How to Grow and Care for Tiger Jaws Succulent

tiger jaws succulents

The Spruce / Kara Riley

Tiger jaws is a dependable perennial succulent with low rosettes of fleshy, triangular leaves edged with spiny "teeth," from which its common name derives. Fierce though it looks, the spikes are soft and flexible to the touch. In fall or winter, the plant may produce attractive yellow flowers with long, narrow petals. Native to South Africa, tiger jaws is winter hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11, but is normally grown as an indoor houseplant.

The plant is slow-growing, living for many decades with proper care. An established plant will produce many offsets, which you can plant during the tiger jaws' regular growing season in spring or summer.

closeup of tiger jaws succulents
The Spruce / Kara Riley
blooming tiger jaws succulent
Guenter Fischer 
Common Name Tiger jaws
Botanical Name Faucaria tigrina
Family Aizoaceae
Plant Type Perennial, succulent
Mature Size Up to 6 in. tall, 6 in. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Moist, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Fall, winter
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 9–11 (USDA)
Native Area South Africa

Tiger Jaws Care

Native to the Eastern Cape province in South Africa, tiger jaws succulents can be found growing amongst rocks and clay soil in the subtropical deserts of the area. Their growing season begins in the spring and lasts throughout the summer, and they display brilliant yellow flowers during the fall—although it is uncommon for them to flower when grown indoors.

Tiger jaws can be a garden plant in warmer zones, but it is most often grown as a potted plant in a coarse, well-draining potting mix. Give your tiger jaws succulent a bright, sunny spot in your home and it will thrive. It can also thrive happily on a patio or deck during the summer and will survive brief frosts, but it should be brought indoors when steady cold winter weather approaches. Tiger jaws mature at about 6 inches tall and wide.

Light

Tiger jaws succulents are sun-loving plants that prefer at least three hours of bright, direct light a day, and preferably six hours or more. Moving the plant outside during the summer will help it get the light that it requires. While it's uncommon for tiger jaws succulents to bloom when grown indoors, placing the plant outdoors during the summer will help to increase the chances of flowering. Tiger jaws succulents can tolerate less light during the winter months, but should still be placed in a bright location.

Soil

Like most succulents, tiger jaws succulents require porous, well-draining soil to thrive. In their natural habitat, tiger jaws can often be found growing in open, rocky areas with clay soil. Indoors, however, a standard cactus soil is usually sufficient. Some growers find even standard cactus mix to have too much moisture-retaining peat moss, and they tailor the potting mix by adding additional chicken grit or sand.

Or, you can make an ideal potting mix for tiger jaws by blending 2 parts of sterilized potting soil, 1 part fine pumice, and 1 part sand. 

Water

The spikey tiger jaw teeth direct rainwater and dew to the base of the plant, where the roots can absorb it. A tiger plant can be delicate when watering; it's not uncommon for a tiger jaws plant to die overnight if given too much water that doesn't drain out of its container. Only water a tiger plant when its potting mix is completely dry. As soon as the soil dries out completely and the plant appears to be shriveling, give it a thorough watering, then allow it to dry out thoroughly before the next watering.

Water tiger jaws succulents more frequently during their growing period (April to August). During the fall and winter, allow the soil to remain dry for extended periods, and when you water it, moisten the soil rather than drench it.

Temperature and Humidity

In their native South African habitat, tiger jaws succulents grow in dry, hot conditions. However, they are also able to tolerate lower temperatures than many other succulent species. The ideal temperature is considered to be about 68 degrees Fahrenheit, but they enjoy somewhat higher temperatures (up to 90 degrees) during the summer, and will even survive brief frosts. But cold winter months call for this plant to be brought in off the patio unless you live in zones 9 to 11.

When grown indoors, the average household humidity is adequate for tiger jaws succulents, but they should not be exposed to too much humidity (so the bathroom probably isn't an ideal spot for these succulents). Extreme humidity can introduce fungal disease.

Fertilizer

Tiger jaws succulents do not require regular fertilizing. In fact, too much fertilizer can result in unbalanced, mushy growth that causes the plant to look leggy or break apart. However, during their active growing period (April to August) tiger jaws succulents can be fertilized once or twice with a diluted liquid fertilizer to help support new growth.

Types of Tiger Jaws

Another species of Faucaria sometimes grown as a houseplant is F. felina. It may be also known as "tiger jaws," but this plant has shorter, less ferocious teeth than F. tigrina. Otherwise, the plants are identical. Some commercial growers consider F. tigrina to be simply a cultivar of F. felina, giving it the designation Faucaria felina 'Tiger Jaws'.

