Originally native to southern Africa, the Lithops is a type of succulent found in the ice plant family known as Aizoaceae. Also known as the "living stone" or "flowering stone" due to its resemblance to small stones in their native environment, these plants are relatively low-maintenance and therefore popularly cultivated as house plants. Like any living thing, understanding the environmental requirements for Lithops as well as its basic life cycle, needs, and dangers is critical for anyone who wishes to maintain these unique and beautiful house plants.
Making a home for Lithops
Proper care of Lithops starts with setting the stage for success. In this respect, it is critical for users to create an environment that is ideal for the plant's health. This means considering factors such as soil, space, as well as the overall environment in which the plant lives.
While advanced horticulturalists and Lithops enthusiasts often develop their own "ideal" soil mix, there are some basic rules and guidelines about the composition of soil needed for healthy Lithops plants. Namely, it should resemble the conditions of their native habitat with extensive draining abilities and low organic matter content.
Drainage is perhaps the most important consideration because, as a succulent, the Lithops plant is not accustomed to high soil moisture content. Mostly mineral-based, ideal Lithops soil may include elements such as coconut fibre, river sand, pumice, perlite, decomposed granite, and vacuumed compost.
Choosing a pot
The pot for Lithops is an equally important consideration when it comes to successful care. Like the soil composition, a good Lithops pot must make drainage a priority. Other than that, both plastic and clay planting pots are acceptable homes for Lithops. In terms of size, a basic rule of thumb is to start with 12 cm by 12 cm by 12 cm of space for each Lithops plant, which allows adequate room for root growth as the plant matures.
Where a Lithops plant is placed within a person's home is critical to its survival. In the natural world, this plant receives a lot of sunlight, ideally a minimum of five hours per day. On the other hand, too much direct sunlight may damage Lithops, so plants placed in a sunnier environment require a 20 to 40 per cent shade factor added.
Another important environmental consideration for Lithops is ventilation. Adequate airflow is necessary to both maintain soil temperature as well as reduce humidity, since Lithops naturally grows in an arid region. For this reason, outside of environments that resemble southern Africa, Lithops should not be planted outdoors.
Understanding the Lithops life cycle
After setting the stage for success, the proper care of Lithops depends on understanding its needs as they relate to its life cycle. This includes food and water requirements, as well as potential dangers.
The arid region of southern Africa is prone to months of drought and, as such, Lithops has adapted to these conditions. Watering Lithops too much or too often stunts its growth and, ultimately, kills the plant. Different varieties of Lithops have different adaptation patterns unique to their natural habitat, which may or may not consist of some rain on a year-round basis. Soil concentration and drainage also play a role in the exact amount of water each Lithops needs during various periods of the year.
During the summer months, precipitation such as rain can be more abundant. Because of this, watering Lithops once every two weeks is acceptable at this time of year. During the winter, however, the goal is to water the plant just enough to keep the root hairs alive. This amounts to very little water, usually just enough to get the dust off the plant.
Another important care factor for Lithops is common pests. The most common enemy of Lithops is the mealybug, which feeds on its sap. This particular pest likes a warm, moist environment, making greenhouses particularly vulnerable. Other common enemies include caterpillars, crickets, and rodents.
How to buy Lithops care supplies on eBay
Shopping on eBay is a great way to find all the supplies you need to care for your Lithops. The abundant inventory includes pots, soil elements, and other indoor planting supplies that are easy to search from any page of the site via the main search bar. Simply type in the item you need and then use the available filters to narrow your selection by factors such as price and location. It may also be possible to find bundles of items for indoor plant care, which saves time and money.