Gasteria (Gasteria spp.) is a genus of relatively rare, aloe-like succulents. It sometimes goes by the common name of "ox tongue" because it typically has long leaves with a rough texture. Depending on the species, gasteria leaves also are often marked with interesting patterns and colors. Moreover, mature gasteria plants typically produce tubular, curved flowers in the winter to spring.
The genus is native to South Africa, where it grows in lightly shaded conditions. As a result, the plant tolerates lower light conditions than many other succulents do, making it a good option for a houseplant. Planting is best done in the spring, though you generally can start them as houseplants at any point. Gasteria is a slow-growing plant, and most varieties remain compact.
|Common Name||Gasteria, ox tongue, cow's tongue|
|Botanical Name||Gasteria spp.|
|Plant Type||Perennial, succulent|
|Mature Size||4-24 in. tall, 12 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Sandy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Bloom Time||Winter, spring|
|Flower Color||Red, pink|
|Hardiness Zones||9-11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||South Africa|
If, like most gardeners, you're growing your gasteria indoors, choose a spot that gets a lot of light but not direct sunlight. And if you live in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11 and wish to plant your gasteria in the garden, select a site that has dappled sunlight, such as beneath a large tree. Moreover, indoor potted gasteria plants can be brought outdoors and placed in a lightly shaded area for the summer.
Be aware that the plants don't react well to water falling directly on the leaves, so provide them with some shelter from rainfall and sprinkler systems if possible. Otherwise, the leaves might start to rot. Likewise, excellent drainage both from the soil and the planting container is key to growing healthy gasteria plants.
These plants appreciate bright light but not harsh sun. Protect them from hot afternoon sunlight. White or yellow leaves can signify that the plant is getting too much sun.
For container plantings, use a cactus potting mix or another fast-draining potting soil mixed with a few handfuls of sand.
For garden plantings, somewhat sandy soils with a pH around 6 to 7 are best to provide sufficient drainage.
Like other succulents, these plants don't need much water. Allow the soil to almost completely dry out between waterings. If the plant gets rainfall outdoors, usually no supplemental watering will be necessary.
Temperature and Humidity
Gasteria generally likes warm summers and slightly cool winters (down to 50 degrees Fahrenheit). Frost can be deadly to the plants. During warm weather, gasteria leaves might turn a lighter, brighter color, which is perfectly natural.
Like most succulents, gasteria plants don't enjoy very humid environments. So if you live in a humid climate be sure only to water your plant when the soil is dry to prevent rot, as the humidity will provide much of the plant's required moisture.
Fertilize once every spring with a cactus fertilizer. For the amount, follow the label instructions. Gasteria plants like a bit more organic matter in their soil than most succulents do, so mixing in about 10 percent of compost at the time of planting can be a good idea.
Gasteria Species and Cultivars
There are more than 20 gasteria species, including:
- G. carinata var. verrucosa with distinctive thick and oblong leaves covered with white warts
- G. maculata with features similar to G. carinata var. verrucosa but without the warty protrusions
- G. batesiana 'Little Warty', a small cultivar that only reaches 4 inches in height, with rough. pointed, mottled leaves
- G. glomerata, a compact size that remains only 4 inches tall
Gasteria is easily propagated using offsets, the same way you plant succulent cuttings.
- When taking offsets, use a clean, sharp knife or scissors. Cut as close to the parent plant's stem as you can, including as many roots attached to the offset as possible.
- Allow the offset to dry and callous over for at least a few hours before repotting it.
- Plant the offset in a small pot, using the same soil type that the parent plant has. Put the pot in a warm, bright spot, and keep the soil evenly moist (but not soggy) until you see growth in a few weeks.
Potting and Repotting Gasteria
When potting gasteria, choose a container with ample drainage holes. Many gardeners prefer unglazed terra cotta pots, which allow soil moisture to evaporate through their walls. This helps to prevent rot issues from overwatering. Also, opt for a shallow and wide container over a deep and narrow one, as these plants grow shallow roots.
Furthermore, because gasteria plants grow slowly and remain small even when they're mature, you likely won't have to repot often. But over time, mature plants will send up baby offset plants, which can eventually overcrowd the container. You can either repot the whole cluster of plants into a larger container or remove the offsets from the parent plant and place them in separate containers.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
Gasteria plants are susceptible to fungal infections, which usually appear as black spots on the leaves. This is typically the result of too much humidity or water on the leaves. Fortunately, these fungal infections usually don't spread quickly, and can be contained by keeping the plant drier, with more air moving by, and using a fungicidal soap.
Is gasteria the same as haworthia?
The are both native to South Africa and both look like miniature aloe but they are different species in the same plant family.
Does gasteria flower?
There are differences in flower color and shape between the species but most flower in the late winter to early spring on long stems.
Do gasteria like to be root-bound?
No plant likes to be root-bound. Since gasteria grows relatively slowly, it is not likely going to be root-bound but when it does reach that point, it's time to repot it in a larger pot.