Cotyledon Tomentosa (Bear’s Paw Succulent) - Care Guide

Cotyledon tomentosa or bear paw succulent in pot

The succulent Cotyledon Tomentosa, also known as bear hands or bear’s paw succulent, is a species native to South Africa, in the Cape Province, very close to the town of Ladismith and the Groot River.

It is known for its slow growth rate and delicate care requirements, making it more laborious for nurseries to maintain it in good condition for sale. As a result, it is typically more expensive than other common and hardier succulents such as Graptosedum Bronze or Sedum Clavatum.

In this guide you will learn all the information you need to know about the characteristics, care and propagation of this bear’s paw succulent.

Table

Main characteristics

  • Light: semi-shade to full sun
  • Height: grows up to 30-70 cm tall and 30-50 cm wide
  • Soil: fast draining
  • Watering: normal
  • Minimum temperature: -5°C
  • Propagation: by leaves, shoots, and stem cuttings
  • Origin: South Africa (Cape)
  • Price: $4-12 USD

Cotyledon Tomentosa is part of the Crassulaceae family. It grows in pairs of thick, fleshy leaves that resemble a bear claw.

When grown indoors in low light or outdoors in heavy shade, its leaves tend to remain green from the base to the tip.

However, when exposed to direct sunlight, the tips of its leaves will turn a reddish-brown color, which is what makes them look like bear claws.

One adult bear paw succulent in a pot
Photo by @succulentselfies

In its adult stage, it is a large succulent compared to the average, growing up to 30-70 cm tall and 30-50 cm wide.

During spring and summer, it produces yellow or orange star-shaped flowers depending on sun exposure.

Cotyledon Tomentosa Care

Light

For Cotyledon Tomentosa, the ideal lighting condition is indirect sunlight with about 3-4 hours of direct morning sun.

But always remember that if in the nursery where you bought it, they had it protected from the sun under a shade net or something similar, chances are that at home it will not have the same conditions. 

Once it is adapted to being in direct sun for a few hours, you can expose it to the normal number of hours.

Watering

As for watering, Cotyledon Tomentosa, like most succulents with thick leaves, stores a significant amount of water in its leaves and stems.

This is why you must be very careful with the watering of this succulent to prevent it from rotting. Only water it when the soil is completely dry and avoid watering if the soil is still wet, as it can harm the plant and lead to rotting.

If you want to intensify its green tones, you can slightly reduce its water intake without allowing it to become dehydrated. For example, if you normally water it every 9 days, you can wait a couple of days between each watering, and this will intensify its color.

Bear's paw succulent with flowers
Photo by sabino__onibas

This technique is called "stressing" the plant, it sounds negative but it's not actually harmful to your bear’s paw succulent. In its natural habitat, it is used to experiencing periods of drought so waiting a couple of extra days for watering does not pose any danger.

Soil

Cotyledon Tomentosa is a succulent that thrives in soil that allows rapid drainage to prevent waterlogging.

The substrate, in addition to soil, should include a mixture of more porous materials such as pumice, gravel or red tezontle. This will prevent the pot from retaining too much water and the plant from rotting.

Temperature

The ideal temperature for healthy growth and flowering of Cotyledon Tomentosa is between 20 °C and 28 °C. However, it can thrive in higher and lower temperatures.

Bear paw succulent in a white pot
Photo by @dsuccas

The general recommendation is to avoid growing it in very cold climates below 5 °C, but it can withstand temperatures as low as -5 °C for short periods (1 or 2 days) when the substrate is dry.

If exposed to these low temperatures for a longer period, it will most likely die quickly.

Therefore, if you live in a very cold place, with constant temperatures below 5 °C, it will be better to grow it indoors but with sufficient sun exposure.

How to propagate Cotyledon Tomentosa

Cotyledon Tomentosa can be propagated by leaves, shoots, and stem cuttings. The most common and effective options are propagation by cuttings and shoots, while the latter is a natural process and cannot be controlled beyond taking good care of your plant.

Some people choose to use leaf propagation, but the succulent bear claw is not very good at propagating by this method. It will almost always fail unless you apply a little trick with the stem that I explain in detail in the next section.

Below, I explain how to reproduce this succulent by each method.

Leaf propagation

Leaf propagation for Cotyledon Tomentosa does not work as in most succulents, since in this species, a leaf by itself does not have enough strength to bring out the bud and generate roots.

The only way to propagate this succulent through leaves is by retaining a portion of the stem to which the leaf is attached.

Below I explain step by step how to propagate Cotyledon Tomentosa by leaves:

1. Cut the leaves

You must cut horizontally (with the stem) a pair of twin leaves, that is, that are at the same height and on the same stem. Then, make a vertical cut right in the middle of the stem so that each leaf remains with its half.

In this way it will be possible for each leaf to reproduce by generating a bud and roots, since with that part of the stem we are giving it the extra strength it needs to do so and that it cannot do by itself.

