Lithops - Infos

Lithops (from Ancient Greek: lithos = „stone“, ops = „face“) come from South-Africa and belong to the familiy of Aizoaceae and the subfamily Mesembryanthemoideae.

This page contains my collected knowledge about Lithops. I am no biologist or similar, so I don't know anything about genetics and all that stuff. But I've been growing and cultivating Lithops for a few years now and have had numerous different experiences, made mistakes and had successes.

Topics on this page:

General Information (Ger.: allgemeine Infos)

Annual rhythm (Ger.: Jahresrhythmus)

Reproduction (Ger.: Vermehrung)

Cultivation (Ger.: Anzucht aus Samen)

Look (Ger.: Aussehen)

Age (Ger.: Alter)

Pests and diseases (Ger.: Krankheiten)

Forms and Species (Ger.: Formen)

Nomenclature (Ger.: Namenvergabe)

Curiosities (Ger.: Kuriositäten)

Similar plants (Ger.: ähnliche Pflanzen)


General Information

Lithops are leaf succulents that consist of two conjoined leaves, that are divided only in the middle by a small fissure. The whole plant is cone-shaped and the above-ground part is mostly round to minimize surface and thus evaporation.

Since Lithops come from the desert and are used to extreme heat and sun, they grow low and stay small. In very hot areas they even stay level with the ground to minimize evaporation even more.

In European climes they can grow taller, with too little light, however, they tend to become unnaturally long which leads to problems. If Lithops are cultivated in Europe (or rather: not in their natural clime) they should be given a very sunny place.

Adapted to their home they are extreme suvivalists. Lithops can, in extreme cases, survive without water for two years. If it doesn't rain, they are able to take in moisture from morning dew via their leaves. Because of their original hot habitat, they always take in as much water as they can get. They are unable to not take in surrounding water. In the desert this is no problem since there is not much water and if it rains, the water soon evaporates. The high succulence is much rather necessary for survival. On our windowsills, however, this can become a problem, especially when they are watered too heavily or too often, which leads to mould, bursting of the leaves and infections.

Lithops have their clorophyll on the inside of the leaves. The top surfaces are translucent or have windows to let light into the leaves. These windows can be large and continuous or small and divided by spots or lines.

Lithops have taproots that help them to reach water on deeper levels of the soil. If cultivated in too small pots or basins they push themselves up and out of the pot, expose their roots and sooner or later die.
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Annual rhythm

Every year Lithops grow a new pair of leaves which start off inside the old plant body right after the flowering time in the fall. This new pair of leaves grows taller over the next few months and consumes the old leaves in the process. The fissure between the new leaves is orthogonal to the fissure in the old ones, which can be seen early in the growth status. Only if a lithops grows not one but two (or more) new bodys during the winter, the fissure will not be visible orthogonally. But the fissures in the new bodys are indeed orthogonally to the old fissure. It's just the space between the two bodies that can be seen first and that has the same direction as the old fissure.

After the blossoming in the fall the new pair of leaves starts to grow and from that point on Lithops don't need any additional water. As soon as the blossom has dried up the plant should not be watered again until the next spring when the old leaves have dried up completely.

If the Lithops had a sufficiently dry and cool period during the winter, it will start to flower again in the fall. Some lithops have white blossoms with a yellow center, but most Lithops have yellow blossoms. Only cultivars have blossoms in other colors like pink or orange. The blossoms will open during the early afternoon and close again in the evening, for three or four days in a row.
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Reproduction

Lithops reproduce via seeds. After pollination of a blossom the plant grows a sead capsule in the middle of the fissure between the leaves. A seed capsule has 5 or more leaves (or whatever the correct name for this is) that open as soon as the capsule gets wet. Rain for example opens a seed capsule and washes out the seeds that get the necessary moisture for germination at the same time.

The seed capsule closes again as soon as it dries and so the seeds can stay safely hidden within for years. Lithops seeds can still germinate after many years.

Lithops cannot self-pollinate. Two different plants are needed to get seeds and it doesn't suffice to have a plant with two heads, each flowering. Two heads of the same plant share the same DNA and so usually cannot pollinate each other (there may be exceptions).
Because of the extreme living-conditions of Lithops it is very hard for them to reproduce. It doesn't rain often so existing seeds stay in the seed capsule for a long time. Seedlings are vulnerable to heat and draught and only with luck seedlings survive to become hardy plants. This is why Lithops have hundreds of seeds in one seed capsule. Even if all of them germinate, only a small part of them survive.

Lithops help themselves by having seeds with a very long lasting germination capacity but short germination time. Lithops seeds germinate within 2-7 days depending on the weather.

