How to Grow and Care for Ghost Plant
Debra LaGattuta is a Master Gardener with 30+ years of experience in perennial and flowering plants, container gardening, and raised bed vegetable gardening. She is a lead gardener in a Plant-A-Row, which is a program that offers thousands of pounds of organically-grown vegetables to local food banks. Debra is a member of The Spruce Garden Review Board.
The Spruce / Kara Riley
- Growing From Seed
- Common Pests and Diseases
- Common Problems
- Frequently Asked Questions
Ghost plant ( Graptopetalum paraguayense) is a small evergreen succulent, a perennial that can be grown as a garden plant in warmer regions but is more often grown as a potted houseplant. With its whiteish-grey pointed leaves and trailing rosette form, ghost plants add a modern touch to container and rock gardens. The rosettes are typically about four inches in diameter and will take a blue-gray hue in partial shade or a pinkish-yellow tone in hot, full sun. Dainty, star-shaped yellow flowers appear in spring for outdoor plants but might bloom at random times when grown indoors.
Normally purchased as a small potted plant, ghost plant is usually planted in spring when being grown outdoors. Like many succulents, it is a slow grower (a few inches per year) and can live for decades.
Ghost Plant Care
Like many succulents , ghost plant is a low-maintenance specimen when you meet its basic growing requirements. Sharp drainage, abundant sunlight, and scant irrigation are the keys to a healthy ghost plant that will soon be producing new offshoots for you to propagate. Unlike some succulents, this plant will thrive in some relatively cool conditions; its most active growing periods will be in spring and fall.
Ghost plants will be at their most handsome in full sun or partial sun . Plants that don't receive enough light will become leggy and might experience leaf drop. When grown as a houseplant, keep the ghost plant in a south or east-facing window.
The amount of light a ghost plant receives can affect its typical grayish-white coloration. A shadier locale will result in foliage with a blue-gray tinge, while hot and dry conditions causes the grayish-white leaves to take on a pinkish-yellow hint of color.
Like the majority of succulents, the ghost plant needs good drainage to maintain a healthy root system. The more rainfall your area receives, the more drainage you must provide for ghost plants. If your garden has clay soil, plant them in raised beds at least six inches tall and a planting mix comprised of half grit, gravel, or sand, and half organic material like peat, coco coir, or commercial potting soil.
Potted plants do well in a potting mix designed for cacti or in a standard potting mix blended with 50 percent sand.
In the absence of natural rain, ghost plants only need occasional irrigation. Plants growing outdoors in full sun and summer temperatures will appreciate a weekly drink, while houseplants may only need watering every other week. Water indoor ghost plants at soil level to prevent water from stagnating in the rosettes.
Temperature and Humidity
Ghost plants are reliably hardy in USDA cold hardiness zones 9 to 11, but they will often survive temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit if they are covered over for winter. Gardeners in zones 7 and 8 can often grow them outdoors successfully if they are willing to offer some winter protection. These plants will do well in hot weather, but their most active growth will occur in the relatively cool periods of spring and fall.
Excess humidity can be a problem in areas with poorly draining soil. Planting your ghost plants in containers or raised beds, as well as spacing them away from each other and away from other plants to increase air circulation, will keep plants healthy.
All plants need some form of nutrients in order to grow and flower, but most succulents grow quite well in low-nutrient soil, and might even react badly to too much fertilizer, which can burn the leaves. Using a soil-enriching approach like manure tea or a side-dressing of compost is enough to keep your ghost plants vigorous. At most, a very light annual feeding with a diluted cactus fertilizer will suffice.
Types of Ghost Plant
The Graptopetalum paraguayense species has a couple of naturally occurring forms that are popular, especially a variegated type ( Graptopetalum paraguayense f. variegata). A 'Purple Haze' cultivar is also quite popular. Much variety is found in a number of hybrids that offer unique color variations:
- Graptopetalum x Graptosedum 'Bronze' has reddish-bronze foliage and grows six inches tall.
- Graptopetalum x Graptosedum 'California Sunset' has unique orange-pink leaves.
