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Bear’s Paw Succulent – Cotyledon Tomentosa

Cotyledon tomentosa is tender succulent that is a lot of fun to grow. It is easy to see where the common name of bear’s paw succulent came from.

Those chubby leaves look just like tiny bear’s paws!

Each of the leaves are soft and fuzzy with a puffy look and have tiny “teeth” at the edges. When the plant is properly cared for and in the right conditions, the teeth at the end of the leaves turn red.

Tips for growing Bear's Paw Succulent

Cotyledon tomentosa are a genus of succulents that are easy to grow, easy to repot, and are simple to maintain in a small size for any indoor garden.

If you are looking for a plant which is great for those with a brown thumb, bear’s paw succulent is a good choice for you. It is perfect for those new to growing succulents.

Facts about Bear’s Paw Succulent

In botany, the term tomentose means a covering of fuzz. For another succulent variety of this type, see my post on Kalanchoe tomentosa.

Cotyledon tomentosa is a succulent plant in the family crassulaceae.  The plant is native to Africa. In it’s native habitat, the plant grows in rocky fields and on steep cliffs where the porous soil gives them excellent drainage.

This succulent is also known by the common names bear’s claw plant, bear’s paw succulent, bear paw cactus, and kitten paw plant.

Bear's claw succulent plant

How to Grow Bear’s paw succulent

Cotyledon tomentosa is a sweet little plant that is relatively easy to care for. It likes ample sunlight, but it is a good succulent for those new to growing succulents.

Sunlight needs: 

Cotyledon tomentosa will tolerate full sun to partial shade. Ideal conditions for it are 6 hours of sunlight outdoors or a south-facing window inside.

Watering requirements: 

Water when the top of the soil is dry down about 1-2 inches. If possible choose a pot with a drainage hole to allow the water to drain after you add water to the soil.

Hold off on watering in the winter when the plant is dormant.  Water it just enough to make sure it does not get shriveled.Water bear's paw succulent in a sink

A good way to water is the “soak and drain” method.  To do this, bring the plant to the sink and give it a good soak, allowing the water to drain out of the drain hole in the bottom of the pot.

Soil Needs:

Like all succulents, a well draining soil mix is needed since the plant is prone to root rot.  You can choose a specially formulated soil for cacti and succulents, or add perlite and coarse sand to ordinary potting soil.

In general succulents like a slightly acidic soil with a pH about 6. The plant seems to do well in a pot that is just one size larger than the root system.

How to fertilize: 

Fertilize lightly with a succulent fertilizer once a month in the active growing season. Hold off on fertilizing in the winter months. 

Growing Period:

The plant’s growing season is spring and fall.  There is little growth during the summer and winter months. Bear’s Paw succulent is dormant in the summer and growth is also very slow in the winter months.

Flowers and Foliage:

The leaves of bear’s paw succulent are flat and hairy. Like other succulents, they store water in their plump leaves.leaves of cotyledon tomentosa with teeth on the end

The leaves will grow up to 1.5 inches long with reddish teeth on the ends of the leaves, which are neatly arranged in a row. The plant is relatively fast growing.

New pairs of paws form together as the plant matures.  The nature is compact and plump.

The leaves are have a textured finish to them and are hairy and quite fat.  Flowers are bell shaped and come in light yellow, pink, and orange to orange-red in color. The plant flowers in spring.

Flower of cotyledon tomentosa

Photo credit Wikimedia Commons

Mature Size:

A mature bear’s paw specimen can be up to 20 inches tall and will be shrubby looking and densely branched.  

When grown as an indoor plant, the specimen will be quite small, but if you are in the right hardiness zones and grow it outdoors, it will actually form into a shrub.

Cotyledon Tomentosa grown as an outdoor shrub

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Diseases and Insects:

Like most succulents, fungal diseases caused from over-watering are something to be on the look out for. This could show itself with limp leaves that easily fall off (Bear’s paw leaves have a tendency to do this even in a healthy plant so take care when handling the plant.)

Mealybugs, spider mites, and scale are insects that can be a problem. Mealybugs show up as tiny white insects that have a cotton- like look to them.  

Scale insects are found on the stems of succulents and are quite hard. They can be scraped off with a fingernail.

Cold Hardiness for Bear’s Paw Succulent:

Cotyledon tomentosa is cold hardy in zones 9b to 11b.  If you live in a a colder temperature, your plant can not be left outside in the winter. Also be sure to check out my list of cold hardy succulent plants for other varieties to grow in colder zones.

In colder areas, treat it as a houseplant. Bear’s Paw can be grown indoors if given enough light. The plant can be moved outside in the summer months and will benefit from this.

Get some ideas for succulent containers for your Bear’s paw plant. You’ll be amazed at some common household items that can be used.

