Baby toes succulent flower

The baby toes succulent – Fenestraria (fen-es-TRAY-ree-uh), is a succulent plant belonging to the family Aizoaceae.

The plant is native to Coastal South Africa including Namaqualand in Namibia.

The plant’s botanical originates from the Latin word fenestra which means window, referring to the Baby Toe’s unique translucent window like quality to them on the flattened tips which allow light to pass through.

Diego Delso , via Wikimedia Commons

Baby Toes Succulent Care

The Baby Toes Fenestraria species are desert dwellers exposed to lots of light. In the desert, the baby toe’s are buried in the sand to their tops.

Do not mimic these conditions.

Under cultivation, plants will experience less light and heat, and their leaves should not be buried or they may rot.

Size and Growth

Baby Toes is not a very tall plant. The finger-like leaves grow in upright clusters reaching up 3” to 6”. In case it has a stem, it is usually very small.

The plant is 1-1/4” inches in diameter with leaves about 1½” inches long.

Fenestraria baby toes have clusters of cylindrical leaves, larger at the top, like little flat-tipped baseball bats.

The nearly colorless tops feature tiny transparent ‘windows.’

Flowering Living Stone With No Fragrance

This plant is characterized by small transparent windows along the top of the leaves that have a waxy finish to them.

These leaves allow light to pass through them and give a very appealing look to the plant. The roots of this plant are thick with little to no stem.

Baby Toes daisy-like flowers bloom from late summer to early spring with flowers growing in bunches of twos or threes.

They are either white or yellow in color and, generally, do not have any fragrance.

Fenestraria aurantiaca – 3″ inch orange daisy-like flowers more than twice as wide as the clustered leaf-colony.

Fenestraria rhopalophylla – the leaves more blunt with smaller white flowers. Rhopalophylla looks very similar to Frithia pulchra another member of the large family of Aizoaceae and all kinds of ice plants.

Light and Temperature

Baby Toes are tolerant to full sun when placed outdoors; however, they thrive in partial sunlight just as well.

Make sure your plant is getting a minimum of six hours of direct sun a day.

If you are growing your plant indoors, it is best to place it in a spot that gets bright but indirect light.

A bright, south-facing window is the perfect location.

This is not a cold hardy plant and requires temperatures that dip no further than 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Watering and Feeding

During the growth phase of the plant, succulent Baby Toes will require active watering.

In order to avoid too much water, give the soil time to dry out between watering.

Avoid watering completely during the summer time as it can cause root-rot and split leaves damaging the plant.

Soil and Transplanting

Baby Toes prefers well-drained, sandy or calciferous soil. You can create an ideal mixture by mixing potting soil with some perlite or pumice.

How To Propagate Baby Toes

Baby Toes is commonly propagated by seeds or offsets.

When growing from seed, keep in mind that these succulent plants are extremely slow growing and may not germinate at all.

Sow the seeds in a mix of well-draining cactus soil with additional builder’s sand. The best time to do this is during the fall months.

Propagating From Offsets

When propagating with offsets, use a sharp, sterile knife to remove offsets from the mother plant or use your hands to gently pull them away from the bottom of the plant.

Once you have the offset, let it dry out for a few days before planting.

Keep it watered and make sure it gets bright light until it takes root.

Baby Toes Pest and Disease Problems

This plant is virtually free of pests and diseases which make it very popular to manage.

However, there are chances of root-rot if you overwater.

If leaves begin to yellow, reduce the frequency of watering.

Take care to keep pets from ingesting this plant as it can be toxic to them when eaten.

Suggested Baby Toes Uses

This is a great plant to add to a container succulent garden or landscape.

Baby toes also grow well indoors on a windowsill with bright southern exposure.

Fenestraria – known as baby toes – add interest

  • Succulent Baby Toes

    Succulent Baby Toes

    Photo: Erle Nickel

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Succulent Baby Toes

Succulent Baby Toes

Photo: Erle Nickel Fenestraria – known as baby toes – add interest 1 / 3 Back to Gallery

The world of succulents is a vast and curious one, and nowhere is that more evident than in the common names that many of these acquire. You could almost make yourself a botanical version of the board game Concentration, where in this case you have to match the common name with the botanical of certain succulents.

