The Ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) is a tiny evergreen succulent that may be cultivated as a garden plant in warmer climates, although it is most often grown as a houseplant in a container in cooler climates. Ghost plants, with their pointy pinkish-grey leaves and trailing rosette shape, lend a contemporary touch to container plantings and rock gardens.
It is normal for the rosettes to be around 4 inches in diameter and to take on a blue-gray color while in partial shade and a pinkish-yellow hue when in full light. When planted outdoors, the ghost plant’s dainty, star-shaped yellow blooms bloom in the spring. However, when cultivated inside, the flowers may bloom at any time of year.
When cultivated in the landscape, ghost plants are often acquired as little potted plants that are planted in the springtime after they have been purchased. It has sluggish growth (just a few inches each year) and may live for decades, similar to many other succulents.
The Ghost Plants Variety
Two naturally occurring types of the Graptopetalum paraguayense species are widely cultivated, the most notable of which is a variegated variety (Graptopetalum paraguayense f. variegata). There is also a variety known as “Purple Haze” that is very popular. In a large number of hybrids that give color variants, there is more diversity to be found:
- The foliage of Graptopetalum Graptosedum ‘Bronze’ has a reddish-bronze color.
- The leaves of Graptopetalum Graptosedum ‘California Sunset’ have an unusual orange-pink color.
- The leaves of Graptopetalum Graptoveria ‘Douglas Huth’ are a lovely shade of pink to blue.
- The leaves of Graptopetalum Graptoveria ‘Fred Ives’ range from bronze to blue-green in color.
- The leaves of Graptopetalum x Graptoveria ‘Tibutans’ are very thick and have pink tips.
Guides to Growing and Caring for Ghost Plants
When you satisfy the basic growth needs of the ghost plant, it becomes a low-maintenance specimen, similar to many other succulents. Sharp drainage, plenty of sunshine, and infrequent watering are the keys to growing a healthy ghost plant that will soon be generating new offshoots for you to propagate in your garden. In contrast to certain succulents, which will flourish in some somewhat chilly circumstances, the spring and autumn seasons will be the most active growth seasons for this plant.
Requirements for Lighting and Soil
It is best to place ghost plants in full sun or brilliant dappled shade to show off their best features. Plants that do not get enough light will become leggy, and they may even suffer from leaf drop. When grown indoors, the ghost plant should be grown in a south or east-facing window when grown as a houseplant.
The quantity of light that a ghost plant gets may have an effect on the color of the plant. A shadier location will result in the typical bluish-gray foliage, whilst a full day of sunlight will result in the appearance of shades of blush on the leaves.
The ghost plant, like the majority of succulents, needs proper drainage in order to maintain a healthy root structure. The greater the amount of rainfall that your location gets, the more drainage you will need to supply to ghost plants. Planting on raised beds that are at least 6 inches tall and made of a planting mix that is half grit, gravel, or sand and half organic material like peat, coco coir, or commercial potting soil is recommended for gardens with clay soil.
For potted plants, a cactus-specific potting mix or a conventional potting mix that has been mixed with 50% sand works well.
Water and Fertilizer Needs
Because ghost plants do not need regular watering in the absence of natural rainfall, they may survive on just infrequent irrigation. The watering needs of plants growing outside in full sun and high summer temperatures will vary, with some plants requiring weekly watering and others just every other week. Indoor ghost plants should be watered at the soil level to prevent water from becoming stagnant in the rosettes.
Even while all plants need certain nutrients in order to develop and blossom, most succulents do pretty well in low-nutrient soil, and some may even respond negatively to further fertilization, which may cause the leaves to burn. In order to keep your ghost plants healthy, a soil-enriching strategy such as manure tea or a side-dressing of compost is all that is required. If you want to keep things as simple as possible, a yearly feeding with a diluted cactus fertilizer will be sufficient.
Temperature and Humidity Range
Despite the fact that ghost plants are dependably hardy in zones 9 to 11, they may sometimes withstand temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit if they are completely covered up for the winter. If gardeners in zones 7 and 8 are prepared to provide some winter protection, they may typically grow them successfully outside. Despite the fact that these plants will thrive in hot temperatures, their most active development will occur during the comparatively mild seasons of spring and autumn.
If you live in a region with poorly draining soil, excessive humidity might be a concern. Planting your ghost plants in containers or raised beds, as well as spacing them apart from one another and from other plants to allow for better air circulation, can help to maintain your plants in good condition.
Ghost Plant Pruning and Propagation Tips
Most of the time, pruning is not required with these plants, but if they get lanky and scraggly, you may prune the straying branches back to the core rosette. Plant propagation may be accomplished via the use of these cut stems.
The Ghost plant is a plant that is exceedingly simple to grow and propagate. If the circumstances are favorable, a healthy leaf that falls may even take root where it lands. However, the easiest approach to establishing full-sized plants is to clip off and root one of the numerous offset “pups” that arise at the ends of the stems that extend out from the parent rosette as soon as they appear. Here’s how it’s done:
When the offset has grown to approximately 1/4 the size of the parent plant, cut it off using clean pruners, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of stem below the rosette as a remnant.
To transplant the cactus, let it callus over for 2 or 3 days before putting it in a new pot filled with cactus potting mix.
