Lithops "Living Stones" "Butt Succs"

In their native habitats in Namibia and South Africa, Lithops have evolved to blend in so well with their surroundings – looking just like the sand and stones they live among in shape, size and color – that they can be quite difficult to spot, even for those with a trained eye and years of experience.  The splotchy areas on the top of are essentially windows that allow the light to reach the chlorophyll for photosynthesis to occur.
Through winter and into early spring, the new plant continues to grow while the outer leaves begin to wrinkle and shrink. The new leaves subsist solely on the water and nutrients from the old leaves, and for this time, the roots are basically put out of service.
Most Lithops need to be at least 3 years old before they’ll flower.  They usually bloom sometime between late summer through fall.
  • Toxicity: NON-TOXIC
    Light4-5 hours of DIRECT sun/day and bright as possible indirect otherwise.  **when summer temps are above 80 protect from direct sun as it can dehydrate them when it is hot**
    SoilCactus or succulent soil at the least, but pure pumice is even better as it has NO organic material and the less organic material the better
    Humidity: average household
    Temperature: 50-80F

    Now we’re ready talk about watering Lithops. I covered everything else first because without the right light, soil, and container, any amount of water at any time will probably kill them. Watering at the wrong time in their growth cycle can be the kiss of death for a Lithops, but the odds decrease if everything else is in place.

    The best way to tell if your Lithops need water during the time when it’s okay to water, is by observing them. They’ll start wrinkling or puckering, or maybe even appear to be sinking deeper into the pot. If you give them a gentle squeeze, they feel softer than when hydrated.

    The tricky part about all of this is they do the same thing when they’re about to shed their old leaves to allow the new growth to come in. That’s why it’s so important to know what stage of growth they’re in before you water them.

    All you really need to remember is to only water after the old leaves are dry and stop watering after the flower begins to die. Flowering typically occurs between late summer and the end of fall. New growth occurs during fall and spring, and old leaves dry out between late spring and early to mid-summer. Those are all wide open estimates, but a good rough guide nonetheless.

    The main reason you shouldn’t water after flowering and while new growth is forming comes down to the way Lithops utilize water. As I mentioned, the old leaves are the source of nutrition and water for the new plant that forms within.

    Lithops 101

    The roots are basically put on pause for this time. If you water them during this phase, you risk confusing the plant into using water from the roots while it is actively absorbing the old leaves, which can engorge the plant beyond repair. You also risk root rot since the root system’s activity is suspended and the excess moisture surrounds the plant with nowhere to go.

    Again, after the old leaves have dried up, you can give your Lithops a deep watering. This will probably be around late spring to early summer, but the timing can vary. Put the pot in a saucer and slowly give it about a 8-16 ounces of water. Wait until it runs through the drainage holes. Dump the saucer. That’s it! Water it again if it shows signs of wrinkling after 3-4 weeks but only enough to run through the drainage holes once.

    If a month has passed without your Lithops showing signs of wrinkling during the summer months and you haven’t watered them, you can moisten the top layer of the pot to help give the roots a bit of moisture. There’s a chance it is becoming dormant from the heat or natural cycle, so too much water can cause it to swell and split…and die.

    Giving Lithops the right amount of water during the right time will sustain it through its flowering, fruiting, and new growth cycles. This means it can sustain its life and reproduce without being watered for six months or more, especially in humid environments.

    Lithops 101

    These are splitting. The water in the outer leaves is being absorbed by the new growth. Watering these now would interrupt the absorption and the outer leaves will probably rot around the new growth rather than dry up.

    Once the old leaves are dry, I’ll give them a deep watering and wait until they show signs of needing another drink. Humidity takes care of part of my job, and I find myself with nothing to do but look at them most of the time.   

    They’ll probably go dormant at the peak of summer, but will still need a small bit of water to keep the root hairs alive.

    Again, mine haven’t flowered but they’re a year older now and the chances are that much higher. If I do get flowers, I’ll water sparingly until the bloom begins to fade and wait until the following spring for the new growth to emerge. With luck, I’ll get to repeat the process yet another year.

    Even in the driest climates, watering once or twice a month at most is the norm. If you can respect that fact about this plant, and you can give it enough bright light, then I know you can keep it alive.