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Growing Lithops PDF Print E-mail

Lithops

Lithops are some of the most sought after succulent plants and with good reason. These remarkable little plants are native to quite a small area in South African - Namaqualand. Here they grow in very dry desert areas with the stems buried in the stony dry earth and only the tips of the stems being visible.

Most of them have intricately patterned tips to the leaves which make them look like stones - hence the common name of living stones. There is another good reason for growing lithops, they have large daisy like flowers appearing from between the two leaf tips.

This is Lithops Lesliei - Pietersburg Form
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Growing Requirements

Temperature

The habitat where Lithops come from is very dry and hot so it's this needs to be reproduced if you want to successfully grow lithops. Keep at a temperature of 25C - 35C during the summer and not less than 10C during the winter, you can keep them cooler so long as they have plenty of light and the compost is kept dry but they will not withstand frost.

Pot Type

Lithops are best grown in a terracotta type bowl or pots and look great if grown in clumps surrounded by real stones and pebbles.

The pot should have at least one drainage hole in the base and it should be unglazed.

This type of pot allows good drainage and allows the compost (therefor roots) to breath.

This is Lithops Marmorata
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Lithops Marmorata

Compost

Lithops prefer an open and free draining but rich compost which should consist of:

  • 1 part John Innes no. 2 compost
  • 1 part peat or coir based compost
  • 1 part sharp sand or grit
  • 1 part broken crock pieces (small)

Watering

The plants should be kept almost completely dry during the winter months, only water them to prevent the roots from completely drying out, once a month should be fine. From March onwards the plant will begin to grow and watering should be increased gradually until late May when the plant should be in full growth. As the compost is very free draining and the pot used is porous you can safely water this type of cactus at least once a week during the summer so long as the plant pot is allowed to drain and not sit in a tray of water.

Lithops Karasmontana

During hot weather you may need to water the plants once a day so long as the plant is actively growing.

From late September watering should be reduced to force the plant to go in to a state of semi dormancy, by November you should be back in to the winter watering regime.

This is Lithops Karasmontana
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Lighting

Grow most species of Lithops in full sun during the summer and winter avoiding only the harshest summer sun, if kept too dark they may become overly lush and could be prone to rotting due to over watering, they will also be shy to produce flowers.

Feeding

If the compost is fresh then feeding may not be necessary at all, if the plant hasn't been repotted recently then half strength general purpose fertilizer can be used at watering time from May onwards once a month. Do not feed the plants from September onwards as this can cause lush growth which can be fatal during the darker cool months.

Repotting

Repotting should be done every other year or every three years, annual potting is not necessary. Remove the plant from its put by wrapping newspaper around the stem if it is very spiny. Carefully tap it out of the pot and remove the old compost to examine the roots, if any are damaged or showing signs of rotting they should be removed as close to the plant as possible.Re plant the cactus using the same mix of compost as it was originally in (fresh) and use a pot just slightly wider then the width of the cactus. Do not be tempted to over pot as this will cause the unused compost to go stagnant and you may loose the plant.

Propagation

See propagation section for seed sowing and cuttings.



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