At a certain age Lithops tend to not only grow one new body each year but two or more. The plant does not really split itself but grows two heads on one root. Depending on the species Lithops can have up to 10 (aucampiae, hookeri, lesliei, marmorata and olivacea) or even up to 20 heads (salicola). The biggest known Lithops plant is a salicola with more than 350 heads.
Old and multi-headed plants can be split at the root but this is said to be difficult as one has to cut the root.
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Growing Lithops from seeds at home

The right soil
I usually use cactus soil mixed with aquarium sand for sowing Lithops. At first I used Sand from the nearby playground (sterilized in the oven) but now that was too much work so I switched to the already clean aquarium sand.
Both are possible, although I like the aquarium sand better. It doesn't make hard layers on top of the soil after being wet. Especially for the little Lithops seedlings this layer is not good. They can rip off their roots, when the top layer stays in position but the lower parts sink a little when drying.
These two ingredients are mixed with an approximate ratio of 1:1. If in doubt mix in more sand – they are desert plants after all. This mixture is fine enough so that the seeds won't fall too deep into it.

I also tried sowing Lithops on pure sand but since I only spray water on them in the beginning I had no possibility of giving them fertilizer and so they almost starved.
The cactus soil contains fertilizer and in this mixture it is just the right amount to keep the seedlings healthy and alive.
A few weeks ago I tried sowing Lithops on pumice stone. Someone at green-24.de suggested this to us and showed us pictures of many healthy seedlings in a pot full of pumice. But, my seeds do not seem to want to germinate on pumice stone. So I switched back to cactus soil and sand. Other mineral soils like Perlite, cocos humus and Seramis are definitely too chunky.

Sowing Lithops
Lithops need light to germinate, so fine soil is very important.
The seeds are strewn onto the top of the soil and maybe pressed down a little. Since they are so very small, a single sowing is almost impossible. Professional gardeners sowing larger amounts use a saltshaker.
It is important to note, that Lithops seeds should not be watered from above. Too much water at once (as is inevitable when watering from above) will wash the seeds into the soil where they will get no light and will not germinate.

I always put a bit of Seramis in the bottom of the pots to manage a good drainage. On top of the soil I put a layer of sand, either before sowing or after the seeds have germinated. This keeps fungus gnats away. The seeds can be sown on the normal soil as well as the sand.

The pot is then covered with clear plastic wrap to ensure high moisture in the air.

As soon as the seeds have germinated (during spring this should take about 1 to 5 days), the plastic wrap can slowly be removed. And by slowly I mean for an hour or two the first day, a few hours more the next day and so on until it can stay off the whole time. Now it is high time to cover the top of the soil with sand, otherwise fungus gnats will happily move in. Covering the top of the soil with sand while the seedlings have already sprouted is precision work, because no seedling should be covered or buried under the sand.

Once most of the seeds have germinated and the seedlings have grown a bit, they should no longer be only sprayed with water. They have already grown very long (in comparison to their plant bodies) roots and will search for water in the lower parts of the pot. The best way to water them now is to dip the whole pot into a bowl of water (maybe with some fertilizer mixed into it) and to wait till the soil is soaked. But: don't drop the pot in the water!

After two to three months the soil may also dry out completely once in a while. The seedlings will then shrink a little, but once they are watered again, they will recover.

Best time to sow Lithops
The best time for sowing Lithops is spring or early summer. The seedlings have enough time to grow before the winter. Plants sown in autumn or winter have to survive the dark time of the year which leads to weak and extremely elongated seedlings and thus large losses.

Pots
Pots should in any case have holes in the bottom so that extra water can escape. Lithops are very sensitive to too much water and because of their long roots should be watered from below (via the pot saucer). The pots need to be deep enough for the long roots that grow quite early and even small seedlings can have roots three to four times the size of their bodies.
Almost anything matching these criteria can be used as a container for Lithops seeds and seedlings.
But the pots should be dark. In see-through materials algae develop which don't really hurt the young Lithops but may at some point become dominant in the pot.

Temperature
Lithops not only need light to germinate, but also warmth. Temperatures should be between 20 and 25 degrees. My Lithops germinated wonderfully at a temperature of about 25 degrees (Celsius, by the way) but I know of quite a few people that Lithops germinate well neither with too low temps nor with too high temps. So somewhere in the middle should be optimal.

By the way, Lithops seedlings like to grow close together. As one can't control the sowing and with that the distances between the seedlings, they automatically grow in clusters.
This has a natural advantage: small and weak seedlings will not survive among the other seedlings and in the end only the healthy and strong seedlings stay alive.
Once the seedlings grow too big and start to shadow each other or push each other aside, they have to be repottet and isolated.
If too many seedlings have grown too close to each other it can happen that they push the ones in the middle slowly up. These seedlings will then be pushed out of the soil and can no longer get any water. In this case they have to be repottet and isolated a bit earlier.

The small seedlings already tolerate direct sun, but they should be kept out of the midday sun. If the seedlings are used to artificial light, they have to be given some time to get used to the stronger natural sunlight. If placed into the sun too early they can burn and die.
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Look

Lithops have adapted to their natural surroundings perfectly. Their look helps them to stay inconspicuous and avoid being eaten by small animals. That's how they got their German name "living stones" because they look just like the stone lying next to them. In cultivation these characteristics are often shown by planting Lithops in a bowl and surrounding them with similar looking stones. This draws the attention of guests who wonder why there is a bowl with soil and some stones on it on your windowsill.

