Plant in Focus: Lithops

Lithops, most commonly known as ‘living stones’ are bizarre plants that originate from South Africa and are adapted to survive extreme drought. They make wonderful houseplants, but require careful watering. As with most houseplants, lithops rest during in the winter, but most unusually take the opportunity to grow new leaves that push up through the old shrivelled ones. It is essential that you do not provide them with water during this time.

Lithops are a vastly wide and varied species where their colour, shape and form expands from brown, earthy mixes to vibrant bursts of mottled purples and pinks with them all typically producing white- yellow flowers. These flowers appear in late summer to early autumn and burst from between the equatorial spilt that is one of the lithop’s defining characteristics.

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Light
Maximum light is required to ensure compact growth, good colouring and flower production

Temperature
This plant is can tolerate temperatures down to to 4C, but is happiest in warmer temperatures.  Ensure it gets plenty of fresh air during the spring and summer.

Watering
Start when the shrivelling pair of leaves are absolutely dry and crisp to the touch, (usually in early summer) giving it water roughly once fortnightly, or once a week in hot spells. Completely stop watering i

Feeding
Feed only twice in summer if not repotted in spring.

Repotting
Repot during spring with a gritty potting mix into a larger half-pot and be careful so to not disturb the roots.

Propagation
Usually from seed.

What goes wrong

Leaves wither, turn brown and die.
This is natural as each pair of leaves only lasts one year. Do not remove old leaves until they can be easily pulled away.

Leaves have burn marks.
Your plant’s getting too much light, too quickly. Shade from midday sun as we enter from winter to spring, increasing the amount of light it gets as we reach summer.

Two pair of leaves actively growing at the same time on each head.
This is caused by watering the plant before the old leaves have shrivelled. Once old leaves have died, leave until they have dried out completely.

No flowers.
Not enough light or watered at the wrong time. Check the conditions; if the plant is in partial shade, gradually move into brighter/ direct light over the course of two weeks. Keep dry from early winter to early summer.