19 Sep

Living Stones of African Deserts: Lithops

Lithops are some of the most fascinating and unusual plants from the most dry and arid regions of Africa. In fact, they are an excellent example of survival for their ability to grow under extremely dry conditions and camouflage themselves for protection from animals. Lithops are so good at blending themselves with their surroundings that one can hardly spot these unusual plants in their native habitat where they grow among pebbles and rocks. For this reason, Lithops are also known as Living Stones.

Lithops, The Living Stones

Lithops, The Living Stones, Image by yellowcloud (flickr)

Typically, a Lithops plant consists of two fleshy leaves with fissures on their top. The pair of leaves dries up every winter giving way to a fresh pair of succulent leaves. The leaves usually stray buried in the soil with only the top surface exposed to the climate. This top surface varies in colors and patterns according to the climate and distribution of plants.

Growing Lithops plants could be challenging but with a bit of practice you can grow them as ornamental plants in your dish gardens or as container plants. When growing Lithops at home, be very careful when watering Lithops. Since these succulent plants have a lot of water stored in their leaves, they do not require regular watering. If you living in regions of mild climate, keep Lithops completely dry during winter since plants would extract sufficient water from drying pair of leaves. Water barely enough to wet the soil surface in summer. In hotter climates, Lithops go dormant during summer. At this time, they should be kept dry (water slightly only when leaves start shrinking). In tropical climates, allow Lithops plants to stay dormant in summer and start watering in winter.

The name ‘lithops’ is derived from two Greek words ‘lithos’ (stones) and ‘ops’ (face).

Lithops generally bloom and grow in autumn or spring. Flowers are white or yellow and emit sweet fragrance. These small yet attractive flowers appear from the center of the pair of leaves.

How to grow Lithops ‘Living Stones’

Unlike in their native habitat, Lithops do not adopt easily to climate outside their native habitat so it is important to understand specific requirements of each species. Generally, it is advised to provide Lithops with filtered but ample sunlight. Grow them in porous and well-drained soil and provide just barely sufficient water in growing season. Lithops can be grown from seeds or off springs.

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2 thoughts on “Living Stones of African Deserts: Lithops

  1. Lithops have proven to be one of my frustrations. I am not sure if it the medium I use of if they are really just difficult to grow in a tropical climate.

  2. I have learnt to keep grow Lithops keeping them thirsty in summer, water freely in winter (with fertilizer) and provide them very well drained medium. I live in Zone 10b.

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