How to Grow and Care for Ghost Plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense)

Spread the love

This lovely small succulent forms pretty rosettes with pointed leaves. The leaves are a whitish-gray color but the color will change when exposed to either shade or sunlight.

When grown in a shaded position, the leaves turn a lovely blue-gray color but when grown in full sun, they change to pinkish-yellow.

As the plant matures, new rosettes will grow on stems that originate from the main plant. Quite often, these stems will get a little length and trail over the edge of the pot. This allows the plant to spread and form a larger clump.

This is a slow grower so it’s ideal for growing in a pot because it won’t need repotting too often. It produces lovely small, yellow or white star-shaped flowers in spring when grown outdoors but will bloom at random times when indoors.

History

Ghost plants have been grown for centuries as ornamental succulents and also for use in natural medicines. They have been growing in the wilds of Northern Mexico since ancient times.

In the twentieth century, these plants were brought into Japan where they were selectively bred as an edible species.

In modern times, one farm in Kashiwa City in Japan primarily grows these succulents for edible production. The leaves of these plants are known as Gurapara Leaf and Ha-Ringo.

Plant Facts

Scientific nameGraptopetalum paraguayense
Common namesGhost plant, mother-of-pearl plant, leatherpetal
GenusGraptopetalum
FamilyCrassulaceae
HeightUp to 12 inches
WidthUp to 3 feet
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone9 to 11
OriginNorth and Central America
Flower colorsYellow or white with red centers
Blooming seasonSpring
Plant/Flower special featuresThe leaves are edible

How to Plant and Grow Ghost Plants

Ghost plants are easy to grow either indoors or out in the garden if you live in USDA zones 9 to 11. They require very little care and actually thrive on neglect.

graptopetalum paraguayense

How to Propagate Ghost Plant Succulent

Ghost plants will easily produce offsets at the end of the stems that grow from the main rosette. These offsets are ideal to use to propagate new plants. Here’s how to use these offsets to propagate new plants:

  • Once the new offset is around one-quarter the size of the mother plant, cut it off with around one and a half inches of stem attached.
  • Leave these offsets in a dry spot for around 2 to 3 days and wait for a callus to form on the cut part of the stem.
  • Fill some small pots with proper cactus or succulent mix or potting mix that you’ve amended with sand.
  • Plant the offsets into the pots, stem side down. Poke a hole in the mix with a pencil and then insert the stem. This ensures that the stem doesn’t get broken while it’s pushed into the mix. Make sure you firm the soil around the stem so that it stands upright.
  • Place the plants in a bright spot that receives filtered sunlight, but do not water yet.
  • After five days, water the plants at the soil level.
  • Keep the plants in the same spot and water every 4 to 5 days until you know that they have produced a good root system.
  • After this, you can reduce the watering to once every 2 weeks.

This is the fastest way to propagate new ghost plants. However, you can also grow these succulents from seeds but it just might take a little longer.

All you have to do is either collect the seeds from your plant after it’s flowered or buy some seeds from a reputable supplier. Then, follow these steps:

  • Fill a seedling tray with a seed-raising mix that has been sterilized.
  • Sow the tiny seeds over the mix.
  • Mist lightly, making sure not to displace the tiny seeds.
  • Place the seedling tray in a bright spot with a temperature of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) and keep the soil slightly moist.
  • You should start to see some evidence of germination within about 3 weeks.

Care and Maintenance

As long as you grow your ghost plant succulent in free-draining soil and you don’t overwater it, it will happily grow for many years without too much care.

Soil

As is the case with most succulents, the ghost plant requires a well-drained soil mix. When growing in a pot, use a proprietary succulent mix that has plenty of grit added to aid in drainage. 

If you want to use a normal potting mix, add some sand to the mix first, in a ratio of 1:1. That means 50 percent potting mix and 50 percent sand.

If you plan to grow this plant outdoors in a rock or succulent garden, unless you have sandy soil, make sure it’s planted in a raised bed. This will ensure that the plant gets enough drainage and the roots will not be allowed to sit in water.

Water

You should only water your potted ghost plant when the soil has dried out completely. For plants grown indoors, this may only need to be every second week during the growing season.

