I find this succulent plant to be easy to grow indoors and I think I've discovered the trick to get it to flower. When growing cacti and succulent plants the trick is to mimic the growing conditions in the wild when we're growing them indoors. In the winter I reduce the amount of water I give my succulents and will only water when I notice some shrinking of the stems of this Orbea. Since the plant goes dormant in the winter giving it bright light isn't really an issue- it does well in a west facing window.
This succulent came to be in my possession after I was given three cuttings by a member of a cactus and succulent forum I frequent. The first year I grew my cuttings on the front porch where it didn't receive much light and very little water. This year I put my plant in the back porch where it was exposed to the elements. I quickly learned that this African plant couldn't tolerate fun sun in Chicago. The stems turned a maroon color and started to shrivel. I moved it below a large plant that would shade it from the midday sun while still allowing it to get morning and evening sun and rain. Once I started to mimic the light conditions it receives in the wild I noticed a dramatic increase in growth and even the formation of a couple of flower buds on one stem.
In my indoor garden I water very carefully giving it just enough water to keep it alive to reduce the risk of root rot. But I've noticed that on the back patio where temperatures can get pretty high my Orbea takes more water than usual to maintain plump, green stems. When I bring it back indoors I may transplant it into a hanging pot because the new growth drapes lower than the bottom of the pot. The smaller stems sometimes break and fall off easy but I just stick them in a new pot and start to root and make more plants.
The flowers on the succulent plant are pretty spectacular and have been worth the two year wait while I learned how to grow it. When you observe the five lobed flower you can see why it is commonly called Starfish Cactus and the variegated color does remind me of a toad. Today my sister asked me why it smelled like a dead mouse on the back deck and before she could even finish the sentence I was running out the door camera in hand. If you don't know or haven't guessed yet (by the common name) the flower stink. They emit a putrid odor reminiscent of rotting flesh in order to attract flies for pollination. Carrion flowers do such a good job at mimicking rotting flesh that flies flock to it looking for a moist place to lay eggs. Eventually some maggots will appear on the flower where they'll die because there won't be anything for them to eat.
Even though the flowers smell bad these don't smell that bad and can be grown by an indoor gardener provided you have an area outside you can place it while in bloom. Some Carrion Flowers get much larger and have a stronger odor but I think the smell from O. variegata is tolerable if you don't get too close.
"Ah the pity, beauty is wasted on the flies."