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Lithops Care Guide

Lithops Care Guide

HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR YOUR LITHOPS  AND KEEP THEM HEALTHY FOR 50 YEARS!

WHAT ARE LITHOPS?

Lithops – the living stone plants - are popular novelty houseplants. Because they thrive in low humidity and need infrequent watering, they are relatively easy to grow. With their small size and slow, compact growth, these plants don’t take up much room. When properly taken care of, lithops can live up to 40 or 50 years!

Native to southern Africa, these little charmers really look like stones! Their natural habitat is dry and rocky, which caused them to evolve with such a clever camouflage to protect from lurking herbivores.

Lithops leaves feel more like pulpous rubber pads than like leaves and have a small fissure running down the middle which kind of looks like the Eye of Sauron. Every spring, the fissures split open and a new pair of leaves emerges. Once this happens, the old leaves shrivel up and die. You’ll start to see this process begin during the winter dormancy period.

Lithop fissure - Cactus en ligne
In the autumn, a single flower will emerge from the middle fissure. The flowers are yellow or white and sometimes they have a sweet and pleasant fragrance. The flowers are daisy-like and about 2 cm across. They open in the afternoon and close late in the day.
Lithop flower // fleur de lithop - Cactus en ligne
GROWTH

Lithops will grow a new pair of leaves every year. With only one pair of leaves growing at a time, the old ones will die to allow the new ones to emerge. Normally, new leaves will start growing after the blooming period. After they flower, lithops will go dormant for a while in order to prepare for the new growth. The plant will absorb nutrients from the old leaves and eventually the new pair will careen through the fissure of the old ones. It’s important not to water lithops while they are in the process of growing new leaves and until the old leaves have completely withered.

New lithop leaves emerging // Apparition de nouvelles feuilles de lithops - Cactus en ligne

SUNLIGHT

Lithops evolved in  environments where the sun is bright and strong. They should ideally get 4-5 hours of early sunlight and some partial shade in the afternoon. Insufficient sun can cause elongated leaves.

WATERING

Since lithops can store water for many months, watering at the wrong time can be detrimental. In general, when it is the right season to water, use the soak and dry method about every two weeks. Then wait a couple more days before watering again. If in doubt, don’t water! It’s best to water in the mornings so that the excess water evaporates and the upper layers of soil dry out quickly. Here are some general guidelines for watering:

  • Start watering from late spring and into early summer.
  • Lithops will go dormant in mid-summer. At this point, stop watering. If the leaves really shrivel, give it a small sip of water, just enough to restore the firm appearance of the plant. Only water until the top 1 cm of soil is moist.
  • Resume watering in late summer/early fall, when lithops start to grow again and bloom. The first sign of growth is when the fissure between the leaves begins to separate in preparation for flowering.
  • Lithops should be left totally dry throughout winter and spring. Stop watering to allow the old leaf pair to dry out and the new pair to develop. By early spring, the new leaf body should be visible. Watering can be resumed once the shrivelled remains of the old body are completely dry. If it is watered too soon, the old leaves will try to continue to grow and the plant will not develop properly. Remember, the old leaves should totally dry up when the new leaves are growing.

See the growth, dormancy and watering schedule below for a simple guideline.

Lithops growth, dormancy and watering schedule - Cactus en ligne.

SOIL

Use only fast-draining potting mix like cactus and succulent soil. Pumice, lava rocks, chabasai or other gritty materials can also be added to augment soil drainage. You can mix up to 50% soil with 50% of either substrate.

CONCLUSION

Once you get the hang of the watering schedule, lithops can be relatively easy to care for. They are very small plants, growing to 3 or 4 cm above the soil’s surface. This makes them great houseplants for a small apartment, a sunny windowsill, or a well-lit countertop. These succulents are great conversation starters and make excellent gifts for plant lovers!
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