Some Lithops in their natural habitat in Africa are disguised in a way that keeps them only a bit above the soil and that makes them look like the surrounding terrain in color and texture.
For example like this: www.lithops.info/de/galerie/lithops_c393.html

Other Lithops surprise by being white in otherwise brownish surroundings. But there are some white stones around, so they have the same color as them and stay hidden this way. These are one example for such white Lithops: http://www.lithops.info/de/galerie/lithops_c239.html

I have often wondered how Lithops "know" how to look inconspicuously in their surroundings. Lately a nice member of green-24.de gave me the answer (thanks, Norbert). He told me that they originally didn't "know". That all kinds of Lithops grew in all kinds of desert surroundings. But after decades the ones that were plainly visible got eaten and had no chance to reproduce. So naturally only those Lithops survived in their surroundings that had the best camouflage.
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Age

It is hard - not to say impossible - to determine the age of a Lithops plant in its natural habitat. There are theories about the length of the roots saying something about their age but they are not well funded. The only possibility to determine age at the moment is to count existing dried up leaf hulls. Each year a new dried leaf hull is produced and if they are well preserved and didn't fall off they can be used to determine the age of the plant, at least roughly.
With this method plants could be found with the age of 50-95 years. In cultivation the oldest plant was at least 36 years.
The number of heads on a Lithops plant however is no sign of a certain age.
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Pests and diseases

Mealybugs like to sit in the space between the old dry leaves or in the fissures between the leaves once they have been pushed apart by a flower bud.
Rats and mice can become a danger to Lithops outside or in a green house because they like to gnaw on Lithops. Smaller injuries are no problem and vanish the next year with the new pair of leaves at the latest. Larger injuries can become a starting point for infections or mould. If the heart of the plant is damaged it will not grow a new pair of leaves the next year and die.

Birds and worms can be dangerous for Lithops, too. Birds might eat any part of a Lithops whereas worms eat the roots and the damage only becomes visible when it is already too late and no roots are left.

With Lithops seedlings fungus gnats and their larvae are the worst enemy. They like the moist soil and apparently Lithops seedling roots are especially tasty.

Damages done by fungus gnat larvae are suddenly visible when the little plants get glassy and then dry out and die. Often it is only then that the missing or severely damaged roots are discovered.

Remedies for and protection from pests and diseases
- Herbivores. If Lithops are cultivated outside or in a green house, rats, birds and other herbivores can be kept away by hanging nets or closing the green house doors in the evenings. Inside these animals are not a problem (apart from pets – cats for example like Lithops. However, not so much as food but rather as a cosy place to sleep... )

- Mealybugs can be defeated by regularly picking them off the plants. To prevent an infestation it can be helpful to remove old and dry leaves in spring and dried up flowers in autumn.

- Fungus gnats, if they're already there they are hard to fight. Neudomück by Neudorff seems to be a helpful remedy, but I have never tried it, especially not on Lithops seedlings.
Preventive measures are to prepare the pots in a certain way before sowing Lithops.

- Infections and fungi mostly appear if the plants have been hurt. Apart from herbivores and mechanical damages this can only happen if the Lithops have been watered too thoroughly or if they aren't getting enough light.
In case of over-watering the old leaves cannot dry out but the new ones start growing anyway. The old leaves will then be pushed apart and they rip creating wounds.
During the summer too much water will let the Lithops body swell too much and it rips open at the sides or the top. Lithops are extremely succulent which means that they cannot choose whether to take in water from the ground or not. If there is water, they have to take it in. These wounds are a point of entry for infections.
If the soil is constantly wet the roots can get mouldy.
Not enough light does not lead to infections and mould but it leads to elongated plant bodies (in search for light). Then the way through the middle may become too long for a new body in winter and it breakes through the old one on its side. The break through point again is a point of entry for infections and mould.

- Sudden death. Sometimes whole Lithops plants or single heads do not grow a new plant body during the winter. They will not flower in that year but they can survive like this for two or three years. Then they will dry out slowly and die. Why this sometimes happens is still not clear. Probably the heart of the plant, the place where the main growth takes place, has gotten damaged somehow and the plant has no chance at survival.
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Forms and Species

There are several points in which Lithops can be differentiated. Looking from above at the plant or looking from the side (through the soil) at the plant.

From above:
Lithops plants can have
- symmetrically round (almost elliptical) leaves
- asymmetrically round leaves
- elongated leaves

With symmetrically round forms the two leaves have almost the same size. Asymmetrically round forms have one leaf distinctly bigger than the other. The elongated forms can have both, leaves of equal or different size.



Pic 1: symmetrically round leaves, round form


The symmetrically round plants can have a round form as whole plant (still seen from above, but both leaves taken together - pic 1). These plants often look like stones with a shallow fissure carved in the middle.



