Botanical Name — Avonia papyracea
Plant Family — Portulacaceae
Avonia papyracea is a strange dwarf succulent from South Africa known for its paper-like scales that make it look like a molting snake. It grows on the desert floor in its natural habitat, blending into the surrounding quartzite gravel. A slow and temperamental grower, Avonia papyracea will reward the attentive owner with dense, clustered growth and creamy white flowers that open only for a few hours at the hottest part of the day.
- Avonia papyracea does best in full sun, 4 to 5 hours a day, with some partial, filtered light at the peak hours of the day. Its paper scales do protect it from the harshest rays, but a sheer curtain will be beneficial as extra help on hot summer days. Grow outdoors in filtered light or indoors in a sunny window with southern exposure.
- Avonia papyracea prefers warm temperatures in the 70s and 80s.
- These plants are cold hardy down to just below freezing. However, their winter conditions rarely bring rains. If rain or snow are common, it’s best to move this plant indoors when night time temperatures drop below freezing. Wet frosts could damage or kill this plant.
- Avonia papyracea are drought tolerant plants that store a lot of water in their thick leaves and bulbous roots. Water when the soil dries out in the summer and only infrequently during the winter. Their soil should always be allowed to dry out entirely before watering thoroughly.
- These plants prefer a sandy, sharply draining mix. Cacti or succulent potting mix is great. You can amend a regular potting soil with sand or pumice up to 50% to improve grittiness and drainage.
- Avonia papyracea produce bright cream-colored flowers at their stem tips if given the right conditions.
- These plants do not require fertilizer though it can be added to give container grown plants a boost or to supplement poor soil. Apply a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer monthly, diluted at half strength.
- Never fertilize in winter.
- Avonia papyracea can be propagated from stem cuttings. The best time to do this is late spring or early summer. Allow cuttings to callous for one to two weeks before dusting with rooting hormone and placing in soil.
- Avonia papyracea are not often prone to pests, but keep an eye out for common houseplant invaders like mealybugs or spider mites.
- Root rot can also be a concern and is triggered by overwatering. Always err on the side of underwatering.
Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
- Little maintenance is required to grow these plants.
- This plant loves to be rootbound in a pot. Once established in a deep pot, they will be happy there for several years. Repot once every two to three years.
- Avonia papyracea is not known to be toxic, but keep away from young children and pets, regardless.