How to Grow and Care for Haworthia Succulents

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If you’re a newbie to the world of succulents, you should definitely build your first collection with a few Haworthia species. They make great houseplants and are staple options in plant nurseries all over the world. Moreover, they are fairly easy to maintain and don’t require constant attention. 

Many gardeners appreciate Haworthia cultivars for their attractive and highly varied leaf features. While some have tapered striped leaves, others are incredibly delicate and are practically see-through. The translucent foliage can appear to be wholly inflated with water and ready to burst. They can arise in a rosette orientation or a row of columnar leaves. 

Haworthia succulents can be grown either indoors or outdoors, as long as they receive ventilation and ample sunlight. At maturity, they may produce lengthy flower stalks, sometimes 10x the length of the plant, with simple white-colored blooms. These hardly take attention away from the leaves, which are the true stars of the show. 

History

Many Haworthia succulents were once grouped under Aloe due to their similar features. Now, this group of drought-loving plants is widely popular on its own and is recognized as a totally separate genus. It was named after Adrian Hardy Haworth, a botanist who was a member of the Horticultural and Linnaean Societies of London in the 1800s. 

Native to South Africa and occurring mostly in the Cape Province, Haworthia species tend to have very localized distributions. Their classification has proven to be quite challenging to many taxonomists. Today, there are about 150 accepted species, with many remaining unresolved. Even a single species can have variations with considerable differences in their genetic code. 

Haworthia succulents are quite small compared to other drought-loving plants. They occur in tight clumps, appear to have no stem, and are incredibly slow-growing. It can be challenging to patiently wait for them to reach mature size. They often look like miniature plants because they grow to an average of just 3-5 inches in height. 

Plant Facts

Scientific NameHaworthia [species epithet]
Common NamesHaworthia, zebra cactus, cushion aloe, pearl plant
GenusHaworthia
FamilyAsphodelaceae
HeightUp to 3-5 inches on average (some exceptional species can grow to 20 inches in height)
WidthAbout 3 inches
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone9-11
OriginSouth Africa
Flower ColorsWhite
Blooming SeasonSummer
Plant/Flower Special FeaturesTranslucent foliage

How to Plant and Grow Haworthia

Haworthia succulents are remarkably easy to plant. As they require small pots, they won’t take up much space or resources. The best pots are porous ones, such as terra cotta clay pots, with holes for water to stream out of the bottom. Plastic or ceramic containers can be used as well, but these will have to be situated in consistently well-ventilated areas. 

The best time to plant Haworthia is from fall to spring, as they are winter growers that become dormant in summer. If grown in controlled conditions, they are less likely to enter dormancy and should keep growing throughout the year. 

Haworthia can be grown from seed or propagated via division. Cultivation from seed is best left to the more experienced gardeners as germination times can be lengthy and most seeds may remain inactive. If growing this succulent from seed, temperatures have to be stable for at least a few weeks to months. 

haworthia pygmaea

How to Propagate Haworthia 

Propagation via division or with the use of offsets is far easier means of expanding your Haworthia populations. Be prepared to wait for months to years, however. Only mature plants are able to generate stable offsets and they certainly take their time doing so! The good news is once they start, they keep producing new ones.

A single Haworthia tends to produce more offsets once older ones are regularly removed. They are best separated from the mother plant by uprooting the entire plant first. This will ensure that the main root structures are kept largely intact and that the young root systems of each offset are separated properly. In some cases, the shoots can also produce offset stalks (similar to flower stalks) with a baby plant growing at the end. 

Plant the offsets in their own pots, making sure the soil surrounds the base mound of the plant. There should be minimal wobbling once you lift the pot. Avoid packing the soil too much as the young roots may get damaged. They will also need to access oxygen from air pockets in the soil to generate new tissues. 

Some gardeners have successfully propagated Haworthia succulents with the use of their mature leaves. Their leaves can take significantly longer, compared to those of fleshier rosette species, to generate new shoots and roots. Haworthias with taller shoot systems can also be divided by creating divisions along the stem. You can expect new roots to grow from the bottom section of each division and new young plants arising from the shoot. 

Haworthia cymbiformis

Care and Maintenance

Follow these haworthia care tips to grow healthy succulents:

Soil

Haworthia succulents require well-draining, porous soil to produce new roots and become well-established. They are highly sensitive to moisture retention in the substrate. Many species tend to suffer if the soil remains wet for more than a day. Prolonged exposure can rapidly cause root rot.

The substrate should mimic that which is found in their natural environments. In the wild, Haworthia tends to grow on rocky soils that remain dry for long periods of time. Sand composes a huge portion of their soil content, making it have exceptional drainage. 

At home, you can simply use a cacti and succulent potting mix and increase the porousness of the soil by adding stones, gravel, pumice, or perlite. Try to avoid using a heavy layer of toppings as this may prevent the soil from drying out completely. If you must, you can opt to use pebble-sized pumice stones as a top layer. 

Water

When grown outdoors, mature Haworthia succulents can tolerate once-weekly watering sessions. As a rule of thumb, make sure to provide water only when the top few inches of soil are dry. You can use a finger or a moisture meter to check for soil dryness. If you find that the soil is still damp, it would be best to withhold water for at least a day or two more.

When grown indoors, Haworthia can be watered once or twice a month depending on your indoor ventilation and humidity levels. It is always better to err on the side of under-watering the plant, as diseases related to overwatering can be fatal. 