- Graptopetalum x Graptoveria 'Douglas Huth' has stunning pink to blue leaves and pink flowers bloom in spring.
- Graptopetalum x Graptoveria 'Fred Ives' has bronze to blue-green leaves with pale yellow flowers.
- Graptopetalum x Graptoveria 'Tibutans' has especially thick leaves with pink or apricot tips in cooler weather.
Pruning is generally not necessary with these plants, but if they become leggy and scraggly, you can trim back the wandering stems to the center rosette. These trimmed stems can be used to propagate new plants.
Propagating Ghost Plant
Ghost plant is an extremely easy plant to propagate. A healthy leaf that falls might even root where it lays if conditions are right. But the quickest way to achieve full-sized plants is to clip off and root one of the many offset "pups" that appear at the end of the stems growing from the parent rosette. Here's how:
- When the offset is about 1/4 the size of the parent plant, use clean pruners to clip it off, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of stem below the rosette.
- Allow the stem to sit for two or three days to callus over, then replant it in a new pot filled with cactus potting mix.
- Wait about five days until the plant is established, then water thoroughly.
- Continue to grow in bright filtered sun, watering every four or five days until well established. Then, reduce watering to no more than every two weeks.
How to Grow Ghost Plant From Seed
Although it's fastest to propagate ghost plants from offset pups, you can also start numerous plants from seed to fill a large area of the garden. Collect the tiny seeds from seed pods that form after flowers wither, or purchase seed from a commercial source. Sow the seed on sterile potting mix . Water with a plant mister to avoid displacing the seeds. Keep the seed tray in bright light at 70 degrees Fahrenheit; germination will take place in about three weeks.
Potting and Repotting
Growing ghost plants in containers is a great way to bring the attributes of this succulent up to eye level. Choose a gritty or lightweight potting soil mix and a pot with good drainage. The root system is shallow, so a low, saucer-shaped clay pot with good drainage can make a perfect container. In mixed plantings, keep the ghost plant at the container's edge where it won't get lost behind taller specimens. The pale whitish-gray leaves of ghost plants contrast pleasingly with purple-leafed plants that have similar growing requirements, such as sedum 'Firecracker'.
Ghost plants are slow-growing and don't need frequent repotting. When your specimen has outgrown its container, be sure to handle the plant carefully to avoid damaging the powdery pruinose coating on the leaves, which is delicate. Grasp plants at the base of the crown rather than by the leaves, and repot it in a light potting mix or cactus mix.
Within its hardiness range where winters stay relatively warm, no overwintering routine is necessary at all. In colder winter zones where the plant dies back for the winter, cover the plant with dry mulch over the coldest months, but remove it promptly when the weather climbs back above freezing.
Indoor plants (or outdoor container plants brought indoors for the winter) will do best in a bright, sunny window but at relatively moderate-to-cool temperatures (65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit). Keep the plant away from radiators and heat vents. Watering can be slightly reduced during the winter months because the plant will naturally want to go somewhat dormant.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
These plants are marvelously free of most pests and diseases, but indoor plants can be more susceptible to a handful of problems common to many houseplants.
As your ghost plant grows, remove dead leaves at the base of the plant. Decomposing leaves provide a habitat for pests like the mealybug. If your ghost plant has mealybugs , you can spot treat with a dab of isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab or smother them with horticultural oil.
The most common disease of ghost plant is root rot, which is usually the result of too much watering or soil that doesn't drain well. Leaves that begin to drop are often a sign the plant is being overwatered.
How to Get Ghost Plant to Bloom
These plants are grown mostly for the foliage, so gardeners generally aren't too concerned if they don't bloom much. If you're disappointed by the lack of blooms (because you want to experiment with collecting seeds for propagation), make sure the plant is receiving plenty of sunlight. Extra feeding generally doesn't help prompt blooming; in fact, excess fertilizer can reduce flowering because the plant uses the food to put its energy into stem and leaf growth.
Common Problems With Ghost Plant
Ghost plant if famous for thriving when treated with neglect, but there are some common problems to watch for.