One of the more curious entries would certainly be Fenestraria, also called baby toes. One look at its rows of stubby little leaves and you’re likely to see why.

Fenestraria aurantiaca is a perennial succulent hailing from the semiarid areas of Namibia. The combination of the soft, fleshy leaves and the varying elevations give the plant architectural interest, despite its small stature (to 2 inches). As with certain haworthias, Fenestrarias possess translucent windows on their flattened tips. These qualities ensure year-round appeal, but baby toes also bloom, offering cheerful 2-inch, bright yellow, daisy-like flowers in late summer and autumn.

Because of their modest size, baby toes are best grown in a pot, either by themselves or in a mixed succulent bowl. I have mine in the foreground of a bowl that includes a spotted haworthia, a Faucaria ‘Tiger Jaws,’ a stacking crassula, Aeonium ‘Kiwi,’ a complementary Gasteria ‘Stones,’ a blue senecio, paddle kalanchoe and a charming, tiny pink sedum. The great thing about succulent bowls is that nearly every combination of plants will work.

Did you know?

Fenestrarias belong to the large Aizoaceae family, which includes “mimicry plants,” so called for their ability to camouflage with their environment. Baby toes use their translucent windows to filter the harsh African sunlight to enable photosynthesis. In their native habitat, sometimes only these windows are visible above the quartz sand.

Cultivation

Like most other succulents, baby toes prefer well-drained soil. Mix equals parts potting soil with pumice or perlite. Outdoors, grow in full to part sun; indoors, provide bright indirect light. Water thoroughly when soil is dry to the touch. Fenestrarias are somewhat frost tolerant, but protection is advisable to prevent scarring.

Pests and diseases

Good drainage is essential to prevent root rot. Otherwise, this genus is pretty oblivious to pests and diseases.

Availability

Baby toes are a popular item in nurseries’ cacti and succulent sections. Most will be identified just as baby toes or Fenestraria species.

Erle Nickel is an Oakland nurseryman, gardening writer and photographer. Read his blog at normsnursery.blog spot.com. E-mail: [email protected]

Fenestraria rhopalophylla – Baby Toes [limited] [fragile leaves]

Baby Toes (Fenestraria rhopalophylla) (Brown): Green, finger-like foliage grows in upright clusters. The tips have translucent “leaf windows” that help them get enough light for photosynthesis, even when they retreat nearly completely underground for protection from drought and browsing animals. This species needs plenty of bright light to stay compact. They tend to produce multiple blooms of yellow or white with lots of narrow petals.

PLEASE NOTE: Leaves are very fragile and may fall off during shipping. If your plant is missing some leaves upon arrival, they will grow back over time.

Soft succulents will not survive a hard frost, but if there is a risk of freezing temperatures they can be brought indoors to grow on a sunny window sill or under a grow light. They need bright sunlight, good drainage, and infrequent water to prevent rot. Pick containers with drainage holes and use well-draining cactus and succulent soil with 50% to 70% mineral grit such as coarse sand, pumice, or perlite. Water deeply enough for water to run out the drainage hole, then wait for the soil to fully dry before watering again.

Q–I set a small pot of baby toes in a sunny window and watered on the same schedule as my other plants. What caused the plant to disintegrate?

A–You gave your baby toes too much water. This succulent, Fenestraria aurantiaca, which originated in the Cape Province of South Africa, does its growing in winter and can then be watered sparingly. Summer heat turns this plant off and dictates light sprinkling only.

Baby toes fenestraria belongs to the aizoaceae, or carpetweed, family. Ice plants dorotheanthus and mesembryanthemum are related, as well as the living-stone lithops, tiger-jaws faucaria and a host of other fascinating succulents.

With a name like baby toes, we can take for granted that this plant might be thought cute or adorable. What turns me on is the translucent window set within the pearly whitish top of each gray-green club-shaped leaf. At home in the sand dunes of southwestern Africa, these exist buried to the windowed tops. In cultivation, the crown is set high to avoid rot.

