How to Propagate Lithops: Expert Guide for Succulent Success

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Lithops, also known as living stones or flowering stones, are unique, slow-growing succulents originating from Southern Africa. These intriguing plants mimic the appearance of stones to blend into their surroundings and conserve water. Their ability to thrive in harsh conditions makes them a popular choice for gardeners and succulent enthusiasts, but propagating them can be quite the challenge.

Propagation for lithops can be done in two ways: by division or from seed. While both methods require patience and the right growing conditions, successfully propagating these fascinating plants can be a rewarding and satisfying experience. In this article, we will explore in detail the processes and techniques to help you multiply your collection of living stones.

To start, understanding the specific requirements of lithops will go a long way in making the propagation process more manageable. Proper lighting, soil, temperature, and watering are crucial factors in ensuring successful propagation. With this in mind, let’s dive into the world of lithops propagation and embark on the journey to growing more of these beautiful living stones.

What Are Lithops

Origins and Habitat

Lithops, also known as “living stones,” are small, unique succulent plants native to the arid regions of southern Africa. They thrive in environments where they camouflaged within their surroundings, often mistaken for rocks or stones. These fascinating plants have adapted to survive in harsh, dry conditions by storing water in their thick, fleshy leaves.

Physical Characteristics

Lithops have a peculiar appearance, with their leaves fused together in pairs, forming multiple tiny, stone-like plants. The leaves’ colors and patterns vary greatly, ranging from shades of green and gray to brown and even pink. They can grow up to 2 inches tall, with a diameter of about 1 inch.

These plants produce small, daisy-like flowers in the late summer or autumn, which are typically white or yellow. The flowers emerge from the central fissure (the gap) between the paired leaves, opening in the afternoon and closing in the late afternoon.

With their fascinating appearance and low-maintenance requirements, Lithops make popular houseplants for succulent enthusiasts. When properly cared for, they can thrive in indoor environments and add an intriguing touch to your home or office space.

Propagation Basics

Lithops, also known as “living stones,” are unique succulents that have a distinctive appearance and growth pattern. This section will delve into the basics of propagating lithops and discuss when and why propagation is necessary.

When to Propagate

Timing is crucial when it comes to propagating lithops. As slow-growing succulents, they don’t need to be propagated every year. Instead, it’s best to wait several years, with the earliest generally being three years before attempting any propagation methods. It’s important to let the plants develop into a cluster before dividing them, and to allow the seed pods to mature if you’re going to propagate from seeds source.

Why Propagation Is Necessary

There are a few reasons why you might want to propagate your lithops:

  1. To increase the number of plants: Propagation results in new individual plants, making it ideal for those looking to expand their lithops collection or share them with friends and fellow gardeners.
  2. To maintain plant health: Over time, lithops clusters can grow crowded, increasing the risk of pests or diseases. Propagating helps maintain overall plant health by providing the space they need to thrive.
  3. To save a damaged plant: If a portion of the lithops is damaged or rotting, propagation may help salvage the healthy part, giving it an opportunity to grow into a new plant.

There are two primary methods to propagate lithops: division and seed. Dividing mature clusters involves separating the individual plants while keeping their root systems intact source. On the other hand, seed propagation requires the collection of mature seed capsules from the mother plant, which can then be sown in a suitable growing medium to produce new lithops source.

To summarize, successful lithops propagation relies heavily on timing and understanding the specific needs of these fascinating succulents. By keeping the basics in mind, you can propagate your lithops with confidence and enjoy their growth for years to come.

Methods of Propagation

Lithops, also known as living stones, can be propagated through two primary methods: seeds and division (offsets or clusters). It’s essential to choose the best method based on the lithops’ growth and development stage.


Propagation through seeds is the most common and efficient way to grow new lithops plants. You can collect seeds from mature lithops flowers, which need to be pollinated since lithops are self-sterile. The seeds are tiny and found inside a hydrochastic fruiting capsule that opens only when moistened.

To propagate lithops via seeds, follow these steps:

  1. Fill a shallow tray with well-draining soil mix suitable for succulents.
  2. Sprinkle the seeds evenly over the soil surface.
  3. Moisten the soil, avoiding direct watering to prevent dislodging the seeds.
  4. Cover the tray with a plastic lid or wrap to promote humidity.
  5. Place the tray in a warm, bright location, away from direct sunlight.
  6. Keep the soil slightly moist and await germination, which may take several weeks.

Offsets or Clusters

Lithops can also be propagated through division by separating offsets or clusters that develop after several years of growth. This method is slower compared to growing lithops from seeds. You need to wait for the plants to form a cluster before initiating the division process.

Follow these steps to propagate lithops through offsets/clusters:

  1. Carefully remove the lithops clusters from their pot or growing medium without damaging the roots.
  2. Gently separate the offset from the mother plant. Use a sterilized sharp knife or scissors if necessary.
  3. Allow the separated offset to dry and form a protective callus over the cut sections for a day or two.
  4. Plant the offset in a well-draining soil mix, same as the mother plant.
  5. Provide limited water until the offset has developed its roots and shows signs of new growth.

