Every succulent garden needs a centerpiece. In our opinion, there’s no better choice than Haworthia obtusa. This succulent features extremely chunky leaves with wondrously transparent tips. In fact, it looks like a bundle of water balloons!
Haworthia obtusa’s clear leaves are streaked with variegation. They have all shades of green veins (there’s even an aqua blue variety!). The rosettes of this succulent grow very similarly to Aloe vera, which has earned it the nickname “Mini Aloe”. Though mini Aloe is in the same subfamily as A. vera (Asphodeloideae), it’s more closely related to Haworthiopsis plants.
You’ll find that mini Aloe, like most Haworthia species, is very low-maintenance. It may look super fancy, but it doesn’t ask for much. Even beginner gardeners can have great success with this succulent. So, in this guide, we’ll let you in on everything you need to know about Haworthia obtusa care!
Quick Care Guide
|Common Name||Mini Aloe, pincushion aloe, blue Haworthia, Obtusa Haworthia|
|Scientific Name||Haworthia obtusa, Haworthia cymbiformis var. obtusa|
|Height & Spread||3-6 inches|
|Light||Bright, indirect sunlight; partial shade|
|Water||Soak and dry|
|Pests & Diseases||Mealybugs, thrips, rot|
All About Haworthia Obtusa
Mini Aloe has two acceptable scientific names: Haworthia obtusa and Haworthia cymbiformis var. obtusa. Along with the nickname Mini Aloe, this plant also goes by cushion aloe. It’s often confused with Haworthia cooperi since they look nearly identical. You can tell the two apart by looking at the leaf margins. H. cooperi is usually lined with little teeth while H. obtusa is smooth.
Obtusa Haworthia is endemic to the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa. In the US, it can be grown outside in zones 10-11. If you don’t live in a warm zone, then your indoor garden just got a new resident!
This Haworthia plant grows rosettes that are arranged just like an aloe’s. It’s somewhat fast-growing for succulent plants but can take 5 years to reach maturity. Each rosette will grow to be 3-6 inches in diameter and height, with around 20 leaves.
Haworthia obtusa has a winter growing season, so it may go dormant in the summer. During that time, the outer leaves may shrivel in an effort to conserve energy. Before dormancy, in the spring or summer, your Haworthia obtusa might bloom. It produces small white, green, or pale pink flowers that are perched on an 8-inch-tall peduncle.
The clear leaves on Haworthia obtusa are actually part of a botanical phenomenon called leaf windows. Leaf windows are present in various types of succulents, from lithops to peperomias. They’re specialized, translucent cell structures that allow light to pass directly through the outer leaf and reach the chlorophyll deeper inside.
Though they’re surprisingly common in succulents, the purpose of leaf windows isn’t completely understood yet. The current assumption is that once light passes through the window it’s bounced around the clear cells like a pinball machine and then deposited into the chlorophyll below. This way, the light reaches a larger surface area than it would if it was only absorbed on the outside of the leaf.
Larger leaf windows, like those on Haworthia obtusa, are believed to allow for more heat absorption. You’ll find that windowed succulents from cold regions have larger windows than those from colder regions. So our mini Aloe is thought to absorb extra heat through its large windows, allowing it to survive temperatures below freezing. This makes sense when compared to Lithops, which have smaller windows and cannot survive in freezing temperatures.
Haworthia obtusa care is very typical for a succulent plant. As long as you set it up according to the following requirements, it’ll be very happy in your garden.
Sun and Temperature
Haworthia obtusa prefers bright, indirect sunlight. It will grow well in a south-facing window that gets at least 6 hours. Like most succulents, extra sun exposure may tint the leaves red or purple. However, too much direct sunlight can stress out the plant and cause the leaves to lose their vibrant color altogether. So, if planting outdoors, choose a location with adequate sunlight in the morning and some light shade in the afternoon.
The Eastern Cape Province, which mini Aloe calls home, is one of the coldest parts of South Africa. So, while it definitely prefers an ambient temperature, this plant can withstand mild frost and temperatures down to 23°F. That’s not a challenge though! Your mini Aloe plant will be happiest if you protect it from sudden, extreme dips in temperature and frost.
Water and Humidity
Succulents, including Haworthia plants, usually live in desertlike conditions. They’re used to infrequent but heavy bouts of rain. We mimic this in the garden by waiting until the soil dries completely and then watering thoroughly. This alternation between completely dry soil and deep watering allows the succulent to properly store water in its leaves.
Be very careful not to over water your Haworthia obtusa. If the plant has gone dormant during the summer, cut down on watering until it resumes normal growth. These succulents prefer low humidity, so avoid getting the leaves wet while watering.
Want to know the key to keeping succulents healthy? Use the right soil. Too often we stick plants into whatever potting mix is lying around. If you want to successfully grow a mini Aloe plant, you have to pay attention to what it’s growing in.
Choose a well-draining soil that’s abundant in perlite, pumice, or coarse sand. Store-bought succulent and cactus potting mix usually does the trick. You can make your own cactus soil, too. However, if you notice that water pools on the surface or it takes more than 2 weeks to dry out, you may need to add more texture to the potting soil.
Haworthia obtusa isn’t particularly picky about its soil pH and can handle slightly acidic or alkaline soil (6.6-7.5). When you plant this succulent, choose a shallow pot that has good-sized drainage holes.
