When to Water Lithops: Expert Guide for Succulent Care

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Lithops, also known as living stones, are fascinating succulent plants that resemble small rocks or stones. These unique plants have evolved to thrive in harsh desert environments by storing water in their thick leaves. Because of their distinctive water requirements and growth patterns, knowing when to water lithops is critical for keeping them healthy and happy.

Lithops need a good balance between hydration and dryness to grow properly. From spring to autumn, it’s important to let the soil dry out completely before watering them again. Overwatering during this period can lead to various issues such as rot and poor growth. It’s important to remember that these plants have a natural ability to conserve water, making it crucial to resist the urge to water them too often. Typically, watering lithops once every two weeks or when the leaves begin to separate is a good approach.

During winter, lithops enter a dormancy period, which means they need less water. It’s essential to reduce watering significantly through this time, as they will rely on the moisture stored within their leaves. Pay close attention to your lithops’ needs and visual cues, such as wrinkling leaves or signs of dehydration, to determine the most appropriate watering schedule.

Understanding Lithops

Lithops, commonly known as living stones, are unique and fascinating plants. In this section, we will discuss their anatomy, natural habitat, and water requirements to better understand how to care for them.

Lithops Anatomy

Lithops are small, drought-resistant plants that often don’t grow more than an inch above the surface of the soil. They have a unique appearance, resembling small, colorful stones or pebbles. The plant is made up of two thick, semi-translucent leaves that are fused together, with a slit at the top where new leaves and flowers emerge. The outer part of the leaves is known as the window, which enables sunlight to penetrate through the thick leaf tissue and reach the chlorophyll-rich inner layers for photosynthesis.

Natural Habitat

These intriguing plants are native to the arid regions of southern Africa. They can be found in various environments, such as rocky outcrops, desert plains, and even mountain slopes. Lithops have adapted to their harsh surroundings by developing certain features, such as a low, flat growth habit that helps them blend in with their surroundings. This camouflage protects the plants from being eaten by animals and allows them to retain water in their leaves during long periods of drought.

Water Requirements

Lithops have unique water requirements compared to other types of succulents. Since they originate from desert environments, they can go for extended periods without water. When it comes to watering Lithops, less is often more. These plants thrive in a dry environment and usually require water only when their leaves begin to wrinkle or sink in the pot.

During the spring and summer, it’s crucial to wait until the soil is 100% dry before watering your Lithops. Overwatering can be detrimental to these plants and may cause rot. In the winter, when they’re dormant, they need even less water, as they rely on stored moisture in their leaves.

In conclusion, it’s essential to understand Lithops’ unique anatomy, natural habitat, and water requirements to properly care for these fascinating plants. By learning about their specific needs and adapting your care routine accordingly, you can ensure that your Lithops remain healthy and continue to thrive.

Identifying When to Water Lithops

Growth Stages

Lithops, also known as living stones, have specific growth stages that impact their watering needs. In the spring and summer months, they require more frequent watering as they enter the active growth season. During the fall and winter, they enter a dormant stage, and their water needs decrease significantly. It is essential to adjust your watering habits according to these growth stages to keep your lithops healthy and thriving.

Visual Cues

Lithops exhibit visual cues that can help you determine when to water them. One of the main indicators of a thirsty lithops is wrinkling or sinking in the pot. When you notice these signs, it’s the right time to water your plant. On the other hand, if your lithops appear plump and have a healthy, smooth surface, you should hold off on watering until the visual cues arise again.

Remember that lithops can go for months without water, so it’s better to err on the side of under-watering rather than over-watering. Maintaining a keen eye on the visual cues and monitoring the growth stages will help you provide appropriate care for your lithops plants.

Watering Techniques

Watering Amount

When it comes to watering lithops, also known as living stone plants, less is often more. These succulents can survive for months without water, so it’s crucial not to over-water. Adjust the watering frequency based on lithops’ appearance: if they appear wrinkled or sunk in their pot, it’s time for watering. Always allow the soil to dry completely between watering sessions, ensuring that the top 1-2 inches of soil is dry to the touch. Properly hydrating lithops allows them to flourish and maintain their unique aesthetic.


There’s a variety of methods to water lithops effectively. A common technique is bottom-up watering, where the plant sits in a tray filled with water for about 15-20 minutes to absorb the necessary moisture. This approach helps minimize the risk of over-watering, as the soil only takes in the water it can hold. Another option is to water the lithops using a syringe or watering can with a thin, long nozzle to control the water flow. Make sure to water the base of the plant and avoid pouring water directly on the lithops, as this can cause them to rot.


For successful lithops care, having the right tools is essential. Besides a watering can with a long, thin nozzle or a syringe for controlled watering, a moisture meter or wooden stick can help determine when it’s time to water. Insert the meter or stick into the soil to check the depth of soil dryness. If the soil is still wet or moist within those top 1-2 inches, it’s best to wait before watering.

