Pleiospilos Nelii vs Lithops: Expert Guide to Succulent Differences

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Pleiospilos nelii, commonly known as “Split Rock,” and Lithops, often referred to as “Living Rocks” or “Living Stones,” are two unique succulent plants that have captured the interest of gardening enthusiasts. Both of these fascinating plants belong to the same Aizoaceae family and share many similarities in appearance and care requirements. Despite their resemblance, Pleiospilos nelii and Lithops are different species with distinct characteristics that set them apart.

One key difference between Pleiospilos nelii and Lithops is their flowering patterns. Split Rocks produce multiple blooms during their flowering season, while Lithops only yield one flower at a time. Another difference lies in their overall structure: Pleiospilos has a more rounded, fleshy appearance, while Lithops has a flatter, stone-like surface.

In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the fascinating world of Pleiospilos nelii and Lithops, examining their unique features, care requirements, and how to successfully grow and maintain these intriguing plants in your home or garden. By understanding the distinctions between these two species, you’ll be better equipped to professionally care for and appreciate their individual charms.

Understanding Pleiospilos Nelii and Lithops

Origins and Natural Habitat

Pleiospilos Nelii, commonly known as Split Rock, originating from South Africa, it is a perennial succulent that lacks a stem. It prospers in regions with a dry, parched, or semi-arid climate bright and unpolluted light. In its natural environment, Pleiospilos Nelii is called kwaggavy (Quagga mesemb) and klipplant (stone plant) source.

On the other hand, Lithops, commonly referred to as Living Rocks or Living Stones, also belong to the Aizoaceae family and originated from the arid regions of southern Africa. These unique plants have adapted to their environment by mimicking the appearance of rocks to blend in and avoid being eaten by animals source.


Since Pleiospilos Nelii and Lithops belong to the same family, they share many similarities, such as:

  • Both of them are perennial succulents that can thrive in arid and semi-arid regions.
  • They have adapted to their environments to resemble rocks or stones to avoid predation.
  • Both plants have a specific process called “leaf replacement,” where old leaves are absorbed by the new ones, ensuring minimal waste and efficient use of resources.
  • Pleiospilos Nelii and Lithops require well-draining soil and should not be overwatered, as it may lead to root rot.

These similarities can sometimes make it difficult to differentiate between Pleiospilos Nelii and Lithops. However, they do have some distinct differences, such as their life cycles and the coexistence of leaves from one season to another source. While Pleiospilos generally blooms in spring-summer, Lithops typically flower in autumn-winter, making it easier to identify them during their flowering periods source.

Distinguishing Features

Physical Characteristics

Pleiospilos nelii, often referred to as Split Rock, and Lithops, commonly known as Living Stones, are two unique succulents that are often mistaken for one another. While both resemble living stones, they have some distinct physical characteristics to differentiate them.

Pleiospilos nelii have nearly spherical leaves that are thick and fleshy. They usually have a single pair of opposite leaves, giving them a split appearance. These succulents are commonly found in shades of gray, green, and brown, with some varieties exhibiting a purple tinge. The surface of their leaves often has a rough texture with tiny dots or grooves.

On the other hand, Lithops are small, stemless succulents with two leaves that are fused at the base. They come in various colors, including brown, gray, blue, and green, often with mottled patterns that resemble the rocky surroundings in which they grow. The surface of Lithops is usually smooth, and their shape is more flattened compared to Pleiospilos nelii.

Growth Patterns

Another differentiating factor between Pleiospilos nelii and Lithops is their growth patterns. Pleiospilos nelii have a relatively faster growth rate than Lithops. They produce large, daisy-like flowers that usually appear between late winter and early spring on top of their leaves. While both plants are native to arid and semi-arid regions of South Africa, Pleiospilos nelii can adapt better to varying light conditions than Lithops.

Lithops’ growth pattern is characterized by their slow development and a unique adaptation called “leaf replacement,” where a new pair of leaves absorbs the nutrients from the old pair as they emerge. This process takes place annually and is essential for their survival in the harsh habitats they come from. The flowers of Lithops appear in the gap between the two fused leaves, typically emerging in autumn.

In conclusion, while Pleiospilos nelii and Lithops might look similar at first glance, it’s their physical characteristics and differing growth patterns that set them apart. Recognizing these attributes can help succulent enthusiasts properly care for these unique plants and appreciate their distinct features.

Care and Maintenance

Watering Requirements

Pleiospilos Nelii and Lithops have different watering requirements due to their varying life cycles. In general, Lithops thrive when watered sparingly during autumn and winter, while Pleiospilos prefer watering in spring and summer. To avoid overwatering, give each succulent a thorough soaking and allow the soil to dry out completely before watering again. Keep in mind that both plants don’t enjoy sitting in damp soil for extended periods, so proper drainage is essential for their survival.

