How to Grow and Care for Baby Toes Succulent (Fenestraria rhopalophylla)

Spread the love

Baby toes is a distinct succulent with a unique structure. The plant has erect, club-shaped leaves that have a translucent “window” in the tip. This succulent only reaches a height of around 4 inches but can spread to almost 20 inches when fully mature.

It forms a tight cushion of leaves and in late summer, showcases lovely daisy-like flowers in white, yellow, or orange. In its native habitat, only the very tips of the leaves appear above the soil and these are the plant’s prime source of photosynthesis.

This is the ideal low-maintenance houseplant for growing indoors on a bright window sill or in small pots on the patio where it gets plenty of light.

History

The botanical name, Fenestraria rhopalophylla, comes from two Latin and Greek words. “Fenestra” means “window” in Latin and rhopalophylla means “club-leaved” from the Greek word “rhopalon” which means “club”.

Plant Facts

Scientific nameFenestraria rhopalophylla
Common namesBaby Toes, Window Plant
GenusFenestraria
FamilyAizoaceae
Height4 inches
Width4 inches to 20 inches
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone10a to 11b
OriginSouth Africa, Namibia
Flower colorsWhite, yellow, orange
Blooming seasonLate summer and fall
Plant/Flower special featuresRegarded as a “windowed” plant because, in its natural habit, the plant grows underground and only the translucent leaf tips are exposed to the sunlight. These tips are regarded as “windows”.

How to Plant and Grow Baby Toes

Baby toes succulent are delightful little succulents that are relatively easy to grow. They require at least 6 hours of sunlight every day and minimal water. These plants make ideal indoor specimens especially if you have a bright windowsill to display them on.

The minimal amount of care that you give to your succulents will be richly rewarded when the plant produces gorgeous flowers in late summer.

How to Propagate Baby Toes

The best and quickest way to propagate new plants is to use side offsets that each plant produces. You can just sever the offsets from the mother plant using a sharp knife. Then, leave the ends to dry and callus for a couple of days. 

These new baby plants should then be planted in a succulent mix where they’ll produce roots readily.

You can also propagate baby toes succulents from seed but the seeds are extremely slow-growing and their germination rate can vary greatly. 

If you do want to try growing these cute little succulents from seed and you have a little patience, here’s what to do:

  • Choose a shallow container that has several drainage holes.
  • Make up a mix using equal parts potting mix, coconut coir, coarse builder’s sand, fine gravel and perlite. The mix needs to be extremely free-draining.
  • Scatter the seeds over the mix.
  • Cover with just a light dusting of sand.
  • Cover the pot with some clear plastic to form a cloche.
  • Place in an area that only receives low light and not direct sunlight.
  • Once the seedlings emerge, mist them lightly with water and remove the plastic for only half an hour a day to avoid the possibility of fungal growth.

Care and Maintenance

The most important thing to remember is not to overwater your plant. Let baby toes guide you on when it needs water and never let the roots become waterlogged.

Soil

It’s important to remember that this plant requires free-draining soil. Therefore, you should use succulent or cactus mix if you’re growing in a pot. Alternatively, you can make your own mix with equal parts of potting mix, perlite, coarse builder’s sand and pumice.

Water

For baby toes, you have to get the watering just right so that they can grow happily to full maturity. These plants are quite drought-tolerant, however, they do need to be watered during their main growth spurt in spring and summer. Just water when the top of the soil feels dry during this period.

Another indication of when to water is if you see the tips of leaves or the “window” looking a touch wrinkled or shrunken. Remember, it’s far better to under water your plant than overwater it.

If you notice the tips of the leaves splitting or cracking, then you’re overwatering. Let the plant dry out completely before you give it any more water.

Like many other succulents, baby toes plants become dormant during the winter months. During this time, you don’t need to provide the plant with any water.

Fertilizer

Fertilize with a special cactus or succulent feed in the early spring. Make sure that you dilute this fertilizer and only apply half strength. 

Sunlight

Baby toes succulent like to grow in full sunlight wherever possible. If growing indoors, place your pot on a sunny window sill. A south-facing window is best.

These plants need at least 6 hours of bright sunlight every day. However, it is important to protect your plant from the scorching afternoon sun. Otherwise, the leaves may get burned. 

Remember, if your plant doesn’t get enough sunlight, the leaves may become leggy or fall to one side. Therefore, if you have particularly deary winters, you might need to invest in a grow light to keep your plant happy.

Temperature and Humidity

Fenestraria rhopalophylla comes from dry desert regions. Therefore, these plants do prefer warmer temperatures above 65 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Celsius).

Pruning

Fenestraria rhopalophylla doesn’t need to be pruned. However, you can limit its spread by snipping off the side offsets and using these to propagate new plants.

Pest and diseases

Root rot can be a problem for plants that receive too much water. To avoid this, make sure you grow your plants in a free-draining mix and only water when the top of the soil feels dry. Also, avoid watering over winter.

If growing indoors, your plant may also be a target for common houseplant insects such as mealybugs, scale, and spider mites. These can easily be removed by spraying your plant with some diluted neem oil or insecticidal soap.

Uses of Baby Toes Plant

The most common use for Fenestraria rhopalophylla is as a houseplant to decorate a sunny windowsill. It’s a slow-growing plant, so you only need a small pot, around 4 inches in diameter.

Being such an interesting-looking plant, it also makes a great conversation piece to place in the middle of the table when you’re having guests over for dinner.

Common Varieties and Cultivars

There are no other recognized species in the genus Fenestraria. However, there are a couple of subspecies, although there’s not a lot of information on these.

Sub-species:

  • Fenestraria rhopalophylla subs. Aurantiaca
  • Fenestraria rhopalophylla subs. aurantiaca cv. Fireworth

Conclusion

Fenestraria rhopalophylla, commonly called Baby Toes, is a delightful low-growing succulent with an interesting leaf structure. The leaves are columnar and have small “windows” on the tips.

This succulent is very easy to grow as long as you understand the sun and water requirements and don’t overwater your plant or let the roots sit in water.