Lithops, also called Living Stones, are native to the regions of southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa). They are relatively small Succulents, known for their beautiful and sometimes stunning colors and leaf patterns. It is rather easy to grow your own lithops if you know what you’re doing.
When growing Lithops and other Succulents it is very important to get the basics right. Soil, light, water and temperature. These are the main ingredients leading to successful cultivation and propagation of Lithops.
All Succulents need a soil with good drainage. Regular potting soil with 25% pumice, coarse sand or fine lave will do usually. Lithops prefers even more drainage. A percentage of at least 50% drainage material is good.
Lithops plants need bright light but do not like too much intense direct sun for a long period during the day. A few hours of morning sun and bright but filtered sun light works best for my plants here in The Netherlands. Please note that seedlings and very young plants in general prefer some more protection from the sun. My Lithops plants do not get any direct sun light the first year after germination.
Lithops species grow most actively in spring and autumn. They more or less in rest during the hot summer period. Always take this into account when you water your plants.
As mentioned above, a soil with perfect drainage is crucial to successfully grow your Lithops. These plants do not like wet feet for too long. The soil needs to be dry again in 1-2 days after watering them.
We water our Lithops plants 1 to 2 times a week in spring and autumn, depending on the temperatures and light conditions. Water sparingly with low temperatures in spring or autumn. We keep our Lithops almost dry in winter. In hot summer we water once a week usually and most of the time not more than a splash or a short spray with the garden hose.
Lithops grow best at temperatures of 18-24 Degrees celsius. As mentioned above, thats spring and autumn. They can take very high temperatures in summer if they must. Avoid watering them too much when that happens and avoid direct sunlight.
Lithops maintenance is not that hard. Simple actually when you know what to do. Tip: Avoid any maintenance when the plant is actively growing in spring and autumn. The best time to remove old skin and trim roots is just before the period of growth starts again. Early spring and late summer. There are 4 important steps we take during our Lithops maintenance.
Step 1: Take the Lithops out of the soil
Carefully take the plant out of the soil. Do not start pulling the plant head like crazy, it will damage. Dig it out with a teaspoon. The roots can go quite deep! Another way is to just empty the entire pot with plants and soil if you want.
Step 2: Remove the old dry skin
Remove any old dried skin with a brush or gently pull it away from the plant. The dead skin has a purpose in nature where the plants grow in full sun outside. It protects the body underneath. So, feel free to leave it when you grow your plants outdoors. We remove it because it looks better and growth is slightly faster in the greenhouse. Probably because it can absorb more light for photosynthesis when the old skin is removed.
Step 3: Trim the roots
People sometimes wonder why we trim down the roots so far (0,5 – 1 cm). This promotes new and strong growth. The plant can settle better into the soil. You can plant Lithops without trimming the roots but it is important that the roots point straight down. They do not like their roots curled upward, It hinders their growth. Tip: Leave your trimmed Lithops for a couple of days before you plant it. The root cut needs to callus over.
Step 4: Plant your Lithops in fresh soil
The last step is obvious. Plant your Lithops in new, draining soil, with plenty of pumice, coarse sand or lava. Make sure that the plant head is almost level with the soil surface as visible in the picture.
Lithops are mostly propagated from seed. For us seed germination works best in spring, from March to April. You can buy seeds or you can try to get your owns seeds by pollinating your own Lithops plants with a small paint brush. You will get more individual plants of the same species. Gently brush the inside of the flower of a plant and then go to another plant to do the same. Brush as many flowers of different Lithops plants of the same species as you can. Pollination works best if your flowers come into contact with pollen of another plant.
Lithops germination steps
- Fill a pot with Succulent soil
- Add a thin top layer of pumice (Bims) or fine lava
- Divide the seeds evenly over the top layer
- Wash the seeds in with water
- Germination starts within 7-14 days
Lithops seeds germinate best at temperatures from 18-24C. You can cover the seed pot or tray with some transparent plastic to raise air humidity for germination. This is not needed if the air humidity where you are germinating the seeds, is allready high.
Lithops seedlings need good protecting, at least the first 3-4 months after germination. They do not like extremes. Keep your soil slightly moist, constantly, but not wet. Give the seedlings good filtered light during the day but avoid direct sun. Try to maintain steady temperatures. For example 20-24C during the day and 14-18C during the night.
We get a lot of questions about Lithops. Below are some important ones. If you have some questions or remarks or other experiences growing Lithops, we would love you to contribute by replying to this post.
I received Lithops plants with almost no roots. Is this normal?
Yes. We trim the roots to 0,5-1 cm. The plants like it. It promotes new and healthy growth.
My Lithops plant feels soft and looks wrinkled. What should I do?
This is normal and usually occurs in summer when the Lithops body is losing some water. Nothing to worry about. You may occasionally mist the plant with some water on hot summer evenings. The body will get more firm again in autumn and spring when it is growing and when it is actively taking up more water through the roots.
How deep should I plant my Lithops in the soil?
Make sure that the plant head is (almost) level with the soil surface.
My Lithops is growing very long and looks pale green.
Your plant is probably getting not enough light. Try to increase it slowly. It is also possible that the plant is getting to much water and fertilizer. When your Lithops is elongated (grown too long), it is hard (almost impossible?) to get a normal shaped plant again.