Lithops Grow And Care For Living Stone Plants

February 18, 2023 0 Comments

Have you ever snooped around in the juicy section of a garden center and discovered a pot with nothing more than a few flat split rocks in it? If so, you may have discovered the lithops plant, an unusual African genus of succulents.

Sometimes called Split Rock or Pebble plants, lithops living stone plants are extremely drought-resistant and are very popular in low-water gardens in desert areas. They can be grown both indoors and outdoors, but outdoor growers need to be careful not to get too much water.

The term lithop is both singular and plural, so don’t look for a lithop… but this living stone plant is easy and fun, and definitely something else to mix into your succulent garden!

Lithops plants are fascinating little succulents. The living stone or flowering stone plant is very sensitive to the extreme seasons of the year, but can live for decades. Furthermore, many species bloom in the fall, which can be a large burst of light color amid all the oranges and reds of the growing season.

Now let’s explore the life cycle of the lithops succulent plant in more detail, and then discuss some of its most common varieties.

The Lithops Lifecycle

When one looks at lithop plants, all that is visible above the surface of the soil is usually a few fleshy, succulent leaves that look like flowering stones, with a gap between them. Most of the plant is located below the soil surface.

These succulents have window-like cells on the leaf surfaces that allow light deep inside the plant to aid in photosynthesis. The main root is the most important for the survival of the plant, but a series of finer roots also helps attract additional nutrition when needed.

Lithops succulents bloom in after autumn or early winter in general, although some species bloom in spring or early summer. A single flower is pushed out of the gap between the pair of leaves. However, only plants older than 3 years (and sometimes 5 years) will produce flowers.

The lithops flower is daisy-like in appearance, and depending on the species can be anywhere from half an inch to an inch and a half in diameter. It can be orange, white or light yellow. Some have a smell that is described as spicy-sweet.

These flowers open in the early afternoon to soak in sunlight and provide pollination, and then close in the after afternoon for Dusk. Because lithops are not self-pollinating, they depend on insect pollinators or humans to produce seed.

When the lithop’s flower fades, the center forms a seed capsule. This capsule won’t open unless it’s moistened, but once it does, raindrops can cause seeds to bounce out of the capsule and land up to a foot from the parent plant.

If the lithops seed capsule dries again, it will naturally close to protect any remaining seeds inside. If you are trying to harvest lithop seeds, you can simulate rain by using a dropper to drip water onto the seed capsule until it opens again and then remove the fine seeds.

Types Of Lithops

It is estimated that there are at least 37 species of lithops and about 145 varieties. More varieties are regularly discovered or bred by hybridization and shipped bare root. If you don’t know where to start, try a lithops starter pack!

Although today we will not cover all possible lithops species, here are some of the most popular houseplant varieties.

Lithops aucampiae

Named after Juanita Aucamp, the woman who discovered this species, the native habitat of Lithops aucampia is originally from South Africa. It grows naturally in sandstone, Flint, quartzite and Ironstone based soils, but can be grown in most Sandy, very well draining soils.

Most of these types of living stones tend to be in the red to reddish-brown colorwise range, and they produce yellow or white flowers. It is one of the species that most tolerates occasional improper watering, which makes it extremely popular among gardeners.

Lithops dorotheae

Another species from Southern Africa, this one was discovered by Dorothea Huysteen, which led to its naming. Naturally growing lithographs on feldspar, shared quartz and quartzite, it can also adapt to other gravel-filled soils.

This species has a creamy light green color with a brown or darker green leaf surface, mottled with cream speckles. It produces a yellow flower annually.

Lithops fulviceps

Native to Namibia, Lithops fulviceps prefers rocky areas and cold desert areas. It naturally prefers quartzite-heavy environments, although it can also live on limestone slopes.

In coloration, the sides of the leaves are a gray-green or yellowish hue with orange, brown, green, and sometimes cream-colored spotted upper surfaces. The leaf shapes are very similar to kidney beans in that they divide to bloom, but form a neat Oval when they are not blooming.

Lithops hookeri

From South-West Africa, the truncated Living Stone is very distinctive. The outer leaf walls tend to an even gray tint, but the upper leaf surfaces are mottled with cream, olive and rust shades.

One of the few species that is regularly exposed to mealybug infestation, the truncated Living Stone is otherwise a sturdy and long-lasting species of lithops. In its natural environment, it often goes months without water and simply absorbs moisture from the air around it.

