How to Grow Lithops: Living Stones

Want to learn how to grow lithops? This succulent, also know as living stones, belongs to the ice plant family “Aizoaceae”.

This South African native plant looks like pebbles, which makes it popular with names like living stones or pebble plant. At first glance, this plant totally looks like colorful stones!

What Is the Lithops Plant?

There are more than 25 species of Lithops, which all have a similar shape but have different color combinations like brown, green, gray, rust, and pink.

These plants also vary in marking, like dots and curved lines. These markings give this plant the appearance of two hemispheres of the brain.

Lithops plants have two bulbous fused leaves with a slit in the middle. The white-daisy-like flowers bloom in the late summer or autumn.

This plant is commonly found in widely separated and populated colonies in arid regions. The average rainfall of the areas where Lithops occur is less than 20′, with most of the rain in fall and spring. Some of the species of Lithops can even survive in areas with an average rainfall of less than 4″.

Due to their beautiful texture and appearance, Lithops are one of some popular houseplants. They are also very easy to grow in homes, as these plants thrive in low humidity, little care, and infrequent watering.

Moreover, these plants have slow growth and small size, which makes them a good option for small places.

These plants can live a long period of time, more than 40 to 50 years, which means they can be in the same pot for almost 5-10 years.

Lithops do not cause any toxicity to humans or pets. The health and cultivation of this plant mostly depend upon bright light and good soil.

More About Lithops:

The individual Lithops plant contains one or two bulbous, fused leaves opposite to each other without any stem. There is a split between the leaves with meristem, which produces new leaves and flowers.

The leaves of this plant are mostly buried in the soil, with a partially translucent top surface, which makes the light enter into the interior of the leaves for the hypothesis.

New pairs of leaves grow inside the existing fused leaf during the winter. The old leaves dry up in the spring and reveal the new leaves.

These leaves may shrink and disappear below ground level during drought. In its habitat, this plant never has more than one pair of leaves as an adaptation to the arid environment.

When the new leaves become fully matured, the yellow-white colored flowers merge from the fissure between the leaves.

The most amazing feature of Lithops is the coloring of the leaves. The epidermal window of the leaves is patterned in various shades of gray, brown, and cream dots, and red lines according to the conditions and species.

This marking feature helps the plants camouflage, especially in a stone-like environment. As a window plant, the green tissue lines are present inside the leaves and are covered with translucent tissues.

Lithops are outcrosses and need pollination from another plant of its species in order to reproduce. Its fruit is a dry capsule and only opens when it is wet.

Some of the seeds may be ejected with raindrops, and the capsules re-close when it is dried out. Sometimes, these capsules may detach and disintegrate after several years.

Lithops (living stone) plants of various colors close up

History of the Lithops Plant

Lithops was first scientifically described by a botanist “William John Burchell”. While he was exploring South Africa in 1811, he discovered a unique species while picking up a “curiously looked pebble” from the ground.

He named it “Mesembryanthemum turbiniforme”, however, there is not enough physical documentation available to show which Lithops he had discovered.

Various other species of Lithops were published as “Mesembryanthemum turbiniforme” until 1922. After that genus Lithops was created, and dozens of other species were published in that in the following decades. Until the 1950s, this genus remained unknown and not well understood taxonomically.

In the 1950s, a couple, Desmond and Naureen Cole started to study Lithops. They visited almost all of the natural habitats of the Lithops together and collected almost 400 samples.

They verified and documented them by assigning them a number, which is still used today all around the world as the “Cole number”.

In 1988, they revised and studied the genus again and published a book, “Lithops: Flowering Stones”. This book describes all the species, subspecies, and varieties of the Lithops, which have been accepted and verified ever since.

Because of their strong camouflage, new species are still being discovered in regions of South Africa and Namibia.

These are also discovered in well-populated areas where they have been searched for generations. Recent discoveries include L. hermetic and L. amicorum in 2000 and 2006.

Why Grow Lithops?

Lithops are very popular small plants to grow indoors. This is not only because of the beautiful and elegant looks of these plants, but this plant is also very easy to grow and take care of.

There are the following benefits that these plants can provide when they are at your home.

1. Low Maintenance Plant

One of the main reasons for the popularity of Lithops as houseplants is because of their low maintenance.

Almost all of the succulents are well-known because of their low care quality, but Lithops is on top of all that.

As these little living ricks do not need to demand much from you and can keep themselves alive for ages without water.

With Lithops, you also don’t have to be worried about time-consuming and messy maintenance routines like some other houseplants, because Lithops have a very slow growth rate and a long life span.

This means you can keep them in the same pot and same place for a longer period of time without trimming and pruning.

2. Non-Toxic

Most families with small children and pets avoid houseplants which can be dangerous and toxic to their children, no matter how beautiful they look.

The good news is, these eye-catching living pebbles are not only elegant and pretty and look, but they are completely non-toxic as well.

There are even old references that show that old African children use these plants for hydration in deserts during the summers.