In both propagation methods, it’s crucial to maintain an appropriate environment for lithops to thrive, including proper lighting, temperature, and soil moisture.

Caring for New Lithops


When it comes to caring for young lithops, proper watering is essential. These succulents are adapted to survive in arid environments and require very little water. In fact, overwatering can lead to root rot and other issues. To keep your lithops healthy, water them sparingly. Generally, it’s best to avoid watering during October through May when the old leaves are withering away.

Sunlight Requirements

Lithops thrive in bright, sunny conditions, making it crucial to provide them with ample light. A south- or east-facing windowsill is an ideal spot for these succulents. Keep in mind that too much direct sunlight can be harmful, so it’s essential to strike a balance. In hotter climates, providing some shade during the hottest part of the day can help prevent sunburn.

Potting and Soil

Selecting the right potting mix for lithops is crucial, as they require well-draining soil. A cactus compost mix is an excellent choice because it allows excess water to flow through the soil easily, preventing issues related to overwatering.

Additionally, choose a shallow, wide pot with drainage holes for your lithops. The pot size should be proportional to the size of the plant, allowing its roots to spread comfortably. As your lithops grow and reproduce, you may need to repot them occasionally, carefully separating the new plants from the parent plant in the process.

By following these care tips for watering, sunlight, and potting, your new lithops should flourish, adding unique beauty to your indoor garden.

Common Propagation Challenges

When attempting to propagate lithops, gardeners can encounter certain challenges. In this section, we will discuss three common issues: overwatering, rot, and pests.


A significant challenge that people face when propagating lithops is overwatering. These plants are adapted to arid environments and require less water than most plants do. Overwatering can lead to several problems, such as root rot or fungal infections. To avoid this, ensure that the soil is well-draining and only water the lithops when it starts showing signs of dehydration, such as wrinkling. This practice will help you propagate lithops without causing them harm.


Another challenge faced during lithops propagation is rot, usually caused by excessive moisture. Root rot and other types of decay can negatively impact your lithops’ growth. To prevent this, make sure to use well-draining soil, avoid overwatering, and provide adequate airflow around the plants. This will help create an environment where lithops can thrive and propagate successfully.

Here are some steps to minimize the risk of rot:

  • Use a well-draining soil mix, such as a combination of perlite, sand, and potting soil.
  • Keep your lithops in a bright spot with good air circulation.
  • Make sure to water them sparingly, waiting until the soil is completely dry between waterings.


Pests can pose challenges to propagating lithops. Common pests that affect lithops include mealybugs, spider mites, and aphids. These insects feed on the plant tissue, potentially causing damage or transmitting diseases. To protect your lithops from pests, regularly inspect the plants and look for early signs of infestations, such as tiny white or brown bugs, web-like structures, or sticky residue. Using insecticidal soap or neem oil can help safeguard your lithops from pests and promote healthy propagation.

Here are some useful preventive measures:

  • Inspect your lithops frequently for signs of pests.
  • Keep the plants clean and free of dust using a soft brush.
  • Quarantine new plants to ensure they are pest-free before adding them to your existing collection.

By addressing these common propagation challenges, you can give your lithops the best chance of healthy growth and successful propagation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best method to propagate Lithops?

The best method to propagate Lithops is by sowing seeds. Collecting seeds can be done by pollinating Lithops flowers. Cross-pollination must occur between different plants to produce seeds, as they are self-sterile. Once seeds are collected, sow them in a well-draining soil mix with a thin layer of sand on top. Make sure to keep the soil consistently moist during germination while maintaining good air circulation. More information on Lithops propagation here.

Can you grow Lithops from cuttings?

Growing Lithops from cuttings isn’t recommended, as they don’t have any branch structures to allow successful cutting propagation. Instead, focus on propagating them from seeds.

How to germinate Lithops seeds?

Lithops seeds germinate best in a well-draining soil mix. Sow seeds by spreading them evenly across the soil surface and covering them with a thin layer of sand. Keep the soil consistently moist during the germination period and maintain good air circulation. Germination usually takes 2-12 weeks. Find more details on germinating Lithops seeds here.

When do Lithops flower?

Lithops typically flower in the fall, between late September and early December. Flowering occurs based on the age and health of the plant, with many Lithops taking a few years to produce their first flowers. They usually produce a single daisy-like flower that opens in the afternoon and closes at night.

What is the Lithops growth and splitting cycle?

Lithops undergo a unique growth and splitting cycle. In the fall, a new leaf pair starts to form within the existing leaf pair. As the new leaves grow larger, the old leaves provide the necessary water and nutrients to support the new leaves’ growth. By the end of the process, the old leaves will have shriveled away, leaving a new pair of leaves in their place.

How often should Lithops be watered?

Lithops require very little water and are adapted to growing in arid environments. Watering should be done sparingly since overwatering can cause them to rot. As a general rule, water only when the soil is completely dry, and reduce watering even more during the winter months when plants are dormant. Learn more about Lithops watering needs here.

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