Thursday, July 11, 2013

Growing Lithops: Indoors or Out??

I grow about five dozen Lithops both indoors and outside:
Lithops: An Indoor Herd
My outdoor succulent garden is only about 2 square meters, but has about 3 dozen specimens, including Lithops:

Lithops Living La Vida Loca, Outside
I enjoy both gardens. Indoors, Lithops can be highly decorative, in special pots, perched in strategic locations. My friends and family enjoy them. And I have somewhat more control over their environment.  Outdoors, the survival strategy of the Lithops becomes plain. They really blend in! When I'm standing up, I can barely see some of them. Makes it easy to understand how they have survived herbivorous creatures out in the African desert. And each species has evolved to camouflage itself among a different sort of rocky surface. Amazing!

Some species, like L. julii, and some of my karasmontanas, seem to do better outside. Other, more fragile species like being indoors better (L. dorotheae comes to mind). Since everyone's garden is different, experimentation, trial and error are necessary to figure out who should go where.

We get torrential downpours that can last for days here in the summertime, so I supplemented our sandy soil with lots of perlite and pumice. So far, no outdoor Lithops have burst or rotted from too much water. I also chose a location where they are shaded from the hottest afternoon sun. They seem to prefer morning sunlight.
Hurricane Sandy Brought a Lot of Rain!

The main limiting factors for indoor/outdoor cultivation are, of course, water (not too much), temperature (no freeze, please), and light (most places indoors are too dark).  Inside, many factors can be compensated for with artificial lights, special soil, and total control of watering. But it's really fun to see Lithops growing free and in the wild, at least as close as I can make it, this far from Africa.


  1. Hi Marla,
    I really like the idea of growing lithops outside in the ground. Your outdoor plants look great. However, I have tried this four times over the past 15 years and each time I have had trouble with either rabbits or grasshoppers, or both, badly damaging the plants by trying to eat them. I thought they looked very camouflaged but they seemed to find them each time.

    Now they stay in pots that go outside in mid May and come back inside in late October. Outside they are kept on a small rectangular table that has a plastic cover to control the amount of rain they receive.

    In the winter they go on several south facing windowsills. The windows are covered inside with curtains and I don't have to watch them shrivel and shrink as they go through their winter regeneration cycle. I am currently growing a batch of new seedlings, maybe 150 or more, (I always over do things), and if a good percentage of these survive to grow up, I may try growing some outside in the ground next year.

    Great photos of some great plants. Thanks as always for sharing your experiences with these wonderful and fascinating plants. Bob

    1. You've got it figured out! I'm sorry the rabbits and grasshoppers were eating your Lithops- we have both here and they ate my African daisies, but left the Lithops alone. Guess they are not on a rabbit's subtropical menu...;-)
      PS: 150 seedlings, not a problem, there are never too many Lithops....

  2. Well done with managing to grow them outside in an environment which is so far from their natural habitat :-)

    1. Thank you! It's a little like their natural habitat at certain times of the year (our dry season), but definitely not in summer. Monsoon-type rains are not good for Lithops, but keeping their soil super-light seems to be working for now.