The Living Stones are interesting rather than beautiful, as they mimic the pebbles which abound in their natural habitat. Living Stones are flowering succulents that blend into their native environment because they grow in a stemless clump resembling small stones. All are members of the Mesembryanthemum family and each plant consists of a pair of extremely thick leaves. These are fused together to produce a stem-like body with a slit at the top. This slit may be as small as a tiny hole or it may extend right down to ground level, depending upon the species.
The sizes of the various types available do not differ very much – the range is a height of ½-2 in. Colors and patterns, however, present a bewildering array and collecting a comprehensive range of Living Stones can be a hobby in itself.
All are extremely slow growing and must be kept dry throughout the winter. Below ground there is a short stem and a long tap root – above ground white, pink or yellow daisy-like flowers appear in the fall, and after many years a clump of ‘stones’ will fill the pot.
Scores of different Living Stones are available. Nearly all belong to two genera – Lithops and Conophytum, and identification of individual species can be extremely difficult. In some cases leaf color is affected by the soil type.
Types of Living Stones
The most popular Living Stones are species of Lithops. Three are illustrated above – others which are offered for sale include Lithops turbiniformis (brown, wrinkled), L. bella (pale brown with dark markings), L. lesliei (brown with lighter markings), and L. optica (grey-green with translucent ‘windows’ on upper surface).
The cleft between the two leaves in Lithops may be shallow or deep, depending on the species, but the cleft between the leaves of Conophytum is reduced to a small fissure through which the flower-stalk appears. Several species are available, including Conophytum bilobum (grey-green tinged with red) and C. calculus (pale green).
Care of Living Stones
Light: They grow naturally in the hot, arid regions of Africa, are are accustomed to intense sunlight. Bright morning sun and filtered sun or partial shade during the afternoons is best. Bright light with 4 hours of direct sun a day in summer.
Water: Keep soil barely moist from spring through fall, allowing the top half of the soil to dry out between waterings. Do not water after the flowers have faded and the leaves begin to shrivel. Resume watering the following spring.
Humidity: Average to low.
Temperature: Average room temperatures 60-75°F, 16-24°C
Soil: Cactus mix.
Fertilizer: Not necessary.
Lithops optica rubra