Graptopetalum macdougallii is a succulent that belongs to the genus Graptopetalum. This plant gets its name from the fact that its leaves are so shaded that they appear to fade away into nothingness. The ghost plant originates from Mexico and Central America, but it’s been grown around the world as an ornamental plant due to its striking appearance and its ease of care.
Origin and distribution
Graptopetalum macdougallii is a species of succulent native to Mexico, where it grows along mountain streams at elevations up to 1,000 meters. It can also be found in Oaxaca and Chiapas. In its natural habitat, Graptopetalum macdougallii grows under bushes and trees in full sun but requires partial shade when grown as a houseplant.
Because it naturally occurs in areas with high humidity, you’ll want to make sure your plant’s soil stays evenly moist but not wet. When grown indoors, Graptopetalum macdougallii should receive bright light from an east- or west-facing window; direct sunlight will scorch its leaves.
Graptopetalum macdougallii propagation
Graptopetalums are easily propagated from leaf cuttings taken in spring or summer. As with most succulents, Graptopetalums have shallow roots, so a propagating medium that stays loose and holds moisture well is preferred (e.g., 50-50 mix of peat and sand).
Place leaves in small clusters with their bases just below soil surface (no stem) and enclose each cluster loosely in a clear plastic bag to retain humidity. Use bottom heat if temperatures are cool.
Cuttings should root within a few weeks, at which point remove bags and move them to bright light but cool temperatures (45-55 degrees F.) in other words, treat them as you would mature plants.
Once rooted, plant leaf cuttings in pots or beds outdoors where they will receive plenty of sun and be protected from frost. Mature Graptopetalums can tolerate some frost; young ones not so much. If your winter lows regularly dip into freezing, protect new plantings by covering them with a sheet for several days after planting until they become established.
Graptopetalum macdougallii care information
Graptopetalum macdougallii are fairly easy to grow and require little maintenance, so they make an excellent beginner cactus. They should be watered thoroughly when slightly dry and allowed to dry out slightly between waterings. This allows for good root growth as well as prevents the rotting of roots. During spring through fall months (if it doesn’t get below 50 degrees at night), graptopetalums may need more water as they are actively growing.
Graptopetalum macdougallii are not true succulents and require less light than their cousins. It is recommended that Graptopetalums be kept outdoors during warmer months, however, if kept indoors provide very bright indirect light or under fluorescent lighting. An ideal location would be a south facing window with shade from direct sunlight during mid-day. Use caution when moving from low to higher light as leaf burn may occur if moved too quickly.
Graptopetalums do best in a well-draining mix, such as one that’s composed of equal parts compost, sand and potting soil. You can add perlite or pumice to help with drainage further.
When you’re first acclimating your Graptopetalum macdougallii, keep it out of direct sunlight until it shows signs of acclimation. This prevents wilting while it makes its transition from living inside to outside.
Don’t be too worried about watering Graptopetalums. Like succulents, they store water in their leaves. Depending on where you live, these plants probably don’t need water at all during their dormant period (after blooming).
However, if your climate is hot and dry and you notice your plant getting a little thirsty, give it a good soak with room-temperature water twice a month or so.
Water more often if you see new growth. If you happen to over-water your Graptopetalum, don’t worry; just allow it to drain completely before giving it another drink. These plants can also go for months without being watered—so don’t fret!
Providing fertilizer for graptopetalums will help your plants grow faster and more prolifically. If you are using a liquid fertilizer, take care not to over-fertilize your plant. This can result in a toxic build-up that can harm or even kill your plant.
Follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully when applying any type of fertilizer. You may also choose to use slow-release pellets instead of liquid fertilizers if you prefer.
Graptopetalums do best with an all-purpose, balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 applied every two weeks during their growing season. Be sure to water well after applying any type of fertilizer so it doesn’t burn your plant’s roots.
This plant prefers a temperature range of 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be varied to suit your needs and preferences. The night temperature should be 10 degrees cooler than during the day.
For example, if you’re keeping your Graptopetalum in your home with a daytime temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit, then it should only be at 65 degrees F at night. This can vary based on how hot or cold you keep your home, so use discretion for best results.
