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Gardening Trend: Fat Plants

Gardeners are always looking for new types of plants to grow. Stephen Orr from House & Garden magazine says there is a new trend taking shape among collectors and home gardeners. He visits The Saturday Early Show to tell us about funky-looking plants called caudiciforms or "fat plants."

Caudiciforms are succulent plants that come from a variety of different plant families, but share the same trait: a fat, swollen stem, earning the nickname "fat plant." Unlike other succulents that store water in their leaves, caudiciforms store water in their stems.

Caudiciforms tend to live in hot, dry climates around the world, thriving in deserts, like other succulents such as cacti. These fat plants can be outdoors if you live somewhere warm (above 50 degrees year-round), or indoor in colder climates in a hot, dry apartment or house with a fair amount of sun.

Most of these fat plants are slow-growing, so they can get very old, living for hundreds of years. In the wild, caudiciform trees can be thousands of years old. Like bonsai, some fat plants can be trained with the help of wire. But unlike bonsai, fat plants don't need all the fuss of constant moisture and trimming.

Here is a list of different specimens:


  • This plant is doughnut-shaped, but not all have the hole.
  • From same family as potato and also the morning glory
  • Native to Mexico

  • Has large pink flowers
  • Generally "fat plant" enthusiasts don't go for the flowers; they like the intricately swollen stems
  • From Eastern Africa

  • Can be grown in a little pot like a bonsai
  • In the wild, it can grow to be 30 feet tall
  • From Central America

  • Extremely rare, and new to U.S. collectors
  • Cost: $400 (other fat plants can be as inexpensive as $5-$10)
  • From Somalia

You can order a fat plant online. Jerry Wright is a dealer in California who pioneered the trend with his company The Great Petaluma Desert. When you order one you get a bare root, which you will have to plant.

To pot, you'll need loose soil: 75 percent regular potting soil, 25 percent pumice or perlite. The soil should be a well draining, like the desert. When you water the plant, drench it, but do it infrequently, like a flash-flood in the desert. The plants need lots of sun, preferably 2-3 hours of direct morning sun. They need to be fertilized very rarely.

Fat plants are excellent for the hot and dry summer we've just had because they are drought-resistant and heat-resistant too.

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