Stone me, this could be the easiest housplant to care for... ever
COMMONLY known as pebble plants, or living stones, lithops have a stony camouflage to avoid predation from passing grazing animals in their native South Africa and Namibia. They grow in very open, exposed rocky plains and have adapted to survive drought with a swollen pair of leaves that store water.
As houseplants, they look fantastic, like multi-coloured living stones that can produce daisy-like flowers and each variety is as easy to care for as any other. ALEX HANKEY, trials team leader at RHS Garden Wisley (rhs.org.uk/gardens/ wisley) is a collector and his personal favourites are Lithops dorotheae and
Lithops otzeniana, as they have incredible patterning on their leaves. In the UK, they flower in late summer and early autumn (September-October).
Alex advises: “They should be grown in very free-draining, loam-based media, including plenty of added sand and grit. They don’t require a fertile soil.”
“Don’t water from October through to April, as this will encourage rotting. During the winter months they will be slowly growing a new pair of leaves that will push through the centre of the old leaves,” explains Alex.
“Don’t make the mistake of thinking the plant needs watering as the leaves get older and wither. Watering thoroughly monthly in spring and summer is enough.
“When wet, the seed capsule slowly unfurls forming a star shape, which then allows the seed to be splashed out of the capsule by rain droplets.”
“They are cold tolerant (down to 2-3°C), but not frost hardy,” notes Alex, “and require a very sunny location, as they will stretch to the light if it is too shady. Rotating every week will prevent this.”
“They can be displayed individually in terracotta pots with a top dressing of grit,” suggests Alex.
“Alternatively, many varieties can be grown in a large pan or trough and rocks/ stones carefully positioned to make your display look naturalistic.”
lithops – between a rock and a hard place