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Haworthia (Zebra Cactus / Pearl and Star Window Plant)

About the Haworthia

Haworthias are dainty succulent houseplants and are frequently compared and confused with Aloes, and Gasteria plants, this is hardly surprising since they're all members of the Asphodeloideae family. However, Haworthia (H. attenuata and H. fasciata) - Zebra Cactusunlike Aloes, Haworthias are almost always small and very (very) slow growing plants.

They don't need much fuss or care and can even go many weeks without water if required. They also tend to look brilliant in unusual containers or interesting soil mixes.

These perks mean they can make fantastic easy care gifts and presents for all types of people, suiting either a home or office environment. They'll get by with not a great deal of fuss or attention provided they're placed in a room with average warmth, away from direct sunlight and given the occasional drink.

As well as being very easy going houseplants to have around, when it comes to picking out a Haworthia there's a vast number of different varieties to choose from. Some of the more commonly found ones are described below.

When it comes to picking out a Haworthia there's a vast number of different varieties to choose from.

H. limifolia has ridged and normally more triangular chunky firm shaped leaves. They have prominent solid ridges that line the outside of the leaves (last picture in the gallery and the first plant in the photo below).

Perhaps the most popular varieties are H. attenuata and H. fasciata, both are commonly known as the Zebra Cactus. The white wart-like tubercles cover the back of the leaves often in a stripy arrangement which resembles a Zebra stripe pattern (the first photo in the article above and the middle plant in the photo below).

H. margaritifera or the Pearl Plant has slightly wider leaves and the "warts" are more dotted and spaced out producing a "pearl" type of effect.

H. tessellata or Star Window Plant is the other Haworthia you're likely to come across, instead of white warts, the ones on this plant are semi-transparent "windows" (see third gallery picture to the right and third plant in the photo below).

Photo by Ylanite showing H. limifolia H. attenuata and H. tessellata

All healthy plants will eventually produce flowers, usually a few weeks after the "longest day" of the year, i.e. in Summer. However the flowers aren't very exciting, but because Haworthia is a very slow growing and compact plant, not much happens visually during the year, therefore the flowering period can be a welcomed treat to show that your plant is actually "alive" and doing well.

Have a look at some of the many different varieties you can come across in our photo gallery or scroll down for the full care instructions for your Haworthia plant.

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Haworthia
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Haworthia Step by Step Care Guide

Light

Haworthias are reasonably adaptable plants that that will take various light conditions, but neither direct sunlight or deep shade. Direct sunlight will make the leaves of all Haworthia's go an ugly red, purple or brown colour. Move to a shady spot and if the damage isn't too bad these colourings will fade over time.

Light
neither direct sunlight or deep shade

Deep shade tends to weaken the plant over a prolonged period. You might notice it becoming an excessive light green, losing the markings or that the plant stops being compact and instead becomes lanky. If you notice this happening more light is needed.

Watering

A surviving plant will get by with watering just once a month, however to get the plant thriving it will need to be done at least once a fortnight, possibly once a week in very warm temperatures.

Either way, water well and then only water again when the soil has largely dried out. These plants are very tolerant of underwatering but will succumb quickly to rotting if overwatered.

Make sure you try your best to keep water out of the crown or rosette of the plant, in cool temperatures doing this will again encourage rotting.

Haworthia's are easy to take care of and make excellent houseplants

Humidity

As is common with many other succulent plants humidity is not important. However, they do like good ventilation so avoid very tight "airless" corners of your home.

Feeding

Feed your Haworthia very occasionally and when you do, ensure it's only a weak solution. Feeding two or three times a year is probably plenty. Plants which are producing massive numbers of offset around its base might benefit from a little more feed, but still, go easy as they're not big feeders.

Temperature

Average indoor warmth between Spring and Autumn / Fall. The natural cooler temperatures found in an unheated or guest room during Winter are perfect because this plant likes to rest at that time of year. However, it doesn't like being too cold and absolutely no lower than 4°C (40°F).

Repotting

Two different haworthia fasciata plants, H. fasciata Concolor and H. fasciata Big BandIt's rare for any Haworthia to out grow its pot quickly, therefore repotting is only usually required infrequently and normally only when offsets have filled the pot. Sometimes the clump works itself free, becomes unstable and starts falling out of the container so you'll have to repot to get it stable again.

If you do find yourself needing to repot your plant, use a similar soil composition to what was being used previously. Normally this will be standard houseplant or cactus compost with grit or perlite added to aid in drainage.

If you divide the plant and remove a number of the offsets to reduce the overall size of the clump you can probably just reuse the existing pot / container. If not, just choose a pot slightly bigger than the last.

