||Living stones, Pebble plant
Lithops is a genus of extreme succulents that come from desert areas of Southern Africa.
The plant consists of a taproot and one or more pairs of leaves.
The leaves are very succulent and have a translucent window on top.
In the wild, most of the leaf except for the top is buried under sand.
The translucent top allows light to enter the leaf.
By being buried under the sand, transpiration is reduced.
The leaves are shaped like stones - to act as camouflage against plant predators.
Each pair of leaves lasts one year and is renewed every spring.
The old pair of leaves feeds the new and gradually shrivels.
In late Summer, each pair of leaves will send up one daisy looking flower, followed by a seed capsule that can take up to a year to ripen.
||Germination requires an ample supply of moisture.
Growing from Seed
Fill a 70mm container up to a quarter full with a proprietary cactus and succulent mix, or mix your own using 1 part clean silt (must not contain any organic matter), 2 parts coarse sand and 2 parts fine sand. Top up to 90% full with fine sand. Soak the container in water until the mix is thoroughly wet. Drain well.
Sow the tiny seeds on the surface and spray with a fine mist of water. Cover with glad wrap. Leave in a warn light spot out of direct Sun. Lithops germinates erratically, and it can take anything between 2 weeks and several months for the seedlings to come up. Be patient. Check weekly and if you see tiny green plants, then your seeds have germinated. Gradually remove the glad wrap. The surface should not be allowed to dry at any stage.
Care for young plants:
The young plants are quite hard to care for. Generally, you water every week, but with only about 1 tablespoon of water each time. Keep up this regime until late Autumn. Reduce the amount of water during Winter to sufficiently keep the plants from shrivelling. This is typically 1 teaspoon every week or 10 days. Keeping the plants through their first Winter is critical. Keep away from direct Sun for the first year.
In the Spring, each seedling will have grown to around 2-3 mm in diameter, and will start to grow a second pair of leaves. Keep the Winter watering regime until the second set of leaves have grown and the first pair completely shrivelled. Then follow the Summer regime of one tablespoon per week. Gradually introduce to full Sun, with the aim that by the end of Summer, the plants will be in direct Sun for 5-6 hours a day. Gradually reduce the watering frequency to two weeks, but each time provide more water, with the aim of fully wetting the mix every two weeks. Make sure all excess water drains away. Do not feed. In the Winter, reduce watering to one tablespoon per two weeks. Keep in full Sun.
By the third spring, the plants should be around 5mm in diameter. Like the Spring before, only reSume the Summer watering schedule when the new pair of leaves have formed and the old pair completely shrivelled. This time round, the aim is to gradually decrease the watering frequency, but increase the amount of water given each time. By the end of Summer, the plants will have been growing in full Sun and receiving a good watering only once a month. In the Winter, water once a month with 1 tablespoon of water.
The seedlings can be split the following Spring. It is best to wait for the new set of leaves to form before splitting. Be careful when splitting as the little plants have a large taproot. Take care not to damage this taproot. Put each plant into a 70mm pot, using the same mix. You may like to mulch with coarse sand so that the level of the sand is just below the top of the leaves.
The mature plants are relatively easy to care for. Essentially, you water them once a month during the warmer months and none at all in the Winter. Like the seedlings, only water when the new pair of leaves have formed and the old pair fully shrivelled. The old pair of leaves feed the new pair, and if you water the plant at this time, it is quite possible the old pair of leaves will rot, killing the plant. Do not feed.
In late Summer, each pair of leaves will grow one flower, which is often larger than the plant! When in flower, you can water the plants once a week, but stop when the flower fades. To get seeds, you will need to cross pollinate the flowers. The seeds will typically be ready the following Summer. Each pod will provide you with around 40-60 seeds.
Occasionally, in the Spring, two pairs of leaves grow from one pair. This is a sign that you have grown the plant well and it is spreading.
If you grow the plant on a Window sill, you will need to rotate the pot by 90 degrees every week. This will ensure an even growth.
When watering it is best to do it in the morning of a warm sunny day. Make sure the water is fully drained away and the plant is not sitting on excess water. This will ensure that by the evening, the mix is completely dry. Too much water is the primary cause of death for these plants. Over-watering during the Summer can also cause a new pair of leaves to grow prematurely. This will result in the slow decline of the plant, possibly killing it after several years.
You only need to pot on when the plant is too big for the pot. Do not over pot. The plant may not be able to soak up all the water in the excess mix.
Do not use any organic matter in the mix because the beneficial bacteria that breaks down organic matter can be harmful to Lithops.