How to grow lithops

How to grow lithops

Find out how to grow living stones, or lithops, in our detailed Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Sow
Sow

Do Sow in January

Do Sow in February

Do Sow in March

Do Sow in April

Do Sow in May

Do Sow in June

Do Sow in July

Do Sow in August

Do Sow in September

Do Sow in October

Do Sow in November

Do Sow in December

Plant
Plant

Do Plant in January

Do Plant in February

Do Plant in March

Do Plant in April

Do Plant in May

Do Plant in June

Do Plant in July

Do Plant in August

Do Plant in September

Do Plant in October

Do Plant in November

Do Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does flower in July

Plant does flower in August

Plant does flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Divide
Divide

Do Divide in January

Do Divide in February

Do Divide in March

Do Divide in April

Do Divide in May

Do Divide in June

Do Divide in July

Do Divide in August

Do Divide in September

Do Divide in October

Do Divide in November

Do Divide in December

Lithops, or living stones, are small, stemless succulent plants that resemble stones to avoid being grazed by animals in their native habitat. They’re from some of the driest regions in South Africa and therefore need very little water – some of them rely only on mist and fog for moisture.

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Each lithops plant comprises just two thick, fleshy, fused leaves, designed to hold the water the plant needs to survive. The leaves have a slit, or fissure, at the top, from which new leaves and flowers emerge. Because lithops requires so little water, they make excellent house plants. Yellow or white, daisy-like flowers sometimes appear in summer.

How to grow lithops

Grow lithops in a very free-draining compost such as a cactus compost in a bright, sunny, dry spot such as a south- or east-facing windowsill. Water very sparingly – much less than other succulents. Don’t water at all from October until after the old pair of leaves has completely withered away, often not until the following May. Then avoid watering again during the dormant period in summer.

More on growing lithops and other succulents:

Find detailed advice on growing lithops, below.


Where to plant lithops

How to grow lithops - lithops growing in a pot
How to grow lithops – lithops growing in a pot

Lithops need a sunny spot – aim for around five hours of direct sun per day, so a south- or east-facing windowsill is ideal. Bear in mind that you may need to remove your lithops from your windowsill in winter if temperatures drop significantly.


How to plant lithops

How to grow lithops - planting lithops
How to grow lithops – planting bare-root lithops

If you buy lithops online you may find that they’re delivered bare-root and you need to plant them yourself. Lithops need very free-draining compost, such as a cactus compost. Choose a terracotta pot, which is more porus than plastic or glazed pots, so the compost dries out quickly. Plant them singly or in groups.


Propagating lithops

How to grow lithops - some lithops ready for division
How to grow lithops – some lithops ready for division

You can propagate lithops by division or seed, although both options take a long time. To divide lithops you need to wait several years for the plants to develop into a cluster. Carefully remove the plant from its pot and cut through the roots, ensuring each part of the plant still has a viable taproot. Repot each division into a pot deep enough for the taproot to grow without being squished.

To grow lithops from seed, prepare a pot with free-draining cactus compost and additional grit. Water the compost and allow to drain. Sprinkle lithops seeds over the surface and cover with a fine layer of sand or vermiculite. Keep slightly moist until germination occurs, and then gradually reduce watering.


How to water lithops

How to grow lithops - lithops with new leaves emerging from the central fissure
How to grow lithops – lithops with new leaves emerging from the central fissure

Lithops have a very particular growing cycle and therefore need watering in a very particular way. This may seem daunting at first but, once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s easy.

The main consideration when watering lithops is the growth of the new leaves. Lithops develop new leaves each year, which emerge from the fissure between the two older leaves, which then gradually shrivel away (pictured). The watering regime is based around the growth of these new leaves. If you water too soon after the new leaves have emerged, the old leaves might not shrivel away properly.

Unlike other succulents, lithops start into growth in autumn. In the wild, this coincides with seasonal rains, so it’s a good idea to give your lithops a good watering during this time (early September). It’s around this time that flowers start to appear – look out for the fissure opening and a bud growing out. Lithops need to be at least three years old to flower.

Lithops continue growing through winter and into spring, with the new pair of leaves growing inside the old. However it’s important to not water in winter. The new pair of leaves actually grows by drawing water from the old pair, so the soil should be very dry.

In spring, the old leaves shrivel away and the new leaves are exposed. Start watering again when the old pair of leaves has completely shrivelled. Water a little at a time, allowing the compost to dry out between waterings.

Lithops go dormant in summer, typically during the most extreme heat of their native southern African environment. Avoid watering them during this time, then give them a good drink in early September, when growth starts again.

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Growing lithops: problem solving

Overwatering, or watering at the wrong time of year, is the main problem when growing lithops. A lack of light can also cause the plants to lose their markings. In greenhouses and conservatories, red spider mite can be a problem.