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Trying for Lithops -- advice, please!

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Trying for Lithops -- advice, please!

Postby Steve Johnson » Fri Apr 06, 2012 7:01 pm

I've had a long fascination with Lithops, although I gave up trying to cultivate them many years ago. Now thanks to the great info resources here on the forum, I think I'd like to try again, and this time armed with the proper cultivation advice. Before I give it a go, I could use some advice to prepare for what I'll need to do:

1. I just looked at a post Ian was addressing on the matter, and he said that Lithops should have regular waterings in fall and spring, with some watering in summer as long as it's not too hot. My heat waves are short and infrequent, so in the 90-95 degree range. Otherwise, my daytime temps average in the mid 80s over summer, and it sounds like a little watering would be okay as long as I avoid watering in a heat wave. I can keep Lithops dry in winter thanks to an effective rain shelter over my collection. Frosts are almost unheard of in my part of L.A. But not impossible, and if they're vulnerable to any overnight temps in the 30s, I can bring them inside. Do I have that part of it right here?

2. I'm still using cactus mix from the Califorina Cactus Center for certain things. It seems to be fine for my other succulents (all two of them), but on its own the mix gets compacted after repeated waterings. The CCC mix really needs a good amount of pumice added in, and I can tell the difference when the potting medium drains more freely. I think perhaps a 50/50 ratio of CCC mix to pumice should suffice. Any thoughts about whether the ratio should be different?

3. I have a very limited amount of space for my collection, but there's some room left for more plants. I'd be happy with a 5" pot I can allocate for a few Lithops. How many could I fit in the pot? Also, I don't know how extensive their roots are, so should they go into an Azalea or standard pot?

4. The CCC has a nice selection of Lithops on-hand. Is it okay to mix diferent species in the same pot? (As if you didn't already know I'm such a newbie! :) )

Thanks so much for sharing this advice with me, and it would be so nice to have some of these fascinating plants in my collection!
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Re: Trying for Lithops -- advice, please!

Postby iann » Fri Apr 06, 2012 8:57 pm

1. I water all year long, but summers here just can't be described as hot. Lithops can take more cold than most people give them credit for. The hardiest like L. hookeri can easily go to -10C (14F) while the least hardy like L. bromfieldii will start to show damage at about -5C (23F). They must be absolutely dry when they freeze or they won't live through anything like those temperatures.

2. Don't pot Lithops in anything organic. No peat, no composted wood, probably no coir. Some people do and they're fond of telling the rest of the world about it, but I think they're just smug about doing things the hard way ;)

3. Ideally Lithops should be planted in a moderately deep pot. People love to rip them out of the ground, often in the winter when they've lost all their roots, and show off a spindly little taproot and nothing else, but don't be fooled. When you water them that spindly taproot will sprout a network of roots much larger than you'd expect. The robust species have 2-3" of taproot (they won't thrive longterm if someone has stunted the taproot) plus another couple of inches of feeder roots, plus 1-2 inches of buried plant body if you grow them that way. So a 5" deep pot is not too much for a mature plant. Desmond Cole rails against "thimble pots" but then he does grow in South Africa. Smaller species, and especially the western species, have smaller roots and I have a number of flowering-size plants in 2" deep pots, usually with stunted taproots because they didn't have enough depth as seedlings. You could get half a dozen plants in a 5" pot, at least until they clump up. A large multi-headed plant could easily take a whole 5" pot on its own.

4. No, don't do it. Same species maybe, but different species just doesn't work well. Do it for a display if you like but some of them will suffer.
--ian
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Re: Trying for Lithops -- advice, please!

Postby Steve Johnson » Sat Apr 07, 2012 7:05 am

Excellent -- just the advice I was looking for! I'd like to compare a few more notes with you here:

1. Would watering once a month in winter be okay? As I mentioned above, frosts are a rarity where I live. That being the case, Lithops will be fine outside year-round, so I'll just need to avoid watering before a cold snap in the 30s is due to arrive. (Thanks be to weather.com for tracking my local forecasts.)

2. I'm already an enthusiastic convert to DG/pumice, so it sounds like a good fit for Lithops. Since I'm onboard for regular watering with dilute fert, I hope the Dyna-Gro 7-7-7 I'm using for my cacti will be sufficient with Lithops as well. The dilution rate is 1 tsp. of Dyna-Gro per gallon of water. Please advise if the dilution should be different for Lithops.

