Lithops: Living Stones: Information & Buy Seeds, Plants Online

Lithops: The Living Stone

Lithops is a world famous small succulent perennial native to southern Africa, there are 70-80 different varieties. Lithops are all Tetragonia genus plants. In ancient Greek, "lithos" means stone and "-ops" mean face, so it has the under meaning of "stone-face", a vivid description of these plants. The shape and color of them resemble pebbles, therefore they are also known as "living stones", "stone flowers:, "pebbles plants", etc. Some varieties have surface colors that are pretty similar to the surrounding pebbles or rocks, and can be quite difficult to tell them apart if it's not in the flowering stage. Commonly cultivated varieties are Lithops aucampiae, Lithops eberlanzii, Lithops bella, and some others.

Lithops Seed Capsule
Lithops Seed Capsule
Lithops hookeri Seeds
Lithops hookeri Seeds
A "Mimicry" Plant
A "Mimicry" Plant
Lithops Salicola
Lithops Salicola

Lithops: A Mimicry Plant

Lithops plants are native to the extremely dry gravel desert areas in southern Africa. Through long-term evolution, their shapes and colors have become strikingly similar to their growing environment, a perfect way to protect themselves from being discovered and eaten or damaged by the enemies, therefore they are also called mimicry plants. Each species is associated with one particular type of rock formation and occurs nowhere else. Their body contains lots of sponge-like cells that can store large amount of water, which gives them amazing drought-combat abilities. They rely on these water-filled cells to sustain their life after lacking of water supplement from the nature for a long time. Unlike majority of plants with large and thin leaves, a lithops we normally see is just a pair of leaves, which is a perversion (metamorphosis) of the leaf organs. The slit between the leaves contains the meristem and produces flowers and new leaves. Chlorophyll is hidden inside the deformed hypertrophy lobe. The leaves of Lithops are mostly buried below the surface of the soil. A partially or completely translucent top surface or window is the only passage for the sun light to enter the interior of the leaves for photosynthesis, a type of optical system exists for the layer of apical tissue rich in calcium oxalate crystals acts as a filter to intense sunlight before it reaches the thin layer of chlorophyllous below.

Flowering Lithops Plant

Yellow Flower Emerge between Leaves in Autumn
Yellow Flower Emerge between Leaves in Autumn
L. Aucampiae
L. Aucampiae

Lithops: Growing Habit

Lithops originated from southern Africa, prefer warm, dry and sunny environment, and fear low temperature, strong light, heat, and wet. They adapt well in fertile leaf mold or peat soil. Temperature should not be lower than 54 degrees in winter. The shape is oval, 2-3cm in height. The leaves are mostly not green, but various shades of cream, gray, and brown, patterned with darker windowed areas, dots, and red lines.

Lithops are commonly propagated by seeding or cutting. Indoor pot sowing method is used during April and May. Optimal temperature for germination is 64-72 degrees, they germinate 7 to 10 days after sowing. Since the seedlings are only the size of soybeans and growing is very slow, so prudent care is required during this critical time. It takes 2-3 years for them to blossom. Though seeds are small and care for the seedlings is up to some challenge, seedlings have pretty strong tolerance in suitable environment and temperature, so they are relatively easy to grow if given sufficient sun and a suitable well drained-soil.

Conservation for Lithops seedlings is up for some challenge, since they adapt well to warmth in winter and cool climate in summer. During winter a new leaf pair, or occasionally more than one, emerge inside the existing fused leaf pair. In March-April every year, new spherical leaves begin to grow, old leaves gradually shrink and dry up. During entire summer, the new leaves grow thicker and thicker, and always maintain a pair. The plant needs plenty of water in the long run, but cannot be watered too much. Continue fertilization once every two weeks till after yellow or white flowers emerge once the new leaf pair has fully matured in autumn. Flowering can also occur before the summer equinox in Lithops pseudotruncatella and after the winter equinox in Lithops. optica. The flowers are often sweetly scented. It's best to put Lithops in sunny places indoors during winter, low temperature and long-term shading is not good for growth of the leaf pair.

Lithop Optica var Rubra
Lithop Optica var Rubra
Pink Lithops
Pink Lithops
Lithops Lesliei var. Venteri
Lithops Lesliei var. Venteri
Lithops seijyu
Lithops seijyu
Lithops julii (aka fulleri)
Lithops julii (aka fulleri)

Books about Lithops Plants

Cultivation: Planting & Growing Lithops

Soil Preparation: Should be loose with good breathability and drainage, low humus, high gravel content, the way is to simulate the origin of the soil. Proposed basic ratio: 30% of coarse sand, 20% peat or general flower soil, 20% slag (small lava gravel or pebbles are good), 30% coarse vermiculite. These components seem complicated, but they are essential for growing succulents. Thoroughly mixing the culture soil before use, 10 minutes of fumigation in the pot with boiling water is recommended; or disinfect the soil twice in microwavable container, 3 minutes each time. Disinfection of soil is very important for planting of succulents.

