Ghost Plant

Graptopetalum paraguayense is a species of succulent plant in the jade plant family, Crassulaceae, that is native to Tamaulipas, Mexico. Common names include mother-of-pearl-plant and ghost plant. This is not to be confused with Monotropa uniflora which is also referred to as the “Ghost plant”. G. paraguayense has white flowers which have a form of a star. The Graptopetalum paraguayense is called the ghost plant because of the residue on the leaves making it look like a ghost.



The plant has a spreading and creeping habit. Its appearance may vary depending on the soil and the exposure. The hanging rod can reach up to 2 m in length and a thickness of 2 cm. Green to light grey leaves can be up to 7 cm long and 3 cm wide. Thick and fleshy, they are arranged in a spiral around the stem and are very easily detached from the rosette, that is why this plant has been nicknamed "porcelain succulent". Its flowers appearing in spring have five white petals spotted with red.


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

6 - 12 inches


Width-Circumference (Avg)

2 - 3 feet


Approximate pH

6.1 - 7.5


Types of Ghost Plant


1. Graptopetalum paraguayense ‘Variegatum’


This is a natural variegated form of the original species. Instead of the leaves being just the one shade of blue-gray, each leaf has purple and cream margins. There can be a wide variance in the amount of variegation that appears on different rosettes on the same plant.



In fact, on some plants, the rosettes may have some pure purple leaves while others are blue-gray with cream margins. This translates to what can be quite a colorful and attractive plant, especially as the color of the leaves changes with the different seasons.


2. Graptopetalum paraguayense subsp. Bernalense


This is another natural variation of the Graptopetalum paraguayense. It’s a much smaller plant with individual leaves reaching a length of only 1.6 inches (4cm).



The coloring on this variety is also slightly different. Instead of having blue-gray leaves, this subspecies has yellowish-green leaves. These can portray the same kind of pink tinges when the plant is under stress such as being exposed to cold or very dry conditions.


3. Graptopetalum ‘Victor Kane’



This is a delightful little cultivar that forms small rosettes on quite longish stems. The leaves are pastel-colored in shades of cream and pink and are quite thick compared to other cultivars and hybrids. Each rosette only reaches a diameter of around 4 inches (10 cm).


4. Graptopetalum ‘Purple Haze’



This hybrid is somewhat similar to ‘Victor Kane’ except the leaves are not as thick. Also, the leaves tend to be a pale gray color with tinges of pink. But, depending on the season, it can be difficult to tell these two hybrids apart.


Subspecies: xGraptosedum:


The subspecies xGraptosedum is a cultivated hybrid cross between two genera: Graptopetalum and Sedum.


This type of cultivation produces plants that have the best features from both genera. Many of the xGraptosedum hybrids are crossed with Graptopetalum paraguayense but there are a few that have been crossed with other Graptopetalum species.


5. xGraptosedum ‘Bronze’


As the name would suggest, this lovely cultivar has mainly bronze-colored leaves. It’s a hybrid cross between Graptopetalum paraguayense and Sedum stahlii. The leaves have a tendency to whorl around the growing stems culminating in a rosette at the end. They are flat on the top and have a fleshy keel underneath.



Unlike a lot of the other species, cultivars, or hybrids of Graptopetalum paraguayense, the lower leaves have a tendency to remain on the long stems rather than fall off. The dainty flowers have 4 petals and are yellow in color.


6. xGraptosedum ‘Francesco Baldi’


This plant is the result of a hybrid cross between Graptopetalum paraguayense and Sedum pachyphyllum. The leaves on this cultivar are quite fleshy and much more rounded but still have a pointed tip. The stems are longer on this plant and have a tendency to trail.



The rosettes grow on the ends of these stems and can reach a diameter of 5 inches (12.5 cm). The leaves are the familiar blue-gray but can change color with the change of the seasons. The dainty star-shaped flowers are yellow.


7. xGraptosedum ‘California Sunset’


As the name would suggest, this cultivar has lovely orange-tipped leaves while the younger leaves are tipped with a rosy-pink color. This particular cultivar is a hybrid cross between Graptopetalum paraguayense and Sedum adolphi.



The plant does produce stems that have rosettes on the ends. The flowers of this species are white.


Subspecies: xGraptoveria:


xGraptoveria is a subspecies that has been created by crossing certain species of Graptopetalum with certain Echeveria species. The resultant plants are all hybrids and do not occur naturally.


Although there are numerous species created by crossing Echeveria species with Gratopetalum paraguayense, there are also other species that have an unknown parentage. For this list, we’re only looking at the hybrids that have been crossed with Graptopetalum paraguayense.


8. xGraptoveria ‘Harry Watson’



This particular species is a hybrid between Graptopetalum paraguayense and Echeveria ‘Rubella’. It has pale green to blue-green leaves that form small rosettes. These can reach a diameter of 6 inches (15 cm). It will produce dainty yellow-pink flowers.

This particular species has the tendency to freely produce offsets resulting in dense mounds.


9. xGraptoveria ‘Acaulis’


This cultivar resulted from a hybrid cross between Graptopetalum paraguayense and Echeveria amoena. This has produced a plant with leaves that are more glaucous and form larger rosettes than some of the other species.



