Haworthia and gasteria are two similar species of succulent that, unlike other species, don’t require full direct sunlight. This makes them wonderful house plants. Therefore, they have become popular for small windowsill container gardens, as part of succulent dish centerpieces, and in cute decorative pots on desk tops.
If you were to put them outdoors, Haworthia and Gasteria would survive in areas with USDA zone 10 or higher. This means that they are not frost tolerant, and won’t survive if the temperatures get below freezing. Since we rarely let our homes get that cold, this is not a problem for indoor plants. Like all succulents, they don’t like humidity, so if growing indoors keep them away from the shower steam.
These little succulents prefer bright indirect light. This means that indoors they would prefer an east or west facing window, so they only get a few hours a day of direct sunlight. With a southern exposure they would get too much bright light and they may sunburn. In this situation put them a little further away from the window. They might not get enough sunlight with a north facing window. Outside they do well in the dappled shade of a patio structure, or again a western or eastern exposure.
Succulents and cactus always need a well-drained soil. You can usually find mixes specifically for cactus and succulents at your local garden center, but you can also mix in some pumice, pearlite, sand, or even a bit of gravel to make sure the soil drains wells. There is also something to keep in mind regarding those cute containers. They need drain holes. The water has to be able to go someplace. So look for cute containers with holes pre-drilled into them. Or if your handy and have the right tools you can drill your own holes into the intended container. If you are very careful about not over watering, you might be able to get away with putting gravel at the bottom of a container with no drainage hole. This will prevent the excess water from drowning the roots. This method will require a very skilled hand with the watering can if you go this route. Haworthia and gasteria lend themselves very well to succulent arrangements in terrariums, glass dishes, and driftwood arrangements, but think of these growing conditions as temporary. There aren’t any nutrients in gravel or glass beads, so while they will look good for a while (but not for very long), this isn’t a forever home for your plants. After a few weeks transplant them into a container with a succulent and cactus mix, and get new plants for your glass centerpiece.
Haworthia and gasteria, are small plants and slow growing, and they don’t require much fertilizer. Only fertilize (or repot the whole plant into fresh soil) once a year in the spring. Never fertilizer haworthia or gasteria in the winter. They go dormant in the winter and so are not uptaking any fertilizer at that time. Use a balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10 or 8-8-8, but the exact NPK doesn’t matter all that much for these species. Preferably you would find a formula with a micronutrient package. I usually apply fertilizer at one quarter or one half the recommended dosage for my small indoor succulents.
Succulents in general, including haworthia and gasteria prefer to dry out in-between watering. Touch the soil with your fingers, pick up their containers, and get a good feel for when the soil is dry. When it is dry give them a good thorough watering, and then let them dry out again. As mentioned above they go dormant in the winter, so they really only need water once or month, or even less.
Pests & Diseases
These guys will get fungal rots if over watered. Only ever water the soil, don’t let water get caught in the crown of the plant. If you notice your plant is looking a little mushy it probably got too much water, let it dry out. If it still appears to have a fungal infection you can use a fungicide from your local garden center. This is very important, make sure the directions on the fungicide indicate you can use it indoors. If it doesn’t specifically say house plants, or indoor use, don’t use it for indoor plants!
Decorate your desk to your hearts content with haworthia and gasteria, the low maintenance house plants. They require very little care, and will definitely forgive you if you forget to water them before leaving for the weekend.