The Lithops, also called cactus desert stone or living stones , are actually all kinds of succulents with more than 100 species to its credit. They are native to southern Africa, and are very popular in gardening for their unique appearance, which makes them look like stones when they do not have a flower.
We are going to see the care of the stone cactus or lithops with a practical guide, full of tips and photos.
Characteristics of the stone cactus or lithops
As we have already mentioned, stone cacti are a whole genus , but all their species share their main characteristics. They are plants with a conical body with a flat surface, and they have only two leaves joined at their base, with a fissure between the two that is where the new leaves appear, which will replace the previous ones, and the flower. Their colors can vary quite a bit, and they range from green to pinkish, like that of Lithops karasmontana , or the orange of Lithops lesliei . When speaking of stone cacti, the Pleiospilos are sometimes also included, which is a related genus and shares their appearance of living stones , although they are distinguishable from lithops by their greater number of leaves.
Stone cacti are very hardy plants that are adapted to the hot and dry climates of their natural habitat, and are commonly used as both indoor and outdoor plants. When they bloom in the fall , they produce a single, nocturnal, daisy-shaped flower so large that it almost completely conceals the rest of the plant.
Stone cactus or lithops care – practical guide
These are the basic cares of the stone cactus or lithops , with which you will get it to grow healthy and come to flower in a while.
Light and location
As desert plants that they are, lithops need a lot of natural light and can even be exposed to full sun at temperatures not exceeding 35ºC. However, these succulents do not bear the cold well, and should never be exposed to temperatures below 10ºC. The cold is one of the great enemies of the stone cactus, and if it is exposed to frost or very low temperatures, it is most likely that the plant will not be able to survive.
Lithops require very little water, and in fact overwatering is one of their main threats. You should water them once every ten days in spring and summer, reduce watering in fall, and not water at all throughout winter, when the plant is less active. In addition, it is important that the pot plate never accumulates water, so if there is water left in it after watering, remove it immediately. This is very important because excess moisture can cause rotting of the roots of this plant with remarkable ease.
This is a strong plant and very adapted to arid lands, so it usually does not require compost in its soil. A universal substrate or for succulent plants will be more than enough in the vast majority of cases.
It is recommended to transplant stone cacti every three years and not before, since the growth of this plant is not excessive. Transplantation should be carried out in spring.
How to make a stone cactus bloom
Cacti in general are very slow-growing plants, so it is common for them to take several years to give their first flower . However, if you have had your lithops for three years or more or it has never flowered yet, check that you are providing everything it needs to be in optimal condition . The most important points here are that it receives enough sunlight and that it is kept at a suitable temperature, even in winter.
If your stone cactus does not bloom, it is probably because it is in a not very sunny location or because the temperature is lower than recommended, either throughout the year or only in the cold season. Remember also that watering is important in spring and summer, but under no circumstances should you allow the substrate to flood.
How is the flower of a stone cactus
Each lithops produces a single large flower that usually appears in autumn. They are daisy-shaped flowers, white or bright yellow , that grow to completely cover the plant and give off a soft and pleasant perfume.
To finish, we leave you a photo gallery of stone cacti or lithops with and without flowers , so you can see the great variety there is.