Saturday, June 3, 2017

Lithops plant size: Part 3 (18 pics)

This is Part 3 of the Lithops size analysis. Please also see Part 1 and Part 2 for a review of bigger plants.

I have realized a long time ago that white-flowering lithops are difficult on the windowsill. They just need more light than I can provide. Such species as L. julii, L. hallii, L. karasmontana or L. salicola seem to stretch no matter how little water they get or they have troubles regenerating or both. Because of that I completely gave up on L. salicola. Just can't keep them from stretching. I still have some L. hallii but I'm slowly giving up. No, they do not stretch. But they just can't get out of old leaves. In the case of L. julii and L. karasmontana, I think, it is still possible to figure them out. And the key is plant size.

The below L. julii sp. has survived 5 years under my care and came down to this shape. It's round and short and, being an older plant, it even reaches 1.7 cm per head.

This L. julii ssp. fulleri v. brunnea (C179) has been in my care for 9 years now and is also 1.7 cm. It looks normal and healthy but unfortunately it has not regenerated this year at all. Sometimes lithops skip a year but it worries me nonetheless. Maybe it did skip a year. Or maybe it's dead inside. I believe smaller size should be better.

These are L. julii ssp. fulleri v. brunnea (C179) as well. I got them 2 years ago from my favorite grower and they measure only 1 cm, despite being adult plants.

Even a little bit of untimely watering can mess them up. If you have a plant that looks like the below that's already stage one of stretching. Strict diet right away should still be able to correct it but no guarantees. I've seen this often enough to not get my hopes up. 

You might think "But this plant is kinda small if you consider head size from the top. You just said small is fine." Well, that's the thing. L. julii just don't get big without stretching. You water them more and they stretch into a cucumber right away. To keep them short and flat to the ground you're sort of forced to keep the head size small. It's a balance and that's what makes it so difficult for me. How those two plants further above got to 1.7 cm without stretching and dying is truly a mystery.

L. karasmontana are the same. If I buy a bigger plant from a greenhouse nursery (full day of sunlight), then under my conditions (half day of sunlight) they will stretch after the first time I give water to them and so I end up not watering at all until the plant either dies or reduces its size. The below L. karasmontana ssp. karasmontana v. aiaisensis (C224) is such a case and I still have troubles keeping it short (the bigger head is 1.5 cm). I had two of them initially and one didn't make it. These days, if there is a possibility to see the plant before ordering it, I never go for anything large.

Here's a good size. L. karasmontana v. lericheana (C330), 1.2 cm.

This beautiful orange one with no name is 1.3 cm. It still had big chunks of old leaves attached a couple of weeks ago when I took this photo but worked its way through them by now. That's very late.

I understand L. hookeri can get rather large under greenhouse conditions. I have a bunch of them and I can keep them flat and well-textured only at a size of 1.3 cm. The goal is to have them look like brains :D

Now we come to the smallest plants on my windowsill, L. localis (former L. terricolor) and L. dinteri. L. dinteri are indeed considered the smallest among lithops in general so there's nothing much to tell. Mine are 1.1 cm.

L. localis however I have killed in bunches over the years. Now I grow several and they all uniformly measure 1.1 cm per head. This is the only size that keeps them from stretching. And even at such a tiny size they are having a really hard time regenerating! I'm still not giving water to the late ones.

To all you windowsill growers, keep your plants small and short. That's your main goal. It will not guarantee flowering, probably the opposite, but you will have good-looking and healthy plants for many years. Luckily, with lithops, leaves can be much more interesting than flowers.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi,
    Do you think it's possible to overwater seedlings before they're near their full grown state? I wouldn't know how to gage that except for them being overly tall.

    Also, it may be helpful to include something in a photo for scale, if there is something that works internationally.

    1. Depends on what you consider a seedling. Young seedlings of up to 6 months are usually kept in a rather moist environment. If light is sufficient they will not stretch. For me, they also don't burst or rot. But I grow them in pure pumice and it is very forgiving and dries fast.

      Seedlings that have changed leaves several times should be on adult watering schedule. Stretching must be avoided at all costs as they don't come back from it. During active growth months, the "watering schedule" for all my lithops (and other plants) means checking if the plant is getting soft, then watering a little.

      Sorry, I'll try to include something for scale from time to time. However, all the pots I use are square 5x5cm. Which means if you don't see the edges, the plant is much less than 5cm. I usually keep 6 to 8 heads (3-4 plants) in one 5x5cm pot.

    2. That's very helpful. I consider a seedling to be up to 1-2 years (maybe), or maybe up to the second leaf change. I notice that you refer to seedlings as ones that are grown by seed, so I should have qualified that. I'll have to start squeezing mine more.

      Knowing the size of the pots helps a lot. Thank you for the reply.