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PlantFiles: Carrion Plant, Carrion Flower, Starfish Plant, Toad Plant, Zulu Giant
Stapelia gigantea

Family: Asclepiadaceae (ass-kle-pee-ad-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Stapelia (sta-PEL-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: gigantea (jy-GAN-tee-uh) (Info)

Synonym:Stapelia nobilis
Synonym:Stapelia flavirostris

2 vendors have this plant for sale.

71 members have or want this plant for trade.

Tropicals and Tender Perennials

6-12 in. (15-30 cm)

9-12 in. (22-30 cm)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade


Bloom Color:
Pale Yellow

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
This plant is suitable for growing indoors

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball
From semi-hardwood cuttings
Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

Seed Collecting:
Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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23 positives
2 neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive poeciliopsis On Feb 2, 2015, poeciliopsis from Phoenix, AZ wrote:

Central Phoenix -- After losing Stapelia gigantea nursery-bought plants to frost several years in a row I took a cutting from a friend's yard. This plant survived and is now many plants. Granted that the first years of loss were during abnormally cold winters in the early 1990s, but I believe the plant I got the cutting from is just a particularly cold-tolerant individual. It does well from full shade to partial shade with afternoon sun. My plants get either every other week or once-a-month summer water and none in winter. They bloom regularly, usually in November. I also have seedlings that come up some years, including this one.

Positive ekings On Jun 22, 2014, ekings from Elkins, AR wrote:

My grandfather gave me a start from his own carrion flower that he had been growing for at least 20 years in Paris, Tx. That was 16 years ago and I still have it in the original pot though I now live in NW Arkansas. It used to bloom every year but I have since moved to a new place and it does not get sufficient light to bloom consistently. The center of the plant is turning brown & dieing. I am afraid of losing what I now consider a family heirloom. I have managed to propagate a small branch from the parent but would like to divide the parent & get rid of the rot. I am afraid of losing it though & am unsure of the proper technique for division so I've left it alone for now. If anyone has advice for dividing this plant & proper soil composition I would be very grateful.

Positive Cville_Gardener On Feb 22, 2013, Cville_Gardener from Middle TN
United States (Zone 7a) wrote:

This is a wonderful, easy-care succulent with spectacular blooms. It's great for growing in a container that can be moved when necessary. Sometimes it may need to be moved due to cold weather and sometimes due to flies. I have had little trouble with the flies or the odor (sometimes described as "offensive" or "like rotting meat") even when I keep the plant out on the deck. This is one of my faves.

Positive Tibble22 On Dec 12, 2011, Tibble22 from Panama City Beach, FL wrote:

Very easy plant to grow with little effort. I keep both of mine in partial shade and morning sun. One is in a pot on my patio and the other is in the ground. I have had no problems with flies on the flowers or any other insects. Overall it's an interesting plant to grow and enjoy.

Positive GreanAndGrowing On Dec 5, 2011, GreanAndGrowing from Mobile City, TX wrote:

I bought my carrion as a "baby" plant in 2009. It bloomed that year, again in fall of 2010, and this year he had two "buds," but we moved from Central to North Texas and one of the pods fell off in the move. Currently, he's in a medium sized flower pot, branching out to both sides and spilling over the edges- like moose antlers. it has been summer/fall in the past when it bloomed, so I was surprised this year to see buds forming so late in the season. I typically keep him outdoors, but it's below freezing today and I didn't want it to loose it's upcoming blossom. This plant is quite hardy- one of the thicker side shoots snapped when we were moving, and the injured part is gnarled and brown, but the new growth beyond the damage is thick and green and healthy looking, even though it hangs upside down from the damaged area. Additionally, he survived an ugly drought. The central stems are grey and withered, surrounded by beautiful healthy growth. I've read that I can cut away the unattractive part, but I think it gives him character.

Positive Domehomedee On Sep 18, 2011, Domehomedee from Arroyo Grande, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

My carrion plant opened it's blooms today! I had it in a west facing window in bright light. When I noticed the buds I removed it to the out-of-doors. I put it in the shade and the buds continued to grow larger. This morning I put it out in full sun in hopes it would open before this evening. Wow, I've never seen such wild looking flowers, and the flies are really enjoying it . . . I wonder if it will set seed?

