I got a lithop on my birthday as present and was so happy! My first Lithops! When I paid attention to it, I saw the lithop looked wrinkle and dry. Hmm.. it is not supposed to look like this. I know it because I saw a lot of Lithops photos before lol. They are small plump thing looking like a rock. I felt like something was wrong with this one and I did some research to find more about this plant. I know this plant is similar to succulent in term of can’t water too often, so I was only making sure I didn’t do anything wrong to it (or even worst, killed it..).
There are A LOT of blogs and vlogs about this little guy and the information are overwhelming. Some of them are contradictory and some people didn’t really explain the detail about how to care for this plant. I spent one day (on and off) reading and listening to all those, while doing my job ( I did it when I was on train/bus commuting from one place to another for my work ). And finally the next day, I found something that seem make sense. All of those information need to be stored somewhere in case I forgot about it, so here we go! I’m gonna put it here and maybe can help someone else too who is wondering on how to take care of Lithops. Disclaimer : I’m a first time Lithop owner, so the info here might be inaccurate, BUT I will always update my findings and results to see which one works for them.
1. You got your Lithops, what to do?
Always check for the roots for newly bought plant (or if you got it as present like me). It’s good to see the root’s condition and also the kind of soil used in the pot. Pour out all of the soil and if some soil stuck to the root, clean it under running water. Gently remove the soil. Check the root. Healthy root should be white and firm when touched. Red and mushy root is bad. We need to trim that and wash the root. Be gentle. Let them dry up before repotting them. It can be within a day or even for a couple of days depending on the weather condition at your area.
2. Soil and Pot
Lithop needs a well-drained soil and pot. Make sure the pot has a drainage hole. Use a deep pot, minimum 3 inches deep for Lithops as they have a very long tap roots. I’m using a 3-inch terracotta pot. For the soil, I use the mix of pumice and akadama soil. If you want to use cactus soil, use at most 10% of the total, and use perlite/pumice for the 90%. Do NOT use organic soil, such as peat mossm as it can hold moisture for too long and Lithops hate that. It can cause root to rot.
They like bright location both with direct or indirect sunlight. Four to Six hours of direct morning sunlight is ideal. Move them to location with indirect sunlight in the afternoon as they can get sunburn if get hit by direct sunlight at that time of the day. If you are forgetful or too busy to move them around, just place them in location that is bright with indirect sunlight, and they will be happy. Lithops hate shades, location with not enough light. They will try to reach for light by elongate their body. If the light condition doesn’t improved after some time, they can die ( I know… I was also shocked when I read this in a blog, died due to lack of light ). I have a south-facing balcony, so I placed him there. There won’t be any direct sunlight but at least the location will be very bright most of the time.
When I read about Lithops, this is the most important factor that I need to master. Most people killed their Lithops due to overwatering, so I was so scared to do it. I need to find something that is helpful enough for me to tell whether it is the correct time to water them. And, I found out about they have different stages as well! How am I supposed to know on which stage they are in? Lol. I also read the general rule of watering which are “when you have doubt whether to watering or not, do not watering them” and “only watering when the soil is completely dry”. The problem is they also can’t be left out underwatered too long or they will die. So how to tell they if they are thirsty other than checking the soil? Because on some stages of their life, we can’t water them as well even though the soil is dry. Confusing, right? It was, until I found out about the trick , tried it and it worked (so far). Let’s get to know about their cycle first, while I will add a note about watering on each phase.
Lithops has several stages in a year so it’s good to know on which stage they are in. If you are in northern hemisphere, water them on spring and fall season. During summer (or the hottest time of the year or your region), they go into dormant. Therefore, they don’t need water. If during summer they wrinkle, give just a little bit of water just to plump the leaves back to normal. Then how about me who lives in Singapore? We don’t have 4 seasons here. Only dry season dan rainy season. I read on one of the blogs rainy season is the time for Lithops to grow so let’s see.. Next, when they split to have a flower, you can water them. Make sure the soil dry before watering again. Then stop watering when the flower has wilted. They will grow a new leaves by using the water retained on current leaves. When the old leaves has become very dried and easy to remove, you can water them.
How to water them? Some people do the bottom watering. Dip the pot in water for a few minutes and that’s it. Or, what I always do with my succulents, water them until the water is coming out of the drainage hole (soak and dry method). They will store up that water and use it for the next couple weeks (or even months).
In summary, here we go :
- Dormant phase : when nothing is happening –> Water only if you see wrinkle on Lithops, or if they have flattened down. How much water to give depends on how much wrinkle on their body.
- Flower phase : when they split to have flower (usually on Lithops older than 3 years old) –> Water them. Make sure the soil is completely dry before you water them again.
- Flower wilted –> Do not water. Wait for next phase.
- Split to grow new leaves –> Do not water. The new leaves will grow by using the water retained on current leaves.
- Old leaves dried up and easy to remove –> Water them. Then wait until they are thirsty by looking at the wrinkles on their leaves/body.
The lithops that I got didn’t seem to start flowering or splitting, and it had a lot of wrinkles which appeared even more in several days. Therefore, I watered him until the water came out of the drainage hole and wait. After about 1-2 days, he revived! He looks plump and healthy even more a couple of days later. I haven’t watered him again since then.
I hope you can get what you need to know about growing Lithops from here, especially if you are living in South East Asia. I’ll update here again if my Lithops has gone to the next phase. Right now, it still doing nothing. I heard they would only grow flower if they were happy. So I guess my mission now is to make it happy 😉
Thank you for reading. Ciao!