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by Erin
(Marietta, Oklahoma, USA)


Recently I lost my Split Rock from over-watering. (I only watered it twice in a month’s time, but didn’t know summer was a bad time to do that.) I have since purchased a new one, along with Baby Toes, and Stone Faces (Lithops). Before I doom any of these new plants, can you help me get a good idea of exactly how to water each?

I have read so many websites and not all of them match up. Being a newbie succulent grower, I am finding that there’s not as much info out there as I thought.

I have had all three of these plants for less than a week. They have been potted in small 3 or 4 inch containers with a succulent/cacti soil mixed 50/50 with perlite. The Split Rock and Stone Faces look quite healthy right now. The Baby Toes looks good, but has a few leaves that have a small bit of wrinkling. Thanks!

Hi Erin, so much of the correct way to water has to do with the soil type, how established the plant is, and also other things such as the humidity and temperature, and the difference between day and night time temperatures, as well as day length. These all come into play when you are learning to water.

It doesn’t help that you’ve started with one of the more challenging plants, Lithops. These are particularly finicky because they hate over watering, or being watered at the wrong time, as they have two periods in the year when they absolutely require dry dormancy.

They are best grown separately from your other plants so they can be on a more regimented schedule, and not get watered accidentally during one of their dry periods.

There, now that’s out of the way; I would say that these plants are all on the side of being somewhat harder to grow, sorry to say. I might be inclined to suggest some easier plants to get started with, such as some of the Echeveria and others related such as x Graptoveria and x Pachyveria. These are a little less likely to keel over completely if things aren’t exactly to their liking.

For your little collection, I would use rain water, or distilled water only, not water from the tap which might be chlorinated, or worse, run through a water softening unit. Then, when you do water, don’t tease. Give them a good soaking, and then let them completely dry out. I mean that; the soil should be almost totally dry.

Depending on what the pot is made of, you can usually get quite good at hefting the pot to see if it’s dry yet.

Don’t ever do what many house plant growers do, and use a saucer under the pot, and don’t let them soak in a bucket. The water should run freely out of the bottom of the pot, and hopefully you’ve got good drain holes in the pot.

Pretend that you’re out on the African veldt in a pouring rainstorm, which only last a few minutes but are incredibly intense, after which the soil dries out as the sun comes back out.

Don’t use pottery shards or pebbles in the bottom of the pot. I sometimes use a small piece of newspaper to hold the soil in until it’s settle, and eventually it will rot away.

I hope that answers your questions, if you have more don’t hesitate to ask!

See these pages: Lithops, and how to grow Lithops.

Comments for Watering requirements are a bit unclear!

Aug 07, 2012

by: Erin

I guess I should have mentioned that my plants are all grown indoors. I am in Oklahoma, so right now it’s triple digit temps and very little rain. However, it’s not as dramatic indoors as we keep things set at the same general temperature 24/7. I do have quite a few other plants that are easier, but I just loved the looks of these and wanted to give them a try. The pots are a light weight terracotta, but have a thin layer of paint or other glaze. They had no drain holes at first, but after killing my Tiger Jaws in one I added the holes. (That was my favorite plant I got this year and I’m still disappointed about losing it.) I do have a very small layer of river rocks in the bottom. Should I remove these or would it upset the plants to “re-pot” so soon? Should I give these plants an occasional misting right now or leave them alone completely for another month or two?

yes they most definitely need drain holes. If your pots are glazed, then they will take longer to dry out – my preference is for the thicker walled non-glazed terracotta pots, as they allow air exchange between the roots and the outside atmosphere.

It might upset them to repot them – just keep an eye on them, and leave the rocks out next time you repot them.

Don’t mist them! They come from an extremely dry climate, so the humidity should be low, actually lower than is comfortable for you. If you’re going to water, then make it a good one – misting counts as teasing!

Aug 07, 2012

One more thing..
by: Erin

I also forgot to add that my water is well water. I don’t know if it’s softened, but it has purification system. I’m sure some minerals still go through.

If it’s going through a purification system, it’s possible that it’s a water softening system. I would hesitate to use this on plants, especially ones that are touchy. Buy a jug of distilled water from the drugstore – for a couple of dollars, you’ll have enough to water them for months.

Jan 18, 2013

by: Mackenzie Crockett

I agree Erin, watering requirements are confusing.

I just pulled aeonium cuttings from a pot where I recently planted and watered. According to most info, watering during winter is about once a month and I’ve also read they take more water than the average succulent. When I asked the person I got them from, they said “Oh no, I wouldn’t water them at all during winter”. They were damp when I took them out, really hoping I didn’t begin root rot.

Now to comment on your baby toes/ living stones… My mother and I have killed several, all from places like Lowe’s or Home Depot. Since it can take a while for succulents to reflect poor health through appearance, we really think they are probably watered too often at the large garden center and we have no idea it’s dying before we get it.

We want to try them again but will buy from a smaller nursery where someone knows.

Hi Mackenzie – the other thing I’ve found really helps is to propagate your plant immediately, into new clean soil, that has added aggregate for drainage.

Discard the roots of the original plant as soon as you know you’ve successfully rooted your new cuttings, as the poor plant is most likely grown in the most unsuitable soil.

Happy Succulent Growing!

Jan 18, 2013

Buying at Major Retailers
by: Erin

I have noticed many times when I’ve gone to Lowe’s (where buying most of my plants) that the succulents almost always seem over-watered. I’m guessing they probably water them just as much as anything else in the garden center.

As of now, I have still been able to keep all of these plants alive, minus one of the two Stonefaces. One rotted from (a small) watering, even though they were side by side.

I’m pretty sure by the looks of the Baby Toes, they need a good watering, but I am so afraid of doing them in!