Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thursday's Bits 'n Bobs

My Lithops seedlings are now yearlings, and it's been extraordinary to watch them grow up. From about 100 seeds I've got about a dozen strong Lithops, each about 1cm across. I don't know if 12% is a good rate or a rotten rate, but 12 new Lithops is about all I have space for anyway.... Here are three:

My giant Russian Sunflowers are doing well, despite storms, salty spray, and high winds. They are tough! Several are already showing a flower bud at the center:

And of course, what would spring be without Blooming Babytoes??

Things are humming along in the ceramics studio. Here's a little flower sprite, getting a second coat of glaze:

Hope things are humming along in your neck of the woods!


  1. Hi Marla, When do you seem to run into problems with your lithops seedlings. Problems with germination, dying off after germination, dying after first transplanting? Generally if the seed is good, germination should be around 80%. When you lose them between germination and the first transplanting, basically during the first 6 to 12 months, its a problem with the seedling environment or a disease (damping off). If it happens right after the first transplanting I shouldn't give any advice, because that's been my main problem. In my case it may be caused by my watering at transplanting time rather than letting them stay dry for a period of time after transplanting. Getting lithops through the first two years from seed is indeed a challenge. However, 12 is a lot better than none. :-)

  2. Thanks for your questions, Bob! The original germination rate was about 50%. It's hard to get seed mailed here in good shape because of our extreme heat most of the year- the mail trucks cook like ovens. Then after they were about half a year old, I had a problem with spider mites. I think they'd come in on some cacti. Now I am much more careful about what comes into the house. I had to transplant the Lithops seedlings too early, because the original germination bowl was too shallow for them to grow their deep roots.And yeah, I'm sure I watered them too soon! And I pulled out a number of weaker ones, since I only wanted to keep about 20 or so, tops.
    When do you begin watering them as for full-grown Lithops?

  3. Marla I germinate my lithops seed, and grow my lithops seedlings for their first 12 to 24 months, under fluorescent lights, where they are in a protected environment and a constant day length of 16 hours. Mature lithops initiate flowering and their annual leaf renewal process in response to the shortening days of late summer and early fall. They are what horticulturist call "short-day plants." Similar to chrysanthemums. Under fluorescent lights there are no short days so I water my seedlings on a regular basis, not like the mature plants outside. It's not until I put my seedlings outside, usually when they are at least two-years old, that I begin watering them using the schedule for adult full-grown lithops. I don't consider a lithops mature until it has flowered for the first time. Seedlings that I have kept inside under lights for four or five years never flower, because they have not experienced the shortening days, and are treated as immature plants. Usually plants that are at least two years old, and outside under normal day length conditions, flower. These plants are then watered as adult plants, which means I stop watering after flowering is complete and don't water again until the new leaves are visible and the old leaves are well on their way to drying up. The time period between when lithops are immature seedlings and when they become mature, flowering adult plants is a tricky period for watering and I believe a period when even experienced lithops growers can lose plants. This is also the period when that first transplanting takes place - a double whammy.

    Here is the way Steven Hammer, author of "Lithops Treasures of the Veld", describes treatment of lithops during this tricky period.
    "Within three months, the cotyledons should be very fat, but their largesse (his spelling) will soon be absorbed or usurped by the new leaves developing within them. These will break through by late autumn. The seedlings now look like miniature adults -- and they can be treated like older plants, if a bit more indulgently. [his use of the word indulgently, tells me this is a tricky time for him also] Transplanting is best avoided until the subsequent spring or summer."

    In essence, for seeds he has sown in early spring, he begins treating the seedlings as "full-grown" lithops by the first fall and winter, before they are mature and have flowered. And, he transplants them when they are between 12 and 18 months old. This is quite a bit earlier than what I do, but he germinates his seed outside and thus his seedlings are growing under natural light from day one. Plus, he is utter meticulous, and never forgets or delays in watering his plants. Steven is an interesting and somewhat strange, person. Marla you've got me into teaching mode and I've gone on way too long. I enjoy your blog and hope you are having a great Memorial weekend.

  4. Thank you, Bob, and I hope a lot of people read your comments! I had not been able to find any good info on what to do with "teenage Lithops"- they aren't adults, but they aren't seedlings. I feel more confident now, and will probably grow some more from seed next year. I haven't used artificial light, but your arguments for doing so are compelling.

  5. I keep killing them (drying out and shrivel up) a few weeks after they sprout... grrr. Can Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr seem to figure it out. I have great germination Then they end up withering away after that leaving me with maybe 2-10 okay ones.. that I'm hoping will survive

    1. Anon, it sounds like your Lithops sprouts are being attacked by bacteria or fungi, or possibly thrips. The roots are killed, then the plant can't take in water, and it shrivels and dies. Watering baby Lithops and keeping them basically sterile at first is very challenging, especially if you are in a humid climate. Try the Lithops Forum and see if they can diagnose your situation more precisely:
      Best of luck! You will succeed with them, I know.