The leaves can vary a little in color being blue-green when young and taking on a more pinkish-brown appearance as they age. The dainty flowers are usually yellow and some may have red dots.


10. xGraptoveria ‘Titubans’ (Porcelain plant)


This lovely succulent was produced by crossing Graptopetalum paraguayense and Echeveria derenbergii. This has created the sweetest little succulent with thick, fleshy spoon-shaped leaves that form diminutive rosettes. These rosettes reach a diameter of around 3 inches (7.5 cm).



The plant forms numerous creeping stems with rosettes on the end. This enables the succulent to form quite dense carpets when given the space to spread. The leaves are a pale blue-gray color with pinkish tips in cooler temperatures.


xGraptoveria ‘Douglas Huth’



This attractive cultivar is a hybrid cross between Graptopetalum paraguayense and Echeveria gigantea. It’s a clump-forming succulent with stemless rosettes. The leaves are quite thick and often colored apricot to pink when grown in full sun. However, when grown in shade, the leaves are bluer. The flowers on this cultivar are also pink.


xGraptoveria ‘Fred Ives’


This lovely cultivar produces larger rosettes that can reach a diameter of 12 inches (30 cm). It’s a hybrid cross between Gratopetalum paraguayense and Echeveria gibbiflora. The leaves are quite broad and waxy and in shades of purple, bronze, and blue-green. The flowers on this variety are pale yellow and sometimes have red spots. There is also a variegated form of this species called xGraptoveria ‘Fred Ives Variegata’.



In addition, another species has been created called xGraptoveria ‘Fred Ives Cristata’. This is simply a crested form of xGraptoveria ‘Fred Ives’. This means that the leaves form a tight crest on top of a ‘trunk’. The leaves in this variety are smaller and can change in color from bronze to blue-green or purplish-yellow with the seasons.


Growing Ghost Plant


How to Grow Ghost Plant From Seed


Although it's fastest to propagate ghost plants from offset pups, you can also start numerous plants from seed to fill a large area of the garden. Collect the tiny seeds from seed pods that form after flowers wither, or purchase seed from a commercial source. Sow the seed on sterile potting mix. Water with a plant mister to avoid displacing the seeds. Keep the seed tray in bright light at 70 degrees Fahrenheit; germination will take place in about three weeks.


How to Get Ghost Plant to Bloom


These plants are grown mostly for the foliage, so gardeners generally aren't too concerned if they don't bloom much. If you're disappointed by the lack of blooms (because you want to experiment with collecting seeds for propagation), make sure the plant is receiving plenty of sunlight. Extra feeding generally doesn't help prompt blooming; in fact, excess fertilizer can reduce flowering because the plant uses the food to put its energy into stem and leaf growth.


Ghost Plant Care


Like many succulents, ghost plant is a low-maintenance specimen when you meet its basic growing requirements. Sharp drainage, abundant sunlight, and scant irrigation are the keys to a healthy ghost plant that will soon be producing new offshoots for you to propagate. Unlike some succulents, this plant will thrive in some relatively cool conditions; its most active growing periods will be in spring and fall.


Light


Ghost plants will be at their most handsome in full sun or partial sun. Plants that don't receive enough light will become leggy and might experience leaf drop. When grown as a houseplant, keep the ghost plant in a south or east-facing window.


The amount of light a ghost plant receives can affect its typical grayish-white coloration. A shadier locale will result in foliage with a blue-gray tinge, while hot and dry conditions causes the grayish-white leaves to take on a pinkish-yellow hint of color.


Soil


Like the majority of succulents, the ghost plant needs good drainage to maintain a healthy root system. The more rainfall your area receives, the more drainage you must provide for ghost plants. If your garden has clay soil, plant them in raised beds at least six inches tall and a planting mix comprised of half grit, gravel, or sand, and half organic material like peat, coco coir, or commercial potting soil.


Potted plants do well in a potting mix designed for cacti or in a standard potting mix blended with 50 percent sand.


Water


In the absence of natural rain, ghost plants only need occasional irrigation. Plants growing outdoors in full sun and summer temperatures will appreciate a weekly drink, while houseplants may only need watering every other week. Water indoor ghost plants at soil level to prevent water from stagnating in the rosettes.


Temperature and Humidity


Ghost plants are reliably hardy in USDA cold hardiness zones 9 to 11, but they will often survive temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit if they are covered over for winter. Gardeners in zones 7 and 8 can often grow them outdoors successfully if they are willing to offer some winter protection. These plants will do well in hot weather, but their most active growth will occur in the relatively cool periods of spring and fall.


Excess humidity can be a problem in areas with poorly draining soil. Planting your ghost plants in containers or raised beds, as well as spacing them away from each other and away from other plants to increase air circulation, will keep plants healthy.


Fertilizer


All plants need some form of nutrients in order to grow and flower, but most succulents grow quite well in low-nutrient soil, and might even react badly to too much fertilizer, which can burn the leaves. Using a soil-enriching approach like manure tea or a side-dressing of compost is enough to keep your ghost plants vigorous. At most, a very light annual feeding with a diluted cactus fertilizer will suffice.


