Saturday, September 14, 2013

Death Of A Lithops

We went on a holiday last week and I had done something reckless a week before that: I had sowed Adenium obesum seeds which were germinating happily a day or two before we'd leave.
I couldn't possibly leave my babies at home, so I decided to pack them and take them along so I'd be able to care for them during the week we'd be away.

So far so good, the adenium babies survived with no problems.
In addition, however, I decided to take two pots of Lithops with me. We were visiting our 90 year old grandma who had never seen Lithops in her life and was very interested. So I took a pot of Lithops julii and my Lithops mix with me to show it to her.

Both survived the day in the box nicely and as far as I could see they were only a bit thirsty two days later. So I watered them and I thought I'd do them some good and put them outside into the sun for a couple of hours.

Apparently that was a mistake.

When we were back home I found that the Lithops mix looked a bit pale whereas the Lithops julii showed no difference.
A day or so later I realized that I have obviously killed some Lithops from my mix. I guess by putting them out into the midday sun when they had only been used to the morning sun, filtered through a window (the julii had at least been used to midday and afternoon sun at my south facing window).
But it might also have been the transport that killed them, I'm not sure.

The interesting thing is that they start to rot away from the bottom sides, not from the tops that have been exposed to the sun.

This is the full extent of the damage. I'll have to wait and see how many of them will survive.
Most of the ones you see here have turned squishy and soft or have dried up completely within two or three days.

Lithops turning pale and soft (first stage)

Soft Lithops slowly caving in (second stage)

Further caving in of soft Lithops (third stage)

Almost completely dry and crumpled up Lithops (fourth stage)

Dried and crumpled up Lithops (fifth/final stage)

The following two pictures show how the rot starts at the bottom or at the sides, while the tops of the Lithops remain okay for a while.

So, whether it was the direct sun or the transport with its vibrations and almost a day without fresh air or light, I don't know.
But I do know that I'll be a lot more careful with my Lithops from now on.

They may appear sturdy and strong, but they can be quite sensible to all sorts of changes and "mistreatments".

Edit (9/15/2013):
I just buried two of the four Lithops julii that I took with me in the second pot. They had started to rot and get mouldy from the bottom up and I could just take their heads right off.
I'm more and more convinced that it was the transport rather than the sun that killed them.


  1. I've had this happen, too. And it's subtle, so you don't know exactly what's happening, at first. A little fading, then some shriveling at soil level, then poof! Gone. Lithops are not easy care plants!

  2. Sorry about the losses Petra, but everyone who has ever grown lithops, have lost some lithops, it goes with the territory.

    One of the strengths of succulents is that they carry their own water supply. However, this is also one of their weaknesses, because bacteria thrive in moist environments, like the inside of a lithops. Succulents are protected from bacteria by their outer epidermis layer, but if this ever gets damaged, such as by sunburn, it opens the way for bacteria and rapid rotting. This is one of the reasons when we repot a plant, which might cause an injury, we don't water the newly repotted plant for a few days. This gives any root or lower stem injury, incurred during the repotting, time to heal before we introduce water to the soil.

    Sorry for rambling but once a teacher, always a teacher. :)

  3. Hello Bob,
    I appreciate your input. 👍