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How to Care for a Lifesaver Cactus

There are several species of Huernia, commonly called "Lifesaver plant," but the most common is Huernia confusa. A succulent plant in the same family as butterfly weed, these unusual plants are much sought after by collectors. Native to Africa, Huernia confusa is moderately easy to grow indoors under suitable conditions.

Place 1/2 to 1 inch of pebbles into the bottom of a clay pot. Add an inch of cactus soil.

Place your Lifesaver plant into the pot, and add more cactus soil. Do not bury the plant too deeply. Place the pot in a window with indirect, bright light. A south-facing window may be too bright.

Water your plant only when the soil is completely dry. Water less often during winter months. Fertilize the cactus monthly during its growing season with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer or timed-release fertilizer pellets.

Move the cactus farther from windows during the winter to protect it from cold drafts. Maintain the temperature at no lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit.


Huernia confusa breaks easily, but also roots easily from broken pieces or cuttings.


Lifesaver plants are susceptible to several types of root rot, so keeping the soil dry is very important.

Huernia flowers are also called carrion flowers, because they have a smell like dead animals. They will attract flies, so it's best to keep the plant away from doors and windows if you put it outside in the summer.

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