Pic 2: asymmetrically round, individually round


The leaves can also appear round in themselves, looking like two stones of identical size next to each other (pic 2).



Pic 3: elongated leaves, symmetrical form



The elongated forms look as if a stone has been cut and pushed open (pic 3).

The symmetrically round plants can also combine the first two looks: on one side they are connected and look like one stone and on the other side they diverge and look like two separate stones (pic 4).



Pic 4: combination of symmetrically round and individually round




From the side:
Lithops plants can have a totally even surface or a round one. Some even have a concave surface.

The fissures between the leaves can be very shallow (mostly the ones with even surface have shallow fissures but sometimes also those with round surfaces). They can be a little deeper (mostly the ones with round surfaces). Or they can be very deep and prominent (the elongated forms).



Pic 5: even surface, shallow fissure




Pic 6: round surface, deeper fissure








Pic 7: elongated form, deep fissure






The plant bodies in themselves can be distinguished, too. They can be cylindrical, with the difference of longer or shorter forms.



Pic 8: cylindrical form, shorter


Pic 9: round form



The elongated forms have the body taper until it morphs into the root. The round forms rather look like a balloon on a string.

A separate form appears on multi-headed plants. Here the heads are all attached to the same root and so the outer heads have to stretch a little (a lot for plants with many heads) to stay connected with the root.




Pic 10: Lithops with several heads that bend to the side to reach from root to surface





Examples:
The asymmetrically round form (pic 2) with even surface and mostly shallow fissure (pic 5):
Lithops aucampiae C002

The elongated form (pic 3), cylindrical (pic 8) with round surface and very deep fissure (here can be seen what I meant about the sliced stone):
Lithops divergens C201

The round form (from above, from the side and the surface) with a semi deep fissure:
Lithops dorotheae C124

Lithops from the inside and close up can be seen here: http://www.lithops.info/de/botanik/laengsschnitt.html

All other distinctive features depend on the species. There are Lithops...
... aucampiae
... bromfieldii
... coleorum
... comptonii
... dinteri
... divergens
... dorotheae
... francisci
... fulviceps
... gesinae
... geyeri
... gracilidelineata
... hallii
... helmutii
... hermetica
... herrei
... hookeri
... julii
... karasmontana
... lesliei
... marmorata
... meyeri
... naureeniae
... olivacea
... optica
... otzeniana
... pseudotruncatella
... ruschiorum
... salicola
... schwantesii
... steineckeana
... terricolor
... vallis-mariae
... verruculosa
... villetii
... viridis
... werneri

And in addition to that there are the subspecies and varieties. All in all about 413 different Lithops are known.
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Nomenclature

The name Lithops stems from the Greek "lithos" meaning stone and "opsis" meaning look.

Lithops is already plural, so there is no single "Lithop" just as there are not many "Lithopses".
It's simply Lithops.

Lithops are named the moment they are found by a scientist, biologist or botanist (or whom ever) and published in a scientific paper describing the plant and its affiliation with one of the subspecies and naming it.

The plants then get a Latin (botanical) name that is accompanied in correct writing by the name of the author (of the scientific article introducing it). For example:

Lithops N.E. Br. aucampiae L. Bol.

Where the latin names are printed italic or bold to distinguish them from the names of the authors. Here Dr. N.E. Brown who in 1922 has published the first article about Lithops and thereby created the genus (short N.E. Br.) and Dr. H.M. Louisa Bolus who has published the name aucampiae of the genus Lithops.

Even longer names like Lithops aucampiae ssp. Euniceae var. fluminalis are correctly called:

Lithops N.E. Br. aucampiae L. Bol. ssp. euniceae (H.W. de Boer) D.T. Cole var. fluminalis D.T. Cole

Every species and subspecies that was discovered by different people is annotated with different names. The name in brackets with the subspecies (short ssp.) declares the original author. Here H.W. de Boer has originally named the Lithops aucampiae var. euniceae that was then "upgraded" by Desmond T. Cole to Lithops aucampiae ssp. euniceae. So the first author appears in brackets and the second one behind.

Because this naming convention is very long and impractical (to write and to read) usually the authors are omitted and are only attached to avoid confusion if different synonyms for the same plant are used.

So the authors shall be of no further interest here.

But after what are Lithops named?
Three different things as it turns out.

1. The place (or the characteristics of the place) where they were found
2. Their look
3. Derived from the author's name or any other person.

aucampiae, bromfieldii, comptonii, fulleri, hallii, herrei, lesliei: named after the person who found them

optica, pseudotruncatella, divergens, olivacea: named after their look (optica = eye like, pseudotruncatella = looking like Mesemb truncatellum, divergens = diverging, olivacea = olive colored)

terricolor: named after the place where they were found (terricolor = earth colored)

gracilidelineata, marmorata: named after their surface (gracilidelineata = gracefully lined, marmorata = marbled)

Albiflora, Witblom, Fritz's White Lady: named after the anomalous white blossom on otherwise yellow flowering Lithops

And then there are Lithops named after other people than the author:
annae: named after the author's wife
helmuthii: named after the author's son
margarethae: named after the author's daughter
rushiorum: named after the whole family

naureeniae: named after the botanist's (in this case Desmond T. Cole's) wife (Naureen)

dorotheae: apparently named after a beautiful girl that had no interest in or knowledge about Lithops at all

(I have these infos from the book "Lithops – flowering stones" by Naureen and Desmond T. Cole)
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Curiosities and abnormal growth

Lithops have one big advantage: because of their annual rhythm and growing new leaves each year they can get rid of injuries and scars easily.

