Black Spots

Leaves may, on occasion, develop black spots or bruises.

These black spots may come from damage to the plant’s wax coating, injury, or fungal infection.

Avoid this problem by providing the following:

  • Plenty of room for growth
  • Good air circulation
  • Maintain low humidity levels

Sun Scorching

Too much direct sun may cause scorching. This shows up as brown, crusty spots on the leaves.

To avoid this, remember to provide your plant with a bright spot with indirect sunlight.

If moving plants to the outdoors in the summer, take plenty of time to allow the plant to adjust.

Do not place Gasteria in direct sunlight.

What Are The Best Ways To Use Gasteria?

varigateta potted Gasteria up close showing its "warts"Pin

These plants do not like harsh light and do tolerate cool settings. They make a great choice as houseplants in cool rooms with low light.

They also do very well with bright indirect sunlight.

Combine several Gasteria varieties in a shallow dish to enjoy indoors.

In sheltered patio or porch locations, smaller plants make a nice addition growing and are displayed in hypertufa planters or terracotta pots.

If you live in a no-freeze area, plant smaller, more tender types in lightly shaded areas outdoors year round.

Plant larger, more rugged varieties in more open settings with greater sun exposure.

But avoid the full sun for all varieties.

These plants like protection from the afternoon sun with dappled shade throughout the day.

For this reason, small varieties make a good choice for planting under shrubs or around the base of a tree.

Larger types may do well planted along a wall with afternoon shade.

When planting, be sure to choose an area with good drainage.

Amend the soil with sand, gravel, pumice, compost, or coco coir to achieve a light, airy texture.

If your area has a lot of rainfall or humidity, Gasterias may not be the plants for you.

Outdoors the Gasteria is best used in a xeriscape garden or as a focal point for a rock garden or other dry setting.

In areas with lots of seasonal rain, be sure to plant on a slope so the rainwater runs off.

Potted speckled snake plant on table.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @rozkwitnie

Don’t water during the rainy season. During dry spells, check the plants to determine if the plants need watering.

What Are The Most Popular Gasteria Species and Varieties?

These plants have been growing, developing, and hybridizing in nature for centuries. It’s hard to pinpoint precise favorites.

Below is a list of 42 Gasteria species and cultivars recognized and “accepted” by The World Checklist of Selected Plant Families at Kew.

  • Gasteria Duval (1809)
  • Gasteria acinacifolia (1819)
  • Gasteria barbae (2014)
  • Gasteria batesiana (1955)
  • Gasteria batesiana var. batesiana
  • Gasteria batesiana var. dolomitica (1999)
  • Gasteria baylissiana (1977)
  • Gasteria brachyphylla (1992)
  • Gasteria brachyphylla var. bayeri (1992)
  • Gasteria brachyphylla var. brachyphylla
  • Gasteria carinata (1809)
  • Gasteria carinata var. carinata
  • Gasteria carinata var. retusa (1992)
  • Gasteria carinata var. thunbergii (1998)
  • Gasteria carinata var. verrucosa (1992)
  • Gasteria croucheri (1880)
  • Gasteria croucheri subsp. croucheri
  • Gasteria croucheri subsp. pendulifolia (2005)
  • Gasteria croucheri subsp. pondoensis (2011)
  • Gasteria disticha (1827)
  • Gasteria disticha var. disticha
  • Gasteria disticha var. langebergensis (2007)
  • Gasteria disticha var. robusta (2007)
  • Gasteria doreeniae (2004)
  • Gasteria ellaphieae (1991)
  • Gasteria excelsa (1880)
  • Gasteria glauca (1998)
  • Gasteria glomerata (1991)
  • Gasteria loedolffiae (2014)
  • Gasteria nitida (1827)
  • Gasteria nitida var. armstrongii (1992)
  • Gasteria nitida var. nitida
  • Gasteria obliqua (1809)
  • Gasteria pillansii (1910)
  • Gasteria pillansii var. ernesti-ruschii (1992)
  • Gasteria pillansii var. hallii (2007)
  • Gasteria pillansii var. pillansii
  • Gasteria polita(2001)
  • Gasteria pulchra(1812)
  • Gasteria rawlinsonii(1976)
  • Gasteria tukhelensis (2005)
  • Gasteria vlokii(1987)

What is Gasteraloe?

The Gasteraloe (x Gastrolea) is a hybrid cross between Gasteria and Aloe. Some assume this hybrid got its start in the wild in South Africa.

Like most hybrids, these plants have the best characteristics of both parents.

Their leaves are thick, with attractive spots or bands. They usually have toothed margins.

Gasteraloe blossoms are tubular and grow on spikes up to 2′ feet tall. Like both parents, the plants multiply by producing offsets.

One especially popular variety of Gasteraloe is “Green Ice.” This plant has plump, grayish-green leaves with blunt serrations all along the margin.

Leaves are marked with both stripes and spots and grow in an attractive but chaotic jumble.

The initial leaves start out in a flat arrangement. As the plant grows and more leaves emerge, they begin to form a loose, disorganized whorl formation.

All this color and chaos make for a very architecturally interesting plant!

There Are Lots Of Hybrids To Choose From

There are between six and eight common hybrids that are easily sourced. There are also lots of rare types that excite serious collectors.

The possible combinations are endless. Identifying hybrids can be difficult, and the number of existing hybrids is unknown.

Hybrids may be the result of crosses between Gasteria and either Aloe (X Gastrolea) or Haworthia (X Gasterhaworthia).

Buying Tips For Gasteria And All Succulents

When purchasing any succulent plant, there are some conditions you should look for. They include:

Dry Soil: Don’t buy a succulent standing in water or has soggy soil. The soil should feel dry when you touch it.

Full leaves: You can tell if the plant has received the right amount of water by looking at the leaves. They should be full, dark green, and plump, even if the soil is dry.

Ease of transport: Generally speaking, buying a very large succulent may not be a good idea.

  • Large, heavy plants tend to become damaged in transport. Any damage takes a long time for plants to heal and again look their best.
  • Choose a plant that is easy for you to handle on the trip home.
  • Bring a box to keep the plant upright and provide protection during the trip.
Succulent plant in a pot with textured leaves.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @arrowcutter

Fascinating Gasteria Make A Wonderful, Carefree Addition To Any Plant Collection

Among the 16 original varieties and many hybrids, there’s bound to be a variety of Gasteria to enhance your indoor or outdoor garden.

These popular plants have few needs, take up little space and offer a great deal in the way of charm and beauty.

Gasteria has interesting leaf colors and patterns, an unusual growth habit, and slightly odd wintertime blossoms. They make a nice choice as a desk or kitchen windowsill plant in the winter months and a nice patio or porch plant in the summer.

With so many interesting choices available, it’s easy to assemble a varied, easy-care indoor garden using Gasteria, Gasteraloe, and Gasterhaworthia.

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