Plant of the Month Archive: Graptopetalum paraguayense
the ghost plant
Hard to believe but October is upon us and it’s that time of the year when we love to spook ourselves with ghosts and ghouls and all things Halloween! Which is exactly why I wanted to feature the gold old Ghost Plant (graptopetalum paraguayense) as October’s Plant of the Month.
Ghost plants, which are native to Mexico and one of the most common succulents to find here in Southern California, are wonderful rosette shaped succulent which grow easily and readily. They cluster in large groupings and make beautiful and low maintenance additions to both potted arrangements and succulent gardens. They have the ability to grow very quickly, often leading to a long trailing stem, which makes these flower shaped succulents great spilling features in any of your succulent art!
Ghost plants got their spooky name due to the powder like coating on their leaves, giving them a frosted ghostly pallor. This coating is called pruinose or farina which are both more names for epicutucular wax. This powdery wax coating is an adaptation the plants have to protect their leaves from UV rays, water damage and moisture loss. You may notice that your fingers will leave smudge like imprints on the plants that possess this powdery wax coating – although in my experience the ghosts plants can handle frequent handlings while still looking beautiful!
Ghost plants grow in clusters of rosettes that make great ground cover or spilling features in taller planters. Their hues will change significantly based on exposure to sun and temperatures – maintaining a pale bluish color in shaded areas and a pink, purple or even yellow color in full sun. During the cooler winter months here is San Diego I adore watching my ghost plants turn beautiful shades of purple and pink! Believe it or not, these resilient plants are quite cold hardy – being able to survive in temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit!
caring for your ghost plants
Ghost plants prefer bright sunlight to mild shade. They are one of the succulents that can tolerate full sun – so are great additions for unshaded areas in your garden or on your patios. In full sun they will take on more pinkish and yellowish hues. In shade they will maintain a bluish grayish tone. In shaded areas they will also tend to stretch and sprawl out of planters or over the ground – and you will often notice more stem in between the leaves.
Ensure that your ghost plants are planted into well-draining soil, as these plants do not like their roots sitting in moist soil for extended periods. Like with most other succulents, water regularly when soil is dry, more in the spring and summer during plants growing months and when temperatures are hotter. You can reduce the watering during colder, wetter winter months. If you are in live in humid climates you’ll want to ensure that you ghost plants are planted into well-draining soil or planters with drainage holes, as these plants can easily fall prey to root rot especially with more humid conditions.
Ghost plants are one of the easiest succulents to propagate most often requiring little to no human intervention at all! These plants easily drop leaves which quickly sprout into new baby plants – and the leaf margins on the stems themselves will also often produce new babelettes without even cutting off the main rosette head! If you do want to get involved in propagating your ghost plants you can behead the original plant – replanting the main rosette you cut off (typically after waiting about 24 hours to allow the cut edge to callus over).
Leave the main stem planted and continue to care for it as you will most likely see two or more new rosettes begin to grow out of the area where you clipped. Additionally, you can also propagate through leaves, but be patient as this process typically takes months!
Thanks for reading and be sure to reach out with any questions or comments!
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RACHAEL COHEN is the creator & owner of INFINITE SUCCULENT, a plant art, styling and educational service in San Diego, Ca.
Through her art and styling, as well as her writings & workshops, Rachael connects and engages her clients with the natural world. Simultaneously, she helps them achieve the botanical atmosphere of their dreams!
Rachael’s book of succulent crafts - Infinite Succulent: Miniature Living Art to Keep or Share - was released in February 2019.