Positive JustPlainLucy On Sep 15, 2011, JustPlainLucy from Morehead City, NC wrote:

I was given 2 small pieces of this plant about 8 months ago and it has more than tripled in size. This month it has produced 12 flower pods for the first time. I took a picture of it just 15 minutes ago when one was just starting to open and now it is fully bloomed. Two more flowers bloomed a couple of days ago and the flies really love this plant! Sad that they only last a couple of days because they are so unique.

Positive boomboer On Jan 26, 2011, boomboer from Cape Town
South Africa wrote:

I have one in a pot along with many other Stapelias in pots - they love partial sun, heat and fast-draining soil (with bonemeal). Don't plant them too deep - in fact they do best with the stems on top of the soil and the roots going in. Cover the soil with small pebbles/gravel to prevent the soil from drying out as quickly. Stapelias only set flowers on new stems - old stems can form new stems, but not flower. Feed them kelp extract or compost tea or anything organic when they are growing and give them some sunlight and they will keep on blooming. Water sparingly when they stop growing in winter to prevent rot. If they do rot - cut away the damaged parts, root hormone the wholesome stems, let the cuts dry for a day or two and pot again.

Neutral peggytheplantlady On Apr 23, 2010, peggytheplantlady from El Prado, NM wrote:

I have had this plant for about 3 years now, it showing exceptional growth but NO flowers! I'm growing it as a houseplant as even our summer nights are a bit too chilly for it here in the Sangre de Christo Mountains. I have it placed 1 foot from a south facing window - how do I get this plant to flower?

Positive RxBenson On Apr 5, 2010, RxBenson from Pikesville, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

I had S. gigantea for decades and just spent a bunch on a collection of about 9 varieities -- and similar plants -- at Logee's. (Not an ad, either, but just adore the array that they offer!)

S. gigantea even bloomed in front of my bay window in southern NH -- indoors, of course. It's still doing well here in NJ, and I have more cuttings than I can ever use... Email me!

Negative dtk126 On Jul 20, 2009, dtk126 from Saint Petersburg, FL wrote:

This is a great "do nothing to it" plant BUT it attracts THE MOST flies you have ever seen in one place.....almost so many that you can't see the flower itself...not always, but when they're around, you'll know it. Plan on putting this plant as FAR AWAY from your back door or your picnic table as possible or you'll regret it ----for sure.

Positive txmouse On Sep 26, 2008, txmouse from Fort Worth, TX wrote:

A long time friend of mine had this in her apartment when she was evacuated during Hurricane Gustav. She told me about the plant for years, however, I seemed to miss the blooms each year. Upon their return to South Louisiana, they found their home a total loss. However, our hearty little buddy here thrived potted in sandy soil with humidity of about 75-80%. The humidity levels were excessive as large sections of the roof were ripped off along with the heavy rains, and busted sprinkle system that poured water into the apartment when the roof gave into the winds and dropped in the park 300 yards behind their building!!! SCARY!!! She brought him to us to keep while she made arrangements to move back to Fort Worth. Let me tell you...this little dude went CRAZY blooming. He had one that dropped off unopened when we unloaded it, another had opened the day before. Today, I have 3 open, and 4 more coming fairly soon, with no signs of the blooms slowing down. Don't know if this is a southern nickname but another friend told me that she knew it by the name of a "Dead Horse Cactus". My cuttings I took from this plant (prior to her move to Louisana) were 4 small pieces that I did not allow to scale over. I left him potted in Miracle Grow soil, in the direct sun for at least 12 hours a day during the summer. Now they are stacked on top of each other, and will need to be transplanted next year. These cuttings are only 3 months old. The smell is noticeable but nothing I find overpowering. My old negative on this (and its very minor) is my nosy dogs cannot keep their snouts out of the blooms once they open.

Positive Lily_love On Sep 19, 2008, Lily_love from Central, AL (Zone 7b) wrote:

The plant is an interesting novelty. I grow these as houseplant to protect from frost damage outdoor during the winter. They enjoy being outdoor in bright filtered sun light 3 seasons in a year. The flowers are curriously fun to watch, once full bloom and pollens are ripe - those produce a malordourous odor to attract pollinators -- the flies!!!.

