The Lithops optica, which is native and endemic to Namibia (south-west Africa) is a slow growing and cluster forming living stones plant. The most popular Lithops optica grown is the 'rubra' because of its beautiful and strong color.
Living stones are a very interesting and unique set of species to grow and named living stones simply because of how they look like stones or pebbles. This enables them to blend in with their environment (camouflage) and protects them from harm.
It's important to understand the natural desert habitat this species originates from that can enable a grower to grow the plant correctly within its summer dormancy, and winter growing cycle (unlike many foliage plants we grow).
Its natural habitat includes conditions that are dry, lots of sunshine, winter rainfall and no rainfall during summer, and huge temperature drops during the evening. These conditions are specific to times of the year.
Foliage: The windowed leaves are pink in color with a reddish or purple hue to them. This succulent has two club shaped leaves (obconical) that grow to around an inch in diameter and a short stem that is barely visible. These leaves die off before winter sets in and produces new leaves during winter.
Flowering: The flowers are very similar to a daisy and grow to around an inch in diameter. Each plant will produce a single flower displaying petals that are slim with a yellow center and beautifully bright. The flowers can be seen at the end of summer or the beginning of Autumn.
Displaying: Due to where the plant originated from, it thrives well in areas that are exposed to sunlight (i.e., on windowsills or inside conservatories) . A south or west facing position will give it enough light and exposure to help it grow.
Care level: The Lithops optica 'rubra' is a tough species due to the environment from which it originates, however, it seems to be be a little harder to grow than other Lithops.
The environment it originates from does make the plant easy enough to care for as it is used to conditions at certain times of the year when water and humidity is lacking.
Keep in mind this is a winter growing plant that becomes dormant during summer. Cool and dry for the summer and warm with moisture during winter.
Overwatering, especially in colder conditions is the worst offender for the L. optica, and incorrect soil that does not drain well. Less is more type of scenario.
Lithops are interesting for growers to maintain because doing nothing is the best option most of the time, and this is difficult as a grower is thinking what can I do now for my plant. Leave it alone!
|Names:||Lithops optica 'rubra' (botanical/scientific).|
|Max Growth (approx):||Height 5cm - 15cm max.|
|Poisonous for pets:||Not known, but it's unlikely a pet will chew on this type of foliage, although they could be curious.|
|Temperature:||The Lithops optica 'rubra' can deal with variation of temperatures due to its origin. The plant does benefit from a consistent temperature of 65°F (18°C)- 75°F (24°C) although it will need to be protected from frost.|
|Light:||This is a plant that thrives in areas of bright sunlight which is why it should be placed south or west facing. During the winter months it will need to receive as much light as possible. Make sure that some shade during the day is given the plant otherwise too much sun could cause overheating and harm.|
|Watering:||New leaves will begin growing in Autumn and continue during the winter months and it is after the leaves have grown that the plant can be watered. It is advised to let the plant dry out in between watering as well as during the summer months (dormancy period). The plant will require very little water during the winter, spring and summer months, if at all. If in doubt, don't water is my best advice.|
|Soil:||A sandy, loamy soil is best for the Lithops optica rubra as the plant can suffer from rot if the soil does not drain sufficiently. 1 part gravel, 2 parts sand with 1 part loam is another good mix.|
|Re-Potting:||It will do extremely well in the same pot for a number of years although it is advised to grow them in a smaller pot due to the fact that a large pot can inhibit the growth of flowers and the roots are very small. Prior to watering is when it should be repotted and it should be placed in a compost that is loam-based rather than organic. When repotting you could use a clay pot, this helps watering to dry out.|
|Air Humidity:||A room that has good humidity will benefit the plant but the plant will not grow well in cold drafty areas. The Lithops optica also benefits from plenty of fresh air.|
|Propagation:||Propagating by seed that is sown at a temperature of around 21°C will produce the best results although they can be grown from parent plant division cuttings when more lithops have formed from the parent (this can be an issue because these plants like being clustered together) . Seedlings will take around three years to mature and begin flowering. Propagation should take place in early spring.|
|Fertilizer:||It is not advised to fertilize this plant as it can damage the tissues of the plant which can result in rot. If growers do feed them they only feed once during the winter growing season with a cactus or succulent diluted fertilizer.|