The lithops are succulent plants that are perfect to have in the patio or on the terrace: when measuring about 4-5cm high by 1-2cm wide, they can be grown in pots throughout their life and, in fact, if they were planted in the garden would most likely end up losing them.
Although it is usually thought that they are very demanding, in reality they are not so demanding. If you do not believe me, you only have to put to the test the tips and tricks that I am going to offer you in this special, and then if you want to tell me how you are doing.
Characteristics of Lithops
Our protagonist is a genus of succulent plants called Lithops, plants native to southern Africa. The genus, Lithops, comprises 109 species belonging to the botanical family Aizoaceae. They are known by the common names of living stones, living rocks or stone plants, since that is exactly what they look like: stones found in the sandy desert. They are also called cactus stone or lithops cactus, although they are not cactus, they are non cactaceous succulents.
These curious plants form groups of two fleshy leaves coupled divided only by a fissure where the flowers appear, and also the new pair of leaves as the “old” wilts. Depending on the species, the color of the same can be pink, violet, green; with spots, dotted or scored.
The flowers open in autumn, towards sunset. They are reminiscent of those with daisies, although the petals are much thinner (less than 0.5cm thick). They are a little larger than the body of the plants, and have a very nice yellow or white color.
They are considered windows, since in their leaves they have a translucent zone, without chlorophyll, by which sunlight reaches the part that is buried.
Lithops Plant Care
If you dare to buy one or more copies, here is your care guide:
Place your Lithops in an area where sunlight directly , if possible, throughout the day. Ideally, they should be outdoors, since indoors they usually have problems due to the lack of light.
The substrate must have very good drainage. The roots do not support the ponding, so it is highly recommended to use sandy substrates , such as akadama , river sand or pomice.
When do you have to water?
Irrigation is the most important and complicated task at the same time that you have to do when you have plants. With lithops it is not easy to know when to irrigate, although we can do some things to avoid excessive watering:
- One of them is to take the pot once it is watered, and again after a few days . The wet substrate weighs more than when it is dry, so we will only have to memorize the weight it has in each of the situations to know more or less when it’s time to irrigate.
- Another option is to introduce a humidity meter . Just enter it will indicate if it is wet or dry, but to be more reliable it is important to introduce it again in other areas (near the plant, away from it) because normally the substrate is usually more humid just around the plant that near from the edge of the pot.
What water to use?
The most suitable irrigation water is that of rain , but since we can not always get it we can fill a bucket with water from the tap and let it rest one night. The next day we will water with the water from the upper half of the bucket.
Watering in winter
In winter the lithops are at rest. This means that their growth is practically nil, and their water needs decrease. Due to the weather conditions the substrate remains moist for longer, so we have to reduce the frequency of irrigation.
In general, we will water once every 15 or 20 days , always taking into account the humidity of the substrate and the weather forecasts.
The fertilizer is very important for them to grow healthy. For this reason, during the entire growing season (spring and summer) they must be fertilized with mineral based fertilizers , whether formulated specifically for cactus and succulents, or with Nitrophoska, pouring a small spoonful once every 15 days.
Being small plants will be enough to pass them to a slightly larger pot when we buy them . If we acquire them in autumn or winter, we will transplant them in the spring, when the risk of frost has passed and temperatures, both minimum and maximum, begin to maintain above 15ºC.
In the crop, basically three problems can arise: lack of light, decay and a plague of snails.
Lack of light
If they lack light, the new leaves will grow more than normal upwards, thus weakening the plants. To avoid it or to solve it, it is necessary to locate them in an area where the sunlight gives them directly .
If it has been irrigated in excess, or if the substrate has very poor drainage, the leaves will rot and die. To avoid this, it is very important to use well-drained substrates and water very occasionally , especially in winter.
Snails and slugs are mollusks that love these plants. To prevent them from ending up with them, the quickest and most effective is to put a few grains of molluscicide in the pots .
If you want to try natural remedies, you will find more information about them in this article .
To get new specimens, you need to have two or more lithops that bloom at the same time, a brush and a wind protected area. Once you have it, you have to pass the brush first for a flower of one plant and then for another flower of another plant . If all goes well, the last flower will have been pollinated and the seeds will begin to grow, which are sown once they mature in pots with vermiculite and are placed in the sun.
Resilience and Resistance
Lithops are plants very sensitive to cold, especially hail and snowfall. They can withstand weak and punctual frosts of up to -2ºC, but the substrate must be dry . In the case of living in an area where the winters are colder, it is convenient to place them inside a greenhouse, or indoors in a room where there is plenty of light, for example near a window and protected from drafts (both cold and warm).
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.