In My Garden – Lithops

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This week it is more a case of On My Windowsill.

Lithops,a genus of succulent plants in the ice plant family Aizoaceae, are native to southern Africa. They are commonly know as stone plants or living stones. Lithops were discovered in 1811 by botanist  John Burchell when he picked up what he thought was a ‘curiously shaped pebble’. They range in colour from gray, brown and rust to green and pink, with a variety of markings giving the stone-like appearance.  As with snowflakes, no two Lithops are identical.

Although commonly known in English as living stones, they are known by a variety of other names in Africa – in Afrikaans beeskloutjies or ‘cattle hoof’ and skaappootjies or ‘sheep hoof’,  and in Namibia they are sometimes known as ombuma yombwa or ‘dog testicles’.

Lithops are usually viewed from above and are oval in shape with a fissure across the middle, the two halves are the leaves. Lithops produce a single daisy-like blossom which lasts three to five days in late summer or early autumn in southern Australia. The blossom opens in the afternoon and closes again at night. After the blossom dies the plant appears dormant. The old leaves become soft and begin to shrivel  causing the fissure to slowly widen. As the new head gradually emerges through the fissure, the old leaves are pushed apart and shrivel to become a dry collar around the base of the plant. When they are completely dry they either fall off or can be carefully removed.

Lithops should not be overwatered. During spring and summer they should be given a light watering about once a month when the plant shows signs of wrinkling, and the soil should always be allowed to dry out between waterings. Lithops will rot if their roots remain wet for more than a few days. Once the plant has blossomed watering should cease. Through winter, the plant draws all its moisture from the old leaves. It can begin again in spring when the old leaves have completely shrivelled and new leaves have emerged.

Lithops

I have only been growing lithops for a few years and am still trying to gauge the correct level of watering. This year is the first time one of my lithops has bloomed although the plants have produced new leaves each year.

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