Where To Buy Lithops Plants

Lithops are little, intriguing plants native to southern Africa that are rather simple to grow inside. William John Burchell made the initial discovery of the Lithops in 1811 while on a botanical expedition in southern Africa. He came uncovered a strange-looking brown stone with a fracture running across its surface while exploring the Northern Cape Province, not far from the town of Prieska. This odd-looking stone proved out to be a succulent plant upon closer investigation. Due to their resemblance to stones, these members of the Mesembryanthemaceae (Aizoaceae) plant family were given the names lithos and opsis. Because they resemble tiny hoofprints, these plants are called locally by the Afrikaans names beeskloutjie (cattle hoof), skaappootjie (sheep hoof), or perdeklou (horse’s hoof). Even for those with a trained eye and years of experience, it can be challenging to spot Lithops in their native habitats in Namibia and South Africa because they have evolved to blend in so well with their surroundings—looking exactly like the sand and stones they live among in shape, size, and color.

Lithops are found in dry locations in colonies that are widely spaced apart and poorly populated. The word has both a singular and a plural form. In regions where Lithops are found, there is often less than 20 millimeters of rain per year, with the majority falling in the spring and fall. A few species rely on mist or fog as their primary supply of moisture, and some are found in regions with an average annual rainfall of four or less. They can grow on quartz grit or gravely flats, stony ridges and hills of sand, decomposed granite, quartzite, shale, schist, and limestone, as well as in many different types of environments. The Nama Karoo and succulent Karoo are home to the vast majority of Lithops species, which are particularly prevalent along the Orange River basin in the Northern Cape, which spans between Namibia and western South Africa.

Due to their ability to store water, virtually the entire plant of lithops is devoted to this purpose, they may survive in these dry places. Each plant is made up of two succulent leaves that have been fused together to form an inverted cone (although some species will produce multi-headed plants). The separation between the two leaves is represented by the fissure at the plant’s top. The taproot unites abruptly at the base of the leaves; there is no stem. The plants can go months without rain because to their large, water-storing leaves. They shrivel and shrink below the soil level during dry spells (nearly always).

These tiny succulents, which have almost no stems, are partially underground. In their natural habitat, plants only reach heights of 1/2 to 1 and widths of 1 to 3 inches, growing flush with the ground. The effects of the strong heat and sunlight where they live are reduced by remaining small and maintaining a low profile. However, this also creates a challenge in illuminating the leaf cells’ subterranean chlorophyll, which is used for photosynthetic activity. Wide leaf tips have windowed cells that allow light to enter the interior of the leaf, where it is diffused before reaching the chlorophyll, which is dispersed throughout the interior leaf edges, in order to resolve this paradox.

There are at least 37 species of Lithops, and more than 145 different variants have been identified. Although they all appear relatively similar to one another, they differ largely in terms of body shape, patterns, color, and texture. They are available in several soft shades of gray, brown, rust, green, and pink. The patterns of dots, lines, or patches on the upper surface, which aid in their ability to replicate their surroundings, vary considerably. Where the markings occur, there can also be dimples or indentations. The windows may completely enclose most of the leaf surfaces or the marks may densely cover the leaf surface.

The majority of Lithops bloom in the late fall and early winter, giving out numerous-petaled daisy-like yellow, pale orange, or white blooms. On sunny days, the blooms bloom in the afternoon and close again in the late afternoon. The crack between the leaves is where the flowers appear. There are perfumed flowers. Depending on the species and circumstances, they can be anywhere between 1/2 to 11/2 inches in size.

Because lithops are self-sterile, pollination is required to create seed. The hydrochastic 4–8 chambered fruiting capsule, which protects the seed, only opens when moistened, revealing the tiny seeds. In the natural world, raindrops splash out seeds up to a few feet or up to an inch from the parent plant. Any seeds still inside the capsule are protected until the following rain when the capsule closes after drying.

Following flowering, the plant enters a dormant stage during which at least one new body grows. As the new leaves emerge in the spring, the plants begin to reabsorb the old ones. Eventually, the crack between the old leaves is where the new body emerges. The new leaves’ fissure forms at a roughly 90-degree angle to the existing fissure. The old leaves eventually decompose into a dry, papery sheath on the side of the new body. At this point, a lot of plants will also divide to create many leaf pairs, which will eventually cause a single body to resemble a little cluster.

Lithops are common novelty houseplants because they can survive in low humidity, require little maintenance and water, and are reasonably simple to grow. These plants don’t require much space due to their modest size and sluggish, compact growth. Lithops live for 40 to 50 years on average. A plant can easily be kept in the same pot for ten or twenty years. Lithops are not harmful to people or animals. (Some references even mention African youngsters consuming these plants to relieve their thirst.) In cultivation, their health is reliant on adequate bright light, effective soil drainage, and appropriate watering.

