Lithops plants look like tiny works of art.

By Jennifer Aldrich
April 29, 2021
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Succulents are fun to collect because of how unique each one is. But lithops, also called "living rocks," are so distinct, they don't look like plants at all. A group of them looks more like a collection of pebbles with interesting colors and patterns. They make fascinating houseplants if you give them the proper care (they're a little more high-maintenance than your typical succulent or cactus, actually). But once you know what lithops need, including how long to let them bask in the sun and how much water they require, you can grow your own "living rocks" and watch them thrive.

Most lithops are sold as grown plants, which are a bit easier to start with. However, if you'd like an added challenge, you can purchase a Lithops Seed Kit ($10, Amazon) that comes with growing instructions. If you prefer to purchase plants, check out the top-rated Etsy shop Brevifolia Studio that sells various succulents, including a large pot of lithops for $26.

lithops
Credit: Courtesy of Brevifolia Studio/Etsy

How to Grow and Care for Lithops

Lithops take years to fully grow, so if you're starting from seeds, patience is a virtue. Start with a small pot and add in a cactus potting mix ($5, Walmart). Feel free to mix in more sand; lithops don't care for much organic matter. Once you plant your seeds, add a layer of sand to the top. Mist or lightly water the pot until your seeds germinate, and then cut back on watering. Make sure they get several hours of sun or other light each day.

Lithops are native to southern Africa, where they handle drought and temperature extremes with ease. That means you don't need to fuss over them as much as you might for other houseplants like orchids or a fiddle leaf fig. However, they can require more care than other succulents and cacti because they are picky about how and when you water them.

For lithops, be very careful not to overwater because this is an easy way to kill your succulent. In the summer, when the plant is dormant, stop watering completely. In the fall, start lightly watering again whenever the potting mix feels dry. Autumn is also when you might start to see some flowers or new leaves from your lithops. Once winter hits, pause on watering your lithops again. In spring, you can water your lithops whenever the soil feels dry again. The old leaves on your lithops will be withered by this point, and you can gently remove them.

It may be tricky to get their care just right, but in return for your efforts, you'll be rewarded with eye-catching "living rocks."

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