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GROWING CARRION FLOWERS
Carrion flowers are from the genus Stapelia and the family Asclepiadaceae. (Note: there is a photo of a Carrion flower in the "Photo ID" section.) They are succulents and look a lot like the common cactus. The square, fleshy stalks rise individually from the base of the plant and grow to about 8 inches high. These plants are most known for the odor they emit upon blooming. The smell of the different varieties range from decaying animal flesh to a very ripe garbage can and will last anywhere from a few hours to a day. Some people find the odor very offensive, but others find that it is unusual, and therefore, interesting.
All varieties of the carrion have star-shaped flowers which are quite pretty and measure from 2 inches across to 12 inches across. Their color can be yellow, brown, purple or a mixture of these. The blooms begin like a small round ball, grow into an orange-size puff, and finally open up into a beautiful flower. Flies will surround it while the odor is being emitted. For this reason, many people choose to grow it in a greenhouse instead of their home.
I chose to grow the Stapelia Gigantea, otherwise known as Giant Toad Plant or Zulu Giant. It has one of the least offensive odors and a bloom shape that reminds you of a starfish. It's color is a buttery yellow with crosswise red lines and tiny purple hairs. Although these usually bloom from late spring till early fall, mine blooms at all times of the year. This is because mine is kept in my greenhouse.
Carrions are said to be hard to grow, but I find them extremely easy. They can be propogated by seed, but you should use stem cuttings if possible. Cut or pull away a piece of a stem and let it harden for 4-5 days. Since these plants do not have an extensive root system, a 6 inch pot will usually be sufficient for planting. Get the pot ready with a half and half mixture of sand or perlite for one half, and a regular potting mix for the other. It is very important to make sure that the top one inch is entirely sand or perlite. Now, press the cut end of the stem into the sand/perlite. Place your pot in a shallow pan or bowl. Watering is never done by pouring water on the top of the pot, it is always done by placing water into the bowl and allowing the plants to soak it up through the bottom. Too much water will cause root rot. Put about 3 inches of water in the pan. When the top of the plant is moist, remove it from the pan. Water again when the top inch of the plant is dry. A good indication that the plant is in bad need of water is when the stems look like they are beginning to shrivel. Add liquid fertilizer to the water once a month. Put your plant in full sun and keep the temperature at least at 55 degrees year round. You'll be pleasantly surprised when the striking flower appears.
Carrions are not only lovely to look at and uncommon to smell, but also make a great conversation piece!