Lovely Lithops!

Who couldn’t love a lithops?  I started growing these last year because they fulfilled my sowing/germination addiction without generating lots of extra plants that would need space in the garden. I’m now just a tiny bit in love with them. The plants are like small, squidgy sea creatures and wouldn’t look out of place in a rock pool, or maybe in some sort of kids animation.  They seem blessed with a personality and I’m sure they have a good natter when I’m not in the room. 

I sowed these in September 2018.  The seed (from Chiltern Seeds) is like dust, and I sowed it into a very sandy, gritty compost and covered in cling film without getting my hopes up.  But three weeks later weeny seedlings in the form of tiny green jelly beans had appeared. 

And that’s about it.  I wouldn’t expect anything that spends its life pretending to be a stone in the desert to be a drama queen but lithops seem to take low maintenance to the extreme. They grow exceedingly slowly, and its not recommended to re-pot them for at least a year, or until they are 1cm across.  They require little water, a sunny windowsill and thrive on benign neglect.  During winter they are dormant so don’t need watering at all, and not more than once a week during summer. 

They rot easily so must be in a very gritty compost, and although they love a sunny windowsill they can get sunburned if too hot. Mine look slightly more elongated than is traditional as I moved them into a dark corner of the room while I went on holiday for fear of scorching and they didn’t like this and grew into odd shapes.

Being a bit of a cult plant means there is an army of dedicated lithops fanatics out there, which is great for a beginner like me looking for advice. I found Terry Smale’s site and the Lithops forum very useful when I finally came round to repotting them this week.  Some of the forums recommend re-potting in cat litter with a high pumice component for good drainage, but I only needed a small amount so went for a 2:1 mix of John Innes No. 2 and horticultural grit.  I also threw in a handful of their original growing compost as I think this makes the plants feel at home in their new mix.

It was a bit of a ‘heart in the mouth’ moment teasing them out of the soil as their roots are very fragile. I also recommend counting them all in and back out as its easy to lose a small one camouflaged in the grit. Some of my ‘stones’ are a little on the small side for re-potting, but a split in the old plastic pot makes it a necessity.  Fingers crossed they survive the trauma of the move and enjoy their new home.

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