If for example a Lithops plant is gnawed on by rodents but not completely eaten, it will regenerate during the next winter and start over with the next pair of leaves. The same is true for sunburn. Each new pair of leaves is like a new beginning for the plants.

Because of this fact abnormal growth is not that bad or even fatal for Lithops.

What kind of curiosities can occur?
The most common deformation often already occurring in Lithops seedlings are deformations of the leaves.

Seedlings often don't have a fissure reaching from one side to the other. While they are still young this may be normal but in older plants such fissures are not. This is easily explained: the plant will blossom in the fall and the flower bud will push the leaves aside. If the fissure is that small, the flower bud will most probably rip the plant open in order to grow out of it.

Other deformities include fissures reaching from one side to the middle of the plant but not through to the other side. Or even bending in the middle of the leaves to a different size (this then looks like a piece of cake being cut out).

A more common deformation are plants with 3-5 or more leaves. Since one head should always only have one pair of leaves, this counts as a deformity. Especially seedlings often have three leaves instead of two.

Usually this vanishes with the next pair of leaves, but sometimes a plant keeps growing three leaves over and over again. As long as this deformity does not keep the plant from flowering or growing new leaves it is no problem.

The true curiosities however have been described in the book „Lithops – flowering stones“ by Desmond T. Cole. He talks about a Lithops that was skewered by a blade of grass that obviously did not want to grow around the Lithops. Also a Lithops that had its roots not growing down but up and inward makes the list of the most curiously grown Lithops.
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Similar plants


I have come across many people asking if what they have just bought is a Lithops. Unfortunately very often that is not the case. There are many plants that look similar to Lithops but aren't Lithops. For example:

Argyroderma
Frithia
Fenestraria
Pleiospilos

28 comments:

  1. hi, i love your blog, i don't use blogspot much and only came across your blog whilst trying to find out what happend to my lithops. i fell in love with one (around autem last year) and i got 2 more recently, they where all fine and i put them all in a pot together. i went away for a week and when i came back 2 of them where fine but the other one, it was a single head(the other two i have are like double) it looks abit like your Lithops gesinae (but when i get home in a couple of days i will be able to tell you exectly what it is if you can help me) it was a lovely red colour (i have a green one lesli and a purple one aswell)i came back and it was all shriveled up and had these black little spots all over it, i immediatly took it out of the pot to try and prevent the other lithops catching the same thing but i was wondering if you could help me as to what it was and how i could prevent it, i really liked its lovely red colour and the garden center didn't have any more of the same left when i went back. i am mostly worried about the other two in the same pot and if i should repot them if it was something in the soil? im not very good at blogging so i don't know how you would reply to this but my email is gracebird88@hotmail.co.uk any help in response would be much appreciated as i am worried and have had to leave them again for another couple of days and i don't want to return to all of them having this sort of disease or them getting the same thing and all dying. i will be following your blog regularly as there is so much usefull information! i hope you can help me, many thanks. grace.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Grace!
    Thank you for your comment and I'm glad that you like my blog. Of course I'll try to help you and your Lithops!

    First of all it'd be really helpful if you could show me pictures of your Lithops. I don't think you can post pics here in comments, but there are tons of free image upload websites out there (e.g. imageshack) where you can upload your pics and then post the links here.

    About your Lithops: what kind of soil are you using for them? And how often do you water them?
    The little black spots might just be parts of the Lithops surface. Some Lithops have those spots on their faces and they just aren't clearly visible when the Lithops is healthy and well nourished. Only when the outer shell (or whole Lithops) dries up they suddenly become visible and become much darker than before. So, those black spots don't necessarily mean that there's a pest on your Lithops or that they are sick.
    If those spots are a little larger, however, they might be scale insects. You can check out this page about pests. Maybe you can already identify them there (but it doesn't sound like it's one of them).

    Unfortunately it also happens regularly that Lithops or even single heads in a multi-headed plant simply die and dry up. I recently lost a lesliei for no obvious reason. It just shrivelled up and was gone within a few weeks.
    That doesn't mean that you're doing anything wrong with your Lithops... it just happens (but let me look at your pics first...).
    The only thing you can do to prevent this (and to prevent pests and other illnesses) is to give your Lithops the best possible care.

    So, please post your links to pics and any other info or questions here as a comment, I think that's the easiest way to do this.

