Last updated on December 7th, 2023 at 12:08 am
A ghosty succulent, ghost plant succulent, mother of pearl plant, or graptopetalum paraguayense, is a succulent plant that grows low to the ground and naturally covers itself in sand and debris to camouflage it from predators. Native to the Southwestern United States, this unusual succulent was once considered endangered due to over-collection from the wild, but there are now cultivated varieties available in your local garden centers!
Graptopetalum paraguayense may be considered an odd name considering how easy it is to grow, but it actually grows out of the ground like a weed and has no visible leaves or stems. In fact, with no leaves to photosynthesize sunlight into energy, it’s not entirely clear how this succulent survives at all!
A ghost plant succulent that’s easy to grow and adaptable to many conditions, the Graptopetalum paraguayense (ghosty plant) makes an excellent choice if you’re interested in learning more about succulents or need to add some color to your home and want something that’s not very demanding or high-maintenance.
Read on for everything you need to know about this beautiful and mysterious plant.
Origin and distribution
Graptopetalum paraguayense, or ghost plant succulent, comes from a variety of environments in South America and parts of North America. It is named after its homeland.
Graptopetalum means marked petals and Paraquay means Paraguay. This shrub is known for its exquisite blooms that bloom during fall when temperatures are cooler. The flowers are white with pink tips and it produces clusters of small pinkish-white flowers on top of long stalks.
The leaves have a mother of pearl sheen to them, giving it another common name: mother of pearl plant. Ghost plants grow well in desert climates as well as tropical climates where they receive full sun exposure. They do not require much water but need good drainage to prevent root rot.
Graptopetalum paraguayense propagation
Graptopetalum paraguayense is propagated from stem cuttings, which can be done at any time of year. Remove a 5 to 6-inch cutting from an established mother plant, and allow it to dry for about a week. This will give you time to decide where on your ghost succulent propagation project you want to put it.
The most common options are to pot it up in the soil or grow it hydroponically in water with added nutrients. If you’re growing your mother of pearl plant in soil, just stick it into some loose dirt and keep it moist until new roots form. If you’re going to grow it hydroponically, place your cutting into a glass container filled with water that has been mixed with dissolved nutrients.
You should see roots within a few weeks. Once your baby ghost succulents have formed, they’ll need to be separated so they don’t crowd each other out. You can either transplant them into individual pots or leave them in their original container but prune off all but one plant per bulb.
It’s also important to make sure they get enough light, as low light levels will stunt their growth.
Ghost plant care information
Graptopetalum paraguayense should be kept in a sunny window and water when almost dry. Graptopetalums do well in either clay or sandy soil, but they hate to be waterlogged. They will drop their leaves when stressed from overwatering, so be sure to keep your ghosty succulent happy!
You might think a succulent requires full sun to survive, but Graptopetalum paraguayense, or ghost plant succulent, is happy in low light conditions. They grow happily indoors on my windowsill and barely even get direct sunlight during much of the year.
Ghost plants are especially forgiving of abuse that may occur due to changes in lighting or temperature. That said, they will die if they experience too little light for too long.
Graptopetalum paraguayense are very easy to care for. They like soil with good drainage and a bit of grit to help hold onto their leaves. If you’re using cactus/succulent potting mix, your Grapto will be fine. If you aren’t using soil that has been specifically made for succulents, add some perlite or vermiculite to your potting mix to improve drainage.
Keep in mind that if you use only regular garden soil, it may compact over time, which can cause your plant’s roots to rot. It is also important not to overwater Ghost Plants as they have shallow root systems.
Water thoroughly when soil is dry about an inch down. You can tell if it needs water by poking your finger into the soil—if it feels moist at least an inch down then don’t water yet!
Water is essential for all living things, including your succulents. Water your Graptopetalum paraguayense when you first bring it home from purchase to make sure it gets a good start. Once it’s acclimated to its new home, your Ghost
Plant succulents can be watered whenever their soil feels dry up to its top. It may take several days for the water to soak in completely; if you see water pooling at its base, that means there’s still moisture left in its soil and you don’t need to water it yet.
It’s better to err on the side of under-watering than over-watering; overwatering can cause root rot and kill your plant.
Graptopetalum paraguayense succulents require very little fertilizer. We recommend using organic fertilizer to prevent over-fertilization and burn, which can cause scarring on ghosty succulents. Ghost plant succulents are particularly sensitive to nitrogen fertilizers.