Planters: Planters made of clay, ceramic, fiberglass, and plastic are all acceptable. The only difference is the watering frequency for each type. Clay pots need more watering than other types since they tend to retain water more than a clay pot, therefore clay pot in general is the best due to its ability to release water faster. With proper type of soil, your Lithop will probably be okay in a plastic pot. Suggesting to use shallow pots for planting, no more than 5 - 10cm in height, with more large holes on bottom. Clean pot before planting, have it sterilized along with culture soil.

Planting Season: Optimum planting time is late August. Right temperature helps a lot in seed germination, seedling growth, and quality of mature plant.

Adding Soil: Soil should be added starting from the bottom in the order of large to small particles; soil surface should be no more than 1cm from the edge (to fully expose seedlings to the sunlight); surface soil needs to be the finest (less than 1mm in diameter). After all is done, compact the soil slightly with hand.

Planting Seeds: Fully submerge the pot in water to let water run through till the soil surface becomes moist. Simply point each seed on the surface, and make sure distance between seeds is no less than 1cm, thus to avoid crowding which can potentially produce taller plant type. Make sure every single seed has full access to the wet soil surface. After planting the seeds, it is recommended to carefully sprinkle a thin layer of gravel (preferably white) that is 3 - 5mm in diameter. It is also a good idea to cover pots with thin clear material like plastic food wrap thus to maximize the intensity of ultraviolet light to prevent seed molding while increasing humidity.

Care for Germination: Place pots in a sunny place for germination. Germination time for fresh seeds is 4 - 7 days while old seeds are around 10 days. Germination rate and uniformity of old seeds are not as good as fresh seeds. After germination occurs, gradually remove the plastic cover, let the seedlings grow in a sunny and well ventilated area. Keep pots partially moist and partially dry. Use soaking method for watering.

Seasonal Care: In mild climates, keep your Lithop completely dry during winter, water only when the old leaves have dried up and being replaced by a new leaf pair. Continue watering through autumn during flowering and then stop for winter. Greenhouse produces best results for it gives additional heat. In hotter climates Lithops will have a summer dormancy when they should be kept mostly dry, and they may require some water in winter. In tropical climates, Lithops can be grown primarily in winter with a long summer dormancy. Overall, Lithops are most active and need most water during autumn, all species flower at approximately the same time.

Lithop Seed Capsule Opening

Lithops Seeds

Lithops are obligate out-crossing plants and require pollination from a separate plant. A capsulized seed pod will form after successful pollination. The pod is pentagon flower shaped and will gradually dry to brown color. It closes when dry and opens once it gets wet (even by a water droplet). It opens out like a flower to release some of its seeds. So in nature a seed pod releases seeds when it rains and may retain seeds for few years if there is no rain present, therefore some seeds are saved for future rainy periods. This natural behavior increases Lithop's survivability of future generations.

Specific Epithet (Species)
Meaning
amicorum
of the friends
aucampiae
named after Juanita Aucamp
bromfieldii
named after H. Bromfield
coleorum
named after Desmond & Naureen Cole
comptonii
named after Prof. Harold Compton
dinteri
named after Moritz Kurt Dinter
divergens
divergent lobes
dorotheae
named after Dorothea Huyssteen
francisci
named after Frantz de Laet
fulviceps (aka lydiae)
tawny head
gesineae
named after Gesine de Boer
geyeri
named after Dr. Albertus Geyer
gracilidelineata
thin lined
hallii (aka salicola var. reticulata)
named after Harry Hall
helmutii
named after Helmut Meyer
hermetica
named after the location 'hermetically sealed', Sperrgebiet
herrei
named after Adolar 'Hans' Herre
hookeri (aka dabneri, marginata, turbiniformis var. lutea)
named after Sir Joseph Hooker
julii (aka fulleri)
named after Dr. Julius Derenberg
karasmontana
named after the Karas Mountains
lesliei
named after T. N. Leslie
localis (aka terricolor, peersii)
of a place
marmorata
marbled
meyeri
named after Rev. Gottlieb Meyer
naureeniae
named after Naureen Cole
olivacea
olive-green
optica (aka rubra)
eye-like
otzeniana
named after M. Otzen
pseudotruncatella
had been confused with Conophytum truncatum (aka Mesembryanthemum truncatellum)
ruschiorum
named after Rusch family
salicola
salt-dweller
schwantesii
named after Gustav Schwantes
vallis-mariae
named after the location Mariental (Latinised)
verruculosa
warty
villetii (aka deboeri)
named after Dr. C. T. Villet
viridis
green
werneri
named after Werner Triebner
Different Lithop's Species and Their Specific Meaning

Lithop Plant Flowering

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