Lithops are charming living rock succulents that have adapted to live in places where other plants are not found for hundreds of kilometers. These are rocky desert territories in the southern part of the African continent. Lithops really look like stones, and the resemblance is so vivid that there is a desire to touch them with your hands to make sure that this is really a living organism. They look especially original during flowering. This miracle can be grown from seeds at home, providing them with Spartan conditions and extremely discreet, but competent care.
General description with photo
Lithops are flowering succulents from the Azizov family with an excellently developed root system and an amazing ability to adapt to harsh environmental conditions. At the same time, they adapt not only to the climate of the area but also to its landscape and illumination, easily changing their shape and color. Most often they are painted in a pale gray-green palette, merging with the dusty-stony ground of hot rocky deserts. In the daytime, they are able to survive in conditions of 50-degree heat and do not die at night, when the thermometer drops rapidly. With such a survival rate, keeping lithops at home, it would seem, does not threaten with failure even for novice flower growers, however, their cultivation involves its own special care, based on a very moderate human participation in the process of their life.
The characteristic of this plant is the disproportionate ratio of the volume of its roots to the aerial part. Above the surface of the earth, we see only two round fleshy leaves of very small size, at the same time, numerous tenacious roots penetrate into the slightest cracks between rocky heaps and cling to them, bit by bit getting their own food. The need for camouflage is due to the fact that in desert conditions every piece of lush greenery is a tasty morsel for food, so lithops are not so easy to notice, taking their shape and color for ordinary pebbles.
The height of the leaves does not exceed 5 cm in the largest specimens, outwardly they look like an egg cut across, but they can also have other shapes, for example, the appearance of short cylinders. The color is usually close to gray, but there are varieties with gray, brown, light green or crimson-purple leaves. There may be a pronounced heterogeneity of color or a relief pattern. As the pair of leaves grows, it loses elasticity, shrinks and dries out, and a new one grows from the central hollow to replace it.
By the end of summer, a deep gap between two voluminous sheets begins to expand even more, and a bud is shown to the light. The flowers of this succulent have an external resemblance to cacti or daisies, they can be small and inconspicuous or quite large and bright. The petals are narrow, often white-beige or yellowish. A narrow elongated tube is formed in the center. In diameter, the flower often exceeds the size of the plant itself, lives for about 2 weeks. The buds of this succulent open daily and close again at night.
Interestingly, under the influence of bright sun, lithops can change their color, for example, from white to pink or from yellow to purple-red.
Varietal varieties of lithops with names and photos
A little less than 40 species of this plant have been described, differing in size, shape and color scheme. Many of them are very similar to each other, and only specialists can determine their belonging to a particular species. In addition, lithops are able to change their color within certain limits, masquerading as growing conditions. A little more than a dozen of them, and their numerous varieties, are suitable for planting and growing at home.
This variety is the most popular for growing at home. The leaf plates are small, no more than 2 cm, in size and shape of an incised egg flattened from above. Painted in gray-pink tones with a muted coffee tint. On the upper flat surface are scattered patterns of gray or coffee color. It blooms in white or yellow tone, inflorescences have a delicate pleasant aroma.
Succulent of medium size, up to 3 cm in width of leaf plates with a flat top. The leaves are colored brown-green, sometimes with a purple or gray tint. The flat top is painted in a darker tone that looks like a big spot. Along its edges there is a lighter rim of the ornament. A bright yellow flower grows from a deep gap between the leaves in August, the diameter of which practically coincides with the size of the plant itself.
The leaf plates of this variety may have a gray-green or purple-crimson color, an elongated oval shape with a deep cleft in the middle. The size usually does not exceed 2 cm. Inflorescences of medium diameter, white with a yellow core, have a weak aroma.
A fairly large variety for its group with leaves 3 cm across, about 4 cm in height. Painted in a gray-brown palette with a pinkish tint. The upper flattened surface is decorated with thin strokes of a darker color. The flower is large, yellow.
Lithops olive green
The name accurately characterizes the color of this variety, which creates the impression of a cut in a horizontal plane with its surface not yet dry and barely covered. Both in height and width, the plant does not exceed 2 cm. The surface of the leaves is matte, the bud is yellow, resembling a chamomile in shape.
The name of this succulent is due to the original marble surface pattern. The leaf plates have a standard shape for the culture and a size of no more than 2 cm. They are painted in gray-green tones. The inflorescences are large, white with a yellow heart-shaped still unblown petals. They have a pleasant light scent.
The view has a striking resemblance to real stones, it is almost invisible against the background of granite chips. It is painted in brown-brown shades with different-sized spots. The flowers are large, light yellow, chamomile type.
Medium-sized species with red-brown color of leaf plates. The upper flat part has a furrowed surface with an intricate relief. It blooms in a yellow or orange palette with large flowers, behind which the plant itself may not be visible. With age, it tends to grow due to lateral shoots.