Leaves Are Shriveled
It's not a frequent problem, but shriveled leaves on a ghost plant (or most succulents) usually indicate a plant that has suffered a little too much hands-off treatment—it probably needs more water. Water the plant every four or five days until the plant's succulent leaves are once again full and plump, then reduce watering to every couple of weeks.
Leaves Are Dropping
A much more common and serious problem is leaves that drop from the plant. This is very often the result of root rot beginning, caused by excessive watering. A ghost plant that is watered weekly like a standard houseplant will often drown. If you catch this problem early, simply withholding water for a few weeks might halt the problem and restore your plant to health. But once root rot gets hold, it can destroy the plant.
Less commonly, leaf drop can be caused by a lack of sunlight. Make sure your plant is receiving plenty of bright light, including at least four to six hours of direct sunlight if possible.
The most common reason for leaves that look dried out and burned is too much fertilizer. Less commonly, it can occur if the plant has had too much direct sun in an outdoor setting that is very hot.
Plant Is Leggy and Scraggly
If your ghost plant is sending out many long stems without much foliage on them, it's usually a sign the plant is not receiving enough sunlight. Move the plant to a location where it receives lots of bright light, including four to six hours of direct sunlight. You can clip off the scraggly stems and use them for propagating new plants.
Like many slow-growing perennials, a ghost plant can live for many decades if it's growing in its preferred environment. Many potted ghost plants are handed down from generation to generation.
Succulents plants in the Crassulaceae or stonecrop family share several features with ghost plant, including fleshy leaves and a low-growing habit. Ghost plant and peacock echeveria look very similar in part because they both share the powdery pruinose coating that helps them retain moisture.
There are about 19 species in the Graptopelatum genus. Among those often used as houseplants are G. saxifragoides (a matt-forming succulent), G. superbum, G. rusbyi (known as leatherpetal), G. pachyphyllum (known as bluebean), G. pantandrum, G. mendozae, G. fileferum, and G. amethystinum , All species have the characteristic rosette form, but there is such variety of color and shape among them that enthusiasts often grow nothing but this genus.
The name ghost plant is attached to this species probably because of the translucent nature of the leaves, as well as the powdery white substance on the leaves, known as pruinose.
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Graptopetalum paraguayense (Ghost Plant)
Graptopetalum paraguayense (N.E.Br.) E.Walther
Ghost Plant, Mother of Pearl Plant
Byrnesia weinbergii, Cotyledon paraguayensis, Echeveria weinbergii, Sedum weinbergii
Family: Crassulaceae Subfamily: Sedoideae Tribe: Sedeae Subtribe: Sedinae Genus: Graptopetalum
Graptopetalum paraguayense is a beautiful succulent with decumbent or pendent, only basally branched stems with rosettes of thick fleshy leaves at the tips. The stems are up to 12 inches (30 cm) long and 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) in diameter. Rosettes are up to 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter. Leaves are grayish-white, warm to pinkish-yellow in hot and dry conditions, and turn blue-gray in partial shade. They are flat, shortly pointed, up to 2.8 inches (7 cm) long, and up to 1.2 inches (3 cm) wide.
In spring, the plant produces white star-shaped flowers with small red spots.
The specific epithet " paraguayense (par-uh-gway-EN-see)" means "of or from Paraguay" and refers to the mistaken belief that the origin of the species was Paraguay.
USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11b: from 20 °F (−6.7 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).
How to Grow and Care
When planting your Ghost Plant in a container, choose a well-drained potting mix and a container with drainage holes.
Try mixing Ghost Plant with other succulents for an interesting yet low-maintenance planting. Or you can incorporate your Ghost Plant into a rock garden. You can create a rock garden by piling large rocks like limestone as the base and filling in gaps with smaller stones, gravel, and soil pockets for planting.
Ghost Plant thrives in sunlight, so choose a location to receive full- or half-day sun. When grown as a houseplant, keep it near a south, east, or west window.
Some people prefer to keep their Ghost Plant trimmed to create a fuller shape. For a different look, you can allow it to get a little "leggy." This allows the twisting stems to climb out of the pot, cascading down gently. Be sure to let the soil almost completely dry between waterings .
Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Graptopetalum .
