Lithops and living stones are two names for the same plant, a succulent that lives in South Africa. The names came about because the plant resembles a stone. Lithops (Lithophytum) means "stone" in Greek and refers to the rock-like appearance of these plants.
Germinating a lithops seed is very simple and easy to do if you follow the instructions provided. Simply soak your seeds in water for approximately 2 hours before planting them. They require several weeks of warmth and lots of light to ensure that they begin to grow.
Use plastic seed trays or other containers with drainage holes, and fill it with local topsoil that’s been sterilized. Cover the soil with a thin layer of coir or vermiculite so that no seeds are exposed. Then cover the surface with a layer of plastic wrap and place inside a propagator set at warm temperatures (70-80 degrees Fahrenheit).
Lithops grow well indoors and the small size of most species, coupled with their slow growth rate, makes it possible to cultivate a large number of plants in a relatively small garden space. After they have been established in square nursery pots for a few months, they can also be easily moved into larger pots as required.
These plants do not need constant moisture to thrive as many inexperienced growers may think. Lithops grow in their natural habitat in desert environments with low moisture levels, so only mist them when the soil is dry and amending the potting medium with some coarse sand helps keep the soil drier.
Lithops require five hours of sunlight per day in order to germinate. The optimum temperature range for germination is between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius, which is not too cold or too warm. Seeds generally take around six weeks to germinate, but each individual seed can vary greatly as to when it will begin growing.
Lithops are best grown in small pots, at least 2 inches (5 cm) deep. You can use 2.5 inch square plastic pots, 3.5 inch square nursery pots, 4.5 inch nursery pots. The larger the pot, the larger the plant’s roots will grow, which will prevent it from toppling over.
Give them a soil depth of approximately one-half to three-fourths of an inch (1.27–1.9 cm) in a mix of clay and sand or coarse pumice to prevent their tap roots from growing too large and creating problems when transplanting. You can add a top-soil layer to the mixture for healthy growth of roots.
The best soil for lithops is a well draining potting mix consisting of a small amount of sand and perlite mixed in with granular peat moss or coir. The sand retains water while the perlite and peat allow excess water to drain out of the container, preventing root rot and allowing the plant to remain compact.
Lithops generally do well in a sunny spot that gets a couple of hours of direct sun per day. We recommend growing them in areas that receive light shade or sunlight through the year so that they can go dormant when needed but still receive enough sun to keep their leaves healthy and green.
The best time to start lithop seeds is in spring or autumn. They can be started several weeks before the last spring frost, but it is important not to start too early or they will grow too tall and become leggy. Lithops require very little water once established and should be kept dry when dormant during the cold season.
Lithops are an easy to grow succulent originating from South Africa. Lithops are fascinating plants that look like stones or pebbles. They are perfect for rockeries, pots and hanging baskets. In summer they will produce leafy sprays which need good light to grow, but in winter they go dormant and conserve moisture in their bodies.
Place the seeds on top of a piece of paper and gently push them into the soil, about one inch deep. The seeds can be spread out over an area as thick as one cm or less in depth. Keep covered with loose sand from above. Do not disturb the seeds until after their first set of leaves have emerged, which is about 10 days after planting.
When you are ready to move it outside, use a shovel or trowel to dig a hole that is about twice as large as your pot. The lithops should be planted at a depth of about half their height. It's easy to build up your own mix in advance, by adding several bags of any kind of compost you can find or afford.
Lithops germination can be a long and arduous process, typically taking up to 18 months or so. The key is to provide good ventilation, proper drainage and a warm and sunny location. A light misting is all that is needed from time to time.
Yes, lithops need fertilization to ensure optimal growth and flowering. A good quality low nitrogen, high potassium fertilizer is ideal for lithops. You should dust them with some fertilizer every few weeks from mid-summer through autumn.
You should water your lithops seeds once or twice per week. The soil should not be allowed to dry out completely, but instead they should be watered just enough so that it doesn't feel dry when you put your finger in it. If the soil is already moist, then do not add any water until it dries out again. If the soil is too dry, then you should be watering a little more frequently than that.
They are drought-tolerant plants and do not require the watering and feeding that many other succulents do, although they will benefit from occasional feeding of liquid fertiliser during their growing season in winter. They grow best in a gritty compost containing some expanded perlite, pumice or expanded clay pellets.
Lithops are a slow-growing plant. Their growth rate depends on the species and the conditions they are grown in. After germination, it takes about 1-3 years for seedlings to be ready for cultivation in pots. But once the plant is mature enough, it can flower and produce offspring in just one season.
Lithops are perennial, so they live for many years and you can grow them from seeds all year round. However, during the summer months lithops will actively grow as long as they receive sufficient light. In winter they will enter a dormant state until spring when new leaves appear.
Lithops are slow growing plants. They take anywhere from 12 to 18 months before they will flower. For faster growth, offer your lithops high-quality soil, water regularly, and provide bright but indirect light, especially in the winter. The best way to speed up their growth is to provide them with castings from your worm bin as a liquid fertilizer.
