Last Updated on November 20, 2021 by Sophie
One of the more unusual of the mesembs is that of the Lithops, which is also often referred to as the ‘living stone’ or ‘flowering stone’ on account of its downright strange appearance. The succulent is also sometimes nicknamed ‘cattle hoof’, ‘sheep hoof’ and ‘horse’s hoof’.
Rather tricky to care for and keep healthy, Lithops certainly isn’t a plant for beginners! However, if you love these unique looking succulents as much as I do, then here’s a complete Lithops care guide, including substrate advice and how to water this quirky plant.
Editor’s note: While I personally love this plant for its weird and alien-like appearance, this plant is not ideal for those who enjoy caring for their plants and watching them grow. After all, the plant rarely needs watering (more on this below) and grows at a very slow pace.
If you’re looking for a slightly easier to care for mesemb, then I recommend the split rock, which while still fairly difficult to care for, definitely won’t provide as much stress as that of the Lithops. Before we delve into care requirements, it’s important to learn about how exactly the Lithops grows.
Often admired for their strange shapes, Lithops plants are formed of one set of plump leaves and a long tap root. Each year, much like the split rock succulent, the plant will grow a new set of leaves by bursting forth out of the old set, which in turn will wither away. Provided that the succulent is given the right conditions, it will produce yellow or white flowers in the late summer or autumn which are similar in appearance to those of daisies.
Lithops Plant Care & Watering Guide
Best watering conditions for your Lithops
Due to the large lack of pests and problems with the Lithops, the cause of plant decline for moth Lithops growers is that of rot. This is caused by overwatering. If a Lithops is over-watered, it will swell and, as a result of water retention, the plant will eventually rot, from which it will likely never recover from.
As a general rule of thumb, I personally water my Lithops plant just twice a year (and live in Northern Europe)! Chance are, if you haven’t watered your plant and think it’s time to water, it probably isn’t. These are plants that can go for many months without a drink and so I’ll water my plant once in the spring and then again in the autumn… And that’s it!
When watering your mesemb, be sure to fully submerge it in water and soak thoroughly. Then place it straight away back to its bright position in your home where you can carry on admiring it until it needs water once more.
The Lithops should never be watered during the winter and should only be watered when the leaves begin to wrinkle. When the leaves are splitting, the Living Stone should also not be watered.
Best soil conditions for your Lithops
Mesembs need incredibly well draining soil and will not do well in organic rich substrate, which will encourage water retention and could cause your succulent to rot. I typically use a cactus mix and then add further small stones and sand so that the substrate is even better draining than some of my other succulents plants.
Best light conditions for your Living Rock
As with many succulent plants, the Flowering Rock succulent does best in direct, bright sunlight. I personally place mine on a South facing windowsill, where it receives lots of sun throughout the day and year. Whereas a lot of succulent plants will tolerate lower light conditions (such as the sansevieria), Lithops simply will not.
If the succulents don’t receive enough light, then they will wither and wilt, and likely not recover. My personal recommendation would be that, if you cannot provide adequate bright lighting conditions for this plant, do not purchase it and instead opt for a succulent which will thrive and love your home.
How to propagate Lithops Living Stone Succulent
Due to the fact that the Lithops is incredibly slow growing, it is incredibly rare for it to produce new plants by division, and this process will typically take years. Instead, the easiest way to grow new plants is to grow Lithops from seed (though, this too, will likely take months if not years).