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Lithops

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Lithops

Name

Commonly known as living stones because they adopt similar features, in terms of shape, size and colour, to the pebbles found in their natural habitat. Lithops is taken from the Greek words 'lithos' for stones and 'ops' for like.

Description

They are succulents of 2"-4" (5-10cm) in diameter and they grow almost completely embedded in the soil, exposing only their "body", a pair of thick and semi-circular succulent leaves fused together. It grows a single, daisy-like flowers from its fissure or slit. After flowering and seeding the body then breaks open a new set of fleshy leaves. Because there is a bewildering array of colours and patterns, collecting lithops can become a hobby.

Origin

S. Africa, Namibia

Family

Mesembryanthemaceae (Aizoaceae)

Varieties

There are about 200 varieties and cultivars.

Care tips

Because they come from conditions of extreme heat and drought, they can tolerate very high temperatures as long there is good ventilation. They need plenty of sunlight and they have a yearly cycle of growth. Sometimes this is from autumn through to winter and spring.

When they begin to go dormant they require little or no water. The first sign of growth is when the slit between the leaves starts to separate to allow a bud to emerge and flower. It is important not to take out the old leaves while the body is still growing, as it gets its water and nutrient from them. Only remove when they have shrivelled into thin papery shells.

Use well drained soil and bigger and deeper pots with drain holes to accommodate their big roots. They are very slow growers and they usually flower, provided they have the right conditions when they are three to five years old.

As they get older, they increase in size by division and some plants can have as many as ten bodies but these take many years to grow.