    And then I have two more blogs whose owners frequently write about Lithops and which you might find useful, too:
    Oregon Cactus Blog
    Lithops Stories

    ReplyDelete
  3. thanks so much for helping with my lithops!
    this is a link to a imageshack photo of my lithops that has this disease,this is lithops aucampiae, i took it out of the pot it shares with two other lithops but i am very worried they are showing signs of the same thing
    http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/69/csc4443.jpg/
    here is my first lesliei aliornica that i think is showing signs of the same thing
    http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/688/dsc4451y.jpg/

    i did look on your pests section but couldnt find anything that i thought matched this. the other lithops i have are lesliei burcheli and marmorta 'diutina' these are just the names on the sticks i got with the plants. i read online they do well in cactus soil but i have been looking in shops and cant seem to find any, i am going to continue looking for it, the soil they are in at the moment is some compost my nan gave me, as im worried about them im thinking of repotting them into another pot with fresh soil untill i can get hold of some cactus soil(im moving back to london in two weeks and will hopefuly get some cactus soil then)as i think whatever is effecting them is most likely in the soil. these are my lihops in the pot they are in at the moemnt. http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/832/csc4448.jpg/
    i dont water them very oftern but i think the soil is quite moist still, i think this is a problem for them but im working on the soil situation. i dont know if these links will work but here is my imageshack profile if the pictures dont come up http://profile.imageshack.us/user/gracebird88/
    thank you so much for your help i appreciate it alot.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Grace,

    okay, I think I have good news and bad news for you.
    Good news: they have no pest! The black spots are typical for those Lithops and they belong to the usual markings. It is exactly as I thought, those are spots that aren't visible when the Lithops are full of water and the skin is stretched and smooth. But as soon as they dry out a little the spots become more visible.
    I have gracilidelineata that have only some mild red lines and a few vaguely visible spots on their beige surface and nothing else. But every winter when the old body dries out and only the dry skin remains, lots of thick red dots become visible that were nowhere to be seen before. http://plant-whisperer.blogspot.com/2009/04/dry.html
    So, nothing to worry about there. ;)

    The bad news: your Lithops are dying from too much water. It is indeed as you say, the soil keeps the moisture too long and basically the roots are rotting.
    Lithops are highly succulent and they can't choose how much water to take from the soil. If there is water there, they take it all in. And if that's too much they either burst or their roots begin to rot.
    You should indeed take them out of the soil asap. If you can't get cactus soil, put them into a mineral soil. For example you could mix sand (aquarium sand is best, but if necessary even sand from a sand box outside is possible, but sterilize the latter in the oven for at least 30 mins at 150°C/300°F) and mix it with other soils like clay granules (don't know if you can buy Seramis in Britain...), crushed basalt or volcanic rock. You don't necessarily need cactus soil. If you can't get any of these soils, you can also take some of the same soil they are in now and mix it with sand (1 part soil, 2 parts sand).
    The most important thing is that the soil mix becomes pervious to water (and by that also to air, which guarantees healthy roots) and that only a fraction of the fertilizer remains. In such a soil mix the moisture will dry out within hours after watering, which is enough time for the Lithops to take up the water they need. And then the roots can dry again just as they would in their natural habitat in the desert.

    The lesliei in your third link are unusually long. That can be a result of too much water as well... and maybe not enough light? Where do you keep your Lithops? A south facing window sill would be perfect (south-east is okay, too), or during the summer a dry spot outside (under a glass roof for example to protect them from rain) with much sun.

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  5. Thank you so much for your help, im sorry for the late reply i have been very busy moving house recently. i have repotted my lithops into much dryer soil and i think they look ok now but i still intend to make/ get hold of the soils your suggesting. i try to have them in a place that gets the most sunshine in my room, i think my lesliei is too long because of too much water, i wasnt sure how oftern to water it at first. thanks again for your help! your blog and the other blogs have inspired me to make a blog following my plants, i havn't got much on it yet but please have a look http://plantlove88.blogspot.com/

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  6. Glad I could help and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that your Lithops will feel and grow better now.
    Your long Lithops will recover during the next dry period when they grow a new pair of leaves. With your new care and enough light the next pair of leaves will look normal.

    I checked out (and followed) your blog, very stylish. Your photos have great quality. Looking forward to new updates! :D

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  7. This blog is wonderful! I bought my first Lithops today at the drugstore... I have a small collection of cacti and other oddities... so to see a stone plant at a drug store for $1.99... well, I giggled.(read: my heart lept and I freaked out!) Thanks for this very nicely put together site!

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    1. Yes, I know that giggly feeling. That's how Lithops addiction starts. ;-)

      Glad you like my site. Always happy to share my experiences and help if I can!

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  8. Hi I was wondering if you have any idea why my lithops seem to be getting smaller with every year after they shed their skin. Thanks. Rob

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    1. Hi Rob,

      unfortunately I don't have a definitive answer to that, but I put my theories on this topic in a separate post here: http://plant-whisperer.blogspot.de/2013/05/q-why-are-my-lithops-getting-smaller.html

      I hope this helps!

