How to Grow Tiger Jaws Indoors

tiger jaws succulents

The Spruce / Kara Riley

Tiger jaws is a dependable, slow-growing succulent plant with low rosettes of fleshy, triangular leaves edged with spiny "teeth." The teeth are evolutionary adaptations designed to help the plant direct rainwater and dew down the base of the plant, where it can be absorbed by the roots. "Tiger jaws" and an alternate common name, "shark jaws," derive from the fierce look these soft spikes give the plant. In reality, the spikes are quite soft and flexible to the touch.

Tiger jaws is a unique, low-maintenance plant that is revered among amateurs and serious houseplant collectors alike. If you have experience growing other succulents like aloe or haworthia, you will have no problem growing tiger jaws. Generally speaking, the same best practices in terms of light, water, and propagation apply.

Like many succulents, tiger jaws is a slow-growing plant and is usually purchases as a potted nursery specimen that is already well developed. Unlike some other members of the Faucaria genus, tiger jaws is very resilient and not susceptible to the stem rot problems found with other species in the genus. An established plant can be expected to live for decades with the right care, producing many offsets along the way.

closeup of tiger jaws succulents
The Spruce / Kara Riley
blooming tiger jaws succulent
Guenter Fischer 
Botanical Name Faucaria tigrina
Common Name Tiger Jaws, shark jaws
Plant Type Perennial succulent
Mature Size Up to 6 inches tall, 6 inches wide
Sun Exposure Full sun; tolerates some shade
Soil Type Well draining cactus/succulent mix
Soil pH 6.6 to 7.5 (slightly acidic to slightly alkaline)
Bloom Time Fall, early winter
Flower Color Yellow
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. It can 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 succulents are not prone to any specific pests or diseases, however, they can easily develop root rot if they are overwatered or exposed to too much humidity. Key signs of root rot include brown spots on the leaves and near the base of the plant, as well as mushy leaves or stems. Give your tiger jaws succulent a bright, sunny spot in your home and they will thrive. The will periodically need to be repotted, at which time the offset plants that form around the base can be removed or potted on their own as new plants.

Light

Tiger jaws succulents are sun-loving plants that require 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, 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

During their growing period (April to August), tiger jaws succulents should be watered more frequently. As soon as the soil dries out completely, give it a thorough "soak-and-dry" watering, allowing it to dry out again fully before the next watering. During the fall and winter, allow the soil to remain dry for longer periods of time, and when you do water, simply moisten the soil rather than drenching 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).

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.

Related Species

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'.

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.

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.

When separating offsets, you may be left with some plants that do not have any of their own roots attached. These offsets should not be placed in the soil right away, but instead should be left to callous over before being repotted. Once the base of the offset has hardened, it can be placed into the soil as a regular plant. Use the same type of soil as the mother plant enjoys—extra-coarse cactus/succulent mix.

Newly propagated tiger jaws succulents should be placed in medium light and watered less frequently as their root systems develop. After a couple of weeks, they may be gradually introduced to bright, direct light and treated as a regular tiger jaws plant.

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.