Variety up to 5 cm wide and not more than 3 cm high. It has a highly decorative color in muted yellow-brown tones with an intricate ornament of a flat surface part. The groove is shallow, slightly expressed. The flowers are white, fragrant, large.
Lithops false truncated
It is colored from green-gray to pink-brown tones, characteristically narrowed at the bottom and widening at the top. The pattern is formed from multiple broken lines and dots. The flowers are large dandelion-like, bright golden color.
It differs from other varieties in higher growth and a deep pronounced cleft. The color is greenish-gray, with soft spotting. The leaves have a beveled surface, in the place of the cut with a slight folding, resembling an elephant’s leg in appearance. Inflorescences are small, yellow.
A stony-gray variety with densely compressed leaves. The color of the apical part is darker, olive-brown. It blooms with white large inflorescences exuding a pleasant aroma.
Cone-shaped compact succulents painted in unusual yellow-burgundy tones. The flat top part is decorated with a bright intricate ornament. The flowers are bright yellow, large, fragrant.
The appearance of this variety in appearance resembles quail eggs. The leaves are almost perfectly round in shape, almost not flattened at the top. Dark dots and spots are randomly scattered on a gray-sand background. It blooms in September with large yellow, pleasantly smelling inflorescences.
Strongly divided half-leaves are covered with a brownish-pink mesh along the upper convex surface. It blooms brightly, the inflorescence is colored in two tones – yellow at the edges and white in the center.
It is a group of succulents similar in species characteristics, from which, with good care, you can get a very picturesque, multi-colored and varied composition in ornamental patterns.
Lithops care at home
Plants that can survive extreme temperatures and water austerity are commonly referred to as hardy. However, the creation of just such conditions for growing is necessary for them – this is their natural habitat, and providing similar home conditions is a necessary task.
The plant loves dry rooms and does not need spraying.
In nature, lithops grow both in open sunny areas and in the passing shade of larger stones. It is acceptable to place them on the southern and western windowsills, direct sunlight will not harm them, as well as slight shading during the day.
Temperature differences are not critical for lithops, however, they need to provide a difference between summer and winter temperature content. In winter, they need to be placed in cool and even almost cold conditions within + 10 … + 12 C, at this time the plant is in the main dormant phase.
Dry conditions are desirable and necessary for succulents. They accumulate a large amount of moisture in their fleshy leaves and do not need frequent replenishment of these reserves. Waterlogging the soil can easily lead to rotting. In hot weather, you need to monitor the condition of the leaves – the lack of moisture will immediately affect their appearance.
Watering is recommended to be done by lower access, placing the bottom of the container in a pan with water and ensuring the subsequent unhindered outflow of excess moisture. It is necessary to ensure that water in no case gets into the crevice between the leaves.
Sometimes a flower needs to mimic the rainy season. To do this, lithops are literally poured with water, but this should be done once and very rarely.
The fact that it is necessary to increase the frequency of watering will be indicated by a compressed, unopened gap.
It is easiest and best to purchase a ready-made soil mixture for succulents and cactus, since it is quite difficult to prepare the soil yourself. It must be composed of leafy earth with the addition of brick chips, turf, coarse, preferably quartz sand and clay. At the bottom of the tank, it is necessary to equip the drainage layer.
Proper fertilization is one of the most important tasks in the care of lithops. It should be borne in mind that the plant absorbs nutrients from the soil very slowly, so they need to be applied little by little and quite rarely. Ready-made compositions for succulents and cacti are recommended.
Winter care for lithops
A feature of the plant is that during the dormant period it is immersed twice a year. The beginning of the change of leaf plates testifies to the onset of the first. In order to shed old leaves, the succulent slow down its vital activity for about a month. The second dormant period occurs after flowering ends in late autumn. At this time, an extension of nutrition occurs, which should be helped by a reduction in watering and the exclusion of top dressing.
Important! Over-watering can delay the shedding of old leaves. They are saturated with moisture and will not die off in a timely manner, which will significantly worsen the overall appearance of the composition.
Reproduction of lithops
Growing lithops at home is available both from seeds and with the help of side layers.
How to grow lithops from seeds?
Sowing is done in March on a substrate similar to growing adult specimens. The soil is pre-filled with boiling water and loosened well. Pre-soaking the seeds overnight is required. They should be planted wet, without drying, otherwise, the seedlings will not be friendly. Deepening is not required, the container is covered with a film on top and placed in a warm room. Sprouts will appear in about 10 days. From this point on, it is necessary to exclude drafts. It will be possible to transplant lithops as soon as they reach a size of 1 cm.
Pots for planting lithops should be low, but have a large diameter.
How to plant lithops with child shoots?
In most cases, side shoots are not required, as the plant must grow in a wide container in groups. Planting lithops one by one in a pot is not recommended, these are group plants, they do not develop well alone and do not bloom. But, if necessary, children can be transplanted in the spring after the end of the dormant phase immediately to a permanent place, handling their emerging root system as carefully as possible. The first time after this, shading and more frequent watering than usual will be required.