For ghost plants grown outdoors, you may need to water them once a week during hot and dry conditions. Remember that most succulents are dormant over winter and this plant is no exception. During this time, your ghost plant will require minimal watering, say once a month for indoor grown plants.

When giving your plant a drink, make sure that you only water at the soil level and ensure that no water is allowed to sit within the rosettes as this will encourage rot.

Fertilizer

Ghost plants will benefit from a very light application of fertilizer during their main growing season in spring and fall. You can use a proprietary cactus fertilizer but make sure that you dilute it well so as not to burn the plant.

Alternatively, you can apply some diluted manure tea or even worm tea while the plant is actively growing. You only need to do this once in spring and once in the fall.

Sunlight

This succulent does prefer to be grown in full sun so it should be placed on a sunny windowsill in a south or east-facing window when grown indoors. If the plant doesn’t receive enough sunlight, it might become a little leggy and may drop its leaves.

Remember that the amount of sunlight that the plant gets will affect the color of the leaves. When grown in low sun conditions, the leaves will take on a blue-gray color. However, if the plant is exposed to bright sunlight, the leaves will take on a hint of pinkish-yellow.

Temperature and Humidity

This succulent is quite hardy when grown outdoors in USDA zones 9 to 11. However, it can tolerate temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 12 degrees Celsius) as long as it is given protection from frost and snow. This means that even gardeners in USDA zones 7 to 8 can grow this succulent outdoors as long as it is given some cover during cold spells.

Ghost plants can also cope relatively well with hot conditions but will generally achieve maximum growth during spring and fall. 

It’s also not advised to expose this plant to too much humidity. It much prefers dry conditions. Excessive humidity can increase the possibility of fungal diseases such as root rot.

Pruning

These succulents don’t require regular pruning. However, if the plant is growing in a shady spot, it may become leggy. If this happens, it’s perfectly fine to give it a light trim. But, don’t throw those prunings away because you can easily use them to propagate new plants.

Pest and diseases

Like most succulents, ghost plants are not prone to many pests or diseases. However, they can attract common household pests such as mealybugs when grown indoors.

To avoid this, remove any dead leaves from around the base of the plant as soon as you spot them. If your plant does get infected with common pests like mealybugs, you can easily kill these by applying some isopropyl alcohol to the bugs with a cotton swab. 

As long as you don’t overwater your plant, you shouldn’t have a problem with root rot which can spell the death of your plant. To avoid this, make sure you only water your plant when the soil has dried out. Usually, once every two weeks is sufficient. 

If leaves start to drop off your plant, it’s a sign that you might be overwatering. Reducing the water frequency will often remedy this.

Uses of Graptopetalum paraguayense

Ghost plants are mainly grown as ornamentals both in the garden and indoors. However, in Japan, they are cultivated commercially because the leaves are edible. They have both a sweet and sour flavor and can be washed and tossed into salads to add a crunchy texture. 

The leaves can also be cooked and added to soups and curries.

Common Varieties and Cultivars

Although the ghost plant only has two natural varieties, there are numerous cultivars that have been produced by commercial growers. Here are just a few ghost plant varieties and cultivars.

  • Graptopetalum paraguayense ‘Variegatum’ (a variegated form)
  • Graptopetalum paraguayense subsp. bernalense
  • Graptopetalum ‘Victor Kane’
  • Graptopetalum ‘Purple Haze’
  • Graptopetalum x Graptoveria ‘Harry Watson’
  • Graptopetalum x Graptoveria ‘Acaulis’
  • Graptopetalum x Graptosedum ‘Francesco Baldi’
  • Graptopetalum x Graptoveria ‘Titubans’
  • Graptopetalum x Graptoveria ‘Douglas Huth’
  • Graptopetalum x Graptosedum ‘California Sunset’
  • Graptopetalum x Graptoveria ‘Fred Ives’
  • Graptopetalum x Graptosedum ‘Bronze’

Conclusion

Ghost plants are attractive little succulents that will grow happily in a pot on a sunny windowsill indoors. They require minimal maintenance and only need to be watered once every two weeks. Don’t forget to check our general succulent care guide to learn more about growing these plants.