Stone me, this could be the eas­i­est hous­plant to care for... ever

Manchester Evening News - - YOUR GARDEN -

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 (­dens/ 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

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