Positive joylily514 On Sep 4, 2008, joylily514 from Staunton, VA wrote:

I've been growing this plant since 1975 when a coworker gave me a piece. I was living in FL at the time and then moved to TX. In the winter of 1983-84, I nearly lost it when we had an extremely cold winter and even in the garage it died back to one piece. It had been very large until that. I was able to regrow it and it is large again and produces lots of flowers. Of course, they stink to high heaven, but it's small price to pay for such an incredible plant and flower.

Positive sandiegojames On Nov 18, 2007, sandiegojames from San Diego, CA wrote:

What a weird, wonderful plant this is...

I grew it first quite moist in heavy shade outdoors. The plant looked nice, dark green and succulent, but it took 2-3 years to bloom. Now I have chunks of it in pots that receive direct sun some of the day, and filtered light the rest of the day. The pot with the sunnier exposure does best, and has been in bloom for a couple weeks now, and blooms reliably several times a year.

The flowers last just a day, but at peak bloom there are blooms on it almost all the time. And when there are blooms there are usually flies attracted to its subtle-to-moderate aroma of dead things. It's not a "pretty" thing, but oh so interesting...

Positive txbio On Oct 27, 2006, txbio from Fort Worth, TX wrote:

this plant was a given to me during the summer of '05. i have kept it in the same 10" pot and watered it sparingly. so far it has bloomed twice about 2 months apart, this time with two flowers. i keep it outside during the summer months in indirect sun, and bring it in when night time temps drop below 50 F. i think it is a wonderful little succulent, as long as you don't sniff the flowers. they are rancid!

Positive BayAreaTropics On Aug 14, 2006, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

Mine is like the others with the non smelly starfish plant. And i found it hates full sun.I think it should be grown as you would an epihpyllum. Fast drainage,part sun to bright shade. The scale problem is a real headache. I just wait for new plant growth.

Positive CastIronPlant22 On Dec 11, 2005, CastIronPlant22 from Lompoc, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

I love this Stapelia, i have it in a west facing window. Its inside the house, sitting on my windowsill. I let it dry out and water it just a little when it needs it. The flowers never seem to get as big as my palm, but they are bigger than the others. The color is great and its just a over all great Stapelia!

Positive amaryllis6 On Apr 28, 2005, amaryllis6 from Montegut, LA (Zone 9b) wrote:

I did not realize that this plant had a flower on it till I turned it around to let the back side get some sun and there it was. It lasts a long time too.

Neutral happygardening On Nov 2, 2004, happygardening from Fox, AR wrote:

You can buy this plant from logee's greenhouse.I'm not advertising, it's just hard to find this plant.

Positive pilgrimntx On Aug 24, 2004, pilgrimntx from Conroe, TX wrote:

This plant grows wonderfully in a pot of very sandy soil (without a drain hole) 45 miles north of Houston, TX. In the summer, I let the soil dry completely, then I soak it so that water stands in the pot for about 24 hours before I drain it off. I use Osmacote time-release pellets in late spring. Right now, the plant is in a 10 inch plastic pot and has 1 bloom (beige 5-pointed star with maroon circumferential intermittent stripes) and SIX MORE BUDS! It smells terrible and will attract flies from all around. In the winter, I bring it inside and place it on top of my desktop computer tower (warmer than room temperature) so that it can look out of a southern-facing window. This is an incredibly interesting plant!

Negative Ale2002 On Oct 20, 2003, Ale2002 wrote:

These plants are beautiful and grow very nice in the temperate climate but they are always attacked by "cocciniglia cotonosa" either on the roots and stems (my experience). For this reason one have to apply specific drugs to kill the animals and often do cleaning and repotting.
Secondarly flowers formation is very difficult at the latitude where I live (Italy): once the small flowers develope the pot should not be moved or turned of one single millimiter and humidity should be very low otherwise the small flowers die. After 3 years of attempts I now have a plant with two flowers that are almost going to open.