3. 5" standard pot, check. I had to settle on sealed terra cotta in the absence of the plastic pots I was hoping to find. I'll seal a 5" pot before I introduce the new plants. Should be a good test to see if it minimizes the evaporation and Calcium Bicarbonate buildup problems I'd normally find with unsealed clay.

4. No mixing species, check. However, I need to ask a rather odd follow-up question. Are there Lithops species that remain solitary, or at least don't clump massively? I'm strictly limited on the size I can keep in my collection. If I select a Lithops species that can stay in a 5" pot for a long time, I'd be fine as long as they wouldn't mind being a bit crowded when they clump. However, if the entire Genus is prone letting a single plant take over the pot, I may have to forego the idea of adding Lithops to my collection. (Yeah, kinda sucks that I can't have the whole yard to myself. Tough break when you don't have the wherewithall to be a homeowner. :( )
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Re: Trying for Lithops -- advice, please!

Postby iann » Sat Apr 07, 2012 6:59 pm

1. Water when they need it! Start from a basis of not at all in winter and work from there.

2. When they get fat and soft you'll know they don't need feeding any more. When they stop flowering you'll know you need to feed.

3. Pot to the size of the plants. Don't put a seedling in a 5" pot just because I say so. I have twenty headed plants in 2 3/4" square pots!

4. L. gracilidelineata is almost entirely solitary, occasionally two heads. L. vallis-mariae, L. villetii, and L. naureeniae also don't divide a lot but are not the easiest to keep or even to find. Or just try small species like L. dinteri or L. werneri.
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Re: Trying for Lithops -- advice, please!

Postby Jerry-001 » Thu Apr 12, 2012 7:33 pm

I am no expert on Lithops so take this for what it’s worth. Have you considered growing Lithops from seed? It isn’t that hard using the baggy method. I bought a 2 pack of 100 mixed seeds (they looked more like dust really) and got over 180 to pop up. Unfortunately they got messed up in a wind storm a month or so back so now I only have 30 or so left but it’s kind of cool watching them grow. And the ones that do survive are just right for your area. It’s not a very “collectors” way of doing it as you’ll probably never be able to positively identify the type, but it’s fun and you probably can put 100 seeds into a 5 inch pot using the baggie method and see what comes up.

As for mixing different types into a single pot, I did that in a bonsai dish with round rock and it looks great (only lost one so far). Now that they are growing and splitting it’s creating a little problem (but not a big one). I have read that you don’t water the Lithops in the winter and when new leaves come out. During the winter some withered more than others and needed some water (that’s when I lost one). And now, they are popping out new leaves and as you’ve probably guessed, all at different times. I have tried spot watering the newly emerged plants after the old leaves have dried to a husk and it just doesn’t seem to be working. I have one that now has two sets of leaves (not suppose to be good and looks funny – see the attached picture) and its acting like it will stay that way. Another is splitting acrouss the head, not in half like it's supose to (another "time will tell" how it works itself out) and a few got sunburned but are hanging in there. All in all, the group pot seems to be working, just not perfectly.

Anyway, that’s my 2cents worth. Jerry
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Re: Trying for Lithops -- advice, please!

Postby iann » Thu Apr 12, 2012 8:56 pm

They all look fine for now. Obviously some are at different stages and this will only get worse so long as they're all getting the same treatment. Or some will die and you'll be left with the ones that thrive on whatever treatment they happen to have gotten :)
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Re: Trying for Lithops -- advice, please!

Postby Steve Johnson » Tue Apr 17, 2012 6:21 am

I can't argue with Ian's experience on this, so I'll keep the same species in my Lithops pot. I'm looking for a few cacti the CCC should be able to get for me over the summer. When I go out there, I'll see what selection they have in Lithops, then find a species that should work for the pot space I can manage. Really hope this works because it would be nice to reverse my lousy track record with Lithops when I was a young pup.

Thanks, gentlemen!
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Re: Trying for Lithops -- advice, please!

Postby lythopsman » Sun Oct 07, 2012 10:53 pm

i use premier "HP" peat moss 50% with 50% sand when i bring my collection inside for my very cold manitoba winters.... they seem to be just fine..... i guess that drainage is key to these cute little guys... good luck.
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