Whether you call them lithops or living stones, they are simultaneously the easiest and the hardest succulent to care for. These plants are native in very arid regions, some receiving less than 4 inches of rain annually. Watering the lithops is the most essential care – and one part that most gardeners go wrong.
While all the succulents are adapted to storing water in their leaves, none does it so well like the lithops. When it comes to watering, these plants practically demand to be ignored. Lithops tend to fare far better with minor interventions than other plants. They have a very different watering cycle and below are 6 comprehensive and MUST READ rules and guidelines on how to water lithops.
1. Know When Lithops Needs Watering
Lithops can go for months without water. When in doubt, it’s best not to water the plant. When the plant is thirsty, it will always show some signs that show it should be watered. Your lithops will begin to wrinkle or sink in the pot.
Give your plant a light squeeze, and if it is soft, it’s time to water. Lithops grow better during the warm seasons. During the summer, the plant will enter its dormancy, and less growth is taking place. During this time, you are supposed to leave the plant alone. Do not water your lithops during this season.
Sometimes during the dormancy, the leaves start to shrink; give your plant a little drink. During this time, use little water so that just the top inch of the soil is moist. Remember that this plant is good at retaining moisture, and it is self-sufficient when no growth occurs.
During the autumn, the plant starts another growth period, and it may require watering. During this time, water your lithops at most once every two weeks. The plants will begin to bloom at this period, and you’ll know it’s time to start watering again when the leaves begin to separate.
During the winter season, respect your lithops dormancy. Around this time, the old leaves of the plant will start dying, and new ones will begin to grow inside. Watering the plant at this stage could negatively affect the plants’ growth of the fresh leaves. Yes, it feels wrong to give lithops little water, but the plant will thank you for it.
2. Know How Often to Water your Lithops
Lithops grow underground because they don’t have a stem. These help the plant to retain a lot of moisture and do not require frequent watering. Lithops do well in the soak and dry methods like other succulent plants.
When watering lithops, drench the soil and wait until the pot is completely dry before watering again. The plant prefers to be left dry than to be overwatered which is the leading cause of lithops death in many places.
The plants need to be watered more during the autumn and spring. It does not require any water during the winter season. During the warmer climate, watering the plant once every two weeks is ideal. It’s a general thumb rule to follow, but the basic will always be to let the soil dry out first before watering.
3. Water Lithops in a Fast-Draining Soil
Lithops grow well in fast-draining soil. Unlike other succulents, this plant requires a different soil type that will ensure maximum growth takes place. Lithops do well in a medium with very little organic matter but with many rocks. These will ensure that the soil doesn’t remain damp for long when watered.
The optimal growing medium for lithops is coarse sand, perlite, gravel, pumice, or lava rocks. This combination will drain water quickly, leaving a little moisture for the plant. The soil content should be made up of approximately 1/5 soil, and the rest should be minerals.
When slow-draining soil is used for growing lithops plants, root rot starts to take place because soil retains water for a long time. The moist can also lead to the yellowing and muzzling of the leaves of your plant. Those are signs that your lithops are dying from much water. Typically, the potting medium should dry at most in three days.
4. Ensure your Lithops are in a Suitable Pot when Watering Lithops
Lithops prefer deep pots to wide ones. They tend to have a long root system that goes deep into the soil. When watering lithops, ensure that it is in a pot that has many holes at the bottom to drain excess water.
When watering lithops, it is essential you water it until it starts draining from the bottom of the pot. These will create a continuous flow of water; hence water is not retained in the soil for long. A suitable medium of soil should always follow a good pot.
Clay pots are the best pot when it comes to precautions of water retention. The porous material used in making the clay pot draws excess water surrounding the roots to its wall—this helps reduce the moisture content, disastrous to the plant.
5. Stop Watering Lithops after Flowering
You need to remember only to water after the old leaves are dry and stop watering after the flowers begin to die. After flowering, new growth is forming, which comes down to the way lithops utilize water.
When the new plants are forming, the old leaves are the source of nutrients and water for the new plant. During this time, the roots are on pause. When you water the plant, you confuse the plant from using the water from the roots while actively absorbing it from the old leaves. This confusion can engorge the plant.
Again, after the old leaves have dried up, you can now give your lithops a deep watering. Wait until the water completely dries up before embarking on watering. Water it again when signs of wrinkles appear. If a month has passed and you can’t see some signs of wrinkles, and you haven’t watered them, you can moisten the upper layer of the soil.
After a month, with no sign of wrinkles, do not pour a lot of water into the plant. Moistening the top layer gives the roots a bit of moisture. There is a high chance that it is becoming dormant because of the heat and too much water can cause it to swell and split then dies.
6. Mornings represent Best time for Watering Lithops
When you want to water the lithops, especially during hot days, morning hours are the best hours. The temperatures are low, and the plant has enough time to draw enough water from the soil. By avoiding watering in the afternoon, you avoid having hot water seating on the plant, possibly burning the plant.
Watering this plant in the evening may not be a good practice. These may make the plant sit on the moisture for the whole night, attracting bacteria. Watering lithops in the morning gives space for the evaporation of excess water for the soil. Do not overwater the plant.
Lithops plant prefers less water. The leaves of the lithops are buffy because they store enough water for the plant. This rule is essential because many novice gardeners tend to overwater the plant, thinking they are helping the plant.
Signs of an underwatered lithops are the same as that of an overwatered one. Some of the common symptoms of overwatered lithops include yellow leaves, mushy stems, and rotting of the roots; brown spots on the lithops.
The two leaves may end up splitting or even notice the absence of the roots!! To save a lithops that has been overwatered, you need first to understand the problem.
Since overwatering is the most common cause of the death of this plant, let us look at how to save the plant from dying. I hope after it recovers you will follow the rules above well.
Steps to save overwatered lithops
- Remove the overwatered lithops from the pot
- Identify all the damaged roots and cut them out with a sharp knife
- Wash the remaining leaves in running water to remove the soil
- Using a proper disinfectant, disinfect the healthy part of the root system
- Using a new pot and new potting soil, repot the plant
- Use adequate watering habits moving forward to prevent future root rot
Watering is the most essential part of caring for your lithops plant. When you follow the above rules correctly and keenly, the plant will flower during its time, and you will have it around you for a long time. Ensure you know when to water your plant and do it with the right amount of water and in the right soil content.
Before buying the plant for your garden, ensure that you have suitable potting soil and a proper pot that will drain the water well. Do not water the plant immediately until the shock period of the plant is over. With just a few lithops, you can get your seeds and increase your garden. Because they are tough, lithops are ideal for houseplants.