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Welwitschia, Wonderplant

Welwitschia mirabilis

Family: Welwitschiaceae
Genus: Welwitschia (vel-VITCH-ee-uh) (Info)
Species: mirabilis (mih-RAB-ih-liss) (Info)


Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Cactus and Succulents

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


6-12 in. (15-30 cm)

12-18 in. (30-45 cm)


4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)


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


Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:

Maroon (Purple-Brown)

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer


Grown for foliage


Other details:

This plant may be considered a protected species; check before digging or gathering seeds

Soil pH requirements:

Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Unknown - Tell us


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

Chandler Heights, Arizona

Mesa, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

Bostonia, California

Simi Valley, California

Gardeners' Notes:


On Jun 5, 2016, poeciliopsis from Phoenix, AZ wrote:

Central Phoenix -- I was so delighted to find this plant at Plants for the Southwest (aka Living Stones Nursery) in Tucson in October 2014. It has been growing happily in my yard in a pot -- or perhaps "growing" is not the right word, since it has the same two leaves it had when I bought it. But those two leaves look just fine. I water it about once a week and every other week it gets a good soak from flood irrigation. It gets mostly filtered shade, with some direct sun late in the afternoon.


On Nov 11, 2005, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

Despite the image this plant conjures up-the dry deserts,great drought tolerence for ages....It actually requires regular watering as a potted plant.In fact, let a seedling become "cactus dry" just once, and like some tree ferns, it croaks! And the local botanical garden has large ones in a greenhouse that is decidedly non tropical in winter.Tricky to maintain...
And to grow from photo three size to photo two size takes 10-15 years.


On Jan 30, 2004, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

This is one of the weirder plants you can get for a warm, dry xeriscape garden. It is a native on Nambia and lives in open, sandy desert often as the only plant around for miles. It is a very low growing 'thing' with only two leaves that continue to grow for centuries, slowly creating a pile of twisted, long, thick, leathery dull green strap-like leaves. In cultivation it is a curiosity only- not a very attractive plant. But old plants are worth a fortune. I have only seen this plant available more commonly for sale in the last 5 years. You can only get dinky ones and it is a plant you need to put in your will so your grandchildren can brag about it. It's unique and the only plant in its family.


On Aug 11, 2003, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:

This is a bizarre short plant from the semi-deserts of southern Africa. It has a short woody stem that grows very slowly. On the top of the stem (looks like a disk) there are two leaves. Those are the only leaves the plant will have for its whole life (that can be rather long, by the way). Those leaves are very long, reaching up to 2,5m long, taking decades to reach that lenght. The tips often get teared, spliting the leaves in many stripes that can make one think it has many leaves. As a Gymnosperm, it produces small reddish-brown cones.

It comes from the desert, so make sure you have a sandy/rocky soil, little water and full sun. Protect it from shocks and from the wind if you want the leaves to be intact.