Growing Lithops from seed

Here, I am documenting my attempt to grow Lithops from seed. So far, I have built LED lights and sowed some seeds. Plenty have germinated and, recently, undergone their first split to reveal their first set of true leaves.


Progress Posts

Seeds have been Sown

March 9, 2019

I have sown 3 varieties of Lithops in one 10 cm round pot. I used a soil of 3 parts perlite, 3 parts sand, and 1 part sifted potting soil. Importantly, I included a paper towel at the bottom to prevent soil from falling through and creating craters in the soil. I sowed the following:

I placed the pot into a clean yogurt tub with water to keep the soil moist until germination. I also put the lid on with small ventilation holes to keep the environment humid. Now, I need to keep an eye on the water level, daily.


March 13, 2019

The first few seeds have germinated! I have not had to touch the seeds at all since sowing them except for checking that there is plenty of water in the reservoir. This has remained at a good height, so these have been really low maintenance thus far — I’m preparing for that the change, soon.

A few more sprouts

March 14, 2019

More seeds sprouted today and some are starting to take shape. I have removed the lid of the yogurt container to reduce the humidity, but left the pot in water so the soil stays moist. I also added a paper towel across the top of the container to filter the light while the plants are still young.

A few of the plants fell over because they were not covered by a thin layer of sand. I tried to cover everything, the problem is that while I was laying the top layer of sand, I could not seed where I had already covered. Next time, I will put the pot in water, let the water soak to the top, and then add sand. That way, I will be able to see the difference in color between the wet and dry sand to ensure good coverage.

They’re still alive

March 16, 2019

The Lithops seedlings are still growing. I have removed them from constant water supply and will instead track the moisture of the soil, periodically placing them in water to soak the soil. Ideally, I want the soil to be constantly moist, but not soaking.

In other news, my Echuveria purpusorum is sending up a stalk and the Haworthia is still flowering.

Update on Growth

March 23, 2019

I have watered the lithos by dipping them in water earlier this week. Many are still alive, though I think there has been a bit of die back. They have grown well, especially the julli!

Sown Lithops julii ssp. fulleri C161

March 24, 2019

I planted 22 seeds of Lithops julii ssp. fulleri C161 on March 24, 2019. I used the same soil mixture as in the previous batch. This time, though, I sterilized the soil mixture by microwaving the soil for 2.5 minutes (I let the soil cool off before using). I have noticed some “damping off” has killed quite a few of the seedlings in my first batch; the main sign is a that they will have a very thin stem and eventually fall over. Hopefully, this trick that I have seen some other use will mitigate any infection. Also, this time I compacted the soil a little bit before sowing the seeds. I don’t know how much this will help, though it was recommended in the main reference I am using.

Lithops julii ssp. fulleri C161 have sprouted

March 29, 2019

The seeds have sprouted! I think I have counted 19 out of 22 seeds, so pretty good germination rate. I will take them out of water in the next couple of days

New soil mixture for sowing Lithops karasmontana C168

March 30, 2019

I have finally purchased some aragonite, a component of my soil that has been missing, thus far. I just bought some being sold as aquarium sand from PetCo. To try it out, I made a soil mixture of 1/2 aragonite, 1/4 sand, and 1/4 sifted potting soil, then added a small handful of perlite. I planted 26 seeds, but did a poor job of dispersing them as many slid out at the same time.

Also, I have noticed that the water wicking properties of this mixture are much weaker than my other mixture, likely due to the reduced amount of sand. Hopefully it is strong enough, but I will have to keep an eye on it. The seeds are now sitting in water that is just below the top line of the soil to ensure water reaches the top.

(About) one-month later…

April 6, 2019

It has been just under one month, so I though I should share some update photos of the three varieties a first planted. They are generally growing well, though are already taking on slight different morphologies. There was one round of die-off, and I foresee another one as some are much too close together. However, many still look healthy and I remain hopeful that they will continue to grow.

Still Growing Strong!

April 20, 2019

This is just a quick update on the growth of all three containers. The large contiainer (left image below) I planted first is growing very well and the little butts are getting nice and plump. The Lithops julli ssp. fulleri C161 (middle image below) are not doing well, likely because I under-watered early on. Finally, the newest seedlings, Lithops karasmontana C168 (right image below), are doing well. You can see the clumps where multiple seeds fell in while I was sowing.

Changing Colors

May 15, 2019

Since the flower stalk for my Echeveria and Haworthia has died off, I could again lower the lighting fixture to provide more light to my plants - other plants were stretching, too, so this helped out more than just this Lithops. The increased light intensity and maturity of the seedlings (the oldest are over two months!) has caused some of them to take a darker green/brown color.

The seedlings in the most recent potting, the one with the white large-grain sand covering, are doing very well! The tops of the Lithops are right at the line of the top covering. I think this is helping them stand up and also reduce the amount of light reaching the wet top layer of soil, reducing algae growth. I think I will continue with this method for future pots.


May 18, 2019

I have noticed small, white spots on my Lithops. A quick Google search suggests that these may be caused by “scale,”" though this usually creates white, fluffy-looking puff balls on the plant; these spots seem to be flat. I have opted to leave the plants be and see what happens.

Update: June 8, 2019

The dots are still there, though have not grown nor seem to disturb the Lithops. They may be natural…

Starting First Split

June 8, 2019

This is a general update on the Lithops seedlings. The oldest plants in the oldest batch are 3 months old. This pot still receives watering via soaking about once a week. I have noticed that a few are beginning to “open their mouths” and shedding their baby leaves.

The youngest batch (below) are growing well. I may have given these too much light too early in their lives, stunting their growth. They have since been moved out of direct light.

Finally, I have found a few mature Lithops and other cacti to keep my babies company. The Sempervivum heuffelli varieties are doing well, one is even flowering.

Lithops karasmontana are splitting

June 15, 2019

Just a minor update on the Lithops. The julli (top) are still splitting, showing a bit more progress every day. A bunch of the karasmontana (bottom) are also splitting and revealing new brown leaves.

Getting their first real leaves

July 15, 2019

Things have been quite hectic with travel and my day job, lately, so I have not been keeping this updated. The Lithops stayed with a friend of mine while I was visting home. He sent me the photo below of them revealing their first set of true leaves. As you can see, they are quite etiolated because their spot on the windowsill has not prevodied enough light. When things settle down in the Fall, I will be able to tend to them more.

Still alive, but very etiolated

August 10, 2019

The plants are still with my friend as I prepare to move apartments. The photo shows that the babies are still etiolated, but alive.

October 19, 2019

Some of my little seedlings are still alive, but not many. They are beginning to color in and I am decreasing water to around once a month or so.

(Almost) 1-Year Update

It has been awhile since I last updated this project. I have not changed much of my care regimen other than watering a bit less frequently. Most of my seedlings have died, but I’m hoping to get at least one from each species I sowed. I have moved the remaining Lithops to three small contianers and they are primarily potted in pumice. I plan to leave them there for another year or so as they fill out - I am likely to lose a few more before then.

Along with having a lot of fun caring for these little friends, I have learned a lot from this first attempt. I will be planting more soon, and will be creating another project that tracks their progress. (When I start that, it will be linked below.) Thus, this project will not be updated frequently as these plants mature. Still, I hope it serves as a useful reference for myself and others.

You can follow me on Instgram @BostonPrick where I post photos of my cacti and succulents.

Joshua Cook, Ph.D.
Joshua Cook, Ph.D.
Computational Genomics Research Scientist

I am a computational biologist with a particular interest in Bayesian modeling methods.