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The ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) is a popular invasive succulent known for its pale gray-green leaves that look like ghostly rose petals. This low-maintenance plant is easy to grow indoors and outdoors in the garden if you follow some basic care guidelines.
Read on to learn all about Ghost plant care and keeping your Graptopetalum thriving.
What are Ghost Plants
The ghost plant is a flowering succulent that belongs to the Crassulaceae family. Its scientific name is Graptopetalum paraguayense, though it also may be labeled Graptopetalum rusbyi or Sedum rusbyi.
This plant is native to Mexico and South America. In the wild, it grows on rocky hillsides and in grasslands. Its light grayish-green leaves inspired its common name, resulting from the farina layer. When the plant is stressed by drought or cold temperatures, the leaves take on a ghostly pale hue.
Some other common names are the mother of pearl plant or hens and chicks.
Some Key Features of Graptopetalum Paraguayense
Leaf color ranges from gray-green to pinkish-gray depending on light and growing conditions. Leaves are thick and fleshy.
Leaves are oblong to lance-shaped and up to 3 inches long. They grow in rosettes at the tips of the stems.
Flowers bloom in late spring/early summer on branched stalks. Flowers are small star-shaped yellow flowers that can also be white or pink.
Ghost Plants grow up to 12 inches tall and 24 inches wide. They have a spreading, low rosette shape.
This succulent is cold hardy to about 20°F (-6°C). It can tolerate light frost but does best in warm, dry climates.
When grown indoors, it stays compact, around 6 inches tall. Outdoors, it reaches full size.
The ghost plant is one of the easiest succulents to grow. Their pale coloring and rosette shape make them intriguing indoor plants and look fabulous outside.
Ghost Plant Care
Caring for Graptopetalum paraguayense is simple, as this succulent stores water in its leaves and is highly adaptable to dry conditions. Just provide the right potting mix, water when dry, and plenty of sunlight as a potted houseplant. Your ghost plant thrives in a rock garden with minimal care.
Use a porous potting mix for cacti and succulents to provide good drainage. A blend of equal parts potting soil, coarse sand, perlite, and pumice offers excellent drainage. You can also purchase ready-made cactus soil mixes.
Make sure the potting mix is loose and gritty. Avoid regular potting soil, which will retain too much moisture. So, the rule is to provide well-draining soil, as with most succulents.
Ghost Plant Lighting
Like most succulents, the ghost plant can thrive in rock gardens and is incredibly easy to care for indoors. Still, the ghost plant thrives in specific light requirements.
Ghost plants do well indoors when they receive bright, indirect sunlight. Place them near a sunny window where they can get plenty of bright, filtered light but are protected from harsh, direct sunlight. A south- or west-facing window with sheer curtains can be ideal.
Alternatively, you can place them at an east-facing window without concern as it will receive bright indirect sunlight, but keep an eye on it to not receive too much partial shade. If you don’t have access to sufficient natural light, you can use artificial grow lights.
Place the lights a few inches above the plant and leave them on for 12-16 hours daily. To ensure even growth, it’s a good idea to rotate your ghost plant every couple of weeks as it leans towards the light source. When grown outdoors, the mother of pearl thrives in locations that receive partial sun to full sun.
They can handle direct sunlight in milder climates, while in hot, arid regions, they may benefit from partial shade in the afternoon in a rock garden.
Ghost Plant Watering
Watering a ghost plant properly is essential for its health, as overwatering can harm succulents. Like many succulents, ghost plants prefer to completely dry out between watering. Before watering, check the soil’s moisture level by sticking your finger into the ground to your first knuckle.
If the soil feels dry at that depth, it’s time to water. When it’s time to water, give your mother-of-pearl plant a thorough soak. Water the plant, allowing excess water to drain out the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
This ensures that the entire root ball gets moisture. Too much water is a common issue with succulents. Ensure not to water too frequently, which can lead to root rot. Typically, you’ll water your ghost plant every 2-4 weeks, but this can vary depending on environmental factors, pot size, and climate.
Adjust your watering schedule based on the season. Ghost plants need less water during their dormant period in the winter and more during their active growing season in spring and summer. When watering, aim to water the soil at the base of the plant. Avoid getting water on the thick leaves, leading to rot or fungal issues.
Ghost Plant Fertilizer
Fertilizing ghost plants is vital to their care, providing essential nutrients for healthy foliage growth. We recommend using a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer formulated for succulents or cacti.
Look for a feed with an N-P-K (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) ratio of around 2-7-7, as succulents prefer lower nitrogen levels. Ghost plants have an active growing season in spring and summer. Start fertilizing in the early spring and continue through late summer.
Avoid fertilizing during the dormant winter period. Dilute the plant food to half or even a quarter of the recommended strength on the package. This is important because succulents are not heavy feeders, and using full-strength plant food can lead to over-fertilization, harming the plant.
Apply the diluted fertilizer to the soil around the base of the ghost plant. Avoid getting fertilizer on the leaves, as this can cause burns. Water the plant lightly after fertilizing to help distribute the nutrients. Fertilize your ghost plant approximately every 4-6 weeks during the active growth.
