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  • Writer's pictureChris

Lithops Infirmary

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

Here are some strategies that I have developed and tweaked which can help heal damaged lithops. You can make your own lithops infirmary if you hate to see a lithops die as much as I do.

First off, this article will cover the following types of damage:

1. Soft/mushy

2. Splits from over watering

3. Side wounds

4. Loss of tap root -Under Construction..

5. Extreme dehydration -Under Construction..

6. Damage to the top of the lithops leaves -Under Construction..

7. No growth after transplanting

8. Water Therapy -Under Construction..

Some of the methods are used for multiple types of damage, albeit slightly tweaked.

1. Soft/mushy

If your lithops have turned soft due to things such as cold exposure, shipping damage, or just general improper care.

I have two strategies:

For only slightly soft lithops: place in DRY lithops soil that is at least 75% inorganic. Let the lithops sit under medium light for a week, before watering slightly with a few squirts with a squirt bottle.

For very mushy lithops: place in DRY and CLEAN pure horticultural perlite. This stuff has essentially zero water retention properties, but still retains nutrients. You want to plant your lithops a little less deep than normal, keeping most of the lithops above the surface level of the substrate. Again, wait a week or so, and then water with a spray or squirt bottle using a couple of sprays/squirts around the base of each lithops.

2. Splits from over watering

If the lithops develops splits on the side, usually due to over watering or high humidity. Remove the lithops from the soil/substrate. Brush off any remaining dirt with a dry clean paintbrush, and place the lithops on paper out in the open in an are with good air movement and medium light.

To ensure that they are safe from household hazards such as pets or children(!), I have the following suggestion. You can place something like a basket or wire trash can over them to allow for air movement and light, but safer from external forces. Keep the lithops like this for a week or two, until you see solid calluses form over the cracks.

You might want to take this opportunity to trim the tap root. Make sure you wait at least 4 -5 days after trimming the tap root before planting.

3. Wounds

Side wounds can be very problematic, because the would can be exposed to the moisture in the soil. And we all know a lithops with an open wound should never be exposed to water. So the first step here, is to brush it off, and let the would dry out and callous in a room with good air movement, and medium to low light.

To be continued...

7. No growth after transplanting

This can occur after transplanting your lithops occasionally, particularly during the winter where lithops are slower to react. Why it happens, I have no idea.

But I do have one solution: Root stimulation.

Sometimes the lack of growth is due to the roots being all locked up behind layers of brown roots. Lithops roots naturally turn darker and brown as the root ages and matures, but young active roots look quite different. Below, is an example. Lithops A, has a mature, brown, stiff root, while lithops B has new, white, soft roots.

To be clear, nothing is wrong with lithops A. All roots for all lithops eventually mature to that state. In fact, Lithops A would fare better while shipping for example. Lithops B had previously lost its root all together (I broke them off accidently while transplanting), so I re-grew them using water therapy (I will discuss this in the future).

To do root stimulation, all one must do is expose some live root create a "nucleation" site which promotes root growth at that point. Where is the live root in lithops A? Its simply buried beneath that papery brown root material! So all one must do, is trim it with scissors!

Using clean scissors, and depending on the root size, cut somewhere from 1/3 to 2/3 off as shown below. Allow the lithops to callous over before planting by simply letting it sit on the table for 4-6 days. The new callous tissue contains pluri-potent stem cells, which can now grow into new roots since they now have access to nutrients. Then, plant the lithops in dry soil, wait another 2 days, and treat is a you would normally!

To be continued...

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Robin Mize
Robin Mize
May 07, 2021

Chris, I want to thank you so very much. My recent order from you arrived in excellent shape. But more than that, this information is so very welcome. I have tried lithops before, twice, when I found a plant in a store. Both times they were damaged and I could not heal them enough to survive. As a plant addict (my description), this has been a 40 year sadness. I decided to try again, and the information here has given me hope this time I may succeed. Thanks again.


Feb 08, 2021

Great and detailed information you provide.

Thank you , Sybil Bouett

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