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Thread: Lithops - third try

  1. #9
    swords's Avatar
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    Yes, all the "rage" these days is to try and emulate their natural conditions as closely as possible. Blasting them with intense light, mild air temps, mostly dry nutrient free mineral mixes that are similar to their natural soil conditions. If you see images of them in the wild often they're just a clump of plant flesh peeking out of a cleft in between two rocks with it's feet potted in a few gravel bits covered in quartz sand. This causes the plants to become very compact, hard and colorful like the plants in habitat. They look a lot different than plants normally kept in cultivation who tend to be very large, soft and green (not Lithops so much not many green Lithops). These are not actually new techniques I have a book called "Growing the Mesembraceae" from the RHS published in the 1940s/1950s which suggests growing them this way but took some 60 years to catch on...? It just so happens that this "hard" style of growing in all minerals enables me to grow them without rotting them at the soil line.

    I don't use clay pots because I want to fit as many plants on my shelves as possible, 64 4" or 128 2" pots on each shelf. Clay pots would likely screw up those nice quantities!

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    Got Drosera? Indiana Gardener's Avatar
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    I just can't see spending $7 for a little hand full of material when I have no use for for the rest of it. As in MN, they would very likely rot in anything else. It's very wet and humid here.

    If they won't likely do well in something I already have; grit, crushed lava rock, perlite, or sand, then they need to go to some other home. They're going back to Lowe's today. I'm not out to kill my third one and I'm not about to pay over twice as much for soil as I did for the plant itself.

  3. #11
    swords's Avatar
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    If you have crushed lava rock and grit (you could likely omit the sand) that's a great mix. Basically any soil you can mix up that will dry out in 2-3 days is all you need, you could even use shredded car tires if need be (Singapore)! There's nothing magical about Napa, it's just easily available here and does what I want, Shultz Aquatic Plant Soil does what I want too but it costs way more than the Napa.

    I'd just poop with glee if I could get some small crushed lava rock or small pumice in my area! That's what the Napa or Shultz APS is being used as a replacement for in my mix because we don't have those things available here.

    As far as returning your Lithops, even in the "store soil" you'll probably keep them alive longer than the store will! lol! But if you've got crushed lava rock in small pieces, you're already all set! Earlier you said pumice and grit but that would be really dry since water only sits on the surface of these two things and doesn't soak into the pores. But pure lava rock or lava & grit should be awesome to pot them in. You might even need to add a wee bit of peat to force it to stay wet for 2-3 days. The best thing to do is run some empty pot experiments and see how long a few different mixes using what you have onhand take to dry out after being watered. The mix which is dry clear through but not compacted in 2-3 days is the one to start with and grow from there. Whatever gives you that result, no matter what materials it is (so long as it's non-toxic), is a good starting point. Some succulents you'll find like a moister mix and some a drier but 2-3 days generally allows them all to soak up enough water but doesn't stay wet long enough to induce rot in healthy roots. Mesembs like Lithops are some of the worst "rotters" in the MN climate. If the soil dries faster than a couple days they might not get a decent drink.

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    Got Drosera? Indiana Gardener's Avatar
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    Thanks anyway, but they're already back at Lowe's and my $2.58 is back in my pocket. I'm not getting anything else like that from there to encourage that growing practice. I was not at all expecting to have to spend more money on them immediately; more money than the plants themselves were worth! (my work hours are down by over half from last month) If NAPA DE was what they needed, then that's what I would have wanted to have been able to give them. I see this as more or less a third fail. Not being able to give them what they need is just leading up to another death anyway. I'm done with even thinking about trying to grow lithops. I gave it three tries, that's it.

    I can get landscape lava rock by the ton here. It's cheap too. Not a rip off like buying it bagged at the garden center; Lowe's... caugh, caugh.... I crush it myself and then sift it and grade it by size for my bonsai mixes. How much do you need?

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    swords's Avatar
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    That's unfortunate, as I said there's nothing magical about Napa, it's just what I use here cos I can't get lava rock or pumice. I can order it but it costs too much to ship. The mass growers who supply Lowes and others with these plants must have well ventilated greenhouses in warm climates to use the soil they do but no matter what succulents you choose there will be a experimental period until you find the soil mix that works right for you. You have to be willing to take the losses to reap the successes.

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    sea bear returns! theyellowdart's Avatar
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    Hey guys.

    Because this thread contains most of the info I need, I figured I'd just revive it and ask some questions in here.

