Lizard flower (Orbea variegata)

The plants of the Orbea genus are characterized by being very peculiar: they are flowers, they are very showy, dogs give off a carrion smell that, although it is rather weak… as long as you have a sensitive sense of smell, it is most likely that it will not be difficult for you. perceive it. Now, the Orbea variegata is a species that will not give you any problem. It grows reasonably fast, and is very, very easy to maintain.

Being a relatively small plant, the first recommendation that we are going to make is that you grow it in a pot, since this way you will be able to know at all times where and how it is. But, of course, it can also be had in the garden, in a controlled corner.

Origin and characteristics of the Orbea variegata

Image – Wikimedia/ AnonyGnome

The Orbea variegata, also known as Stapelia variegata (its old scientific name), Lizard flower or carrion flower, is a non-cactaceous succulent or crass plant native to the coastal strip of the Western Cape, in South Africa. It has no leaves, but it does have toothed stems that grow more or less straight, green in color and about 10 centimeters high.

The flowers are star-shaped, white or yellow with maroon spots and up to 8 centimeters long. These have five pointed lobes that surround the central ring, also called the crown.

What are their cares?

As we said at the beginning, it is a very grateful succulent. But if you want to have a copy, we recommend providing the following care to keep it free of pests, diseases and other problems:


  • Outside: in full sun. It is a plant that must receive the rays of the sun directly, ideally throughout the day, otherwise its growth will be slower and weaker.
  • Indoors: You can be in a room with lots of natural light.


  • Pot: universal growing substrate mixed with perlite in equal parts. Whenever possible, it is advisable to choose a clay pot as this is a material that, being porous, facilitates rooting, so the succulent can grow much better than if it were in a plastic one.
    But, regardless of which one is chosen, it must have holes in the base through which the water can escape during irrigation. This prevents the roots from dying from having such direct contact with stagnant water.
  • Garden: it is indifferent as long as it has good drainage. But beware: remember that the Orbea variegata is relatively small, and therefore easy to lose in a garden. Plant it in a corner where you know that it will be controlled, for example in a kind of planter made with stones integrated in a corner with other succulents and/ or with some cacti. Another option is to plant it first in a wide pot, about 20 centimeters in diameter, then in the ground, burying the pot only a little, and finally cover the container with decorative stones or gravel to make it easy for you to locate it.


Image – Wikimedia/ Maja Dumat from Deutschland (Germany)

Irrigation should be rather scarce, about 2 times a week in summer, and once every 7-10 days the rest of the year. During the winter, you have to water less, about once a month, especially if there are frosts.

It does not tolerate waterlogging. To avoid problems, if it is in a pot it is essential that it has holes in the base through which the water can escape, and without a plate underneath. In addition, both the soil and the substrate must drain the water quickly, because if they are compact and/ or very heavy, the roots will suffer.


From early spring to late summer with specific fertilizers for cacti and other succulents following the instructions specified on the package.

If you prefer, you can use natural fertilizers, such as guano.

Stapelia variegata multiplication

It multiplies by seeds and stem cuttings in spring:


The seeds must be sown in seedbeds with universal substrate mixed with perlite in equal parts, covering them only a little. Then, you just have to water and place them outside, in semi-shade; or indoors with lots of light.

If all goes well, they will germinate in about 15 days, but you should leave them there until they reach a size of at least 2-3 centimeters.


It is the fastest way to get new copies. You just have to cut a stem, and plant it in a pot with vermiculite for example, or with a mixture of black peat mixed with perlite in equal parts.

Water, and place the pot in semi-shade if you are going to have it outside, or indoors with light.

In about 10-15 days it will start to root.

Plagues and diseases

It is quite sturdy in general. But you have to avoid overwatering, and be careful with snails and slugs.


From experience I can tell you that it supports up to -1.5ºC without problems if they are specific and short-term frosts. If you live in a colder area, you should protect it either in a greenhouse or indoors.

Where to buy Orbea variegata ?

Image – Wikimedia/ Skolnik Collection

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