If you choose to use chemical fertilizers, make sure they’re labeled for cactus and/or succulents only and that they do not contain any forms of nitrogen or ammonium; applying them at half strength is usually best.
Graptopetalum paraguayense are cold-hardy, so they can be grown outdoors during all four seasons in Zones 8 and up. Protect from frost by moving inside or covering with a cloth when nighttime temperatures fall to around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
In spring, move outside or uncover Ghost plants once nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees F. The plants will grow slowly during their first year in your care and will grow faster once they’re acclimated to their new environment.
Though many people enjoy succulents and other plants year-round, it’s still important to know how to properly care for these plants during winter. Some succulents can actually handle cold weather, but most will require a little more tender love and care as they begin to settle in for hibernation.
One way you can do that is by setting up a humidifier in your home. This handy appliance releases water vapor into your home and helps provide moisture that indoor plants need to stay happy during cold months.
The ideal humidity range for Graptopetalum paraguayense is between 40 and 60 percent. If your home’s humidity level falls below that, you can purchase a humidifier to help keep your plants healthy. If you have any questions about how to care for succulents during winter, or if you’re just looking for some inspiration for your indoor garden, contact us today!
Ghost plants have very little in terms of stem or leaves, so it’s unlikely you’ll need to prune them regularly. However, if you do wish to cut back on their growth habit, simply remove excess growth. It’s important not to trim off their roots or leaf buds; ghost plants are almost completely dependent on these factors for survival.
Trimming off root or bud growth can kill your plant. If you must trim a ghost plant, use scissors to avoid accidentally cutting into its roots or leaves.
When to repot
There are few hard-and-fast rules when it comes to repotting houseplants, but generally, plants should be potted up whenever their existing pot is two-thirds full or when they become root-bound.
Note that most plants prefer to grow in pots that do not restrict their roots, so avoid small pots unless you’re growing a particularly small plant.
During dormancy, Graptopetalum paraguayense loses most of its moisture and may look as though they have rotted. Don’t be alarmed! They are still alive, just resting during the winter months. When spring arrives, begin watering your ghost plant sparingly but consistently.
Use room temperature or warm water to avoid shocking it out of dormancy too quickly. Once it begins to grow again in spring, you can stop watering altogether until fall.
Graptopetalum paraguayense flower & fragrance
This succulent is a perennial that produces white flowers and has an aroma similar to citrus. In warm weather, you will find fragrant flowers on long spikes sprouting from ghost plants’ branches. These beautiful blossoms are about 4 inches long and are shaped like starbursts.
Their petals are cream-colored with a deep purple center. They bloom from June to August. Ghost plant plants prefer bright, filtered light such as what you would find in a greenhouse or conservatory during cooler months.
Graptopetalum paraguayense is slow-growing. It will take time to get an established plant in your collection. New plants usually grow slowly for a year or two, but once they get going, they grow faster than many other species and produce offsets prolifically from early summer until fall.
Graptopetalum paraguayense is a highly toxic plant, so keep it away from pets and children. Clean up any spills immediately.
Contact with sap may cause skin irritation. Contact with sap may also cause irritants and sensitization effects on the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. Avoid contact with skin or clothing.
Wash thoroughly after handling. Do not ingest! If contact occurs with the eyes, flush immediately with water for 15 minutes. Remove contaminated clothing and wash before reuse. Consult your doctor if symptoms persist or worsen.
USDA hardiness zones
Graptopetalum paraguayense thrives best in USDA hardiness zones 8-10. It can be grown as an indoor plant or outdoors, but care must be taken to ensure it is not exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In colder climates, it should be planted in a pot and brought indoors for winter.
It is also recommended that you keep your Ghost Plant out of direct sunlight. The natural habitat of Grapetpetalum paraguayense is dry rocky slopes and ravines, so it prefers well-drained soil with plenty of air circulation.
Pests and diseases
The condition of your Ghost Plant should improve if you check for signs of insect damage regularly and remove affected areas promptly.
Cactus wilt may also be a problem; if your plant exhibits symptoms such as yellowing leaves and weak stems, seek advice from a gardening professional immediately.
Graptopetalum paraguayense is a succulent plant native to North and South America. Because it is harvested from wild areas, it can be considered an endangered species. It has become very popular in Western culture over the last several years because of its strange appearance; ghost plants make interesting and unusual houseplants.