Hoodia gordonii is a spiny succulent perennial plant native to South Africa and Namibia. In nature, the plants can attain a height of 3.2 feet (1 m), with clumps reaching 2-3 feet (0.6-0.9 m) across. Individual plants can reach 6 inches (15 cm) thick. The plants freely branch after a couple of years of growth and can have up to 40-50 individual stems from a single plant. The plant has been hailed as the 'Miracle Plant' of the 20th century. It is used in dietary supplement to suppress the appetite. The plant can withstand very high temperatures and a few degrees of frost. The plants are attractive and should be in any economic botany collection. Here in the U.S., the plants are hardy in USDA zone 9-10.
Blooming: In the greenhouse, the plants bloom in the spring. The flowers have a strong smell of carrion and attract a great number of flies. Flowers vary in color, from straw colored to dark maroons. Individual flowers can reach up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) across.
Culture: Hoodia gordonii need full sun to light shade, and prefer a very well drained soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 1 part peat moss to 1 part loam to 2 part sand. We add small gravel to this mix to ensure good drainage. The plants are well watered and allowed to dry thoroughly before watering again. We fertilize the plant monthly during the growing season with a balanced fertilizer diluted to 1/4 the strength recommended on the label. Watering of these plants is very critical. If they are watered too much, they tend to develop stem rot and die. During winter months in the greenhouse, we move the plants to our cool room where the nighttime temperatures fall to 48°F (9°C) and water is restricted to only enough to keep the stems from shriveling.
Propagation: Hoodia gordonii is propagated from seed. Fresh seed will germinate in 21-30 days from sowing. We start our seed in a peat sand mixture.
Hoodia gordonii was featured as Plant of the Week March 14-20, 2008.
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Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.