Lithops ruschiorum

Off-white, gray or brown in color, this particular living stone plant is very similar to a living rock. Some varieties are pure cream in color, while others vary between brown or gray with darker stony stripes.

Namibia is also home to this particular living stone and most often lives in cold desert or rocky areas in the wild.

Lithops salicola, ‘Saliferous Living Stone’

Saline Living Stone got its name from the mineral-rich environment in which it occurs naturally. It is found in Namibia and South Africa, and it tolerates poor watering practices somewhat.

Although it does not tolerate frost, its gray to gray-green leaves are more tolerant of cool and dry temperatures than some. It produces a bright white or yellow flower from after summer to early autumn. This species has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Lithops verruculosa

Lithops viridis, ‘Green rock plant’

The green rock plant has a natural habitat that comes from a very small part of the Northern Cape region of South Africa and is very uniform in color. The sides are gray-pink, gray-green or pure gray with an upper surface that has a dark gray-green tint.

Producing yellow flowers with yellow or white centers, lithop’s viridis is often only seen in cultivation in botanical gardens. The most greenish specimens are among the most prized, as they look like pale gray-green bumps that rise from the sandy soil.

Lithops Care

For the most part, growing lithops is a very simple process. They are very good with themselves! But there are a few things about how to care for a litter plant that you need to know.


In its natural environment, lithops is a plant in full sun. Flowering stones need enough sunlight to produce their colorful stony display.

In gardens or as indoor plants, 4 to 5 hours of direct sunlight a day should be enough to keep your plant happy. A little partial shade is fine.

In coastal areas or when the temperatures are cooler, you may be able to leave it in the sun all day. Those who live in desert conditions or in areas with excessive heat want to place their plants where they receive indirect light and a little shade in the afternoon to cool off.

Color loss can also become a problem if your plant receives too little direct sunlight. Usually a south or west facing window will give your plant enough sun to thrive, but you will want to turn it regularly so that the entire plant gets some sun.

If your plant is indoors and was in conditions with less light during the winter months, slowly adjust your lithographs for longer periods of light in the spring by gradually increasing the exposure to full sun. This will prevent scarring or sunburn on the leaves.


A well-drained, grain-rich cactus potting mix is ideal for most bedding plants. Their natural habitats range from sand to degraded granite and rarely retain much water.

Don’t have access to a cactus mix? Don’t panic. You can do this yourself by mixing 50% potting soil or compost with 50% granular material. Good options are pumice or lava stone, sand, decomposed granite, perlite or other sandy materials that provide good drainage of the soil.

Soils that retain too much moisture can cause the roots of your lithops to rot or stimulate the development of pests that can strike the roots. Since their natural environment is quite harsh, they tolerate poor soils much better than rich ones, so make a mistake on the side of sandy or sandy mixture.



Most people propagate lithops from seeds. To do this, simply prepare a pot of soil as described above, carefully sprinkle your lithops seed on the surface and cover it with a thin layer of sand. Keep the sand slightly moist until germination and gradually reduce watering. The size of your lithops seedlings will reach .Three dead.5 cm in about 12 months.

However, living stone plants can also be propagated by dividing a mother plant.

If you have a group of plants, you can carefully remove it from the pot and carefully dust the soil around the roots. Examine the root and leaves to decide where to cut, then use a sterile razor blade to carefully remove the pairs of leaves with a good amount of taproot still attached to each.


Most pests will probably ignore lithops most of the time. However, a handful can damage your plant if the opportunity arises.

Spider mites are the most likely problem of litter producers. Usually they live in the crevice between the split stone leaves, or hidden between an old leaf and a new leaf. They cause white patches of scar tissue on the surface of the plant and they develop in dry environments. If they are left to feed on your plant, they can cause the leaves to wilt.

The vast majority of plant ailments have little or no impact on lithops. Since they grow in more sandy soils, they are not prone to most soil-borne fungal ailments and they usually do not develop powdery mildew or other airborne fungal ailments.

However, they are prone to rot caused by excessive watering or damage to the leaves. Excess water can cause the fleshy leaves to swell and crack or burst, leaving them open to bacterial infections. Abrasions or cuts on the leaves can also put them at peril.

In general, as long as you are careful not to scratch your plants and limit your watering only when it is most needed, you will not experience plant ailments.

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