Conophytum vs Lithops: Comparing Succulent Care and Tips

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Two fascinating genera of succulents are Conophytum and Lithops, both belonging to the Mesemb family. These small, captivating plants have captured the attention of many plant enthusiasts due to their unique characteristics and adaptations for surviving in their native habitat. Conophytum, also known as “Cone Plant,” consists of tiny pairs of leaves conjoined at their tips, forming a cone shape with an opening for the flower stalk to emerge in the fall. On the other hand, Lithops, sometimes referred to as “Living Stones,” have a striking appearance resembling small stones, with fissures that divide the plant body, allowing new leaves to grow and replacing the old ones as they die.

While both genera originate from Southern Africa, Conophytum and Lithops can be found in different regions, with Conophytum predominantly inhabiting the western parts and Lithops spread throughout the entire area. The growth habits and care requirements of these two genera vary, as Conophytum typically form dense clusters over time, while Lithops tend to maintain a more solitary growth.

In the world of succulents, Conophytum and Lithops share some similarities, but striking differences set them apart. Understanding these distinctions will not only help with proper identification but also play a crucial role in providing the appropriate care these small wonders require to thrive. So, let’s dive into a detailed exploration of these intriguing succulents and uncover what makes each one distinctive.

Conophytum and Lithops: Overview

Conophytum Characteristics

Conophytum is a genus of small, succulent plants native to Southern Africa. They are often called “button plants” or “cone plants” due to their distinctive shapes. The plants form small clusters or mats, with each individual plant consisting of one or two fleshy, cone-shaped leaves. They are typically found in arid regions, growing on rocky outcrops or in crevices.

The flowers of Conophytum species are nocturnal and form during the fall months. They vary in color, with shades of white, yellow, orange, and pink being the most common. The plants have a unique method of conserving water, as they absorb moisture from the air during the cool, damp nights and store it in their leaves.

Conophytums are popular among succulent enthusiasts due to their ease of cultivation and variety of shapes and colors. When caring for these plants, it is essential to provide them with well-draining soil, bright light, and infrequent watering, mainly during their active growing period in the fall and winter months.

Lithops Characteristics

Lithops, also known as “living stones” or “pebble plants,” is another genus of succulent plants native to Southern Africa (source). Their unique appearance, resembling stones or pebbles, allows them to blend in with their natural rocky surroundings and avoid being eaten by grazing animals.

The Lithops genus consists of small, low-growing plants with one or two pairs of fleshy, thick leaves. The leaves are often various shades of brown, gray, or green, with patterns and colors that mimic the rocks and stones where they grow. During their growth period, old leaves will wither and be replaced by new ones without leaving any visible scars.

Unlike Conophytum, Lithops plants generally produce flowers in the autumn and winter. The flowers are usually white, yellow, or orange and emerge from the fissure between the leaf pairs. When it comes to caring for Lithops, proper watering is crucial, as they are susceptible to rot if kept too moist. They thrive in well-draining soil, bright light, and minimal watering during their active growth period in the cooler months.

Both Conophytum and Lithops are fascinating additions to any succulent collection, bringing unique forms, intriguing adaptations, and captivating colorful blooms. By understanding their specific needs and characteristics, you can successfully grow and enjoy these remarkable plants.

Distribution and Habitat

Conophytum Habitat

Conophytum is a genus of succulent plants that can be found primarily in the arid regions of southern Africa. These small, rock-like plants have evolved to blend in with their surroundings, making them difficult to spot even for those with a trained eye. Their habitat typically includes rocky terrain, deserts, and semi-deserts where they can thrive in harsh conditions. Conophytum has a widespread distribution throughout southern Africa, as they can endure various types of arid environments.

Lithops Habitat

Lithops, a genus of succulent plants known as “living stones” or “pebble plants,” have a similar distribution to Conophytum. They are native to southern Africa and can be found in the arid regions of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. Lithops’ stone-like appearance allows them to blend in with the surrounding rocks, providing camouflage from herbivores. In their native habitats of Namibia and South Africa, Lithops imitates the sand and stones they live among in shape, size, and color.

When comparing the distribution of Conophytum and Lithops, there is a significant overlap in their distribution territories. Both genera have adapted to their environments and share a similar habitat, allowing them to coexist in the arid regions of southern Africa.

Growth and Care

Watering Requirements

Conophytum and Lithops have similar watering requirements, as both are succulents and need minimal water to thrive. Allow the soil of Conophytum to completely dry out before watering again, which ensures the plant’s health in its dry environment. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so make sure to water sparingly. In the case of Lithops, watering once a month can be too much, as these plants require even less water, especially during their dormancy periods.

Light and Temperature

Both Conophytum and Lithops thrive in bright light and need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day. A south-facing window is ideal for providing the necessary light. Although they require bright light, too much direct sun can damage the plants. In terms of temperature, both plants do well in warm environments. However, make sure to protect them from extreme temperatures and harsh conditions.

Soil and Fertilizers

When it comes to soil, Conophytum and Lithops demand well-draining soil mixes, which are essential for their survival. Choosing a soil mix specifically designed for succulents will provide them with the appropriate drainage and nutrients. When using fertilizers, opt for a low-strength, water-soluble fertilizer. Picking an organic option for your Conophytum or Lithops can support the longevity and health of the plants.

Propagation and Repotting

Propagation for both Conophytum and Lithops usually involves separating offsets from the mother plant. With proper care, healthy plants will naturally produce offsets that can be gently removed and placed in a new container to grow. Repotting for these plants should only be done when necessary and when the plants have outgrown their current containers. The repotting process is not frequent, but when it is time to repot, carefully transplant them into a slightly larger container with fresh soil to ensure their continued growth and health.