Other than drainage, succulents generally don’t ask for much from their soil. You can add soil amendments like compost or fertilizer, but only in light quantities. For example, Haworthia obtusa will benefit from a diluted fertilizer solution only once during the growing season. Any more is unnecessary and could even cause damage to the plant.
The only times you’ll need to prune Haworthia species are when they’re sick or etiolated. Diseased and dying leaves should be removed immediately by plucking them off the plant. For etiolated succulents, use a clean and sharp pair of scissors to cut off the stem at the soil surface. Remove the lower leaves and use the individual stem cuttings to propagate Haworthia obtusa into “new” plants.
When it’s mature, a mother plant will grow tiny rosettes nestled under her own. These offsets eventually form their own root system and grow into separate plants. When we propagate Haworthia obtusa offsets, we simply speed up the process. When your mother plant produces an offset with a few healthy leaves, you can cut it off with a sharp knife and plant it in its own container (with a drainage hole and good soil, of course!). This forces the offset to quickly grow roots, effectively propagating Haworthia obtusa.
You’ll follow a similar process for leaf cuttings. Choose a healthy mother plant that’s sporting bright green leaves. Select a medium-sized succulent leaf and carefully remove it, keeping the whole leaf intact. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone powder and leave it out to dry.
When the cut has scabbed over, set it on top of some cactus mix and mist it with water daily. Within a couple of months, a baby rosette – complete with green veins and clear tips – will peek out from the cutting. When the baby succulent plant has established some roots and a decent growth rate, you can plant it in a more permanent home. One parent plant can give you many leaf cuttings at a time, so you can quickly grow an entire garden of this succulent plant!
You won’t come across too many problems with Haworthia obtusa, especially if you grow it indoors. But, a good gardener is always prepared for the worst-case scenario – so here we go!
Overwatering is a serial killer of succulents. Too much moisture in the soil or on the leaf surface can quickly turn your succulent’s leaves mushy, rotten, and dull. It also invites bacteria growth and pest infestations. That’s why it’s so important to wait until the soil dries out before watering. If you overwater by accident, wait longer than usual before you water again. If your Haworthia obtusa isn’t recovering, try transplanting it into fresh soil and adjusting your watering schedule.
This Haworthia genus isn’t very popular with the pests. On the off-chance that you do see some insects hanging around, they’ll likely be mealybugs or thrips. Both pests are sap suckers that can stunt your plant’s growth. To treat infestations, you can use insecticidal soap or neem oil. If those don’t do the trick, try pyrethrin or spinosad spray for thrips and a myoinsecticide for mealybugs. Of course, the best thing to do is prevent a pest infestation altogether by keeping all above-ground growth dry and ensuring that there’s good air circulation.
The Haworthia obtusa succulent plant is susceptible to root rot when overwatered. This starts as damage to the roots and ends in soil-dwelling bacteria infecting the whole plant. When it comes to root rot, we’re usually dealing with Phytophthora or Pythium bacteria. You can treat these diseases with fungicide, but the most effective treatment is to replace the soil and cut off any infected parts of the plant.
You should also be on the lookout for leaf and stem rot. These can result from uncontrolled root rot or insect damage to the foliage. When infected, the leaves will wilt, be discolored, and take on a slimy texture (just imagine the 3-month old zucchini in the back of your fridge). Once rotting, you can only remove these leaves before they infect the rest of the plant. Since leaf rot is often caused by root rot, you’ll also need to check that the roots are still healthy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do you care for Haworthia Obtusa?
A: Just like most other low-maintenance succulents, actually. Mimic their natural habitat by giving them sun, soak and dry watering, and well-draining soil. When the succulent plant is mature, it’s easy to propagate Haworthia obtusa.
Q: Do Haworthias need full sun?
A: They need lots of sunlight, but too much direct sun can harm these plants. Plant them somewhere that gets full morning sun and indirect sun or even partial shade in the afternoon.
Q: How do you care for indoor Haworthia?
A: When growing it as an indoor plant, you have to make sure your Haworthia has enough sunlight. Place it in a south-facing window to ensure it gets at least 6 hours of bright light a day.
Q: Is Haworthia poisonous to humans?
A: No, Haworthia obtusa is usually not toxic to humans or animals.
Q: Is haworthia an aloe?
A: That depends on how you define an aloe. Haworthia is in the Asphodelaceae (Aloe) family, but is a separate genus from Aloe vera and other well-known Aloes. They do look alike, but aloes are usually a lot large than the small or medium sizes of Haworthia.
Q: How often should you water a haworthia?
A: If you have the right type of soil mix, you’ll only need to water your Haworthia every 1-2 weeks. However, you may have to water more often in warmer temperatures and after propagating Haworthia obtusa.
Q: How do you get Haworthia to flower?
A: Only mature plants flower, so your Haworthia obtusa has to be at least a few years old. Like other succulents and plants, it has to go dormant before flowering in the next harvest cycle, which only happens when there are noticeable changes in the temperature.
Q: Are Haworthia rare?
A: Some Haworthia plant species are. While you can find Zebra Haworthia in almost any garden store, species like Hawothiopsis fasciata and Hawothia obtusa are more difficult to find.