An alternative is 10-10-10 fertilizer diluted at a rate of 1/4 strength once a month. Make sure that you thoroughly water the soil so that the ingredients of the fertilizer really get worked into the soil and not just run off into a corner of the pot.
Lithops seedlings are easy to grow. You just need to be careful not to overwater them or let them dry out. Always use rainwater or distilled water for watering and leave them in a sunny window for about 5 hours per day.
You'll need a propagation mix that has been sterilized at least an hour in boiling water since they will have a hard time taking up disease causing fungi if they are not free of harmful organisms.
Lithops need a very low watering schedule once they have germinated and are established. Watering too often can cause rot on mature plants, as well as cause them to flower when they're not supposed to.
You can transplant lithops seedlings when they have gained enough strength to be able to handle the stress of transplanting. This should take about 8-24 months to achieve, depending on the variety. Handle the seedlings gently as they become extremely brittle once they reach maturity and may fall apart easily before transplanting them into their permanent homes.
Transplanting can be done once the seedlings break through the surface of the pot. It is important not to move lithops too soon as the fragile root systems will damage easily. It is best to transplant little and often, so that their root systems are not damaged in one fell swoop. If you are growing them in your home, try not to disturb them for at least 12 months.
You may trim the roots of Lithops, but it is not required. The most important thing is to make sure that the roots point downwards towards the growing medium, rather than sideways.
Trimming the roots of lithops is mainly done for the purpose of convenience and to allow the plant to fit a pot that is too small. Trimming also appears to have some effect on helping the plant absorb water more quickly, as well as changing the root structure and allowing more oxygen to penetrate into it.
Lithops live for about 40 to 50 years with good care and proper watering. Lithops produce masses of tiny seeds when their flowers wither and die; these seeds fall off the parent plant into the sand or gravel below. Seeds can lay dormant for up to decades before germinating.
They are more likely to flower if they’re kept in full sunlight and the soil is kept moist. Water the plant very lightly once in awhile if you need to keep it alive, but try not to water too often as its roots will die out. It will also flower best in a warmer environment.
Lithops need to be watered regularly when they are flowering. Stop watering as soon as the flower begins to die, because this means it is starting to set seed and will soon die in any case. In other words, it is safe to only water after the old leaves are dry and stop watering after the flower begins to die.
Lithops can go for two weeks without water. Lithops are unusual desert succulents that have evolved ways to store water in their leaves, and they can live quite happily without rain for long periods of time. Your best bet is to keep the soil damp, but not wet and to only water as needed.
Lithops grow best between 65°F and 80°F, but they can tolerate higher temperatures if necessary (up to 85°F). We recommend 68˚F as the maximum temperature for optimum growth and development. If necessary, provide plenty of light and shade at different times of day to keep them happy throughout the year.
During the winter months, especially if placed in a sunny window, they can tolerate lower temperatures. Lithops need moderate temperatures, but can be kept as low as 50˚F if you have a cool-greenhouse and live in a climate with cold winters. They can be killed by frosts if kept outside all year round in areas where winter temperatures periodically drop below 40°F.
The plants appear to have just two leaves, but these are actually swollen buds that grow into a pair of leaves each year, with the top one maturing and turning brown during summer, then growing dormant during winter. During this time, you need only water lightly every couple of weeks to keep the soil from drying out completely.
Most species of Lithops are dormant during the hottest part of the year. This is when they enter dormancy. A dormant state is when a plant ceases growing, and will not be able to grow even if it gets enough water.
Their leaves shrivel up, turn brown, die and fall off. Lithops do not rehydrate at all during this period, making them appear dead or dormant. If a lithops has gone into this state, no amount of watering will result in new growth.
During this period, they can become extremely compact and fleshy looking, making them almost impossible to distinguish from surrounding pebbles. They resume growing when the dry season comes to an end and the first rains arrive.
Lithops are succulents that form no chlorophyll, so they can only photosynthesize in bright light. But during periods of heavy rain or if the plant does not receive enough light, it will etiolate. The stress of these conditions causes the plant to grow taller and produce fewer leaves on top.
When your lithops are growing too tall, reduce the amount of water and fertilizer you give them. This will help to control their growth and make them bush-like again. To ease your lithops from etiolation, you should move it closer to a window or place it in a room with brighter lights.
Lithops have great adaptability to the arid climate which makes it easy for them to grow indoors. They will lose their form if they do not receive several hours of direct sunlight every day. If you want to keep your lithops healthy, it's best to place it by an east-facing window so that it gets the morning sun.
Overheating or overwatering will make lithops become mushy. You may have also accidentally let your plant sit in water for too long, so now it's unable to absorb water anymore. When you water a Lithops, make sure that you do so slowly and only if the soil is becoming dry. Also, pay close attention to the humidity level and temperature of your home.