Gasteria (2006)

PhotoBy Pam Schnebelen (April 2006)

Gasteria is a genus of plants from South Africa that is closely related to Haworthia and Aloe. The genus name comes from the Latin for “stomach,” referring to the shape of the flower. Many gasterias bloom in early spring, so we will be seeing some of these stomach-shaped flowers at the April meeting.

I have found gasterias to be one of the easiest groups of plants to grow well. They are not as sensitive to watering as haworthias, and they don’t need as much sunlight as aloes. Most gasterias perform best in light shade or filtered light. They can take a few hours of direct sunshine, though, and often pick up nice red or purple highlights when grown in brighter conditions. Gasterias makes good house plants, though they enjoy spending hot summers outdoors. Their brittle leaves crack and snap all too easily, so you rarely see the larger species on the show bench.

There are only 20 or so species of Gasteria. Size ranges from the tiny G. bicolor var. liliputanaa with 2-inch leaves to the giant G. excelsa with a 2-foot span. Adult plants are fairly easy to identify from photos. Young plants are more difficult, as their leaves can have different proportions, coloration and even shape from mature leaves.

Gasterias are prolific. Although some species offset more readily than others, we seldom reproduce them from seed. G. glomerata is a lovely minature plant that is highly prolific, as you could guess from its name. G. armstrongii produces pups infrequently and thus is much more expensive to acquire.

Leaf cuttings are another method of reproducing gasterias. Each cutting will produce several new plants. I will have several G. excelsa leaf props to give away at the April meeting.

For more information on gasterias, consider Gasterias of South Africa by Ernst Van Jaarsveld, ISBN 1874950016. HSCSS has a copy of this important reference book. For online help, try or

Spring is here again – time to renew. It’s time to look at your collection anew. Look back behind your exotic beauties to your beginning and you may find a mammillaria in bloom.