Common Issues and Diseases

Conophytum and Lithops, both popular succulents, can face similar issues and diseases, which can harm their growth and overall health. In this section, we’ll cover the common pests, diseases, and other issues that may affect these plants.


  • Mealybugs: These small, white insects can be found on the leaves and stems of Conophytum and Lithops. They suck the sap from the plants, causing them to become weak and may lead to leaf discoloration. To treat mealybugs, gently remove them with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol or use a suitable insecticide.
  • Aphids: These tiny, green insects feed on the sap of Conophytum and Lithops, which can stunt the growth of these plants. Spray the plants with water or use insecticidal soap to get rid of aphids.
  • Root mealybugs: These pests attack the roots of Conophytum and Lithops and may cause rotting. It’s essential to check for root mealybugs during repotting and treat affected plants with an appropriate insecticide.


  • Fungal infections: Overwatering or placing Conophytum and Lithops in poorly-draining soil can lead to fungal infections such as root rot, stem rot, or leaf spots. To prevent fungal issues, water these succulents sparingly, and always allow the soil to dry completely between waterings.
  • Virus: Although rare, viruses can affect Conophytum and Lithops and may cause yellowing, deformation or mosaic patterns on the leaves. There’s no cure for viral infections, so it’s crucial to dispose of infected plants and sterilize any tools used on them.

Other Issues

  • Angular growth: Both Conophytum and Lithops can become elongated or distorted in shape if they don’t receive enough light. To prevent this, place the plants in an area with bright, indirect sunlight. If stretched, consider cutting back the elongated growth and allowing the plant to regrow properly.
  • Overwatering: One of the main issues faced by Conophytum and Lithops’ caretakers is overwatering, leading to rot and diseases. Water these plants sparingly, allowing the soil to dry out before watering again.
  • Incorrect dormancy care: Conophytum and Lithops have different dormancy periods, and it’s crucial not to overwater them during this time. For instance, Conophytum have a summer resting period when the older leaves dry up and form a protective sheath over the new leaves. Watering should be significantly reduced during this period to avoid rot and disease.

By keeping an eye on these issues and appropriately addressing them, Conophytum and Lithops can be grown healthily, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of your garden or indoor space.


Conophytum and Lithops are two distinct genera of small succulent plants that can be distinguished based on their appearance and growth habits. Both are popular among succulent enthusiasts due to their unique features and ability to adapt in various environments.

The Conophytum genus consists of small, cone-shaped plants that are sometimes called “Cone Plants.” Comprising pairs of leaves joined at their tips, these plants produce flowers in the fall. Over time, they form large clumps of their small heads, making them an attractive addition to any succulent collection Conophytum.

On the other hand, Lithops, also known as living stones, are native to southern Africa and comprise around 40 species. They are characterized by their stone-like appearance, which helps them blend into the surrounding environment Lithops.

One of the primary differences between Conophytum and Lithops is their respective resting periods. Conophytum typically has a resting period during the summer, while Lithops enters dormancy during winter. It is essential to be aware of these resting periods as it influences water requirements, enabling the plants to thrive resting period.

In conclusion, both Conophytum and Lithops are unique, captivating succulents that add appeal to any collection. Despite some similarities, they are distinct genera with specific growth habits and characteristics. By understanding their differences and caring for them accordingly, enthusiasts can enjoy the captivating beauty of these small, resilient plants.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to care for Conophytum and Lithops?

Caring for Conophytum and Lithops is relatively easy because both plants are quite low-maintenance. They require well-draining soil and should be placed in a sunny spot to ensure proper growth. Water them sparingly, only when the soil is completely dry. Make sure not to overwater, as they store water in their leaves and too much water can cause them to rot.

What’s the difference between Conophytum and Lithops?

Conophytum and Lithops are two different genera of succulents, both belonging to the family Aizoaceae. Conophytum are small, cone-shaped plants that form clumps over time, while Lithops resemble small stones with a pair of flat-topped leaves. The flowers of Conophytum typically bloom in the fall, while Lithops flowers bloom in the winter months.

Can Conophytum and Lithops be grown together?

Yes, Conophytum and Lithops can be grown together as they have similar care requirements. Both plants thrive in well-draining soil, require the same amount of sunlight, and have similar watering needs. However, be cautious about their growth patterns, as Conophytum tends to form clumps, while Lithops stay small and might get overshadowed.

Watering needs of Conophytum vs. Lithops?

Conophytum and Lithops both have low watering requirements, as they store water in their leaves. Water them sparingly, only when the soil has dried out completely. It’s crucial to avoid overwatering to prevent root rot, as these plants are prone to rotting if they receive too much water. Generally, they require less frequent watering during their dormant seasons: summer for Conophytum and winter for Lithops.

Are Conophytum and Lithops both Mesembs?

Yes, Conophytum and Lithops are both considered Mesembs, which is a common term for succulent plants belonging to the Aizoaceae family. Mesembs usually have fleshy leaves and thrive in arid environments.

Propagation: Conophytum compared to Lithops?

Propagation methods for Conophytum and Lithops are quite similar. Both plants can be propagated from seeds or by division. To propagate by division, carefully split the larger clumps during their repotting process, making sure each new plant has sturdy roots. For seed propagation, sow seeds in well-draining soil and provide consistent moisture until they germinate. Keep in mind that the propagation success rate might vary depending on the species and growing conditions.

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