Graptopetalum paraguayense is native to Mexico (Tamaulipas).
Subspecies, Forms, Cultivars, and Hybrids
- Graptopetalum paraguayense subsp. bernalense
- Graptopetalum paraguayense 'Variegataum'
- Graptopetalum 'Purple Delight'
- Graptopetalum 'Purple Haze'
- × Cremnopetalum 'Fred Wass'
- × Graptosedum 'Bronze'
- × Graptosedum 'California Sunset'
- × Graptosedum 'Ghosty'
- × Graptosedum 'Francesco Baldi'
- × Graptosedum 'Nuit Blanche'
- × Graptoveria 'Acaulis'
- × Graptoveria 'Albert Baynes'
- × Graptoveria 'Citrina'
- × Graptoveria 'Douglas Huth'
- × Graptoveria 'Fantome'
- × Graptoveria 'Fred Ives'
- × Graptoveria 'Harry Watson'
- × Graptoveria 'Marpin'
- × Graptoveria 'Titubans'
- Back to genus Graptopetalum
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Ghost Plant Information: Tips For Growing Succulent Ghost Plants
Succulents are a diverse form of plants that includes cacti and other moisture-storing specimens. Graptopetalum ghost plant develops a rosette shape on stems which may trail or hang. As with most plants in this group, water needs are little and exposure is important. Ghost flower plant care hinges on providing a natural environment that mimics the succulent’s native habitat. Tips on how to grow a Graptopetalum will ensure your ghost plant is healthy and enjoyable for many years.
Graptopetalum Ghost Plant Information
Thick, fleshy leaves and stems characterize most succulent plants. Ghost plants ( Graptopetalum paraguayense ) have thick leaves that hold excess moisture so the plant can withstand periods without rain. The silvery gray to bluish green foliage has a pinkish tinge to the edges of the leaves when they are young. Layers of leaves form the rosette, which range in size from less than an inch (2.5 cm.) across to several inches (7.5 cm.) wide. The plant is related to and resembles Echeveria , which is a common and fairly hardy succulent plant often used in container gardens.
These plants have color changing abilities. Full sun is the best location for them, but growing succulent ghost plants in partial shade produces the bluish-gray tones. Full sun plants tend to be yellowish-pink, pearlescent, and slightly translucent. Those in punishing heat turn gray with pink overtones.
Full ghost plant information must include the detail that the plant grows from the center of the rosette. This gives mature succulents a rangy appearance, which is easy fix by pinching back . The plant flowers occasionally in spring to summer with airy little yellow blooms.
How to Grow a Graptopetalum
The stems on this plant are fairly brittle and detach easily. This is because in its habitat, Graptopetalum ghost plant reproduces vegetatively. Any rosette that breaks off has the potential to root and start a new plant. Even a leaf that drops off will root below the parent plant and produce a new rosette quickly. The new plant feeds off the leaf until it shrivels up and falls off. By then the new little ghost plant has rooted and sprouted new leaves. Growing succulent ghost plants is ridiculously easy and a great confidence booster for the novice gardener.
USDA zones 7b and up are suitable for growing succulent ghost plants. The rules for ghost flower plant care are similar to those for most succulents.
Container-bound plants thrive in a mixture of peat , sand, or other grit, topsoil and a little bit of compost. Full sun is the best situation but they will also grow in partial sun with slightly rangy results. Because the stems are so fragile, it is best to pick the best location for ghost plant and then don’t move it.
Ghost plants need excellent drainage and moderate water. You can tell when to water by sticking your finger in the soil. If it is dry several inches (10 cm.) down or the fleshy leaves are looking shriveled, you should water. Overwatering is a cause of root rots and the plant can get several pest infestations.
Fertilize it in early spring and provide water only monthly in winter.
Read more articles about Ghost Plant .
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How to care for “Ghost Plant” Graptopetalum Paraguaynese
The Graptopetalum Paraguaynese gets its nickname “the ghost plant” from its thick farina layer, which covers its pale blue, purple, and occasionally red leaves. The layer of wax gives these colors a ghostly shine, and this succulent’s haunting pastel beauty makes it an excellent addition to any home garden. Ideal as a potted houseplant, this heat-loving succulent pairs well in any home, as long as you give it proper attention and care.