Light and Temperature Needs

Both Pleiospilos Nelii and Lithops require plenty of sunlight to grow and thrive. However, it’s important to protect them from extreme temperatures and direct midday sun. Place your succulents in a well-lit spot with indirect sunlight or partial shade. This will prevent sunburn and maintain a more constant temperature, allowing for healthier plant growth. When it comes to temperature preferences, these succulents can tolerate mild temperatures, but Pleiospilos Nelii is not fond of cold temperatures below 40°F. Keep them in a location with a stable temperature, avoiding places prone to drafts or sudden temperature fluctuations.

Soil and Potting

As both Pleiospilos and Lithops resemble living stones and grow naturally in dry, arid environments, they need well-draining soil to prevent root rot. Opt for a potting mix specifically designed for succulents, or create your own by blending regular potting soil with sand or perlite. When selecting a pot, ensure it has drainage holes and is the appropriate size for your succulent. For healthy root development, consider choosing a shallow, wide container that allows the succulent to spread its roots horizontally.

In summary, Pleiospilos Nelii and Lithops have many similarities in terms of care and maintenance, but they differ in some aspects like watering cycles and temperature preferences. By carefully monitoring their watering, light, and soil conditions, you can maintain the health and beauty of these unique, living stone-like plants.

Propagation and Repotting

Propagation Techniques

To propagate Pleiospilos nelii and Lithops, you can use one of the following techniques:

  1. Seeds: Collect seeds from the existing plants or purchase them from a reliable source. Sow them in well-draining soil, maintain moderate moisture, and provide plenty of sunlight for germination. The seedlings can be transplanted once they develop a stable root system.
  2. Division: Both Pleiospilos nelii and Lithops can also be propagated through division. Separate the offsets or new growths from the mother plant using a clean and sharp knife. Allow the cut part to callous over for a few days before planting it in an appropriate soil mixture.

It is important to note that Pleiospilos nelii and Lithops have different growth patterns and might require slightly different propagation techniques. For instance, the former usually blooms in spring-summer and the latter in autumn-winter, which could affect the best time to propagate them.

Repotting Tips

Both Pleiospilos nelii (Split Rock) and Lithops (Living Rocks) require good drainage and adequate ventilation to prevent rotting. Here are some tips to consider when repotting:

  • Use a well-draining soil mix, ideally consisting of coarse sand, perlite, or pumice. Avoid soil with high levels of organic matter or added fertilizers.
  • It is essential to choose a pot with sufficient drainage holes. Terracotta pots are recommended as they are porous and wick away excess moisture.
  • The best time to repot is at the beginning of the active growth period. For Lithops, this is usually early spring, while for Pleiospilos nelii, it may vary depending on the specific variety.
  • When transferring the plants to a new pot, gently remove the old soil from the roots and ensure the root ball is intact. Place the plant in the center of the new pot and fill it with the prepared soil mixture. Tamp down the soil to remove air pockets and provide stability.
  • Water the repotted plants sparingly until they establish themselves in their new environment. Overwatering can easily lead to root rot and other problems.

By following these propagation and repotting tips, you can ensure the healthy growth of both Pleiospilos nelii and Lithops, and enjoy their unique and fascinating appearances in your garden or indoor setup.

Frequently Asked Questions

When to water Pleiospilos nelii?

Pleiospilos nelii, also known as “Split Rock,” prefers to be watered infrequently compared to other succulents. It’s crucial to let the soil dry out completely between watering sessions. During the growing season, watering once every two to three weeks is ideal. In the wintertime, water even less, as the plant enters its dormant period.

Pleiospilos nelii ‘Royal Flush’

The Pleiospilos nelii ‘Royal Flush’ is a stunning succulent variety known for its vibrant purple-to-pink leaves and yellow flowers. It shares similar care requirements with its green counterpart, requiring well-drained soil, bright sunlight, and a thorough yet infrequent watering schedule to thrive.

Are Pleiospilos nelii and Lithops the same?

Although they might look similar, Pleiospilos nelii and Lithops are two different plants. They belong to the same plant family, Mesembryanthemaceae (Mesembs for short), but there are subtle distinctions in their appearance, primarily in how they grow.

Difference between Lithops and Split Rock?

Lithops grow with their neck buried in the ground, while Split Rock (Pleiospilos nelii) does not. Additionally, Lithops exhibit a more fissure-like appearance, whereas Split Rock displays a rounder shape with a prominent cleft.

Similar plants to Lithops?

There are several plants that resemble Lithops, such as Pleiospilos nelii, Conophytum, Dinteranthus, and Gibbaeum. These “Mimicry Plants” or “Mesembs” all belong to the Aizoaceae family, characterized by their distinctive appearance imitating rocks or stones.

Common name of Pleiospilos nelii?

The common name for Pleiospilos nelii is Split Rock. This name comes from its appearance, resembling a rock that has been split apart. It’s a popular choice among succulent enthusiasts due to its unique look and easy care requirements.

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