Lithops aucampiae L. Bolus
Growth Habits: The plant consists of one or more bodies. The bodies of Lithops even within the same species can vary quite dramatically in colour as I have tried to show with four different plants from my aucampiae species. The body consists of two extremely succulent leaves, fused together in the shape of an inverted cone and separated by a fissure. The width and depth of this fissure varies from species to species. Lithops do not have any stem. The tap root of the plant is connected directly to the body. Each year a new body grows within the old one. So hey presto each year you have a brand new plant with no scarring or marking.
Scientific name: Lithops aucampiae
Common names: Flowering Stones, Living Stones.
Origin: South Africa and Namibia
Light: Lithops usually do best if they have four or five hours of uninterrupted sun in the morning and partial shade in the afternoon
Compost: These plants require a very open compost not only for water drainage but also growth of the tap root.
Water: When to water is probably the most important consideration when growing Lithops. The plants have a definite yearly cycle of growth and it is important to only water at certain stages of the cycle. It is equally as important to keep them dry at other stages of the cycle. Once you know the plants growth cycle, watering is relatively easy.
Flower: The plants normally flower in late Autumn to early Winter and the flowers are usually either yellow or white, though I have had them in all different shades, through to pink The flower bud arises through the fissure in the plant body. Many Lithops flowers have a spicy scent to them.
Fruit: These plants produce a seed capsule that works very cleverly. If it becomes wet (a drop of rain) the capsule will open and release some seed. As it dries, it closes up again.
Min. temp: If the plants are dry they will take 45°f (8°C)
Cultivation: Here I will try to give you a general insight into the growing cycle of Lithops. This hopefully should help you to decide when and when not to water, although local conditions should be considered also.
SUMMER: The Lithops plants are resting as they do in their natural environment. In the wild it is essential that they do this as the rainfall is virtually non existent. The plants require very little water at this time unless they are suffering, I.e. shrivelling of the body is occurring. In this case just enough water to ‘firm’ up the plant is all that is required. Normal watering during this period will result in the plants suddenly rotting and turning to a mush.
AUTUMN: During August and September the plants should be in full growth. The first sign that they are in growth is that the fissure between the leaves starts to widen. Don’t be dismayed if the plant does not flower. In general Lithops need to be between 3 and five years old before they start to flower consistently.
WINTER: During the winter months, the plants will still be growing; the new bodies will be increasing in size as the old outer leaves begin to shrivel. No water at all should be given during the winter. The soil should remain bone dry no matter how shrivelled the plants become. The new body actually draws out the water stored in the old leaves to continue growth, so do not remove the shrivelled leaves. The new body continues to extract the water and nutrient stored in the old leaves until the old leaves are reduced to nothing more than thin papery shells. These shells can then be easily removed from around the plant.
SPRING: By the time the plants reach this stage, it is safe to water again to let the plants increase their growth. Begin by watering lightly, increasing the amount of water gradually, working up to several good waterings during mid spring. Be sure to let the soil dry between waterings. Reduce watering as the heat and long days of summer approach, allowing the plants to prepare for their dormant period.
Habitat: The areas where the plants are found receive very little rainfall and the plants mimic the stones and pebbles that surround them, otherwise they would be eaten by animals during the drought period.
Comments: I hope I have helped some of you to get a better insight into the way that Lithops grow. They are not difficult plants if you have the necessary information on their growing conditions. One of the major problems when Lithops are not grown correctly is that you get what is called "stacking". This simply means that the bodies start to grow on top of one another like building blocks. This is caused by encouraging the plant to grow at the wrong time in its yearly cycle. Like anything else it is easy if you know how. I have most of the books written on these plants and the books of Desmond Cole and Steve Hammer are probably the best around at the moment.
A more in-depth look at individual succulent species, a new one is added each week.
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