Wait about five days for the plant to get established before properly watering it.
Until the plant is fully established, it should be grown in bright, filtered sunlight and watered every four or five days. Then limit the frequency of watering to no more than once every two weeks.
Starting a Ghost Plant Growing from Seed
Despite the fact that propagating ghost plants from offset pups is the quickest method, you can also start a huge number of plants from seed to cover a broad area of the garden. You may either collect the small seeds that grow in the seed pods that emerge after the blooms have faded, or you can buy seeds from a commercial source.
Start by sowing the seed in some sterile potting mix. To prevent moving the seeds, use a plant mister to water the plants. Keep the seed tray in strong light at 70 degrees Fahrenheit; germination will occur in approximately three weeks if the temperature is kept constant.
Potting and Repotting the Plants
It is a terrific idea to grow ghost plants in pots in order to bring their characteristics closer to the viewer’s eye level. Choose a potting soil combination that is granular or lightweight, as well as a container with sufficient drainage. Because the root system is shallow, a low, saucer-shaped clay pot with excellent drainage may be used as a container for this plant.
When using a ghost plant in a mixed planting, place it at the edge of the container so that it does not get lost among the taller specimens. The light grey leaves of ghost plants stand out against purple-leaved plants with comparable growth requirements, such as sedum ‘Firecracker,’ which has a similar growing requirement.
Ghost plants are slow-growing and don’t need re-potting on a regular basis. When your specimen has outgrown its container, treat it with care and as little as possible to prevent injuring the powdered pruinose covering on the leaves, which is very sensitive. Picking up plants by the base of the crown rather than the leaves is the best method of re-potting them in a light potting mix or cactus mix.
Overwintering the Ghost Plant
There is no need for an overwintering regimen when the plant is grown in its hardiness region, where winters are rather mild. Plants in colder winter zones, where they would die back for the winter, should be covered with dry mulch during the coldest months, but they should be removed immediately as the weather warms up to temperatures higher than freezing.
Indoor plants (or outside container plants moved home for the winter) will thrive under a bright, sunny window with somewhat moderate-to-cool temperatures rather than in direct sunlight (65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit). Keep the plant away from radiators and heat registers to avoid overheating it. Watering may be decreased significantly throughout the winter months, as the plant will naturally desire to fall into a state of dormancy during this time.
Pests and plant diseases that are often encountered
Despite the fact that these plants are remarkably free of most pests and diseases, indoor plants may be more prone to a number of issues that are common to many houseplants.
Take away any dead leaves that accumulate at the base of your ghost plant as it develops. For pests such as the mealybug, decomposing leaves offer an ideal breeding ground. If you see mealybugs on your ghost plant, you may spot treat them with isopropyl alcohol or smother them with horticultural oil to get rid of them.
The most frequent illness of the ghost plant is root rot, which is generally caused by over-watering or by soil that does not drain effectively. When leaves begin to drop, it is usually an indication that the plant is receiving too much water.
How to Get a Ghost Plant to Bloom
Because these plants are kept mostly for their leaves, gardeners aren’t very concerned if they don’t produce a large number of flowers. If you’re dissatisfied by the lack of blooms (for example, if you want to experiment with harvesting seeds for propagation), check to verify that the plant is receiving sufficient light from the sun. Extra feeding, on the other hand, is not normally beneficial in promoting flowering; in fact, excessive fertilizer may actually inhibit flowering as the plant devotes its energy to stem and leaf development.
Other Significant Issues Concerning the Ghost Plant
The ghost plant is well-known for its ability to thrive when neglected, but there are certain frequent concerns to keep an eye out for.
The leaves have shrunk in size
It’s not a common issue, but shriveled leaves on a ghost plant (or on most succulents) typically suggest that the plant has been subjected to a bit too much hands-off care, and that it therefore needs more water than it now has. Reduce watering to once every four to five days until the succulent leaves of the plant are once again full and plump, then reduce it to once every couple of weeks beyond that point to avoid dehydrating the plant.
The Leaves have begun to fall
Another, much more prevalent and far more significant issue is the shedding of leaves from a plant. This is very commonly the consequence of the commencement of root rot, which is caused by over irrigation. A ghost plant that is watered on a weekly basis, like a regular houseplant, will often perish from dehydration. If you identify this issue early enough, merely withholding water for a few weeks may be enough to stop the problem and restore health to your plant. However, once root rot has taken hold, it has the potential to completely damage the plant.
Leaf drop may be induced by a lack of sunlight, which is a less prevalent reason. Make certain that it receives enough strong light, especially at least four to six hours of direct sunshine if at all feasible.
Leaves that have been burned
The most frequent cause of leaves that seem dried out and scorched is an excessive amount of fertilizer. It may also occur less often if the plant has received an excessive amount of direct sunlight in a very hot outdoor environment.
The plant is lanky and scraggly in appearance
If your ghost plant is putting out a large number of long stems with little or no leaves on them, this is typically an indication that the plant is not receiving enough light. Make sure to move the plant to a spot where it will get enough strong light, including four to six hours of direct sunshine every day. It is possible to trim the scraggly stems and utilize them to propagate new plants by cutting them.