Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Starfish Cactus, Toad Cactus
Orbea variegata

Family: Asclepiadaceae (ass-kle-pee-ad-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Orbea (ORB-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: variegata (var-ee-GAY-tuh) (Info)

Synonym:Stapelia variegata
Synonym:Stisseria variegata

3 vendors have this plant for sale.

39 members have or want this plant for trade.

Cactus and Succulents

under 6 in. (15 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:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade


Bloom Color:
Maroon (Purple-Brown)

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer


Other details:
This plant is suitable for growing indoors
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From leaf cuttings
Allow cut surface to callous over before planting
By simple layering

Seed Collecting:
Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds

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By dave
Thumbnail #1 of Orbea variegata by dave

By dave
Thumbnail #2 of Orbea variegata by dave

By Happenstance
Thumbnail #3 of Orbea variegata by Happenstance

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Thumbnail #7 of Orbea variegata by GeoNate

There are a total of 34 photos.
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8 positives
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive poeciliopsis On Jan 28, 2015, poeciliopsis from Phoenix, AZ wrote:

Central Phoenix -- Orbea variegata grows in the ground and in pots in my garden. Most of the plants are all over 15 years old and have weathered many freezes into the lower 20s. Some have protection (cold frame) but others don't and do not suffer frost damage. Shade varies from light to moderate and water from once a month to very seldom.

Positive Mark_B On Oct 11, 2014, Mark_B from Garden Grove, CA wrote:

This is a beautiful plant that grows well in Southern California. In our winters here, they just hunker down outdoors, no problem. The flowers smell like a bag of steer manure, which to gardeners is no big deal. But to neophytes, the smell might offend. Any plants you don't want because of the smell, you can give them to me, no questions asked.

Positive httpmom On Sep 8, 2013, httpmom from Livermore, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

What's not to love about this amazing bit of Botany? It's exotic as hell, blooms are other worldly as are the pods that form and then one unexpecting day burst open and releases 50 or so seeds to get blown about... plus it's very easy to grow in Zone 9b. I have it in a pot on my front porch in partial shade. It does not need to be taken in during winter here, withstood a three week freeze last winter and came back healthier than ever this spring.

Neutral Xenomorf On Sep 15, 2004, Xenomorf from Valley of the Sun, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

I guess this note goes for all stapelia's.
This plant is definately not drought tolerant. I guess that all depends on what you consider drought.
We went four months without a drop of rain this summer in Phoenix, 110F in the shade, If I hadn't of watered it once a week.......well you can guess what would happen.

Positive angelam On Apr 9, 2004, angelam from melbourne
Australia wrote:

I have this in a pot of cactus mix where it has grown and flowered with minimal attention. It does seem to like a little protection from the worst of the sun- the partially shaded side of the pot is noticeably healthier looking than the side exposed to full afternoon sun. Are the flowers the ''variegata'' part of the name? Some of mine have 6 points and some 5.

Positive Monocromatico On Oct 26, 2003, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:

Ah... I have a black and white picture of this flower (I dont have any idea of how I got this picture) and I always wondered how it would like, what color would it be, and all. Seeing the pictures of it here in the PDB really fulfilled my expectations!

Positive wnstarr On Oct 26, 2003, wnstarr from Puyallup, WA (Zone 5a) wrote:

Edgewood, Washington
How nice to see an old friend. My grandfather had this plant and called it the "Carrion Cactus". When in bloom and you get close to it you will definately know why. It smells like a dead animal to attrack the flies in the desert to pollinate the flower. If it is pollinated it will form a long thin seed pod that will ripen and open to expose down thistle like seeds to spead across the desert. Makes a interesting addition to any succulent & cactus collection even when not in bloom. Believe it is correctly called a succulent, but by any other name it is very interesting.

Positive miseryschild On Sep 18, 2003, miseryschild from Monterey, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

Mine was a small start given to me by a friend. My oldest daughter almost drowned it two years ago, but with a lot of "TLC" it survived and is doing great, although it hasn't bloomed yet.

Positive puntaquita On Dec 31, 2002, puntaquita from Tucson, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

I began growing this plant from a single cutting about 1/2" long and it grew fast! I had plants growing all over my new cactus garden. I counted 35 flowers/buds one morning last October. I gave away many cuttings, some with a flower, with a great deal of pride and enthusiasm.

I have since moved from the southern Pacific Coast to the desert; however, I brought a few cuttings with me and they
survived the trip with blooms intact!


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

Chandler, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona (2 reports)
Atwater, California
August, California
Brentwood, California
Carlsbad, California
Clayton, California
Fairfield, California
Garden Grove, California
Lakeside, California
Livermore, California
Los Angeles, California
Newport Beach, California
Saint Helena, California
San Dimas, California
Simi Valley, California
Spring Valley, California
Bartow, Florida
Saint Cloud, Florida
Calhoun, Georgia
Cartersville, Georgia
Rock Hill, South Carolina
La Follette, Tennessee
Lenoir City, Tennessee
Monterey, Tennessee
Andrews, Texas
Bryan, Texas
Dickinson, Texas
Freeport, Texas
Houston, Texas
League City, Texas
Lubbock, Texas
Rice, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Weslaco, Texas
Camas, Washington
Puyallup, Washington

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