Furthermore, using a well-draining soil mix and pot with drainage holes is vital for lithops. Good drainage allows excess water to flow out, reduces the risk of over-watering, and creates an ideal environment for these unique succulents.

Overwatering and Underwatering

Signs and Symptoms

Both overwatering and underwatering can cause problems for lithops plants. Overwatered lithops may exhibit signs such as edema, soft photosynthetic tissues, stretching, wilting leaves, yellowing leaves, root rot, splitting, fungal growth, soggy soil, and leaf drop. A telltale sign that your lithops need more water is if they start to wrinkle or sink in the pot.

In contrast, underwatered lithops might appear shriveled and will not be as plump or firm as they should be. This is due to the plant not having enough water stored in its leaves to maintain its shape and structure.


To prevent overwatering, make sure you allow 100% of the soil volume to dry out before watering and use a well-draining soil mix for your lithops. Monitor soil moisture by pushing your finger into the soil – if it’s dry about 1-2 inches down, it’s time to water. If the soil is still wet or moist in the top layer, it’s best to wait longer before watering. You can also use a wooden stick to check the depth of soil dryness.

To prevent underwatering, keep a closer eye on your lithops and water them whenever you notice signs of wrinkling or sinking. As their growth mainly occurs underground, they don’t need constant watering, so be sure to maintain a balance.


For overwatered lithops, remove them from the soggy soil and trim away any rotten roots. Allow the roots to dry for a day or two and then repot the plant in fresh, well-draining soil. Make sure to reduce watering frequency and monitor the soil moisture more carefully.

If your lithops are underwatered, increase the watering frequency, but do so gradually. Avoid sudden heavy watering as it may shock the plant. Check the soil for moisture more often, making sure it doesn’t completely dry out for extended periods.

In both cases, it’s crucial that you adjust your watering habits and continue to observe the plants closely for any changes in appearance or health. By doing so, you’ll ensure that your lithops have the proper care they need to thrive.

Seasonal Adjustments to Watering

Lithops, also known as living stones, require different watering patterns depending on the season. Proper understanding of their seasonal requirements will contribute significantly to their health and survival. Let’s discuss their summer and winter requirements below.

Summer Requirements

During the warm seasons, lithops go into a period of dormancy. It is important not to water them during this time, as they are not actively growing, and excessive moisture might cause damage to the plant. Sometimes, the leaves may begin to shrink during dormancy; in this case, you can give the plant a little drink. They also need 6 hours or more of direct sunlight to thrive properly during the summer months, which can help to evaporate any excess water present.

Winter Requirements

In contrast to their summer dormancy, lithops experience a growth spurt during the cooler months. This is the best time for watering, but it’s essential to ensure that the moisture levels are regulated. The plant needs to absorb water from the soil at its own pace, so it’s crucial to avoid constant watering.

To determine the right time for watering, keep an eye on the appearance of the leaves—a thirsty lithops will have wrinkled or shriveled leaves. When you notice this, water your lithops sparingly, waiting until the soil dries out before the next watering session.

Keep in mind that lithops should be planted in a pot with good drainage to prevent moisture accumulation and potential rotting. Paying attention to their seasonal requirements will ensure a healthy and happy living stone plant.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often to water lithops?

Lithops, also known as living stone plants, are quite resilient and can usually go for months without water. However, their watering schedule should be determined mainly by the state of the soil. Always ensure that 100% of the soil volume is dry before watering during the spring and summer.

Signs of thirsty lithops?

To know when your lithops need water, keep an eye on some telltale signs. When they are thirsty, lithops will often wrinkle or sink in their pot. Additionally, checking the soil’s dryness is another reliable way to determine their need for water.

Water during splitting?

It’s not advisable to water lithops when they are splitting. Watering during this period might lead to problems such as rotting. It’s best to wait for the splitting process to complete before resuming a normal watering schedule.

Water after repotting?

Watering after repotting is essential for most plants, but when it comes to lithops, you should exercise caution. Allow the plant to settle into its new pot and wait for the soil to dry completely before watering. This helps prevent overwatering and promotes root growth.

Watering lithops seedlings?

Lithops seedlings have similar watering requirements as adult plants. Make sure the soil is completely dry before providing water. However, seedlings may require more frequent watering than mature plants, as they are still establishing their root systems.

Changes in watering for growth cycle?

The growth cycle of lithops affects their watering requirements. During dormancy, which typically occurs in the colder months, reduce the frequency of watering significantly. When the plant is actively growing, in the warmer months, they will need more frequent watering. Always pay attention to the soil and your lithops’ appearance to determine the right watering schedule for each growth cycle.

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