Stapelia gigantea-Zulu Giant

Stapelia gigantea (Zulu Giant) on 10-11-19, #639-86.

Zulu Giant, Starfish Flower, Giant Stapelia, Carrion Flower, Giant Carrion Flower, Toad Plant

Stapelia gigantea

sta-PEL-ee-uh  jy-GAN-tee-uh


Synonyms of Stapelia gigantea (10) (Updated on 11-17-20): Ceropegia gigantea (N.E.Br.) Bruyns (2017), Gonostemon giganteus (N.E.Br.) P.V.Heath (1992), Gonostemon giganteus var. marlothii (N.E.Br.) P.V.Heath (1993), Gonostemon giganteus var. nobilis (N.E.Br.) P.V.Heath (1993), Gonostemon giganteus var. pallidus (E.Phillips) P.V.Heath (1993), Gonostemon giganteus var. youngii (N.E.Br.) P.V.Heath (1993), Stapelia cylista C.A.Lückh. (1933), Stapelia marlothii N.E.Br. (1908), Stapelia nobilis N.E.Br, Stapelia youngii N.E.Br. (1931).

Stapelia gigantea N.E.Br. is the correct and accepted name for this species of Stapelia. It was named and described as such by Nicholas Edward Brown in Gardeners’ Chronicle in 1877.

The genus, Stapelia L., was described by Carl Linnaeus in the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.

Plants of the World Online lists 31 accepted species in the Stapelia genus (as of 11-17-20 when I am updating this page). It is a member of the Apocynaceae (Milkweed) Family with 359 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made.

There are a few links at the bottom of the page for further reading.

Stapelia gigantea on 10-9-18, #518-1.

I bought five cuttings of Stapelia gigantea from a seller on Ebay from Lousiana. He sent seven and they arrived on October 9, 2018. He had them listed as Hairy Starfish. There are many common names in including Zulu Giant, Starfish Flower, Giant Stapelia, Giant Carrion Flower, and Toad Plant. Now and then I read about another common name I haven’t heard of before.

Stapelia gigantea is a succulent plant native to Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe in Southeast Africa. They have been introduced to several other countries as well where they survive in similar conditions to their native land. Many species of Stapelia are popular as houseplants by succulent growers worldwide and their flowers come in a wide range of colors and sizes.

Stapelia gigantea on 10-10-18, #519-65.

I put all seven cuttings in the same pot on October 10. The next day I had to move all the potted plants inside for the winter so I put the Stapelia gigantea in my bedroom in a west-facing window.

Family: Apocynaceae (Milkweed)
Origin: South Africa
Zones: USDA Zones 9a-11 (20-40° F) (-6.6 to 4.5° C) Hmmm…
Size: 8-12” tall x 24” wide…
Light: Sun to part shade.
Soil: Very well-draining
Water: Average to dry

Information says this plant needs a rest period in the winter at a temperature of 50-55° F with reduced watering.


Stapelia gigantea on 2-17-19, #548-6.

By February 17 the Stapelia gigantea appeared to be doing just fine. Never know what is going on under the soil, though…


Stapelia gigantea on 3-3-19, #549-4.

I noticed a new shoot growing from one of the cuttings on March 3. Progress!

They have velvety-green, spineless stems with four ribs. The stems have tubercles that are laterally flattened and vertically joined. Each tubercle has a small rudimentary leaf which is short-lived and leaves a scar at the tip of the tubercle. The stems are considered determinate as they only grow to around 8- 12” tall (20-30 cm). Plants can spread 2-3’ wide if given a chance in pots or in the ground. If grown in pots, they will branch out and hang over the sides.


Stapelia gigantea on 5-5-19, #566-74.

When temperatures warmed up enough I moved the potted plants back outside for the summer.


Stapelia gigantea on 5-15-19, #572-16.

One of the main reasons I bought this plant was for its flowers which are strangely magnificent. Flowering is triggered by decreasing day length in October. Information says at least two buds will emerge from the side of a stem toward the base of the stem and one will abort as the other flower opens. The yellow flowers with maroon streaks or striping (raised like wrinkles on leather) can grow to 12” in diameter. Flowers have a silky, leathery texture that feels like flesh. The outside edge of the flowers are hairy as well as the corolla segments. Flowers are pollinated by insects attracted to the foul scent of rotting flesh. Some people say they barely notice the smell unless they take a whiff while others say the smell is strong. Flowers give way to “milkweed-like” seeds.


Stapelia gigantea on 6-16-19, #591-41.

Stapelia gigantea appears to be easy to grow in well-draining potting soil. I used Miracle Grow Potting Soil with additional perlite and a little chicken grit (2-1-1 ratio). When repot I will use pumice instead of perlite and grit (about 50/50).


Stapelia gigantea on 7-15-19, #601-14.

Apparently, Stapelia is easy to propagate from seeds as well as cuttings. Young plants need ample moisture to get established. Once plants have become established, they only need regular watering during the growing period. Water thoroughly and allow the soil to dry between watering.


Stapelia gigantea on 10-11-19, #639-86.

It seemed like the stems around the edge of the pot were branching out while the ones inside didn’t.

Some information suggests growing the Stapelia in full sun, but others say to avoid full sun during the heat of the summer so it is probably best to grow in part sun to light shade. Mine did very well on a covered front porch where it received a short period of direct sun in the afternoon. The stems of some species may turn a reddish color in more sun.


Stapelia gigantea on 10-11-19, #639-87.

I had to move the potted plants inside for the winter on October 11 because an “F” was in the forecast. I always take photos of the plants when I move them inside for the winter and measure the cactus and some of the succulents. On October 11, the tallest stem of the Stapelia gigantea was 9 1/2″ tall and the cluster measured 14″ wide. I was excited to see a few buds…


Stapelia gigantea on 10-11-19, #639-88.

I moved the Stapelia gigantea to my bedroom as before but I think I should it in the cooler bedroom for a rest period. During the winter months they should have a cool dry rest period in a temperature of no less that 50° F (10° C). Prolonged periods below 50° is hazardous to the plant. 

Unfortunately, the buds fell off after I moved it inside. GEEZ! I also noticed a few mealybugs on a few stems but that problem was quickly remedied.


Stapelia gigantea (Zulu Giant) on 10-15-20, #747-98.

I had to bring the potted plants inside for the winter on October 15 because an “F: was in the forecast. As always, I take photos and measurements as I move them inside. I measure the cactus and part of the succulents but I didn’t measure this plant. It is filling up the pot and needs a bigger one VERY soon. I didn’t have this plant in full sun over the summer but I think it received plenty of light.


Stapelia gigantea (Zulu Giant) bud on 10-15-20, #747-99.

One single bud appeared I think early in September, but by the time I moved the plats inside it looked like it was drying up. Hmmmm… I cut off one of the stems that was hanging over the side when I moved the plants outside and gave it to Mrs. Wagler of Wagler’s Greenhouse. I wonder if hers flowered…

I put this plant in my bedroom again in front of a west-facing window but I am wondering if I should put it in the back bedroom. Information suggests it needs a rest period during the winter with night temperatures of 50-55° F. Hmmm… The back bedroom stays cool and has a south-facing window which is where I keep my succulents…

So far the Stapelia gigantea has done well and I will continue adding more photos and information as time goes by.

I also have a Huernia schneideriana which you can view by clicking HERE.

I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.