How to grow Starfish Cactus

starfish cactus

The name is Starfish Cactus but still, this plant does not fall in the cactus category. It will be more specific if you say it's a succulent plant.

The growth habits as well as appearance are the same as the cacti family plant but you will be amazed to know that the starfish cactus belongs to the milkweed family.

This plant is majorly known for its gigantic flower which is about 10 to 14 inches in diameter.

Starfish Cactus Information

Scientific Name Stapelia gigantea
Also known as Zulu giant, Carrion flower, The giant toad flower
Native land South Africa
Growing Season Spring to Fall
Planting Season Spring
Blooming season It will bloom throughout the year
Watering Once a week in the growing season and in winter only once every two weeks
Pruning Minimal pruning required
Fertilizer Balanced cactus fertilizer during the growing season.

Flower of starfish cactus

Starfish cactus blooms throughout the year. If you are staying in Florida then you can expect the flowers on hot summer days too.

If you touch the flower and close your eyes, it will feel like flexy and waxy thick petals. The flower smells stinky (Like rotten flesh) and the reason is flies are her major pollinators. It attracts flies towards it.

If you have no issues with this stinky flower then definitely this succulent can be a good choice for your collection. Do not worry, the flower will not last for more than a week. (For those who hate the odor smell)

Here is a picture of a starfish cactus bloom:

Starfish cactus flower
Starfish cactus flower

Watering a starfish cactus

You just need to treat this plant as a regular succulent plant. It is drought-tolerant so you don't need to worry much about watering.

Water it once or twice a week. On hot summer days, twice a week will be fine.

Make sure that you water it when the soil is dry only. Excessive water will lead to root rot.


Believe me, this plant will grow properly without any external fertilizer. If the soil is not fertile then you can apply a balanced fertilizer once a year.

I usually use 0-5-5 once a year.


If you are a succulent lover then you don't have to worry about the soil type. Use the usual succulent soil which can drain water easily. Well-draining soil will be a perfect match for this plant.

Propagation of starfish cactus

If you take a closer look at the stems, you can notice that the stems are segmented. You can easily break those and plant them onto the soil.

The segmented stems make it easier to propagate this plant but if you wish to carry this plant in a bag, the stems might break into pieces easily. Be careful while moving this plant from one place to another.

Some facts about this unusual plant

I have seen mealybugs on my other succulents but never noticed mealybugs on my starfish cactus.

This is my first plant that attracts flies instead of bees and butterflies.

This plant can grow sideways up to 2 feet but their heads will be always upwards.

My starfish cactus plant is placed near a south-facing window and it's the best place for this plant if you consider it indoors.

Starfish cactus bloom is falling in the world's largest blooms list. Though largest is the Rafflesia and the fun fact is Rafflesia flower also smells like rotten flesh.

Toxic or not?

As starfish cactus falls under the milkweed family, it is toxic to pets and humans (especially for children).