Pruning

No maintenance pruning is necessary with tiger jaws, but do pluck out any leaves that turn brown or turn mushy.

Propagating Tiger Jaws

Similar to aloe plants and haworthia succulents, tiger jaws succulents are usually propagated by separating offsets from the main plant. It is best to propagate tiger jaws during their active growing period, in the late spring or early summer. Here's how to do it:

  1. Using a small trowel or kitchen spoon, carefully pry away one or more of the tiny offsets that are sprouting up around the base of the mother plant.
  2. Set the offset aside and let them dry for one to two days until the broken surfaces harden over.
  3. Plant each offset in its own pot, filled with a commercial cactus/succulent potting mix.
  4. Place the planted offsets in an area with moderate light. Water infrequently until their root systems develop.
  5. Once the offset has rooted itself (two weeks or so) gradually introduce it to bright light and treat it as an established tiger jaws plant. But do not expose the plant to direct sunlight until new foliage is actively growing.

How to Grow Tiger Jaws From Seed

Faucaria plants are also relatively easy to propagate from seeds (provided your indoor plant flowers and produces them), But given the ease with which offsets can be separated and the slow growth rate of the seeds, seed propagation is not common.

You will need constant temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a well-draining cactus mix or sand as the seed-starter mix, and place the seedling flats under grow lights until they germinate and sprout. Plant the seeds so they are just barely covered with a sprinkling of potting mix. Germination takes 7 to 10 days. Once seedlings have several sets of leaves, they can be transplanted into individual pots and grown in a spot with bright light.

Potting and Repotting Tiger Jaws

Tiger jaws should be potted in shallow containers using an extra-coarse cactus/succulent potting mix. These succulents are slow growers, and therefore do not require frequent repotting. They should be repotted only when they have outgrown their previous container—approximately every two years or so. You should also ensure that the pot you are using has good drainage holes, as tiger jaws succulents will rot if left sitting in water.

Overwintering

Cut down on watering tiger jaws during the winter; a light watering once a month is plenty. Too much water during the winter often causes root rot.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Tiger jaws is generally quite trouble-free, but you may have occasional problems with mealybugs or scale, which present as waxy fibers or sticky honeydew on the leaves. An insecticide formulated for indoor use will handle these.

Overwatering can cause fungal infection (phytophthora) to cause the leaves to lose color and wilt. Remove affected leaves and stop watering until the plant regains health.

How to Get Tiger Jaws to Bloom

If it receives enough sunlight (at least three hours daily), these plants will often produce bright yellow flowers from September into early winter. Typically, the flowers open about noon and close up again as evening arrives. Failure to bloom is not uncommon for plants grown indoors year-round, as they are normally grown for their unique foliage. But houseplants plants can often be coaxed into bloom if they are moved outdoors for the summer and early fall before being moved back indoors for the winter. Plants grown indoors year-round will sometimes bloom if placed in the sunniest window available.

A single dose of fertilizer in late summer can sometimes prompt the plant to produce fall or winter flowers, provided it's also getting enough sunlight.

Common Problems With Tiger Jaws

Tiger jaws is generally a trouble-free houseplant; in fact, it thrives on relative neglect. But there are a couple of cultural problems to watch for:

Leaves Turn Pale in Color

This usually indicates that the plant is rebelling against too much water. There's still time to save the plant if you reduce your watering routine immediately. The potting mix should dry out completely before watering again.

Pale leaves can also be caused when the plant doesn't get enough light. Lengthier exposure to direct sunlight will cause the leaves to turn an attractive shade of pink to reddish-purple.

Leaves Turn Mushy

At this point, fungal root rot is beginning to set in. Removing the affected leaves and reducing watering may still save the plant, but if the rot continues to spread, the plant will need to be thrown away. There may be offsets you can save for replanting.

FAQ
  • Can I grow tiger jaws in the outdoor garden?

    Native to the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, in their native environment these plants are usually found growing in rocky crevices. If you can mimic these conditions and live in USDA zones 9 to 11, tiger jaws might make a good specimen for a succulent rock garden or planted in crevices in a stone wall. In ordinary garden soil, however, tiger jaws usually receives too much moisture for it to thrive.

  • How long does a tiger jaws plant live?

    If grown in a suitable potting mix and not overwatered, these plants can live for many decades—sometimes even passed down from generation to generation. As plants become overgrown in their pots, it's common to perpetuate the specimen by dividing out and replanting the offsets, while discarding the overgrown parent plant.