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  9. Thank you very much. I am trying more clay in the soil. I read that it keeps the roots from dying back and going to experiment with more but carefull watering like your post suggest. Thanks again Rob

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  10. Thank you for such an informative post, my new lithops will stand a much better chance of survival now that I've read it!

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  11. Hello!

    I've been reading your blog and was wondering if you could offer some advice. My lithops died today! By died I mean that I touched one of the heads (the largest of the three) and it oozed out a green watery ooze. The head was soft-ish to the touch, something that has just occurred over the past few days. I am extremely confused because I haven't watered my lithops this winter since it flowered in late october, which I was under the impression was the correct thing to do. One of the other heads is starting to get soft and one is alright. Is there any way to save the rest of my plant?

    Thanks!

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    1. It's never easy to say what causes a Lithops plant to die. Sometimes you've done everything right and still they just die.
      But the watery state and the oozing suggest that your Lithops might have suffered too low temperatures? I don't know where you're from and if that's possible where you live, but if your Lithops had to endure temperatures below 5 or even 2 degrees Celsius then this may be the cause of death. Lithops are mainly made of water and if they freeze, the water expands and their cells rupture.
      Another possibility - something I have witnessed myself last summer - is damage due to transport or sunburn (and transport can also include transporting Lithops from the shop to your home after you've bought them). I transported a pot of Lithops halfway through the country AND then put it into unshaded sun, thinking I was doing them something good.
      They, too, turned soft and pale and then just started to ooze and rot away. I wasn't able to save a single one of them.

      Whether you'll be able to save the last of the three heads, I don't know. There is no universal recipe for this. I've had Lithops heads die a sudden death but their twins survived. And, like I said above, if they have all suffered some form of damage, then it is likely that the third head will die as well.
      I'm really sorry that I can't offer you any other advice on this!

      But don't give up on Lithops altogether!
      If the third head really dies, too, get yourself new plants and try again. Maybe give them a different place over the winter or try different soil.
      We have all suffered losses but trust me when I say: they're worth it and your patience will be rewarded in the end! :)

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  12. I just came across your blog looking for some guidance with my lithops. I'm not sure what's going on with it, if it's just growing or dying. I usually have success with succulents but this guy doesn't look good.
    I had it in the shade but slowly moved it to the sun where he is currently living. The dying started when it was in the shade. I watered it a few times when I got it, maybe twice since the beginning of November, then stopped.
    It all the there were 4 parts to begin with 2 withered and died and a 3rd is withering away now, with the growing piece being left. Is the plant growing or dying? What (if anything) can I do?
    Here's a link to the image:
    http://s35.photobucket.com/user/veronykah/media/IMG_20140213_021846.jpg.html

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    1. Hi Gwen,
      to be honest, it looks like your Lithops is dying. The withering away of heads is something I have experienced with some of my Lithops as well... and I still have no explanation for it.
      It looks to me that your soil is a bit too moist (but that might be a trick of the light). You could try to repot it into pumice or cactus soil mixed with A LOT of sand, maybe that will save the remaining head.
      The fact that a new head has already shot out of the middle of the old one (the green one in the back) and grown this long shows that there is something wrong - either too much water or not enough light (though you said you've put it out into the sun after some time in the shade, so that's perfect).
      I don't know where you and your Lithops are in the world, but if it's currently cold outside (down to freezing temps at night), that might be a reason for the withering as well.

      I'm sorry, but it's really just a lot of guesswork.
      Try to repot your Lithops, maybe that'll save it. If not, I can only say: don't give up hope, get a new one and try again.

      I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you! :)

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    2. Oh no! Well so far the remaining head is alive and looking ok. The man I bought it from told me it didn't like a lot of sun and to water it every other week, which I'm guessing could be what did the other 2 heads in?
      I've kept it in the sun and haven't watered it at all. I'm in Southern CA so it's definitely not freezing here. I'll definitely try repotting and hope for the best! I was so excited to get one of these, I LOVE them!

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  13. Hi plant whisperer!
    Now that I have an own blog (and its corresponding account that is) I finally can comment easily in all other Lithops-blogs that inhabit the virtual world. Yours is truly nice and I like to visit it from time to time an read and compare. Very complete your pages are! I'm still lightyears away from such perfection and completeness - but I'll get there, with patience, some day ...
    So, congratulations for this magnificent blog, and I hope to read you some day !
    Cheers
    Art (Well this shouldn't show up as anonymous? You see, these are the tecnicisms I'm still fighting with! Should look like artjardines.wordpress, but it doesn't!)

