Gasteria and Haworthia are mostly small to medium, shade-loving and slow-growing succulents – perfect for indoors. There are a number of small aloes that are also shade loving which are good indoor plants. All three cope well in air-conditioned environments – and are related to each other, as they are all in the same plant family.
Gasterias are genetically related to aloes, closely enough for them to be able to interbreed and create hybrids – there are many in cultivation. This is unusual – most plant hybrids are not crosses between genera.
The name comes from the belly-shaped flower – so the plant is named after the Greek word for belly. Gasteria distichida’s flowers have sweet nectar and were eaten raw or cooked by the Khoi-Khoi as a ‘rice’ (4). The plant was called ‘Oukossies’.
Gasteria foliage usually grows in a fan shape, with fat succulent leaves emerging on opposite sides. Older plants consist of clumps of these fans, as the plants easily reproduce and make pups. These pups can be planted out when they are about 1/3 of the size of the parent. Most Gasteria come from SE South Africa.
Plants to try and include are Gasteria noid (fan-shaped, thin leaves, sculptural and taller) and G. liliputana (young plants look more star-shaped). There are many hybrids, such as H. liliputana var. bicolor and the popular ‘Little Warty’.
Haworthia margaritifera – The Pearl Plant. This plant originates from the Western Cape, but is now grown worldwide. It has dotted white tubercles on the backs of the leaves which give it a ‘pearly’ appearance (1). Its leaves are slightly wider than those of H. attenuata.
Haworthia attenuata – The Zebra Plant. The white tubercles on the backs of the leaves are often arranged in stripes. It is indigenous to the Eastern Cape. Also widely grown! There are many other Haworthias, all from Southern Africa. Many have a more transparent, glassy appearance e.g. H. turgida and H. tesselata.
Haworthia grow in clusters of rosettes. Break them up from time to time to prevent overcrowding. The flowers are insignificant – the plants are grown for their attractive leaves and low care needs.
South Africa has 6 dwarf aloes, but Tanzania, Madagascar and Ethiopia have others (7). Three of our dwarf shade loving aloes are widely grown - Aloe aristata (Lace Aloe), Aloe brevifolia (Short Leaf Aloe), and Gonialoe variegata (Partridge Breast Aloe, Kanniedood). Aloe aristata has dark green leaves with many little white spots and soft toothed edges to the leaves. Aloe brevifolia has broadly triangular leaves that are grey-green with spines along the edges. And the Partridge Breast Aloe has white partridge-like markings on its dark leaves which are arranged in three attractive sculptural groups – a very popular, attractive plant.
Care of small Aloes, Gasteria & Haworthia Indoors
They thrive in indirect light, and mix well with other succulents, seldom needing repotting.
Soil mix must be coarse, sandy and drain well. Water sparingly every two weeks in spring and summer, less in winter, always making sure that the soil has dried out before watering.
Feed infrequently, and weakly.
They feature well in a variety of decorative indoor plantings, singly or in groups, and even in desert terrariums.
- Koster, M & Sibley, E. 2017. Urban Botanics: An indoor plant guide for modern gardeners. London: Aurum Press
- https://www.ourhouseplants.com/plants/haworthia (as accessed 23=2/04/2019)
- https://lifestyle.co.za/succulent-series-haworthia-2/ (as accessed 23=2/04/2019)
- Coetzee, R. 2015. A Feast from Nature. Hermanus: Penstock Publications (2018 Reprint: African Sun Media)
- Pepler, D. 2009. Immergroen – Stories oor Plante. Cape Town. Human & Rousseau
- http://pza.sanbi.org/aloe-genus (Aloe variegata)