Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lithops: Sometimes They Get Stuck

Gardener Rika of Lithops Stories had an interesting post this week about Lithops that get...stuck.  They start to regenerate, then just sit there, sometimes for months, while their brothers and sisters are already fully releafed and living energetic, purposeful lives. Frustrating!
Collectively, the commenters on Rika's blog came up with three options for helping a comatose Lithops:
1. Leave it alone. It's just doin' what it's doin' and it's none of your business.
2. Water it. This can jolt it awake, so it gets moving with regeneration. It's the Cold Shower Treatment!
3. Surgery. Cut away the old leaves so the young ones can grow, and the Lithops won't be "stacked". Or alternately, cut the old leaves open to release the new leaves.

I've tried all three methods. The safest is to simply leave it alone. Eventually, they usually wake up and get moving. That happened with this Lithops:
It sat like this forever (OK, months), and long past when the other Lithops had finished releafing, it suddenly woke from its torpor and POP! big new leaves, and the old ones were absorbed in less than a week. For a Lithops, that is seriously fast and furious.

Option 2 has worked for me...sometimes. But one set of stuck Lithops just turned to goo when I watered it. If I use this option again, I'll give the Lithops only a few drops of water from a pipette, not a full watering.

Option 3 has worked well, with one caveat. Leaves that are cut to be more fully open, as with the Lithops below, will certainly survive, but the new leaves seem to grow very slowly.
I cut the old leaves along the sides to separate them and let the new leaves come through, as it was stacked and stuck. You can see the scars from the cuts where the old leaves divide. They healed quickly and the new leaves are doing fine. They are just slow-growing, and haven't fully absorbed the old leaves. I speculate that the new leaves can't drain the old leaves as efficiently if the old leaves are cut. But the plant survives, so surgery can be worth a try.

I would add another option if you live where Lithops can live outdoors. A couple of very stuck Lithops were replanted outside. Sure enough, the extra light (but not extra heat) gave them a boost, and they regenerated quickly. On the other hand, re-planting or re-potting a stuck Lithops might kill it; I may have just been lucky.

Hopefully other Lithops bloggers can post on this topic, too, as it seems to be very common, and very perplexing!


  1. "fast and furious" XD Yes, totally XD

    Yep, these seem to be the options, with "let them be" as the best of them.

    It's really frustrating. After all they miss all the time when they could be growing! And as soon as they're finished they have to start again or mess up the whole cycle...

    1. It's true, Rika, very frustrating. I don't know if my "unstuck" Lithops will manage through another cycle, or if next, year, I'll get Mushops instead of Lithops!

  2. You both are probably right, "let them be" but I would like to investigate a few other options. Even when they eventually kick out of the stall, they end up smaller and weaker than the plants that don't go through the stall. It also seems to happen to certain species much more often than others. I'll leave it alone this year but next year I'm going to try repotting some of the stalled plants and see if that might kick start them. What the worst that could happen? Oh...that's right..a pile of mush! Well, I've been through that before. I really enjoy both of your blogs. Thanks and have great upcoming week.

    1. Please blog about your experiments with stuck Lithops. I had no idea it was such a common problem until Rika posted on it. There obviously is not a lot of money out there for Lithops research, so we'll have to do our own. Wish we could figure out why they get stuck in the first place.
      Have a wonderful week!

  3. My lithops was stuck for almost an entire year without even showing signs of new leaves. It flowered beautifully last September and then it was just stalled from there, the new leaves showed no signs of showing up. It sat dormant for several months up to about January and then I decided to try something. So I would just water it, not a soak just a misting and leave it for 1-2 weeks to try to revive it. Eventually, a whole year later I decided to try to starve it of all water for about 2 months and now lo and behold there are new leaves poking up. One thing I'm concerned about is now it's growth cycle is off by a few months, it's starting new leaves in the end of September where it would normally start it's new leaves in the beginning of January. Any Advice?

    1. Hello!
      The ways of the Lithops are mysterious, aren't they? Some of mine drive me nuts. I wish they would just set up a little sign with their demands, or shoot me an email.... But seriously, it can be hard to know what is causing a particular Lithops to be stuck, especially when others around it seem to be doing fine. Different species have different, often subtle needs, and some specimens will never thrive outside their native habitat, though that won't become clear until they fail to regenerate properly. If your Lithops has revived, it will get back in sync, so I'd say just let it do its thing at this point, and water appropriately for the stage in the growth cycle that it's at. If you think it needs more light than it's getting in its current location, try a sunnier spot, but don't let its pot heat up too much, or it will quickly cook and turn to mush. (Lithops in the ground outside generally won't get overheated roots the way a potted one will.)