Propagation

When you repot your Haworthia you can separate the offsets from the parent. Use a sharp knife and cut as close to the parent plant as possible, ensure the offset has some roots. Sometimes a knife isn't even needed as the offset will be loose like a wobbly tooth and just come away naturally with a small tug. Just don't be too aggressive!

Wait a day for the offset to dry slightly this reduces the chances of the raw "wound" from rotting when added to compost. Then pot up in a small container using a standard potting or cactus compost mix. Water and keep warm.

In my experience, I've had much better success by doing this at the end of Spring or during Summer when it's both warmer and lighter.

Speed of Growth

Expect slow growth. Although some of the fleshy more leafy varieties such as H. margaritifera or the Pearl Plant grow quite a bit faster.

Flowers

Yes, this is a flowering houseplant. The flowers will normally appear in Summer months on the end of a long stem (inflorescence) if they've been treated well during the year. If you want to see what they look like, be sure to check out our readers' photos in the comments section further below.

Height / Spread

Haworthia is a small plant by design and anything from 4 cm (2 in) to 20 cm (8 in) in height is usual. The flower stem though can be quite substantial in length.

This is a pretty narrow and slender plant, but it spreads and multiplies easily through offsets so individually they aren't very wide, but if left alone they will form a clump within a few years. The photo below shows what, at first glance, looks like just one plant, but if you look at the base you can see it's actually two individual plants.

Zebra Cactus photo by Ruby showing how one Haworthia plant can easily become a clump

Are Haworthias Poisonous?

As well as all the other positive traits about the Haworthia, another bonus is that it's not poisonous to people, cats or dogs.

Anything else?

These plants are compact but when treated correctly they do produce offsets quite easily.

This means the plant will spread and grow into a clump, so one solo plant at the start will quickly become many which in turn will eventually fill a pot to add some impressive visual appeal. You can let the clump continue to grow and spread within the existing container, or separate them for even more plants.


How to Care for a Haworthia Summary

  1. Moderate Light Levels Avoid direct sunlight and very shady areas.

  2. Moderate Watering Once a week or so in Summer and once every two weeks in Winter.

  3. Temperature Normal indoor room temperatures. 10°C (50°F) to 29°C (85°F)

  4. Feeding Try to fertilise once every three months when it's growing.

  • Doesn't like to be overwatered
  • Won't tolerate cold temperatures
  • Keep out of direct sunlight

Haworthia Problems

Leaves going red

This also happens with the Christmas Cactus, and it occurs when the plant is being exposed to direct sunlight i.e. it's getting too much light. Find it a new home which is slightly darker, or provide shading. In a few weeks, the red should start to fade and look normal again.

Black spots / Areas

Usually caused by overwatering, or when water is allowed to pool in the crown or between the leaf voids. The plant is basically rotting. Increase the intervals between watering, and ensure it's not sitting in water for prolonged periods.

Plant collapse

Photo showing a dying Haworthia, the leaves are mushy and falling off the plantThis has likely been caused by a toxic combination of overwatering and exposure to cold temperatures.

Remember that Haworthias are warmth loving houseplants with only moderate watering requirements. It could be easier to think of them as Desert Cacti when it comes to their needs in these areas. Just minus the sunlight otherwise you're causing a different problem!

Wrinkling leaves

You will have to use your own judgment here. Wrinkling leaves on a Haworthia are normally caused by either no water for a prolonged period or too frequent watering. If you look back on how the plant has been watered over the last few months you should be able to judge which is the cause and adjust.

If you've got a brand new plant and it's already come like that, you could take the plant out of its pot and examine the soil and feel the moisture level.

Brown dead Haworthia leaf tips

This is one of our most popular questions. I would point out that in most instances some degree of leaf browning is normal. Your plant might have accidentally had its tips knocked at some point, or it's placed in an area with very dry air, such as near a heat source like a radiator.

You could try moving your Haworthia to a new home to prevent further browning, especially if it's quite disfiguring. But in all likelihood, the damage in most cases is confined to the very tips of the leaves and it could just be a case of not needing to do anything other than snipping the brown ends off.


Also on Ourhouseplants.com

Credit for the photo of the three Haworthia plants - Article / Gallery - Ylanite Koppens
Credit for the photo of the two plants in the white pot - Article / Gallery - Ruby
Credit for the photo of the Haworthia from above - Gallery - Andrea Rivera Arana
Credit for the Third picture in gallery - Jacopo Werther / Stephen Boisvert
Credit for the Sixth picture in gallery - Mattman723

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