How to propagate Cotyledon Tomentosa:leaves of bear's claw cactus

The easiest way to propagate Bear’s Claw succulent is through cuttings.  Stem cuttings work best.  This method will give you new plants for free quickly.

Planting offsets that grow at the base is also an easy way to get new plants.

Leaf cuttings also will work but are harder. (The leaves have a lot of water in them and this type of leaf can be a challenge to propagate.)

Twist the leaf at the area of the stem to try and get a very intact leaf cutting that is not cut too far from the tip. Allow the leaf to callous over for a few days.  Rooting powder can also help the leaf to root.leaf cutting of bear's paw succulent

The plant can also be propagated from seeds. To grow the succulent from seed, sow the seeds in well draining soil in the fall. This can be done outside in zones 10 and above, or under grow lights indoors.

To propagate the succulent from stem cuttings, use a clean sterile knife and make a cutting on the main stem with a few leaves attached. Allow the end of the cutting to callous over for a few days and then plant in well draining soil.

This is best done when your plant has grown a bit and has some height to it.  Trying to get a stem cutting of a new plant that is compact and plump will leave you with an odd looking plant.

Water gently and roots will form in a few weeks and a new plant will soon be growing for you.

Is Bear’s Paw Succulent Toxic?

The plant is generally considered non toxic but there have been a few reports that it can be mildly toxic to children and pets.

Since Kalanchoe tomentosa (another plump furry succulent) is considered toxic, I would err on the side of caution.

Where to buy Bear’s Paw Succulent

Some of the links below are affiliate links. I earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you if you purchase through an affiliate link.

Check your local Farmer’s market and the garden sections of both Lowe’s and Home Depot.  The plant is also for sale in these locations:

Check out my guide for many more ideas on where to buy succulents.

Pin Bear’s Paw Succulent Growing Tips for Later

Would you like a reminder of this post for how to grow Cotyledon Tomentosa ?  Just pin this image to one of your Pinterest succulent boards so that you can easily find it later.

Bear's Paw Succulent is a drought smart tender succulent. Click through for care tips.

Yield: great plant for dish gardens and makes a nice house plant.

How to Grow Bear's Paw Succulent - (Cotyledon Tomentosa)

Bear's Paw Succulent

Bear's Paw Succulent is a drought tolerant plant that is easy to grow. It has green leaves with tiny "teeth" on the end of the leaves that look like bear paws.

Active Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Difficulty easy
Estimated Cost $3 and up


  • Bear's Paw Succulent
  • Well Draining Potting Soil
  • Small container with a drainage hole.


  • Print off this care sheet and add it to your garden journal to keep growing tips for Bear's Paw Succulent handy.


  • Sunlight needs - at least 6 hours a day outside, indoors in a south facing window
  • Watering requirement:- Allow the soil to dry out on the top 1-2 inches before adding more water.
  • Fertilizing:- Fertilize twice a week during the growing season.
  • Growing Season:- Spring and Fall
  • Propagation:- Leaf or stem cutting and seeds.
  • Cold Hardiness: - Zones 9b-11b. In colder zones, grow as a houseplant.

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Sara Piesse

Friday 4th of November 2022

Hi my bears paw is in a terrarium with cactus i have noticed although it has new growth it doesnt seem to be happy and is going a yellowy colour at the end my husband suggested giving it a drink so i gave it a little rainwater, i came home today and it has dropped two big leaves. Help!

Carol Speake

Saturday 5th of November 2022

I am sorry but it is impossible to diagnose a specific plant problem without seeing the plant in person.


Friday 4th of June 2021

Thank you for this very informative article!

I do have a quick question. I've been caring for a bear paw for years now and recently, the leaves themselves have taken on a reddish hue that is closer to a maroon (not just on the tips). I'm wondering if you potentially have an explanation for why this is? I would be more than happy to share some photos as well.

Carol Speake

Tuesday 8th of June 2021

It is impossible to diagnose a specific plant problem without seeing the plant in person. Too much sunlight can cause a succulent to go reddish, but this is purely a guess.

Mary Jane Snoddy

Sunday 24th of November 2019

I would like to have more information on propagating Bear Claw plants and Cocoon plants as well. I can't find much of either and that makes stems not too plentiful so I want to know more about leaves propagation please. Can you help me to find that information? All I find just says it is hard but can be done but I can't do it, not yet but I will. Thank you , Mary Jane Snoddy

Carol Speake

Saturday 30th of November 2019

The leaves can be propagated by drying them out and letting them callous over then planting in seed starting soil, or sand, but any furry leaf plants are difficult to propagate, since the leaves often shrivel and die instead of developing roots. If you get just the right conditions, though, it can be done.


Friday 9th of August 2019

what is it used for and how do I prepare it for my use?




Wednesday 10th of July 2019

It was great Thank you

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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