Succulents

Gasteria Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Ox Tongue” Succulents

Read our guide to Gasteria for everything you’ll ever need to know! Tips for planting & caring for “Ox Tongue” Succulents

Need another cute succulent to decorate your space? This is the perfect opportunity to add a Gasteria to your plant family! Keep reading to find out more about this peculiar-looking, but incredibly friendly companion!

Gasteria a.k.a. Ox Tongue or Cow’s Tongue is a genus that contains dozens of eye-catching succulent species. Native to South Africa, the plants from the Gasteria genus need very little attention and deserve lots of love. These low-demanding succulents are drought-tolerant and grow nicely in a wide range of lighting conditions, temperatures, and soils. More than ideal!

Gasteria plants come along in many species and varieties, giving us many different options and rewarding us with their attractive succulent leaves and colorful flowers.

The most popular Gasteria cultivars are G. armstrongii, G. batesiana, G. bicolor, G. brachyphylla, G. excelsa, G. glomerata, G. maculata, G. pillansii, G. rawlinsonii, G. verrucosa, and G. vlokii, but we are also big fans of Gasteria ‘Little Warty’ and Gasteria Nitida.

About Gasteria

  • Their genus name “Gasteria” comes from the word “gaster” which means “stomach” in Latin. This name refers to their tiny, gorgeous, stomach-shaped flowers.
  • Most gardeners prefer to grow their Gasteria plants in unglazed terra cotta pots to allow the extra moisture to evaporate through their walls. Since these succulents grow shallow roots, their pots should be on the wide and shallow part.
  • Some Gasteria species, such as G. batesiana and G. croucheri, are popular plants among traditional healers. They use their leaves for their blood-purifying, purgative, tonic, and emetic properties. The leaves are considered by some an effective treatment against skin problems, hysteria, rheumatism, and paralysis.
  • The people of KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, and Swaziland believe that Gasteria croucheri plants have the magical power to transfer their camouflage properties. They call this species “The Invisible-maker”.
  • The Zulu folks use these succulents as charms to bring good fortune. Likewise, they plant them on rooftops to protect them from lightning or evil spirits.
  • Gasteria plants make wonderful additions to various landscape decorations. You can add them to rock gardens, desert gardens, succulent gardens, and you can also grow them in containers.
  • Gasteria plants make for nice-looking companions to many lovely species of plants including Aloe, Astroloba, Crassula, Echeveria, Haworthia, Kalanchoe, Kniphofia, Sedum, and other small species of succulents with similar growing requirements.
  • No part of Gasteria succulents is toxic to humans or pets if ingested or touched. You can grow these plants safely around your kids and furry buddies.
Gasteria
Gasteria

Gasteria Features: An Overview

  • These plants belong to the Asphodelaceae family that consists of about 40 genera of flowering plants. They share this family with some other interesting genera like Aloe, Haworthia, Kniphofia, Asphodelus, Hemerocallis, Eccremis, Stypandra, and Thelionema.
  • Gasteria species are small to medium-sized perennial succulents that can reach between 4 and 24 inches (10-61 cm) in height. They grow at a pretty slow pace and most varieties have an overall compact appearance.
  • The small size of most Gasteria cultivars makes them perfect desk companions.
  • A unique feature of Gasteria plants is their hard, thick, succulent, tongue-shaped leaves. They are usually green and come with many distinctive white spots and stripes, forming hypnotic patterns. Some cultivars can also exhibit succulent leaves in shades of brown, purple, or red.
  • Although it is a quite rare event on some varieties, Gasteria succulents bloom from winter to spring once they reach maturity. During this period, they can surprise you with tubular, curved, stomach-shaped blossoms.
  • Their flowers appear on long, thick, brownish stems and measure from 0.5-1.8 inches (12-45 mm) in length. They hang from inclined raceme inflorescences and come in a beautiful ombre mix of pink, yellow, and green.

Growing Gasteria

The best thing about Gasteria plants is that you can give them the time of their life with little to no effort. All you have to do is find the perfect location that will help you grow and care for them properly. In general, these succulents thrive in environmental conditions that mimic those from their natural habitat. So, let’s get more familiar with their very basic demands!

When it comes to lighting preferences, Gasteria plants are usually pretty balanced. These beauties will grow at their best in lots of bright and indirect light. However, they can also tolerate some partial to full shade once in a while. Make sure you protect them from harsh afternoon sunlight, especially during the hot summer months. If the leaves of your succulents turn yellow or white, this may be an indicator that they receive too much sunlight.