    I just picked up a pot of lithops from Lowe's that look to be in pure peat that is extremely compacted. The plants (3) are sticking out of the pot by about 3 inches, exactly how Swords explained they get when they are planted in peat.

    My questions:
    1. As MarkCA suggested, I'm going to try planting them in regular soil with sand. Is potting soil with fertilizer ok? Should I top dress with sand?
    2. Should I water them when transplanted?
    3. Are the roots fragile? (AKA, should I be careful when removing them from their peat straight jacket?)
    4. Can I keep these on my cp grow rack? My lights are on for 16 hours in Spring/Summer and some of fall and 15 hours for part of fall and all of winter.
    5. The label says not to water "new" leaves until old leaves are dry husks. Is that correct? (I assume it's talking about when new leaves emerge out of the old ones.)
    6. On a regular basis, don't water them until they start to shrivel... correct?

    Thanks for any help!
    growlist

    Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

  7. #15
    swords's Avatar
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    Hey Dart you've pretty much got it.

    Before doing your actual repotting make up a couple different sample size soil mixes put them each in the tiny pots you plan to use for the Lithops. Water the empty pots of soil and set them where the Lithops will be growing (under the same light, temps, etc) and wait a few days then use the one which is totally dry or driest you can get throughout (not just the top inch or so being dry) in about 3 days.

    It'll only take a few days to find which mix will be best for you in your area. The higher your relative humidity the less water retaining your soil needs to be mine is 25% RH now and will be up to 50% in August while my main Lithops man's is 6-10% RH almost year round! Hence why he can use all the peat he wants to help retain moisture. So run a few experiments before doing the repotting to find the mix that dries out fastest for you. These plants can be repotted anytime of the year, no buzzers are going off, there's no rush.

    In my experience peat + sand is almost like a recipe to make mud (stays wet, gets compact & has no air flow through the soil) that's what folks grow Sundews, Utrics and such in right? That's a swampy soil that doesn't dry out for several weeks in my area (and actually kills my CPs too so I don't use it for them either). But maybe you have larger grit sand than is available here. 1-2 mm grit sand is a good size for "sand" the play sand is bad news my my exp. Way too fine and that's all I can get.


    After you have your soil mix pop the peat cube out of the Lowes pot and crush the dry peat cube with your hands, it'll crumble pretty easy, using your fingers tease all the peat out of the roots, there's not usually very many roots on a lithops so it's not very hard to do. When you get all the peat out fill your pot 1/2 way with the new soil and tilt at a 45* angle so you have a soil slope, lay your lithops on the slop and shovel in the other half. Then hold the pot upright and adjust the lithops to upright and tap the pot a few times on a table so the new soil compacts in around the roots. I bury about 1/2 of the body but if you've used a lot of peat in the new soil mix don't bury the body in anything but top dressing (i.e. pea gravel/aquarium gravel, non compacting sand, etc) if the bodies stay wet from contact with the peat they'll discolor and rot.

    I don't usually water for 2-3 weeks after repotting succulents as many times plant that were repotted then immediately watered have rotted on me. I lost a new Pachypodium bevicaule that way recently because I thought it looked a bit too desicated after it's trip but my "kindness" worked against me. Waiting a few weeks gives the roots time to heal and recover their strength and the plant a chance to reanchor itself. Don't flood the pot on your first watering, just do a light watering, water doesn't have to come out of the bottom of the pot, if you saw some go in the top that's good enough for the first time, a week later do another deeper watering (water can come out the bottom) then leave them be until they start retreating into the soil and getting very wrinkly, Lithops will wrinkle slightly on warm days but on cooler days they pop right back into shape, but if they don't puff back up and just get more wrinkly then it's water time. It's pretty hard to starve these things for water.

    You will want less light hours and cooler temps for winter so your plants know what time of year it is: when to flower, when to start pushing up a new body, etc. They might make new bodies even without photoperiod shifts, a perpetual vegetative state but I've heard they must have a temp and photoperiod shift to initiate blooms. Since these come from a rather temperate climate (S. africa, Namibia, etc) don't subject them to blazing hot temps and direct sun all day, if they turn white you've boiled all the Lith out of your Ops!

  8. #16
    sea bear returns! theyellowdart's Avatar
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    Thank you very much Swords. I really appreciate your help!

    So don't keep them under the lights with my cps unless I significantly lower the light schedule in winter?

    Thanks again man!

    Edit: Looks like I'll have to wait a few days before I repot and do a soil experiment. I forgot that I was going to Jersey on Thursday!
    growlist

    Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

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