I have had another first in the garden. To my surprise, a few of my Lithrops have decided to flower. Now, to be fair, I did only just plant them last spring so I have a few more years to go to see if they will be happy in the long term. However, just seeing a flower coming out of a plant with the common name of “Living Stones” was exciting to me. Below, you can see my yellow flowering Lithrops in bloom. Can you spot the other two Lithrops in the picture?
If you can’t see them, don’t worry. Lithops are true mimicry plants. Their size, shape and color make them look like small stones that blend in with their natural surroundings. This has proven a great way to avoid detection from animals looking for an easy meal. In the picture above you can see one to the far left and one more at the bottom center.
Lithops originate from South Africa and Namibia, where they have evolved to become highly adapted to heat and drought. Many locations where they grow in the wild receive only 2 inches of rain a year. (And here I thought San Diego was bad with its 10 inches a year average.) For this reason, Lithrops are seasonal growers. During the dry season (our summers) they go dormant. Once the fall and winter rains start coming down, Lithrops flower and grow. Below you can see the white flower spike coming out of one of my plants last week, telling me it is dormant no more.
Lithrops are a very popular plant with succulent collectors and are mostly grown as novelty house plants. You tend to not see them planted in gardens because their small size means they can easily be lost amongst all the other plants in a succulent garden. Lithrops also tend to rot easily when planted in the ground. Here in my Mediterranean garden I have a few areas that receive no irrigation other than what Mother Nature can bring. These areas are also quite small but are in highly visible locations. So when researching for some plants to put in the ground there, Lithrops became an excellent choice. As you can see in the photo above and below, they are planted in decomposed granite (DG) with a parchment top layer. So drainage could not be any better.
On a quick side note for those who follow my blog regularly, you would have noticed the Aloe “Hellskloof-Bells” in the photo above. It has put on some nice growth since I planted it last winter.
Here are some closeups of my yellow flowering Lithrops. While the sun was shining on them, they didn’t open their flowers. It wasn’t until later in the afternoon when that area of my garden was shaded that the flowers opened up. This is why the color of the rocks looks so different in the various photos I took.
The flower resembles an ice plant flower, doesn’t it? Well, it should, as Lithops is in the ice plant family (Aizoaceae). Below is a white flowering plant. Please don’t ask me what species these are or what variation they could be. There are literally hundreds of varieties among the species and it would take a real expert to ID them—which I am far from being.
I have been told from my succulent collecting friends that Lithops will live for decades if properly cultivated. So if all goes well, these guys should be with me for quite some time.