Fascinated at seeing Stapelia in flower for the first time at RHS Chelsea in 2011, I bought some seeds of Stapelia hirsuta from http://www.craighousecacti.co.uk/ to see if I could grow them myself.
Commonly called Carrion Flowers, their large flowers emit an unpleasant odour which attracts flies for pollination, sometimes even fooling the flies into laying their eggs on the flowers. I had to wait five years for my first flower, but it was worth it to see the flower bud gradually getting bigger by the day until it burst open to reveal a star-shaped flower consisting of five pinkish petals covered in hairs, hence the epiphet ‘hirsuta’.
Now flowering for the second year running I would love to be able to pollinate the flowers and get them to set seed, however with only one flower appearing at a time and from the same stem there is currently no chance of cross-pollination as yet.
The plant is a low-growing perennial succulent originating from Southern Africa, consisting of many toothed four-angled fleshy stems which become red tinged in direct sunlight. The seeds must have germinated quite readily since just 12 weeks after sowing I had already potted up these seedlings.
My Stapelia hirsuta have been grown in 15cm terracotta pans using J Arthur Bower’s cactus compost for several years, spending the majority of this time on a south-facing windowsill, with perhaps one summer outdoors. They are generally watered freely during the summer and sparingly during the winter, being allowed to dry out between waterings whilst dormant. I fed the Stapelia for the first time this summer using a weak solution of Miracle-Gro, I might try using a weak tomato feed instead, for the remainder of the flowering period.
My next task is to try and propagate Stapelia hirsuta from stem cuttings and then maybe to try and source some other species to grow such as S. grandiflora, S. leendertziae and S. olivacea.