Lithops are a group of desert succulents from the Aizoacae family, related to Pigface and Iceplant. These plants grow in incredibly harsh conditions in the wild, often in fully exposed, stony sites with poor or skeletal soils. The plant retains only a single pair of leaves, often with just the upper surface protruding above the ground. The genus is found in the southern regions of Africa, often in areas with less than 500mL of rainfall each year. This rainfall occurs mainly in the spring and autumn, which is important to note when growing these plants. Watering too much or at the wrong time of year can quickly rot these plants. Therefore, it is recommended that Lithops are kept in a position protected from the rain.
There are at least 35 species of Lithops, so growing conditions will vary somewhat. However, most Lithops can be kept successfully with the following watering pattern.
Winter: Plant is dormant. Withhold water.
Spring: Once new leaves emerge, resume watering.
Summer: Plant is dormant. Water minimally, just enough to keep the plant from shriveling.
Autumn: Resume watering when dormancy ends (flowering time).
Note: this is the basic pattern for Lithops around Brisbane. Some species may be more sensitive and vulnerable to over- or under-watering. As an alternative point-of-view around watering Lithops, we know of at least one Queensland supplier that waters their Lithops every week, all year round, using overhead irrigation. In other words, they can be reasonably adaptable plants if other growing conditions are perfect i.e. light, potting mix, temperature, etc.
One other factor that gets neglected in Lithops care is sun. These plants NEED the sun! At least a few hours of direct sun or very bright filtered light everyday is required for good growth and colour. Lithops can be grown indoors on a sunny windowsill, as long as they get enough sun.
Tricky to care for. Needs direct sun or very bright light for best results, with protection from rain and frost. See above.
Very unusual hoof-shaped form