Baby toes fenestraria and a host of related succulents are available from Ed Storms Inc., Box 775, Azle, Tex. 76020 (illustrated catalog is $2). As a growing medium, Storms suggests adding extra portions of clean, sharp sand to packaged all-purpose potting mixes, including the so-called soil-less types. Very dilute low nitrogen fertilizer is applied during active growth.

Q–What is the secret to getting medinilla to bloom?

A–You have a treasure plant, one not often seen except in conservatory collections of tropicals.

It is possible that the plant is not yet old enough to bloom. During the seasons of active growth–spring, summer and early fall–it needs warmth (70 degrees minimum at night), strong light but not to the point of scorching the leaves, and an abundance of water. Fertilize frequently.

In late fall and early winter, provide cooler temperatures (50 to 55 degrees minimum at night) and water less, but never let the roots be so dry that the leaves wilt. Change from this lean regimen in late winter to warmer and wetter with high humidity, and expect flowering to begin soon afterward and continue into summer.

Q–I have started three Confederate jasmines from seeds collected last winter in Florida. I realize these can`t live outdoors in our North Carolina winter, but can they be treated as house plants?

A–Yes. You`ve asked about Trachelospermum jasminoides, which can`t survive temperatures much below freezing. As your seedlings grow, gradually transplant them into larger and larger pots as roots begin to fill the soil, until each is in an 8-inch pot.

Provide a small trellis or teepee formed by three 4-foot bamboo stakes set equidistant around the pot perimeter and tied together at the top. Confederate jasmine needs an abundance of water, warmth, sunlight and fertilizer in the summer. Give it a cool, sunny window in winter and water less, but don`t let the soil become so dry that the leaves suffer. Expect flowers in the spring as longer days and warmer average temperatures dictate the need for more watering and fertilizing.

Q–Why do the ends of my spider plant leaves persist in turning dry and brown?

A–Your spider plant needs more water, enough so that when you pinch some of the surface soil between your fingers its condition tells you ”damp” or

”moist.” Leaf-tip dieback on spider plant may also suggest the need for more light, and sometimes it is an indication of too much nitrogen fertilizer, especially if the plant is not receiving adequate light. Take scissors and trim off the dead tips. Water more and use an organic, non-burning fertilizer such as fish emulsion.

Q–I am having trouble with my hibiscus, which grows in a sunny window. There were buds all winter, and some actually made it to the flowering stage. Now the leaves are turning yellow, and most are falling off. I water when the leaves start to droop and have been fertilizing with acid plant food.

The minimum temperature is 65 degrees.

A–Waiting to water until the leaves droop is the problem. Water your hibiscus generously and often enough so the soil stays constantly in a range between damp and moist at the surface. Because Chinese hibiscus blooms on new wood, it is possible to have flowers off and on all year in a warm, sunny window garden, with night temperatures in the 60s, going up to 75 to 80 by day. Use an acid fertilizer such as 30-10-10; fish emulsion is also suitable. Q–I have eight amaryllis. Last year two bloomed, this year only one. All grow lots of leaves. Is there a trick to getting flowers?

A–The large-flowered amaryllis that most of us grow are of complex heritage. Some adapt to pot culture more readily than others. I push mine in the spring and summer to produce as many leaves as possible. This is done by providing a half-day or more of direct sun, an abundance of water and regular applications of 20-20-20 or a similarly balanced fertilizer. Constant warmth is a necessity during this period, meaning 60 to 70 degrees at night, to around 80 or higher in the day. Starting July 4, I change to a 15-30-15 blossom-booster fertilizer. This treatment continues to Labor Day, when a change is made to Clarel`s 1-6-5 for a month to six weeks.

By Halloween, I stop all watering and fertilizing. The leaves begin to yellow and dry off, and at this stage night temperatures in the 50s will aid in setting the flowerbuds. Do not ever remove green leaves, only those that have dried off right down to the neck of the bulb. After two months` rest, dry and cool, repot and bring to a warm window and start watering.

