I have been growing this succulent for almost 50 years. I got a cutting from my wife’s aunt when we were dating and I have been growing and sharing it with others ever since. The plant resembles a cactus with four sided spineless stems or “fingers” 6-9 inches long. It is a member of the milkweed (Asclepiadaceae) family and there are 110 species. It comes from Africa and is grown as a pot plant requiring warm, dry conditions with partial to full sun.
Propagation is easiest by stem cutting. The cutting should dry or heal before potting in a loose, well-drained potting mix. The plant will need a rest period in winter in a cool, dry location, withholding water to a minimum.
The flowers are 10-14 inches across and resemble a starfish, thus the common name, “starfish cactus”. This succulent, however, is not a cactus. The large flowers are a muted yellow to tan in color with maroon transverse lines and a “hairy” surface. They usually appear in late summer and have a carrion smell which attracts flies, which then pollinate the flowers.
These plants do well in strawberry planters or any regular clay pot. They can also be grown in a hanging basket and will cascade over the edge. The plant requires little care and only occasionally will get mealy bugs. These are easy to take care of with a cotton swab and alcohol.
Brooks Kerr, Smith County Master Gardner
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service