Gasteria succulents are hardy only in the USDA zones 9 to 11. They enjoy warm summer days, but will also withstand slightly cooler winters with temperatures that drop to 50 °F (10 °C). Keep in mind that frost is not the best friend of your beloved Gasterias. In case you live in a region with more frosty winters, it is wise to grow your plants in pots and bring them inside once the weather gets cold.

Like most species of succulents, Gasteria plants do not appreciate very humid environments. Due to this particular sensitivity, these succulents are susceptible to some fungal infections. When a disease bothers your Gasteria plants, it typically shows its presence through black spots on their leaves.

Luckily, these fungal intruders do not spread too quickly, so you can take action against them in time. If you notice any black spots on your succulents, you can get rid of the problem by keeping them dry, providing good air circulation, and using a fungicidal soap.

Gasteria Plant, From Amazon

Planting Gasteria

As a general rule, Gasteria succulents show the best results in well-draining substrates that come with a soil pH of 6 to 7. If you want to grow your plants outdoors in the garden, plant them in sandy soils to provide them with the needed drainage. For potted specimens, look for a commercial potting mix designed for succulents and cacti. In case you cannot find this particular type of soil, you can plant them in any other fast-draining potting soil combined with some sand.

Gasteria plants are big lovers of organic matter and require more in their soil than most succulent species. At the time of planting, we recommend you spoil them a bit by mixing a bit of compost in their soil. In terms of feeding, it is enough to provide your succulents with a cactus fertilizer once every year in spring.

If you want to enjoy the beauty of these plants in pots, do not forget to plant them only in containers that have drainage holes at the bottom. Gasteria succulents usually grow at a slow pace, so you don’t have to worry about repotting them very often. Still, mature plants tend to produce small offsets around them and can overcrowd the container with time.

When this happens, you can transplant the clusters into a pot that is one size larger than the current one. Likewise, you can propagate your Gasteria succulents by removing the babies from the mother plant, then replant them in their own pots.

Watering Gasteria

If you are the happy owner of some succulents, you already know how much water these adorable companions need to thrive. If not, we are more than pleased to tell you that succulents can grow healthy and happy with little water in general. And Gasteria plants are no different!

These succulents can do well as long as you give them some water once in a while, making them fairly tolerant of drought for long periods. When spoiling your Gasteria plants with water, make sure it does not touch their delicate leaves. Moreover, you should provide them with some kind of shelter from sprinkler systems or rainfalls.

In general, the most common problem that can occur while having Gasteria plants around is over-watering. Remember that it is always better to let your plants sit on the drier side than waterlogging them. If you want to keep your succulents out of trouble, you must allow their soil to dry out completely in-between waterings.

Gasteria
Gasteria

Propagating Gasteria

As mentioned above, offsets are usually a nice way to propagate your Gasteria plants. This method requires no prior experience in the gardening world, showing rewarding and immediate results even for beginner growers. And if you have too many Gasteria offsets around your plants, no worries! Without a doubt, your plant-loving family members or friends would appreciate a tiny, lovely Gasteria in their collection.

To remove the offsets from the parent plants properly, you should use a sharp, clean knife or pair of scissors. Make sure you cut the Gasteria offsets as close to the plant’s stem as you can. Moreover, the more roots the offsets have attached to them, the best growth they will show with time. Once you have the offsets, you must allow them to dry for a few hours before planting them.

While you are waiting, you can prepare the growing medium. Fill small pots with fresh potting soil. If the mother plant is happy, you can use the same type of soil for the offsets. When the time has come, plant each offset in its container carefully. Place the pots in a warm, well-lit location and water the offsets regularly to maintain their soil damp, but not soggy.

With proper environmental conditions and care, your Gasteria offsets will develop roots in a few months or so. When their roots become strong, you can transplant them in the garden or simply let them be in their current pots.

In Conclusion

Believe us, you will spend more time and effort deciding which Gasteria species will be your next lifetime companions than taking care of them! And even when the effort you put in while growing and caring for them is bigger, they will reward you with their unique-looking succulent leaves. So it’s safe to say that Gasteria succulents deserve all the attention and love you can give them.

If you already own a Gasteria, share your experience with us in the comment section!

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

2 Comments

  1. Karpagam.R Reply

    Hi, is it possible to germinate gasteria from the seeds? And can use vermiculite for cactus and succulent seed germination?

    • Hi! Yes, of course. You can grow Gasteria plants from seeds, but you’re going to need a lot of patience. That shouldn’t discourage you though. Growing plants from seeds is one of the most rewarding experiences of the gardening world.

      When it comes to growing succulents from seed, you can use any type of soil that’s well-draining and you can use some vermiculite, but make sure your soil mix is aerated and that it’s also rich in sand, gravel, pebbles, pumice, etc. Good luck!

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