Although a greenhouse is recommended, lithops can be grown effectively on a sunny windowsill where they get about 4 to 5 hours of direct sunlight in the morning and some shade in the afternoon. The optimum site is typically a southern window, while an unobstructed eastern exposure is a fine alternative. A plant will start to grow elongated and skinny, lean to one side to get more light, lose color and turn greenish, and eventually die if better circumstances are not provided. However, take care when transferring a plant suddenly to a brighter location. It could suffer deadly injuries from sunburn.

Similar to cactus, lithops demand well-drained soil. Use specialized cactus potting soil or add sharp sand, perlite, decomposed granite, or other grit to standard houseplant potting soil to help with drainage. These plants require a larger container than their apparent size would suggest because of their enormous root systems. To provide the roots enough room to expand, pots with drain holes and a depth of 3 to 5 inches are advised. Instead of having the plant’s top directly on the soil’s surface as it would in nature, place it just a little bit above it. For a more natural appearance, several growers topdress the plant with gravel or surround it with stones. Lithops go through a yearly cycle of growth, and it’s important to water them just when necessary and let the soil dry up at other times. The main factor contributing to early death is overwatering. They decay or grow new bodies at the incorrect time of year when there is too much water present. They grow stunted if there is little water. Depending on how rapidly the potting media dries out, you need to water more frequently. Generally speaking, water the plant and let it air dry fully (probably 1-2 weeks). After that, wait a few more days before watering once more. If unsure, don’t! The optimum time to water is in the morning because this allows the extra water to drain and the top soil layers to dry off pretty fast. Here are some general watering recommendations (however species may affect them slightly):

  • from late spring to summer, water.
  • Stop watering the plant in the summer when it turns dormant. Only water until the top half inch of the soil is moist if the plant truly starts to shrivel. This will restore the plant’s firm appearance.
  • Watering should be resumed in late summer or early fall when plants begin to develop and bloom again. When the slit between the leaves starts to open up in anticipation of flowering, that is the first indication of growth.
  • Lithops need to be completely dry during the winter and spring. Stop watering the plant so that the old leaf pair can dry out and make way for the new pair. The new body should be discernible by early April. Once the remains of the previous body have totally dried out and shriveled, watering can be resumed. The plant won’t grow properly if water is given too soon since the old “leaves” will want to continue to grow. Keep in mind that when the new leaves are developing, the old ones should completely dry out.

Fertilize Use a low nitrogen, high potassium kind of lithops. Lithops can withstand extremely high temperatures provided there is sufficient abundance of fresh air. Don’t ever let the plants freeze.

Today, specialty succulent nurseries sell seeds, plants, and a wide variety of cultivars. They sprout from seeds swiftly, and under ideal circumstances, they can be anticipated to flower in 3 to 4 years. The seeds should be sown on sandy soil during the summer and covered with a very thin layer of fine sand. Water the small seeds sparingly to avoid moving them. Keep the contents damp but not soggy and place the container in a warm, sunny location. In a few weeks, the first seeds should begin to sprout (but germination may be spread out over a long period of time, with stragglers taking as long as a year). Once the seedlings are growing quickly, watering should be reduced such that the upper 1/4 of the medium dries out and the lower 1/4 remains moist. Water sparingly during this time because too much watering could dampen off the seedlings. Start allowing the plants totally dry out for a few days between waterings when they are 2 to 3 months old, and then gradually extend the drying period. When the baby plants are around a year old, they can be transplanted. Another way to multiply lithops is to divide a multiheaded plant. Lift the plant, make a clean incision through the roots, and then quickly replant it. University of Wisconsin-Madison student Susan Mahr

In what should I grow my Lithops?

For all save the hottest zones, growing live stones in pots is preferred. Cactus mix or potting soil with added sand are required for lithops.

Before adding moisture, the potting medium must dry, and the pot must be placed in as much light as possible. For optimal light entry, place the plant in a southern-facing window.

Division or seed can be used for propagation, while seed-grown plants take a long time to take root and several years to resemble their parent plants. Both seeds and seedlings are available from succulent nurseries and online. Even large-scale nurseries frequently stock mature plants.

Where does Lithops naturally grow?

Succulents of the Aizoaceae family include lithops. They belong to the genus Lithops and are indigenous to South Africa and Namibia. They do resemble stones in appearance. Their natural environment is dry, rocky terrain, which is why they have developed such an ingenious camouflage to shield themselves from herbivorous predators who are on the prowl.