Fleshy Haworthia species, such as those with translucent foliage, may be more expressive when it comes to their water requirements. Ideally, they should be provided with just enough water to keep their leaves plump. If you find that the soil dries out quickly and that the leaves appear to shrink or display wrinkles, you may need to increase your watering frequency. 

The best time of day to water Haworthia succulents is early morning, when there are still enough warm daylight hours to ensure that excess moisture evaporates. In winter, it may be best to stop watering the plant completely unless it is located in a well-ventilated, sunlit area. 

Fertilizer

Haworthia succulents can tolerate poor soil conditions and need not be fertilized. They may occasionally benefit from a cactus fertilizer if you feel the need to enrich the soil. Do make sure to use conservative concentrations as their roots can be compromised by excess nutrients. 

Sunlight

Haworthia species with thicker-skinned foliage can tolerate full sunlight, but those with translucent plump leaves may easily overheat and become scorched. The leaf tips are usually the first to burn under intense sunlight conditions. 

If your Haworthia is outdoors, it should be placed in a spot with filtered sunlight or partial shade. An area that receives moderate morning sun and is sunlit but cool in the afternoons would be best. Light through a southwest or southeast-facing window should be adequate for an indoor plant as long as it receives at least 6 hours of bright light each day. 

A Haworthia succulent that does not receive enough light will have leaves that deepen in color. All plant organs will also grow weak over time. To encourage quick recovery, make sure to gradually move your light-deprived plant to a moderately sunny location. Don’t drastically change sunlight conditions as it will need time to acclimate. 

haworthia retusa

Temperature and Humidity

Optimal temperatures for Haworthia succulents range from 75-90F (24-32C). They are able to briefly tolerate cool winter temperatures that drop to about 30F, but keep in mind that their foliage can be frost-sensitive. You may need to take your Haworthia indoors for winter before the first heavy frosts occur. 

Haworthia species are more tolerant of high humidity levels compared to other succulents. In the wild, they are often located in areas that receive moderate mist or spray from cool ocean winds. Their leaves can become even more plump and may grow faster in high humidity conditions. This explains why greenhouses are such great locations for rearing these plants. 

Do be wary of high humidity levels if ventilation is poor. Although Haworthia benefit from water vapor in the air, they will not thrive in soils that are kept moist for too long. Always pay close attention to temperature and humidity as a hot and moist environment can spread fungal disorders. 

Pruning

As most Haworthia species are low-growing, they will rarely ever need to be pruned. Only tall species, such as Haworthia reinwardtii may require pruning if the base is no longer able to support the height of the plant. You can propagate intact cuttings. 

Haworthia limifolia

Repotting and Transplanting

A Haworthia succulent should be repotted in new soil every 3 years or when it has grown almost as wide as the pot. If you find that the roots have completely encased the soil (i.e., it has become root bound), you can place it in a slightly larger pot. As fresh soil is more porous, you’ll find that newly repotted Haworthia can become established quickly.

When repotting the plant, take advantage of the opportunity to divide offsets and place them in their own individual pots. This will have a beneficial effect on their growth as their roots will have more room to grow and their foliage can spread out. Similarly, the mother plant will be free to produce newer offsets in the next growth period. 

When repotting mother Haworthia plants, make sure the roots are spread out in the soil and not coiled right underneath the base of the plant. This will increase the root surface area that is exposed to fresh soil. Place newly repotted plants in a location that is moderately sunny and protected from outdoor elements. 

Pests and Diseases

When healthy, many Haworthia species are generally pest and disease-resistant. Thick-skinned varieties are rarely attacked by the pests that plague many other succulent species. Translucent, thin-skinned species may be more susceptible and should regularly be monitored. 

To check for pests, do a close visual inspection of both the top and bottom parts of the foliage. Also inspect the areas in between the leaves. Mealybugs may unfortunately infest weak plants or those in proximity to colonies. Manually remove these as soon as they are spotted. If an infestation occurs, you may need to use a soap spray or organic insecticide.

Diseases are usually fungal in nature and are triggered by overwatering. If you water your Haworthia frequently and find that its leaves stay wrinkled, it is likely that its roots have become rotten. Densely packed soil can also lead to compromised leaves. Affected parts, often in the form of soggy or mushy roots and leaves, will need to be removed completely before repotting the plant in new soil. 

Uses of Haworthia

Haworthia succulents are used to add diversity to a succulent collection and as decorative plants indoors. A few clumps can also add character to container gardens and succulent bouquets. They are safe options for homes with pets as they don’t contain toxic substances. They also help with air purification and generally bring life and color to any space.

Common Varieties and Cultivars

There are dozens of notable Haworthia species and varieties. Each has its own cultivars that differ based on color, height, leaf form and orientation, spread, capacity to produce flowers, and specific requirements. Listed below are some of the most popular varieties. 

Conclusion

Haworthia succulents are great for beginner to advanced gardeners. They are incredibly attractive, miniature-looking plants that are easy to care for and maintain. Though most species are known for being slow-growers, they are well worth the patience. If you are able to care for one into maturity and expand your collection with its offsets, you would have every right to be proud!

See more common succulents you can grow.

*References

References:

R. M. Coopoosammy & K. K. Naidoo, Screening of traditional utilized Haworthia limifolia for antibacterial and antifungal properties,

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228500035_Screening_of_traditional_utilized_Haworthia_limifolia_for_antibacterial_and_antifungal_properties

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