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 a warm-weather succulent hardy to zone 9, 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.
|Common Name||Tiger jaws|
|Botanical Name||Faucaria tigrina|
|Plant Type||Perennial, succulent|
|Mature Size||Up to 6 in. tall, 6 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Moist, well-drained|
|Bloom Time||Fall, winter|
|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. The flower opens during the day in the fall, then closes in the evening.
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.
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 to a sunny space 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.
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.
The spikey tiger jaw teeth direct rainwater and dew to the base of the plant, where the roots can absorb it. A tiger jaws 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.
Keep soil moist but well-drained during growing season (late spring through fall). Make sure the pot has drainage holes and the plant doesn't stand in water.
During the fall and winter, allow the soil to dry out completely before watering, then drench the soil, making sure it drains completely.
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). Preferable household humidity is around 30-40%. Extreme humidity can introduce fungal disease.
During their active growing period (spring through fall) tiger jaws succulents can be fertilized once or twice with a 2-7-7 liquid fertilizer diluted to 50% to help support new growth. It should not be fertilized in winter.
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'.
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:
- Using a sharp knife, carefully pry away one or more of the tiny offsets that are sprouting up around the base of the mother plant.
- Set the offset aside and let them dry for one to two days until the broken surfaces scab over.
- Plant each offset in a lightly moist, sandy potting mix in a pot with drainage holes.
- Place the offsets in an area with warm, bright light but out of direct sun for the first month. Water infrequently until their root systems develop.
- 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. The best time to start is in the fall. 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.
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 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.
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.