Propagating the Cotyledon Tomentosa by leaves
Photo by @sep_plant

Even so consider that, if the reproduction by leaves is usually slow, in the bear’s paw succulent it is even slower due to the nature of this species.

Note: In case you made the wrong cut, and a leaf has been left without its half of the stem, the reproduction will not work. Therefore, you will have to make another cut to propagate and get rid of the one you cut wrongly.

2. Place them in the substrate

Place both leaves in a pot or small container previously disinfected with alcohol and filled with universal succulent substrate. When placing the leaves in the substrate, place them upside down to allow the roots to grow by penetrating under the substrate and avoiding direct sunlight.

3. Place the pot in an area with indirect light

Although this succulent can handle direct sun for a few hours, avoid exposing it to direct sun when propagating by leaves, especially during early growth stages.

Intense direct light can harm roots, prevent them from growing, and disrupt the propagation process.

4. Cover the roots and water the substrate

Once roots start growing, cover them with the substrate and provide normal care: proper lighting and watering when substrate is dry.

5. Transplant to individual pots

As the new plants mature, they will grow bigger, developing stems. The mother leaves will wither and drop away naturally.

Once the mother leaves have shed, transplant each new plant to small individual pots to continue their growth with more space and continue to provide the normal care recommended for this bear’s paw succulent.

Offshoots or pups propagation

When given the proper care and conditions, Cotyledon Tomentosa occasionally and slowly produces shoots. These are small fully formed plants that grow at the base of the main plant or mother plant.

Offshoots propagation of the Bear's paw succulent
Photo by @neselisukulent

To propagate the bear’s paw succulent by offshoots, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the shoots: Try to choose the most mature shoots, even if they already have some roots on the stem. These shoots are easier to detach and will grow faster.
  2. Remove the shoots: Carefully remove them from the mother plant using disinfected scissors or cutters. Some shoots may come off just by gently twisting them. In any case, always be careful not to damage the roots.
  3. Plant the shoots: Plant them in a small pot with common succulent soil, one pot for each sprout. For your soil mix, remember to follow the recommendations mentioned above.
  4. Water the substrate: You should water the substrate generously and wait until it is completely dry to water again. Some people recommend watering with a spray bottle during the first 2 or 3 weeks, especially for the shoots that do not have roots.

The ideal time to transplant offshoots is during spring, as it is the season when they grow and reproduce the fastest. However, transplanting can also be done in other seasons, but growth may be slower.

This method, being small fully formed shoots, is very effective and enables the plant to quickly adapt to its new environment.

Stem Cuttings Propagation

This method is the most effective for propagating Cotyledon Tomentosa, excluding shoots propagation, which is a natural process, and we cannot do much to control it.

Stem cuttings, being pairs of leaves along with their stem, usually grow roots in a short period of time.

Cutting propagation of the Cotyledon Tomentosa

Follow these steps to propagate the bear’s paw succulent by stem cuttings:

  1. Choose the cutting: When selecting a cutting to propagate, it is advisable to choose one that is not too small, it is best to select a well-formed and mature cutting, this will promote easier and faster root development.
  2. Separate the cutting: Once chosen, separate the cutting very carefully using a knife, scissors or cutter previously sterilized with alcohol. It is important to ensure that the cut made on the cutting is as straight as possible, this facilitates the wound healing process and helps the cutting to generate roots faster once planted in the soil.
  3. Remove leaves from the stem’s base: Alternatively, once you cut the cutting, remove the lower leaves to leave the base of the stem free to facilitate root generation, with 1 or 2 cm will be enough.
  1. Let the wound dry: As the wound remains moist, it is advisable to let the cutting dry for 1 or 2 days until its callus forms. To promote healing, you can leave it in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight and in a vertical position, such as hanging or propped up.
  2. Place the cutting into a pot: Once the cutting has healed, place it into a pot filled with soil. Wait 5-7 days before watering to allow the cutting to develop stronger and healthier roots while continuing to heal.

After the first watering, continue to care for the plant as previously mentioned.

Note: Before the first watering, the leaves closest to the cutting area will serve as a water reserve for root growth. So, it is very likely that these leaves will dry out at some point. However, this is a normal process and there is nothing to worry about.

What are your thoughts on the Cotyledon Tomentosa?

Definitely, Cotyledon Tomentosa is a very peculiar and unique succulent that every enthusiast of these plants should own.

Although it is a slow-growing succulent and has delicate care needs, with patience and dedication you will see that it will be worth having in your garden.

If you liked this article, please consider sharing it with other succulent enthusiasts on your social networks. We will be thrilled if it reaches a wider audience and provides more people with valuable insights on the cultivation and propagation of the Cotyledon Tomentosa, the bear’s paw succulent.

All the best taking care of your plants!

Sources and cover image:

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Luis Camacho

I'm passionate about traveling, trekking and gardening. In this blog i want to share everything I learn throughout my journey and help you get the best of your plants.

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