Lithops are a a large group of species from Africa (especially South Africa) known as living stones. While several other cactus and succulent species are often referred to by the same name, lithops are perhaps the most deserving of the name when you consider how they were discovered. They were first found by William John Burchell, an explorer of South Africa, when he bent down to pick up what he thought was a colorful stone. The name lithops actually refers to the Greek word, lithos, meaning stone. Lithops are known for their extreme efficiency at storing water and absorbing light. They are essentially composed of two modified leaves. These leaves come in an array of awe-inspiring patterns, making them quite collectable among rare succulent collectors. A split between the leaves contains the meristem (growing point). It is from this point that these plants will bloom delicate flowers and form new leaves. Usually, as new leaves form the old ones will dry out and their nutrients will be used up. The seeds of lithops are tiny, and they require a patient grower. However, once established, they are relatively easy to care for and make good houseplants.
Growing Information: Lithops seeds are extremely tiny. It may be east to gather them by suspending in water. Lithops prefer a coarse, sandy soil. They should be sown like cactus seeds. Flatten out the soil and then put a thin layer of loose soil above it. Sow the seeds on the surface and press in very lightly. They need light to germinate. Mist the soil to keep it moist and cover with clear plastic. Maintain a temperature of about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally, the covering should not be flat across the top because it will cause the water to drip back on the young seedlings, which sometimes causes rot. Something like a sandwich bag often makes a better tent because the water will run down the sides more easily. The soil should not be allowed to dry out while the plants are seedlings. Use a mister if the soil does get dry. Place the seedlings on a heat mat (ideally) and in bright light. Placing the seeds just a few inches from fluorescent lights is ideal for starting seedlings, although natural light will work too. Note that using a heat mat will cause more evaporation, which may require more attention. Be sure to air out the seedlings once a day for best results.
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