One of your biggest responsibilities, when you grow Graptopetalums, is maintaining high humidity levels. This plant thrives in consistently humid conditions, so using a humidity tray or basket is a must if you want it to thrive.
Make sure that water can easily be drained from the saucer and allow it to dry before refilling again. An ultrasonic humidifier can help immensely with keeping your Graptonpetalum’s humidity consistent without having to check on it throughout your day.
They prefer to grow in a humid environment. If they are kept in an environment that doesn’t have high humidity, it’s best to mist them several times a week with purified water.
The goal is to maintain 50% humidity or above at all times. Some growers place their Graptopetalum macdougallii on trays of the moist substrate so they can keep better track of how much moisture they give off.
Graptopetalums are semi-evergreen shrubs with woody stems. The plant has a habit of dying back each year to its growing tip, which has led some growers to mistakenly prune them severely in order to maintain an even shape. This is not recommended as it can cause you to lose large chunks of your plant.
Instead, graptopetals need light pruning that removes a small amount of wood from either side of their growing tips. You should also be sure to remove any dead or damaged branches during your pruning session. It’s also important to note that graptopetals have a tendency towards malformation if they receive too much water and fertilizer, so be sure to only apply these products when necessary.
When to repot
Repot your graptopetalum macdougallii every two years in spring, when new growth starts to appear. If you repot after new growth begins, it will not disrupt any of the plant’s existing roots. Graptopetalums are fairly slow-growing and will remain in a pot for a long time before needing to be repotted again; overpotting is rarely an issue with these plants.
Many Graptopetalum macdougallii go dormant during winter, and it’s a good idea to repot and place these plants in a cool, dry place during dormancy. Cool temperatures will keep your plant healthy.
Once they begin growing again, you can return them to normal conditions. Your potting soil should be gritty and heavy; when repotting during dormancy, use soil with large particles that won’t wash away easily in water.
Graptopetalum macdougallii prefer sandy soils. Make sure your container has plenty of drainage holes at its base so excess water can escape. Watering is critical to keeping your plant alive while it’s dormant, but if you overwater, root rot could set in and kill your plant.
If you notice any rotting or discoloration on roots or leaves, remove all dead material immediately and cut back on watering for a few weeks until new growth begins sprouting from new buds along the stem.
Graptopetalum macdougallii flowers & fragrance
The fragrance of graptopetalum macdougallii in bloom is stunning and can fill a room with heavenly scents. If you’re purchasing graptopetalums for their scent, look for varieties like Graptoveria ‘Albus’ and Graptoveria ‘White Prince’ to enjoy unique and stronger floral aromas.
If you’re looking for a slow-growing houseplant that will fit into even a small space, Graptopetalum macdougallii is your best bet. The care and propagation tips in our guide will help keep your new plant healthy for years to come.
Graptopetalum macdougallii is toxic to cats, dogs, horses, and humans. All parts of Graptopetalum Macdougallii are toxic. Symptoms of exposure may include oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and difficulty breathing. Any skin contact with Graptopetalum macdougallii may result in blistering or burning depending on the contact area.
USDA hardiness zones
Graptopetalum macdougallii thrives best in USDA hardiness zones 8b through 11. In these areas, graptopetalums are considered to be evergreen perennials and will die back to their roots every winter.
In colder climates, Graptopetalum macdougallii can be grown as annuals or as houseplants. Graptopetals prefer full sun and well-drained soil that is kept evenly moist year-round.
Pests and diseases
Graptopetalum macdougallii have a few issues when it comes to pests and diseases. They are susceptible to root rot, caused by soggy soil. This can be prevented by planting in well-drained soil, adding sand or gravel to heavy clay soils, planting only during dry months, and providing good air circulation around plants. These plants are also prone to insect infestations, such as spider mites.
To prevent these pests from taking hold, keep humidity levels low and remove any dead leaves or stems. As with most succulents, graptopetalums are vulnerable to rot if overwatered; water sparingly, keeping the soil moist but not wet.
Graptopetalum macdougallii are excellent houseplants because they do well indoors and also, most importantly, because they are so easily propagated. It’s fun to watch their bulbils grow into new plants and it’s easy to root them in soil or water. These little houseplants offer a lot of bang for your buck!