Please don’t overdo it; succulents are adapted to nutrient-poor environments and don’t need frequent fertilization. Alternatively, you can add a bit of compost when repotting your plant.
Temperature and Humidity
Ghost Plants prefer daytime temperatures between 65-75°F (18-24°C) and nights around 50-55°F (10-13°C) compared to most other plants.
They can tolerate higher and lower temperatures but may show signs of stress in extreme heat or cold. Indoors, avoid placing these succulents next to heating/cooling vents. Maintain average room humidity. When grown outside in areas with high summer heat, provide afternoon shade.
Bring pots inside if frost or freezing temperatures are expected from fall to winter.
Repot your ghost plant in the spring every 2-3 years. Carefully remove your plant from the old pot and loosen and trim any circled roots in the root system.
Repot into a new pot one size larger and provide fresh soil. Ensure the pot has drainage holes, and plant your mother of pearl at the same soil level as in the previous container.
You can also divide congested rosettes at repotting time. Gently pull rosettes apart to avoid damaging the root system and repot separately.
Pruning Ghost Plants
Prune off any dead or damaged leaves at the base of the plant. Healthy leaves can be pinched off neatly with your fingers. Remove spent flower stalks back to the base after blooming.
To maintain a compact shape, prune the rosette clumps back by 1/3 after flowering. New growth will soon fill in, and remember always to use clean pruners or a sterile knife.
How to Propagate Ghost Plants
The mother of pearl plant is easily propagated through leaf cuttings and offsets. Propagating the ghost plant ensures you always have a new plant to add to your other houseplants or gift friends. Here are the two most common methods:
How to propagate using stems:
Select a healthy leaf from the parent plant. Look for a leaf that is plump and not damaged.
Gently twist or cut the leaf from the stem. Ensure that you get a clean break from the mother plant.
Allow the cut end to dry and callus for a few days. This helps prevent rot when you plant the cutting.
Plant the callused end of the leaf in a succulent or cactus potting mix. You can place it on the soil surface or plant it slightly into the soil.
Water the cutting lightly to settle the soil around it, but be cautious not to overwater. Keep the soil lightly moist but not soggy.
Place the pot in bright, indirect light.
After a few weeks to a couple of months, you should see new roots and new leaf growth at the base of the leaf. Once these rosettes have grown large enough, you can transplant them into their container. Later, you can transplant them to the garden.
How to propagate offsets or chicks
Ghost plants often produce offsets like most other succulents, or small rosettes, around the base of the parent plant. These offsets can be separated to propagate.
Gently remove the offsets from the mother plant. Depending on their size and how tightly they’re attached, you may need a clean, sharp knife or your hands.
Allow the cut end of the offset to dry and callus for a day or two.
Plant the offset in a small pot with well-draining succulent or cactus soil.
Water it lightly and place it in bright, indirect light.
Whether you choose leaf cuttings or offsets, it’s important to ensure the new plants have the right growing conditions: soil, bright but indirect light, and careful watering.
Ghost Plant Varieties
There are a few different species of Graptopetalum paraguayense to choose from:
Graptopetalum x Graptosedum ‘Bronze’
The bronze grows up to six inches tall with reddish-bronze foliage.
Graptopetalum x Graptosedum ‘California Sunset’
The California sunset is stunning and not easily seen in most succulent plants. The leaves have a unique orange-pink hue.
Graptopetalum x Graptoveria ‘Tibutans’
Now for something spectacular for the succulent lover is the Tibutans with its apricot or pink tip leaves that love cooler weather.
Common Pests and Diseases
Ghost Plants are not prone to many issues when grown properly. Potential problems include:
Mealybugs: Cottony white insects that suck plant juices. Wipe off with rubbing alcohol.
Root rot: Caused by overwatering. Improve drainage and cut back on water.
Sunburn: Leaves turn brown/red from too much direct sun. Provide shade.
Etiolation: Weak, leggy growth from insufficient light. Move to a brighter location.
Frost damage: Protect from freezing, which can kill above-ground growth.
For treating pest infestations, it helps to use a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol or neem oil. To prevent the spread of diseases, ensure your plants have enough air circulation and avoid overhead watering, leaving the leaves moist.
Frequently Asked Questions
As with most plants except some, the ghost plants are non-toxic to dogs, cats, and other pets. Nonetheless, it’s best to discourage pets from nibbling on plants to prevent an upset stomach.
Ghost plants prefer bright, indirect sunlight. While they can tolerate shade, they won’t thrive in low light.
Ghost plants do not require frequent fertilization. You can feed them with balanced, water-soluble plant food once a month during the growing season (spring and summer). Avoid fertilizing during the dormant winter months.
Brown leaves on a ghost plant can be caused by a few factors, including overwatering, underwatering, or standing in full sun all day. Check the moisture level and adjust your watering schedule accordingly. Move the plant to a spot with filtered light if standing all day in full sun.
A farina layer, also known as a farinose or farinaceous layer, is a term used to describe a powdery or waxy substance covering certain plants’ surfaces, typically on leaves, stems, or even fruits. This layer often gives the plant a whitish, bluish, or silvery appearance.
The best time for planting ghost plants is in the growing season when the temperature warms up.