Each lithops plant has a pair of leaves with a crack separating them that resemble more squishy rubber pads than actual leaves. Every year, when the old leaves split open in the spring to expose the advent of these new leaves, a new pair of leaves grows from the crack. The old leaves then shrivel and die as a result. Lithops have a single, lengthy taproot that is covered in tiny root hairs.

One flower blooms from the center fissure in the autumn. The flowers might be white or yellow and occasionally have a delectable scent. The daisy-like blossoms have a diameter of about half an inch. Late in the day, they close after they open in the afternoon.

Each and every lithops is a tiny plant that barely rises an inch or two above the soil’s surface. This makes them an excellent choice for a sunny windowsill, a compact apartment, or a countertop or vanity with good lighting.

Are Lithops challenging to maintain?

Those succulents you once believed resembled rocks? They are succulents from the southern African genus Lithops, also known as “living stones.” Older Lithops grow clumps of colorful pebbles in their pot, making them perfect for use as a garden accent. They are relatively simple to take care of because to their small size and sluggish growth, especially after you get the hang of the routine. You may learn some fundamental information about taking proper care of your Lithops in this post.

How long are stones still alive?

You can finally remove the old leaves and continue watering until they have shrunk up into husks that resemble paper. Water the new bud softly to let it grow, then gradually increase the amount of water you give it until it receives full waterings as needed.

Your Lithops should enjoy a full life if you water them according to these instructions (40-50 years). Be mindful that some Lithops may only require watering three or four times each year. Others can be watered once or twice a week during their growing seasons (spring and autumn).

When it’s time to water, treat them like any other succulent by dousing the dirt at their base with water until water starts to run out of the bottom. If in doubt, wait to water until the leaves have noticeable wrinkling.

Any problems with thirst will still have plenty of time to be fixed before your plant suffers long-term harm. Water in the morning if you can. As a result, less damaging moisture is kept in the roots and the water can evaporate during the day.

How long does it take Lithops to grow?

A south- or east-facing windowsill is the best location for lithops, as they require a sunny place with at least five hours of direct sunlight each day. Keep in mind that if winter temperatures drop drastically, you might need to remove your lithops from your windowsill.

How to plant lithops

Online purchases of lithops could arrive bare-root, requiring you to plant them yourself. Lithops require a compost that is extremely free-draining, like a cactus compost. To ensure that the compost dries out fast, choose a terracotta container because it is more porous than a plastic or glazed one. You can plant them alone or in groupings.

Propagating lithops

Lithops can be multiplied by seed or division, albeit both methods need a lot of work. Lithops must mature into a cluster over a number of years before being divided. Make sure each component of the plant still has a functional taproot before carefully removing it from the pot and cutting through the roots. Each division should be repotted into a pot that is deep enough to allow the taproot to expand without being compressed.

Prepare a pot with free-draining cactus compost and extra grit to grow lithops from seed. Give the compost some water and let it drain. Cover the area with a thin layer of sand or vermiculite after scattering lithops seeds over it. Until germination takes place, keep somewhat wet; after that, gradually cut down on watering.

How to water lithops

Lithops have a very specific growth cycle, hence they require extremely specific watering. At first, this might appear difficult, but once you get the feel of it, it’s simple.

The development of the new leaves should be taken into account when watering lithops. Each year, Lithops produce new leaves that appear between the two elder leaves before progressively shriveling up (pictured). The watering schedule is determined by the development of these new leaves. The old leaves may not shrivel up properly if you water too soon after the new ones have appeared.

In contrast to most succulents, lithops begin to grow in the fall. Give your lithops a good watering during this time since it coincides with seasonal rains in the wild (early September). Around this time, flowers begin to bloom; keep an eye out for the fissure to open and the bud to emerge. For lithops to flower, they must be at least three years old.

With the new pair of leaves growing inside the old, lithops continue to grow throughout the winter and into the next spring. However, it’s crucial to avoid watering in the winter. The soil should be extremely dry since the new pair of leaves actually grows by taking water from the old pair.

The new leaves emerge in the spring as the old leaves begin to shrink. When the old pair of leaves has fully withered, begin watering once more. Water sparingly, letting the compost dry up in between applications.

Summertime, often the hottest time of year in their native southern African climate, is when lithops go dormant. Then, in early September, when growth resumes, give them a big drink. Avoid watering them during this period.

Growing lithops: problem solving

The primary issue with growing lithops is overwatering or watering at the incorrect time of year. The plants’ markings may also fade in the absence of light. The red spider mite can be a nuisance in greenhouses and conservatories.