There are many unusual plants in the world, and among the most fascinating are Lithops.
While actually the genus name, Lithops is also used as the general term for these odd and yet engaging succulents.
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Below we talk about where Lithops originate from, how to grow and care for them, and why you should give them a go, so let’s start by explaining what Lithops are.
What Are Lithops?
Lithops are a class of succulent – that is plants that conserve water – that grow in the very arid regions of southern Africa and South Africa.
They are often referred to as ‘Living Stones’ thanks to their appearance – flat and sometimes coloured as per their surroundings.
There are many unusual aspects to these quite unique plants.
First is the fact they barely need any water – we’ll talk more about that in the section on growing and caring for them – and second is that they grow flat in line with the surface of the ground they are in.
They are usually found surrounded by rocks and stones and can be difficult to see.
This means that most of the plant is actually below the ground.
Further unusual factors include the way the flat top of the plant absorbs sunlight to feed the root beneath, which is much larger than the plant at the surface.
Some Lithops do not see any rain but absorb moisture from mist or fog when possible.
They come in a wide range of colours and make for a truly fascinating plant to grow.
They do flower – another nickname for them is ‘Flowering Stones’ – and can have a very attractive bloom.
So, now we know what they are and where they come from, how best to grow Lithops?
How to Grow Lithops
Unusually, the less soil the better for growing Lithops.
You will remember they grow in arid areas among rocks, stones and sands.
Ideally you should plant your Lithops in a mixture of 1/5th soli and the rest perlite, sand and gravel.
They also like volcanic rock such as pumice if you can find it.
Some growers do not include any soil, and in many cases the Lithops grows very well in a soil-less medium.
Note that the growing seasons for Lithops are spring and autumn, with summer and winter being dormant seasons.
It’s for this reason that watering your Lithops – and when you should and should not do so – is very important.
Many growers get this bit wrong and water their Lithops too much, so let’s have a look at what you need to do.
First, it is essential to understand that even if you are familiar with growing succulents you are going to find Lithops considerably different.
They are, quite simply, unique in the plant world.
Have a look at this full care guide for more information. The watering routine is determined by season so here’s what to do in each one:
Do not water Lithops in the summer, unless they begin to become wrinkled.
If this happens, sprinkle a tiny amount of water on the plant and it should return to shape in a few days.
Summer is a dormant season in which the plant is conditioned to getting no water.
Watering them in the summer can lead to the plant rotting, and this will kill them.
You will see the Lithops begin to grow in the early part of Autumn.
You might see a bud – the beginnings of a flower – appear between the two leaves in the slit, which is the start of the growth process.
Now you can water the Lithops, giving it a good amount and repeating the process once the growing medium is dry.
Always wait for it to dry as with all succulents, as it is possible to over-water these plants.
During the winter, the new pair of leaves are growing, and they will feed on water from the old pair.
Do not water a Lithops during winter as it will take it in, and you may kill both sets of leaves.
The old leaves will shrivel as the new ones take the water from them, and you’ll see this process happening.
Make sure the plants are kept above 55F during the winter as they do not like the cold!
Take away the shrivelled old leaves and gently water the new ones, and continue the process increasing the watering to full as the new bud grows.
That’s the basics of growing Lithops!
It sounds easy, and if you get it right it is, but you do need to be very careful with the steps above and the among of water you give the plant.
Further Lithops Care Tips
Lithops may be among the more unusual plants but as there is a knack to growing them it is surprisingly satisfying when you see them flower.
There is very little to do once you get the basics right, so her are a few tips and reminders:
- Lithops rarely need fertilizer so you don’t need to worry about that. If you do have an entirely soil-less growing medium a very small solution of fertilizer might encourage growth.
- Always grow Lithops on their own or with others of their type as they do not pair with other plants.
- Take care to understand where each plant is in its seasonal cycle as they may come from different sources and not be synchronised.
- Remember a Lithops takes up to three years to produce its first flower, so if possible be aware how old your plants are when you first plant them.
If you water and care for your Lithops as above you have a plant that may live for many years, so have a go and grow something different for a change!