Stapelia gigantica is a fun plant also known as the “starfish plant” or “starfish cactus” due to the hairy-starfish-like flowers it produces. It’s also sometimes called the “carrion plant,” as those flowers happen to smell like rotting flesh. But don’t let that deter you from getting one of these fantastic plants! The Stapelia gigantea blooms, while occasionally smelly, are incredibly beautiful. Totally worth having to hold your nose as you walk by.

What Does The Flower Look Like?

This is a really unique flower. First, they’re huge. They can be up to a foot long from tip to tip. They’ve got pink, red, and orange coloration that forms in little stripes all over the inside of the petals. And they’re hairy! So hairy! Stapelia flowers have long white tufts of hair all over them.

If you’re familiar at all with Spongebob, it might remind you at this point of the Alaskan Bull Worm.

When Does Stapelia Gigantica Bloom?

In North America, Stapelia can put out its first blooms as early as late spring, but it’ll probably give you its best show in the fall. Your plant may put out multiple over the course of those months, or it might be stingy and just give you one big amazing bloom.

The bud of a Stapelia gigantea about to bloom.
A week into budding, and a week from blooming

How Long Does Stapelia Gigantea Take To Bloom?

Once your Stapelia starts to create a flower bud, it’ll take its sweet time opening up. The time between first noticing a bud and getting a full flower can be up to a couple weeks. It likes to build the anticipation and test your patience.

Recently, I had to leave for a trip on day 10 of noticing a Stapelia bud. I had hopes of seeing the flower before I left, but my plant didn’t cooperate. Not wanting to miss it, I set up a camera and checked in daily. It finally bloomed after almost two weeks of budding.

Stapelia gigantea flowering.

That’s all to say – Stapelia gigantea are slow bloomers.

How Long Does The Stapelia Bloom Stay?

Once your Stapelia bloom opens up, the flower should stay for at least a week. It’ll start getting a little floppy and faded over time, though, so snag that pic around day two or three. That’s prime flower time.

What Does Stapelia Gigantea Smell Like?

It’s not called the “corpse flower” for nothing. Stapelia’s flowers emit a rotting flesh smell to attract pollinators. It doesn’t have that scent every time, though – I’ve encountered blooms with virtually no smell. But if you’re lucky enough to get a stinky bloom, you’ll know. It won’t smell up a whole room, but you’ll notice it if you lean in for a whiff. Bonus if you can get some unsuspecting person to smell your pretty flower. But that’s mean. We don’t advocate that. (We totally do.)

Stapelia Gigantea Attracting Flies

The strong rotting flesh odor produced by the flower does a good job of bringing in flies. In fact, when I had that camera set up on my Stapelia flower, I had to turn it off one day due to the fact that I accidentally recorded hours and hours of flies buzzing around.

Flies buzzing around Stapelia gigantea flower.

Additionally, the hairs on the flower may have evolved to mimic a dead animal, since that’s what flies are attracted to. Sorry for the mental picture, but if you think about it, the Stapelia flower does kind of look like the flesh of a dead animal. The hairs, that don’t really serve the plant otherwise, probably make the flies feel right at home.

Should You Buy A Stapelia Gigantea?

If you don’t already have one, yes, absolutely. These plants are so easy to maintain and the flowers they produce are simply incredible. They are very easy to propagate as well. Just cut off an arm of the plant, let it heal for a few days, and stick it in soil. You can share this stinky gem with all your friends.

Need a pot for your Stapelia?

Stylish planter with a drainage hole and saucer. Comes in six pretty colors!

Ceramic planter with geometric patterns. Comes glazed in either white or blue.

For hanging your plants indoors or outdoors. Stapelia do love a wide pot!

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