Pruning and Propagating Ghost Plant


Pruning


Pruning is generally not necessary with these plants, but if they become leggy and scraggly, you can trim back the wandering stems to the center rosette. These trimmed stems can be used to propagate new plants.

Propagating Ghost Plant


Ghost plant is an extremely easy plant to propagate. A healthy leaf that falls might even root where it lays if conditions are right. But the quickest way to achieve full-sized plants is to clip off and root one of the many offset "pups" that appear at the end of the stems growing from the parent rosette. Here's how:

  1. When the offset is about 1/4 the size of the parent plant, use clean pruners to clip it off, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of stem below the rosette.

  2. Allow the stem to sit for two or three days to callus over, then replant it in a new pot filled with cactus potting mix.

  3. Wait about five days until the plant is established, then water thoroughly.

  4. Continue to grow in bright filtered sun, watering every four or five days until well established. Then, reduce watering to no more than every two weeks.


Potting and Repotting


Growing ghost plants in containers is a great way to bring the attributes of this succulent up to eye level. Choose a gritty or lightweight potting soil mix and a pot with good drainage. The root system is shallow, so a low, saucer-shaped clay pot with good drainage can make a perfect container. In mixed plantings, keep the ghost plant at the container's edge where it won't get lost behind taller specimens. The pale whitish-gray leaves of ghost plants contrast pleasingly with purple-leafed plants that have similar growing requirements, such as sedum 'Firecracker'.


Ghost plants are slow-growing and don't need frequent repotting. When your specimen has outgrown its container, be sure to handle the plant carefully to avoid damaging the powdery pruinose coating on the leaves, which is delicate. Grasp plants at the base of the crown rather than by the leaves, and repot it in a light potting mix or cactus mix.


Overwintering


Within its hardiness range where winters stay relatively warm, no overwintering routine is necessary at all. In colder winter zones where the plant dies back for the winter, cover the plant with dry mulch over the coldest months, but remove it promptly when the weather climbs back above freezing.


Indoor plants (or outdoor container plants brought indoors for the winter) will do best in a bright, sunny window but at relatively moderate-to-cool temperatures (65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit). Keep the plant away from radiators and heat vents. Watering can be slightly reduced during the winter months because the plant will naturally want to go somewhat dormant.


Pests and Plant Diseases


These plants are marvelously free of most pests and diseases, but indoor plants can be more susceptible to a handful of problems common to many houseplants.


As your ghost plant grows, remove dead leaves at the base of the plant. Decomposing leaves provide a habitat for pests like the mealybug. If your ghost plant has mealybugs, you can spot treat with a dab of isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab or smother them with horticultural oil.


The most common disease of ghost plant is root rot, which is usually the result of too much watering or soil that doesn't drain well. Leaves that begin to drop are often a sign the plant is being overwatered.


Common Problems With Ghost Plant


Ghost plant if famous for thriving when treated with neglect, but there are some common problems to watch for.

Leaves Are Shriveled


It's not a frequent problem, but shriveled leaves on a ghost plant (or most succulents) usually indicate a plant that has suffered a little too much hands-off treatment—it probably needs more water. Water the plant every four or five days until the plant's succulent leaves are once again full and plump, then reduce watering to every couple of weeks.


Leaves Are Dropping

A much more common and serious problem is leaves that drop from the plant. This is very often the result of root rot beginning, caused by excessive watering. A ghost plant that is watered weekly like a standard houseplant will often drown. If you catch this problem early, simply withholding water for a few weeks might halt the problem and restore your plant to health. But once root rot gets hold, it can destroy the plant.


Less commonly, leaf drop can be caused by a lack of sunlight. Make sure your plant is receiving plenty of bright light, including at least four to six hours of direct sunlight if possible.


Burned Leaves


The most common reason for leaves that look dried out and burned is too much fertilizer. Less commonly, it can occur if the plant has had too much direct sun in an outdoor setting that is very hot.

Plant Is Leggy and Scraggly


If your ghost plant is sending out many long stems without much foliage on them, it's usually a sign the plant is not receiving enough sunlight. Move the plant to a location where it receives lots of bright light, including four to six hours of direct sunlight. You can clip off the scraggly stems and use them for propagating new plants.


Uses

  • Ghost plants are an excellent source of calcium to strengthen bones and teeth and magnesium to maintain optimum nerve and muscle functioning. The fleshy leaves also contain a high-water content and malic acid, a natural acid commonly found in some fruits and vegetables. Malic acid is used to promote energy production within the body and increase endurance.

  • This succulent can be an exemplary indoor potted plant as well as an impressive outdoor plant in xeriscapes, rock gardens, and succulent gardens. It is also a pleasant companion plant for Sempervivum and other similar succulents.

  • Ghost plants have a sweet and sour flavor well suited for both raw and lightly cooked preparations. The leaves can be washed and tossed into salads, shredded and mixed into slaws, blended into smoothies and juices, or pureed into salad dressings. The leaves can also be dipped into chocolate as a healthy dessert, topped with minced meat and miso as a bite-sized appetizer, or drizzled with honey.


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