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Haworthia Succulent Care

Haworthia comprises a large group of small succulents from the Asphodeloideae (Aloe) subfamily. They are indigenous to Southern Africa, with most varieties coming from South Africa, with some varieties found in countries neighboring South Africa. The genre is named in honor of Adrian Haworth, a noted botanist. 

Their leaves, subject to the variety, characteristically grow in the form of rosettes ranging from 1.2 inches to 12 inches in diameter. They are generally stemless but the stems in a few varieties grow up to 20 inches. The plants either grow in clumps or solitary.

Many varieties have strong, fleshy leaves, generally colored dark green, while others have soft leaves with translucent leaf “windows” allowing sunlight to pass through to internal photosynthetic tissue. Most generally produce small striated white flowers on inflorescences that can grow more than 16 inches high in some species. Their leaves often vary, even in a single species, and change color when they are stressed by lack of water or overexposure to sunlight. 

This genus generates a lot of interest from succulent enthusiasts and cultivators.

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Sunlight

Most Haworthia species prefer growing in semi-shaded conditions that match the habitat they grow naturally, although some varieties have adapted to grow under full sunlight. The best option is to provide them with a few hours of indirect bright light as their leaves can suffer damage and lose color if exposed to direct sunlight.

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Water

This depends mainly on the variety but most of them are easy-going with different watering schedules. Generally water the plant when the soil is entirely dried out or when leaves start curling – once every two weeks is fine and once a month in winter. Always water the soil and don’t let water get on the leaves. Over-watering is the bane of these plants as this can cause root rot.

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Humidity

These plants naturally grow in arid climates and don’t like humid environments. This makes these plants rather easy to maintain as the average humidity of a home is good enough. A light misting every other week is okay but not needed unless the air indoors is too dry.

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Temperature

As they are desert plants, they prefer warm temperatures, although they can handle a little cold and can tolerate sudden temperature drops. The preferred temperature range to grow these plants is between 68-90°F. They become dormant in winter and don’t mind if the room is colder. 

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Soil

These plants prefer very well-drained soil similar to their natural habitat. And they are very finicky about getting their roots sopping wet. Soil that retains water will harm its roots. A succulent/cactus mix is perfect for these plants or you can combine perlite and sand along with charcoal chunks as a good substitute.

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Repotting

These are relatively small slow-growing plants and don’t need repotting very often, as they will suffer from stress that could affect their overall health. Usually, they need repotting when the offshoots start overcrowding the container, once in 3 years or so, of course, you should be careful when doing this so the roots are not damaged. 

Unglazed clay pots that help exude excess moisture through the sides along with plenty of drainage holes are a good choice rather than plastic pots. Repot around spring or summer when the plant emerges from dormancy. You can either get a container a bit wider filled with fresh soil or separate the offshoots and propagate them into new containers. Even if the plant isn’t overcrowded, it will profit from repotting with fresh soil.

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Propagation

The species as a whole reproduce by both seed and offshoots or by leaf cuttings (this is not as successful). Generally, offshoots are the simplest and most successful method of propagation, as these can be easily removed from the mother when they develop a good root system. 

Identify a healthy offshoot with a substantial root system and cut it away from the mother with the attached roots. Set aside to dry for a couple of hours. Once the cut has dried, plant the offshoot in a pot with the same mix of soil as the original plant and water well. 

Additional Care

These plants usually won’t need to be fed to grow to their full potential, but it won’t hurt, provided you don’t over-fertilize them. A fertilizer specifically meant for cactus 1-2 times a year in spring and fall is a good option, diluted to half the recommended dose is key. Do not feed in winter when growth is dormant.

Common Problems

Sometimes the leaves might appear to be either wrinkled or shriveled, starting from the top before spreading downwards. This is usually due to under-or over-watering and is easy to resolve. If you’ve been following your recommended watering schedule, cut back on the frequency of watering as well as misting. If you’ve not been watering it frequently, increase it. 

These succulents are usually vibrantly green in color and color changes generally indicate problems involving lighting. The leaves turning yellow, white or red is a warning that the plant is being excessively exposed to direct light. Remember, these plants usually grow in shaded areas, so they should be placed in a spot that doesn’t get direct sunshine.

Another common problem these plants face is the loss of leaves – this is usually related to issues involving their roots such as root rot. The roots must be examined – the plant can be saved if the rot is not severe by repotting it into fresh soil. However, the plant will die if the roots are too damaged. 

You should make sure that all the basic needs such as proper lighting, temperature, and watering are met to prevent root rot. Over-watering is very often the problem. Be careful of how much you water the plant and ensure that there are enough drainage holes in the container and always use the correct mix of soil, one that doesn’t retain moisture.

Mealybugs often cause problems such as root and leaf rot if not treated. Constant monitoring and regular application of insecticide are necessary to prevent these bugs from infesting the plant.

Aloe mites can frequently attack these plants and are difficult to detect and treat. Aloe mites infestation can cause abnormal growth in the plant and are usually spread by air. The infected plant must be quarantined to prevent them from spreading to other plants. There are very few ways to effectively treat Aloe mites and discarding infected plants or leaves with abnormal growth is highly recommended, with a few healthy leaves saved for propagation. Some pesticides can be used to treat the plant but must be rotated to prevent the mites from developing resistance.

While fungus gnats don’t damage Haworthias, their larvae will feed on roots and affect plant growth. These gnats are attracted to decaying and decomposing vegetation, removing much of the soil from the roots and discarding the remnants from the pot, cleaning the pot thoroughly. Wash the plant with water and let it dry in a cool shaded place. After that, repot in fresh soil.

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