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    1. Hello Art (see, it did show up right in the end ;))!
      Thank you so much for your kind words. Oh, my blog is far from being complete, my biggest role model is the book "Lithops - Flowering Stones" by Desmond & Naureen Cole. That's what I'd call complete and even that still leaves so many things to explore. (But how boring would life be if there weren't any new things left to find? ;))

      It's always nice to hear from other Lithops-enthusiasts. Keep blogging and keep your Lithops safe and healthy! :)

      All the best,
      Petra

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  14. Hi!
    I was just gifted lithops and am lost about them!
    The three heads are firm on top but squishy on the sides. I lightly watered in attempt to remedy this, but not much has changed.
    The smallest of heads looks very soft. I keep them in a south facing window so that they get sunlight in the early afternoon for a few hours.
    This morning, the largest head was oozing green liquid, though it is still firm on top.
    What am I doing wrong? How can I save them!

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    1. Hi Mack!
      Honestly, that doesn't sound good, at least for the largest one. And it's likely not your fault. Sometimes Lithops don't like the transport from the shop (or in your case the person who gifted them to you) and they will turn soft and die.

      One thing you can do to try and save the remaining heads is to check the soil. Their soil should consist of mineralic components like pumice, sand, volcanic soil etc. If it doesn't, if it is normal garden soil or similar, their roots might be too wet and might be rotting. In the latter case you should repot them and see if that helps.

      I'm keeping my fingers crossed for your remaining Lithops!

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    2. Hi Petra!!!
      I will find out about the soil!
      Today they are still not cometely rotten, but look shrunken and wrinkled. Is this just a sign of more rot? Or are they thirsty?

      Thank you so much for your help! I am too in love with these beauties to give up

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    3. If you are really unsure (and if the soil is the wrong kind anyway) you can take them out of the pot, carefully remove the old soil and take a look at their roots.
      If the roots are intact and dry, you can repot them in different soil, wait a day or so (so that minor injuries sustained while taking them out of the soil can heal) and then water them.

      In the meantime take a look at this post: http://plant-whisperer.blogspot.de/2013/09/death-of-lithops.html

      This was one of my groups of Lithops that died after a lengthy transport (and a bit too much direct sunlight). That's what it looks like.
      If your Lithops look like this, then I'm afraid there won't be a lot you can do for them.

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  15. Hi dear plant whisperer!

    I found your blog searching desperately for some advice on my Lithops bougth in the USA in March. I have bought three nice little pieces and transported them to Hungary very carefully.They arrived absolutely fine at home and until now I thoguht there is nothing wrong about them. But last week one of them died. I suspect that both my daughter and I overwatered it, I am afraid. :(

    Still I have two more left and I would love to do my best to make them survive. I am not sure if they are OK, they grew too high, both of them lost their old leaves and one of them seems to be damaged on one side.
    Here are some pics for your information:

    http://imageshack.com/a/img540/9012/Q74x60.jpg
    http://imageshack.com/a/img540/4223/3tvyka.jpg
    http://imageshack.com/a/img905/2515/EUyPWv.jpg
    http://imageshack.com/a/img538/2390/tZAx69.jpg

    Also I was thinking to plant them into a bigger pot, but not sure if I do any good or not.
    My last question is really about watering, as I don't dare to water them, just some drops of water - every week. How much si enough, really?
    Thank you in advance really!
    Have a nice evening! Gabi

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    1. Hi Gabi!

      First of all: sorry for the late reply, I've been away for a few weeks.
      About your Lithops: Sometimes Lithops just die without an obvious reason. Maybe it was a late reaction to the transport in addition to too much water. No one knows.
      Overwatered Lithops are usually very large with tight skin that can even rip open. I've overwatered some Lithops once and their skin ripped, but luckily they survived.
      So, be careful when watering your Lithops. Less is indeed more! You can even keep them dry until they show small wrinkles on their sides and then water them thoroughly. That's better than keeping them moist all the time.

      The big Lithops (first picture) could indeed do with a bigger, i.e. deeper, pot. Those small clay pots aren't deep enough for the long roots of a Lithops that size.
      Also the soil looks quite dark. So if you want to repot (one of) them anyway you could also give them different soil in the process.

      Other than that I would just leave them in peace for a while, give them some time to acclimate. And don't worry about damages on the outer shell, those will vanish when the next pair of leaves comes along.

      Wishing you and your Lithops all the best and keeping my fingers crossed that the remaining plants will survive!!!

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    2. Dear Petra,

      Many thanks for your kind response and very helpful thoguhts on my Lithops. In the meantime I was mourning on the smaller one - which died- indeed - with no specific reason.
      This is quite a job how to nurture these little plants - and indeed, sometimes they need jut piece and nothing more. :)
      Since I haven't done too much about the bigger one - it seems to be quite all right! I will repot it at a point, but now I just leave for a while.
      Wishing you ans your plants a wonderful summer and thank you again for your help!

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  16. i have several lithops turn to mush and i never watered them. i recently purchased them and i have no idea how much they were watered .i would like to know if they will grow again since the roots are still ok

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    1. Hi Steve,
      if the Lithops still has its heart (the innermost part above the roots that will grow into the next pair of leaves), then it might survive. If this central point of the Lithops has died, then it won't survive, unfortunately.
      I think the only thing you can do at this point is wait until spring and see if the Lithops will keep growing.

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