Cacti and succulents are having a moment in garden centers, home improvement stores, and even craft and hobby shelves. The ghost plant is that plant you see everywhere, but didn't know what it was called. With its pinkish-grey succulent leaves and trailing rosette form, ghost plants add a modern touch to container plantings and rock gardens. The ghost plant is a frequent subject of faux plant arrangements, but there's no reason to buy expensive fake plants when the live specimen is so easy to grow and propagate.
- Botanical Name: Graptopetalum paraguayense
- Common Name: Ghost Plant, mother-of-pearl plant
- Plant Type: Perennial succulent
- Mature Size: Six to 12 inches tall; 20 inches wide
- Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun
- Soil Type: Sandy or a light potting mix
- Soil pH: 6.1-7.8
- Bloom Time: Spring
- Flower Color: Yellow
- Hardiness Zones: USDA zones 7-11
- Native Area: Mexico
How to Grow Ghost Plant
Like most succulents, the ghost plant is a low maintenance specimen when you meet its basic growing requirements. Sharp drainage, abundant sunlight, and scant irrigation are the keys to a healthy ghost plant that will soon be producing new offshoots for you to propagate.
Ghost plants will be at their most handsome or full sun or bright dappled shade. Plants that don't receive enough light will be leggy, and may experience leaf drop. When growing as a houseplant, keep the ghost plant in a south or east-facing window.
The amount of light a ghost plant receives can affect its coloration, which can cause plants of the same species to look like different varieties. A shadier locale will result in the characteristic bluish-gray foliage, while a full day of sun causes shades of blush to appear on leaves.
Like the majority of succulents, the ghost plant needs good drainage to maintain a healthy root system. The more rainfall your area receives, the more drainage you must provide for ghost plants. If your garden has clay soil, use raised beds at least six inches tall and a planting mix with half grit, gravel, or sand, and half organic material like peat, coco coir, or commercial potting soil.
In the absence of natural rain, ghost plants only need occasional irrigation. Plants growing outdoors in full sun and summer temperatures will appreciate a weekly drink, while houseplants may only need watering every other week. Water indoor ghost plants at soil level to prevent water from stagnating in the rosettes.
Temperature and Humidity
Ghost plants thrive in hot weather, but excess humidity is a problem in areas with poorly draining soil. Planting your ghost plants in containers or raised beds, as well as spacing them away from each other and away from other plants to increase air circulation will keep plants healthy.
All plants need nutrients to grow, but succulents can grow in low-nutrient soil, and excess fertilizing will burn the leaves. Using a soil-enriching approach like manure tea or a side-dressing of compost is enough to keep your ghost plants vigorous.
Potting and Repotting
Ghost plants have a shallow root system and don't need frequent repotting. When your specimen has outgrown its container, be sure to handle the plant carefully and minimally to avoid damaging the powdery pruinose coating on the leaves, which is delicate. Grasp plants at the base of the crown rather than by the leaves, and repot in a light potting mix or cactus mix.
Propagating new ghost plants is easy, whether you start with one leaf or replant one of the many pups a healthy clump will produce. A healthy leaf that falls from a ghost plant may even root where it lays, if conditions are right.
Toxicity of Ghost Plant
According to the ASPCA, ghost plants are non-toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.
When ghost plants produce new rosette pups, they do so on thick stems that can grow leggy over time. Depending on the look you're aiming for, these leggy offshoots can add to the charm of the plant, or begin to look scraggly. You can prune away the offshoots as they grow too long and replant the pups, share them with friends, or add them to the compost pile.
Being Grown in Containers
Growing ghost plants in containers is a great way to bring the attributes of this succulent up to eye level. Choose a gritty or lightweight potting soil mix, and keep the ghost plant at the container's edge where it won't get lost behind taller specimens. The pale grey leaves of ghost plants contrast pleasingly with purple-leafed plants that have similar growing requirements, like sedum 'Firecracker.'
Growing From Seeds
Although it's fastest to propagate ghost plants from cuttings, you can also start numerous plants from seed to fill a large area of the garden. Collect the tiny seeds from seedpods that form after flowers wither, or purchase seed. Sow the seed on sterile potting mix. Water with a plant mister to avoid displacing the seeds. Keep the seed tray in bright light at 70 degrees F, and germination will take place in about three weeks.
As your ghost plant grows, remove dead leaves at the base of the plant. Decomposing leaves provide a habitat for pests like the mealybug. If your ghost plant has mealybugs, you can spot treat with a dab of isopropyl alcohol, or smother them with horticultural oil.
Ghost Plant vs Peacock Echeveria
Succulents plants in the Crassulaceae or stonecrop family share several features, including fleshy leaves and a low-growing habit. Ghost plant and peacock echeveria look very similar in part because they both share the powdery pruinose coating that helps them retain moisture. In spite of their similar appearance, if you plan to grow your succulent outdoors, it's important to know the hardiness of your plants. Ghost plants are hardy down to zone 7, but the peacock echeveria is much more tender as a zone 9-11 plant.