Moreover, there are not any harmful thrones or sharp leaves, unlike other plants, which can cause injuries. So, you can keep this safe plant even in your living room and bedrooms

3. Provide a Modern & Versatile Look

Lithops are gorgeous naturally, but they can also give your home a versatile look by pairing them with other decorative items.

If you are a colorful person, you can add these plants with some potted pebbles of contrasting shades according to your color scheme.

If you want something unique, nothing can beat a “living wall”. You can have vertically shaped planters with some elegant Lithops with eye-catching colors and patterns. This piece will turn your simple wall into a mesmerizing piece of art. 

Lithops can provide both a modern and organic look at the same time. With all the 20 subspecies, all are beautiful in their own precise way and can be used to make your place versatile.

4. Mini-Living Garden

Lithops can be a dream plant of any gardener, as it can make your garden look more natural and elegant at the same time.

Moreover, it is not necessary that you have to plant a complete garden in order to have Lithops. A mini Lithops garden or terrarium looks fantastic!

You just need a big enough container; whether it is an old vintage wooden box or a round glass bowl, you can make a beautiful little living garden.

You can even use smaller prices like old teacups or glass cylinders to make a set of these plants. Some white stones can be placed around these plants to catch the eye of the viewer. There are thousands of things you can do to make it look good!

5. Good for health

Most of us like succulents like Lithops because of their ability to make our homes or offices beautiful and elegant. But that’s not all; these plants are way more than that.

Lithops can affect our health in various positive ways, just by having it in the room. This beautiful plant can improve air quality, enhance mood and increase concentration levels.

All succulent plants have pores in their leaves which can absorb the toxins present within the air and provide fresh and clean air as a result. This clean air can reduce the risk of various diseases like shortness of breath and lung problems.

Moreover, these colorful stones can reduce stress and provide calmness because of their eye-catching looks.

Sometimes, all you need is to freshen your mind by watching something colorful yet soothing, just like Lithops plants.

Macro of the split on a living stone succulent.

How to Grow Lithops?

No doubt that Lithops are not much caring and attention like most houseplants, and they are also low maintenance.

However, there is still a need for some general care as they are living things that are dependent on you.

1. Light exposure:

Lithops have adapted to tolerate harsh light in their native environment. So, the best way for them to receive this at home is to give them 4-5 hours of sunlight and partial shade in the afternoon. If you want to place it in the window, the south or east window would be a good option.

Although they can bear heat, intense heat can cause sunburn and damage their foliage. So, be sure to keep them at less sunny spots or cover their containers during hot summers.

2. Water demand:

Lithops is not one of those houseplants in which you have to give water twice a day or sprinkle water every two hours. In fact, lithops have the ability to store water in their leaves for months.

Even watering the plant at the wrong time can even cause problems in its growth cycle. So, the right thing to do is to water your plant twice a month from the beginning till the end of summer.

Do not water it at all in winter, because this is the time when it starts to grow new leaves, and watering can have a bad effect on its growth.

3. Temperature:

As Lithops are succulents native to the desert, they can tolerate high temperatures, up to 100℉. They can even grow happily and fast when they are in conditions where the temperature is between 65-80℉.

However, it can not bear low temperatures, as it can easily develop rot. Make sure to protect it from the freezing temperature, and carry them indoors when the temperature goes down below 40℉ outside.

4. Soil & Fertilizers:

Lithops are not very demanding about soil and fertilizers. They can grow well in a cactus mix or draining potting soil. You can also add some pebbles, sand and gritty material to help with the soil drainage.

Fertilizer would only be needed during the blooming season to enhance the flowering. You can add only a small amount of cactus fertilizer, which has low nitrogen and high potassium and is highly diluted.

5. Repotting:

Like many other houseplants, Lithops should only be repotted when there is any issue with the soil or pot or if the plant is growing out of the pot.

In case of repotting the Lithops, make sure to repot it when the growing season has started, in the month of May.

Also make sure to do repotting at least after 2 years of growing, so that the plant’s roots are properly developed.

Bottom Line

Lithops is basically a genus name for succulent plants which look like pebbles. These plants are also known as “pebble plants or “living stone” because of their pebble-like looks.

The lithops plants commonly have two fused leaves with a middle slit. It produces new leaves during spring when old leaves begin to shed and has white daisy-like flowers in autumn and summer.

If you look at this plant, at first, you would think it is a flowering stone. There are almost 37 species of Lithops, and all of these have the same shape.

These species are only different in patterns and color combinations of green, pink, gray, brown, and rust.

Lithops are a popular houseplant that can make your home or office looks elegant and beautiful.

One of the best things about Lithops is that they have low maintenance and don’t take much time and space. So, it can be a good houseplant option for a busy person who wants a colorful, natural vibe with little care and attention.

Other gardening articles:

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  2. Benefits of Gardening
  3. How To Keep Basil Alive
  4. How To Grow Green Onion
  5. Easy Fruits And Vegetables To Grow
  6. How To Grow Lettuce
  7. How To Grow Kale

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