Positive htop On Aug 19, 2003, htop from San Antonio, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

San Antonio, TX
This plant which is usually grown in pots is known by several commom names which include the following: starfish flower, zulu-giant, carrion flower and giant toad. It is native to southern Africa and Mozambique. Soil should be well-drained (2 parts loam to 1 part sharp sand with small pebbles added). Do not water as much in winter. Once a month during the growing season, fertilize with a balanced fertilizer diluted to the strength recommendation. When propagating from stem cuttings, take the cutting in spring as new growth is beginning. Before planting the cuttings, allow the cuttings to callus for 2-3 weeks. In San Antonio, I have found that it prefers partial sun and can withstand extreme heat. That yucky smell attracts flies that collect pollen dust and transports it to the next flower (if available), thus ensuring successful pollination. The most common causes of decline is over watering and not being protected from freezes.

Positive IslandJim On Jul 27, 2003, IslandJim from Keizer, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

I have two of these curiosities. Neither smells like rotting flesh when blooming. Another common name for this plant, and one I prefer [and one offered by Logee's Greenhouses] is "starfish plant."

Positive Korbin On Dec 28, 2002, Korbin wrote:

My greenhouse science teacher gave me this plant at the end of semester last year and I love it. Mine must be a slightly different variety than the one described here though. It's flowers are a wonderful shade of maroon and their aroma is that of a rather decayed animal-perfect for attracting flies.

Positive Azalea On Aug 24, 2002, Azalea from Jonesboro, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

A neat and unusual care free plant, out side in summer, interesting large 8" star shape flower. Do not over water.

Positive moscheuto On Oct 29, 2001, moscheuto from Westland, MI (Zone 5a) wrote:

Interesting succulent, olive green and erect. Lots of branches. 4-sided spineless stems average up to 9 inches and about 1 inch thick. Cactus-like appearance.
Grown mostly for the starfish-shaped flower. Flowers are pale yellow with reddish stripes, covered with white hairs. Flower can average 8 to 12 inches across. It is said to look flesh-like, also reported to have a rotting meat odor, which attracts its main visitor, the fly, for pollinating.

One of the easiest plants to grow. The flower bud set after it was brought indoors, after spending the summer outside. It then "puffed up" for 2 weeks. Total time from bud set to open flower was 28 days.

This plant didn't seem to have the characteristic "stink". It has flowered inside the house with no odor. This maybe the exception, and not the rule.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Jones, Alabama
Chandler, Arizona
Goodyear, Arizona
Mesa, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona (2 reports)
Tucson, Arizona
Elkins, Arkansas
Arroyo Grande, California
Clayton, California
Clovis, California
Garden Grove, California
Hayward, California
Lompoc, California
Palm Springs, California
San Anselmo, California
San Diego, California
Bartow, Florida
Big Pine Key, Florida
Bonita Springs, Florida
Brooksville, Florida
Clearwater, Florida
Clermont, Florida
Englewood, Florida
Keystone Heights, Florida
Lakeland, Florida
Melbourne Beach, Florida
Naples, Florida (2 reports)
Ocala, Florida (2 reports)
Orlando, Florida (2 reports)
Ormond Beach, Florida
Port Charlotte, Florida
Saint Petersburg, Florida (2 reports)
Sarasota, Florida
Seffner, Florida
Tampa, Florida
Tarpon Springs, Florida
Titusville, Florida
Umatilla, Florida
Venice, Florida (2 reports)
Zephyrhills, Florida
Albany, Georgia
Mcdonough, Georgia
Wailuku, Hawaii
Zionsville, Indiana
Belle Plaine, Kansas
Kenner, Louisiana
La Place, Louisiana
Montegut, Louisiana
Slidell, Louisiana
Cumberland, Maryland
Olive Branch, Mississippi
Henderson, Nevada
Whiting, New Jersey
El Prado, New Mexico
Charlotte, North Carolina
Morehead City, North Carolina
Mansfield, Ohio
Seabrook, South Carolina
Clarksville, Tennessee
Arlington, Texas
Austin, Texas
Baytown, Texas
Conroe, Texas (2 reports)
Corpus Christi, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas (2 reports)
Freeport, Texas
North Richland Hills, Texas
Paris, Texas
Port Arthur, Texas
Portland, Texas
Richardson, Texas
Richmond, Texas
Rockwall, Texas
San Antonio, Texas (2 reports)
Shepherd, Texas
Sugar Land, Texas
Victoria, Texas
Weatherford, Texas
Wimberley, Texas
Harrisonburg, Virginia
South Boston, Virginia
Staunton, Virginia
Kalama, Washington

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