The first written references to Haworthias go back as far as the early 1600s when European colonists were discovering the botanical riches of southern Africa.
Haworthia is a large genus of small succulent plants endemic to Southern Africa. Haworthias form rosettes of leaves from 1.2 inches to exceptionally 12 inches in diameter, depending on the species. These rosettes are usually stemless but in some species stems reach up to 20 inches.
Haworthia (Haw ~ Thor ~ ia) remain small and more tolerant of modest lighting than many succulent plants.
Though the small whitish flowers are less than spectacular, they are rewarding and very willing to come forth under diverse conditions.
The real glory is in the succulent leaves, which, depending on species, can be variously colored in greens, reds, or browns (to near black).
Some have leaves that are thin and bristly, others thick and fat. Some are plain, others are marked with lines, bumps, stripes, or dots. All these factors point to why Haworthias are very popular houseplants capable of being grown successfully indoors in all areas of the world, and outdoors where frosts are infrequent and of short duration.
Haworthias are closely related to Aloes and are in the Aloe family, Aloaceae. At one time, up to not too long ago, Aloes, Haworthias, and their relatives were considered part of a very large lily family (Liliaceae) which has since been broken up into more meaningful units.
Haworthias are easy to grow as long as you keep in mind that they are succulents, and require the appropriate light, temperature, soil, and water.
Although it is possible to kill a Haworthia, they are generally forgiving of the occasional lapses of ideal care. It is much easier to overwater this species than underwater.
Light. The stereotypical image of cacti and other succulent plants is as desert inhabitants, living fully exposed in the hot, bright sun. Whereas large plants can survive such harsh conditions, many smaller succulents actually are found in the shade of rocks or shrubs.
Although some Haworthia species can be found in full, bright sun, many live in more protected spots and therefore are adapted to thrive in partial shade (though few look their best without at least some direct sun or bright light). This makes Haworthias well adapted to lower light conditions found in homes.
Many Haworthias readily offset, and therefore are easily passed along to friends or handed down from generation to generation.
Haworthia can be propagated at repotting time using offsets from the mother plant.
When taking offsets, use a sharp knife or snippers and cut as close to the mother stem as possible to include as many roots as possible, then allow the offset to dry briefly before repotting it (similar to cuttings from other succulents).
Pot the offsets in a small pot, using the same soil as the mother plant, put it in a warm, bright spot, and make sure to adequately water.
Haworthia is small (usually remaining between 3″ and 5″ in height) and relatively slow-growing. They are often grown in small clusters in wide, shallow dishes. Over time, clusters will naturally enlarge as the mother plant sends off small plantlets.
When the cluster has outgrown its dish, repot in the spring or early summer into a new wide and shallow dish with fresh potting soil. This is also the time to take offsets for propagation.
Haworthia is not considered difficult houseplants to grow—if you can keep a pot of aloe alive on a windowsill, chances are you can do the same with a dish of Haworthia. As with all succulents, the most dangerous situation is too much water, since they should never be allowed to sit in water under any circumstances.
At the same time, these little decorative plants can be grown in interesting containers such as teacups and even miniature baby shoes. If you’re given a Haworthia in such a container, make sure the container had adequate drainage.
If it doesn’t, it might be a good idea to pop the plant out of its container and add a layer of gravel to the bottom to reduce the wicking action of the soil above.
There are about 80 species of Haworthia, but their classification can be complex. The main difference between the common species is the size of the leaves and the orientation of the white markings on the leaves. H. margaritifera has warty white projections on the leaves, while H. fasciata features horizontal white stripes and is sometimes called the zebra plant.
Some of the species, such as H. bolusii have “tufted” edges to the leaves, while H. attenuata features long, pointed green leaves. In general, the best advice is to buy the most attractive variety based on leaf form and markings, as they all have similar cultural requirements.
Haworthias can be crossed between different species in the same genus and even ones in other genera of the Aloeae tribe.
On the other hand, pollination can only be successful by crossing two genetically different plants.
Many growers consider breeding cultivars as the most fun part of growing Haworthias, which involves the search for new patterns, colors, shapes and textures.
A pair of fine tweezers and a headband magnifier are useful tools for pollination. The flowers on a stalk bloom from bottom to top.
When the upper parts of the petals curl outwards, a flower is fully opened and as a male parent, its pollens are ready to be used.
However as a female parent, its stigma will take 2~3 more days to mature, and when mature the stigma will elongate and swell slightly. For pollination, use a flower which just opened as the male parent to cross with a female parent which opened earlier.
Carefully remove all the petals of both parents. Then remove all stamens of the female parent. The stamens can be put on a piece of paper for pollinating other plants later. Pluck 1~2 stamen from the male parent and rub the anthers to the stigma of the female parent, until some transferred pollen can be seen. Rub gently to not to break the stigma.
For a flower of the female parent, keep pollinating it for 2~3 consecutive days can improve the success rate. The best time for pollination is from noon to late afternoon.
Keep a pollinated plant in a cool and shaded place to prevent pollens from drying out quickly. After ~1 week, if the ovary becomes green and swollen, the pollination was successful.
For a flower of the female parent, keep pollinating it for 2~3 consecutive days can improve the success rate. The best time for pollination is from noon to late afternoon. Keep a pollinated plant in a cool and shaded place to prevent pollens from drying out quickly. After ~1 week, if the ovary becomes green and swollen, the pollination was successful.
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