Elvin McDonald cannot answer all questions individually, but he will respond to questions of general interest in this column. Write to him c/o The Chicago Tribune, Room 400, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

The genus Fenestraria (commonly known as Baby Toes or Window Plant) is found in the winter rainfall region of southeastern Namibia and South Africa. The dwarf plants form mats or small clumps in sandy soil. The leaves are flat-topped and windowed, with generally only the uppermost portion exposed in the wild. They possess thick, fleshy roots.

The currently recognized species in this genus is F. rhopalophylla. Each leaf has a leaf window, a transparent window-like area, at its rounded tip, it is for these window-like structures that the genus is named (Latin: fenestra).

Because they are no very large plants, Fenestrarias are best grown in a pot, either by themselves or in a mixed succulent bowl.

Growing Conditions and General Care

Fenestrarias prefer sandy soil and should be watered sparingly at all times to avoid root rot and split leaves. They need to be kept somewhat dry in the summer. Mix equals parts potting soil with pumice or perlite. Outdoors, grow in full to part sun; indoors, provide bright indirect light. Water thoroughly when soil is dry to the touch. Fenestrarias are somewhat frost-tolerant, but protection is advisable to prevent scarring.

Photo via flickr.com

Propagating

They are usually propagated by seed but sometimes by cuttings. Like many succulents, Fenestrarias produces offsets as the clusters of leaves mature and spread. These are easy to divide from the main clump and will readily produce another plant. The seeds from the plant germinate sporadically and grow extremely slowly. Faster Fenestraria is achieved by dividing off the side growth.

Pests and Diseases

Good drainage is essential to prevent root rot. Otherwise, this genus is pretty oblivious to pests and diseases.

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I have been working on a succulent plant collection since 2007.

A purchased Baby Toes succulent in a 5 inch round pot has sat on the retaining wall in full Southern California sun. It is in a plastic pot with well draining cactus soil. How has it fared?

This amazing plant has done nothing but grow, leaving me plenty of new shoots for potting and transferring to the slope I am working on.

The green gem-like fenestraria rhopalophylla is amazingly trouble free. It has only been given water. The little tubular shaped columns, growing to an inch high, look fragile, but they can withstand plenty of touching. Each segment is smooth and rigid, and includes a clear like “window” at the top. It’s from south Africa and naturally grows in sandy soil. Planting or repotting is very easy, just split off a section of columns with the roots included.

I have used what is multiplying for vertical planters, presents and 1 inch pots for sale. An easy plant like this becomes a favorite of mine.

Growing Baby Toes for Landscaping

The real test for any of my plants is, can it grow in the ground and enhance my landscape? The pot had become very crowded and I bravely took half of the plant and carefully put the columns in the soil on the slope. This was done in the fall, the winter rain should give it enough fresh water. Winter is the dormant season for baby toes, November through February in Southern California.

The years 2014-2016 are proving the worst drought years in recorded history for the whole state of California. Northern California did get relief Winter 2015/16, but the Southern portion of the state is still dry, with only 5 inches of rain. I have been watering the area by hose, and the end of summer 2015 some of the clumps dried up. The clumps did not get enough water.

baby toes for landscaping

My plant is a light gray-green and the aster-like flowers have been white, yellow and pink. I have no clue why the flowers bloom in various colors.

As mentioned above, growing it in a plastic pot is very easy.

On the slope it gets a mix of clay soil and compost. The area has good drainage so sand is not needed. The clumps are tight and some are reddish-green and others gray-green.

Established ground plants should get light water in the summer and stay dry for longer periods during the winter.

The plant in the pot is still going good and multiplying. As the winter progressed more of the ground plant expanded due to cooler weather and a little rain.

The only practice that will kill this plant is giving it too much water.

The Four Basic Rules for Growing Baby Toes

  1. Soil that allows for no standing water.
  2. Let dry out before watering again, especially in the winter.
  3. All day full sun for plenty of new growth.
  4. Start new plantings with columns including roots.

With these four rules you will enjoy the baby toes succulent for many years.

Extra Warning

Too much rain for winter 2016/2017, about 21 inches, did kill the patch planted on the slope. The new plan is to make a pocket of sandy soil and shore it with a small barrier to prevent the sandy from washing down the slope.

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