The Ghost Plant isn’t toxic to animals or people , and it’s completely safe to have around pets! Still, we recommend handling this succulent with gardening gloves to help protect the farina layer and to keep it out of reach from any curious and hungry critters.
As a succulent, Ghost Plants are relatively hardy and low-maintenance compared to other houseplants. What makes this succulent a bit tricky, however, is its pale leaf color. Unlike bright green succulents, it may be a bit hard to tell when your Ghost Plant is struggling simply because its leaves have a naturally dead and distressed look.
Unlike most succulents, the Ghost Plant thrives in  bright, direct sunlight as well as bright, indirect sunlight. Your Ghost Plant will also change color depending on its light level: in direct light, the succulent appears a bit more pinkish, while in shadier areas, it’ll appear more blue-greyish.
Your Ghost Plant will need  well-draining soil with a bit of coarse sand to ensure it doesn’t retain too much water. We recommend using a cactus mix or a potting mix with peat and perlite for optimal drainage. Place a layer of stones and a middle layer of gravel at the bottom of your pot to improve this succulent soil aeration further.
Ghost Plants don’t need water often, only when their soil is completely dry. Since these succulents are especially drought-resistant, you can  wait until the leaves start to shrivel slightly before watering. After watering, wait for excess water to drain from your pot before putting your succulent away. To ensure your Ghost Plant is deeply watered, use a succulent watering bottle or the bottom watering method.
Temperature and Humidity
Ghost Plants do best in  USDA agricultural zones 9-11 , and unlike other succulents native to these areas, they can tolerate a bit of cold. Still, Ghost Plants aren’t frost-tolerant and will start to wither when temperatures drop below freezing without proper protection. If you’re growing your Ghost Plants outside, be sure to  bundle them up before winter hits!
Indoors, Ghost Plants do best at your standard room temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. While they aren’t too picky about temperature, humidity is another story. Keep your room’s humidity at a lower 40% to ensure your Ghost Plant stays content.
Ghost Plants don’t need much in terms of fertilizer either. We recommend only  using compost to fertilize this succulent during its spring and fall growing seasons.
Potting and Repotting
Like any other succulent, it’s best to  repot your Ghost Plant during the growing season in the spring or fall to ensure your succulent has plenty of time and energy to adjust to its new home and recover from the move.
When choosing a pot for your Ghost Plant, it’s best to prioritize drainage over all else. Make sure your new pot has drainage holes, and is  made from a porous material like concrete, terracotta, or ceramic. Whenever you transfer a succulent to a new pot, make sure the pot is at least 10% larger than the last one!
Ghost Plants flower during the late spring and early fall with  small yellow or white flowers . These succulents aren’t monocarpic, so feel free to enjoy your Ghost Plant’s blossoms as they come and go. To encourage blooming in your Ghost Plant, increase the amount of sunlight it receives to about eight hours of direct light, and make sure your soil doesn’t retain much water.
The best way to  propagate a Ghost Plant is through leaf cuttings or offshoots. To do so, wait until your succulent begins producing offshoots during its growing season. Then, using a clean, sharp pair of scissors or a knife, cut the tiny rosette off from the mother plant and place it in its tiny pot. Treat the pup like its own baby succulent and keep its soil moist until it takes root.
Ghost Plants normally go  dormant in the winter , but they also have a slower growing period in the summer as well. Since this succulent does best in the cooler parts of spring and fall, its growth will naturally slow during extreme heat or cold. During any dormant period, your succulent may appear wilted or not grow. Don’t worry– your Ghost Plant isn’t dead, just resting before another growing period.
Common Pests and Complications
The biggest complication to come with a Ghost Plant is overwatering. With such a heavy emphasis on drainage, these succulents need high levels of soil aeration to avoid contracting common overwatering problems like root rot, fungal gnats, and mold infections. Fortunately, you can solve most overwatering problems with some fresh soil, a clean pot, and a little  hydrogen peroxide .
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