One of the most common mistakes plant owners make with succulents is overwatering them, and Lithops are no different. Overwatering can mean a quick death for most Lithops. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to save them.
To save an overwatered lithops, you should put your plant outside where it can get some full morning sun and add a fan to help evaporation. If it’s too wet, you may need to remove the plant from its pot, prune off any bad roots, and replace the wet potting soil with new, dry soil.
Most people don’t know how to identify overwatering or how to respond. You should know what steps to take to clean, repair, and help your Lithops recover and thrive. This article will share details on practical steps you can take to save your overwatered Lithops.
Carefully Expose the Lithops to Sunlight
Drying the plant out a bit is the goal. Lithops love sunshine, but it’ll be even more important to expose the plant to sunlight if you decide to keep the soil.
As part of the water cycle, plants take in the water from the soil. Eventually, some of that water comes out onto the plant’s leaves and evaporates. Exposure to sunlight can help speed this process and decrease the amount of water lingering behind.
As you expose the Lithops to the sun, it’s vital to ensure that it doesn’t burn. Yes, your Lithops loves the sun, but the early morning light is much gentler than the midafternoon light. Allowing your Lithops to stay out in the morning can promote water processing while also providing the plant the energy it needs to create food.
Add a Fan
Pointing a fan at your plant (both the leaves and the soil) can help dry out your pot as well, as long as it’s not too wet.
This will act much the same way as sunlight will, by increasing transpiration and evaporation, removing water both at the soil level and from the plant itself.
Prune Away the Rotten Roots
Sometimes you may catch your mistake too late. By then, the rot has probably set in and begun damaging your plant. You can still take steps to stop the spread and prevent further damage, but you’ll have to get your hands dirty.
Carefully cut away any roots that are blackened or mushy to keep from spreading the disease. Healthy roots will be pale and sturdy. Trim the root back to where the mushy brown section ends and the healthy white section begins.
Once you have pruned the rotted roots, the plant is safe to replant in fresh soil. The pruned roots will regrow as they seek out nutrients. Monitor the progress for a few days to ensure that no rot continues to spread.
Replace Your Soil if Necessary
If your plant’s soil is staying waterlogged over a long period of time, you may need to remove as much of the potting soil from your plant as possible and replace it with new soil.
In this case, you may want to use a better draining soil designed for succulents.
This can cause some stress to your plant, so if you can dry out the soil another way, you should at least try to, but if your soil is soaking wet, this is better than letting your lithops die.
Properly Water the Lithops
How you water the plant is the most crucial step. If you do all the others and continue to water improperly, you’ll cause the same problem again. Begin by letting the plant dry out, preferably in gentle sunlight.
Lithops have an odd growth cycle. Their old leaves die at a certain point in their growth and become nutrients for new leaf growth. During this time, they don’t take in as much water. If you water too much during this time, you’ll overwater them.
When the Lithops are flowering, and the old leaves are dry, you can safely water the plant. However, it would be best to quit watering once the old leaves begin to get absorbed into the plant and the flower starts to die.
Only give it enough water to run through the drainage holes once when watering the Lithops. Around 8-10 ounces (0.24-0.30 L) should be fine, depending on the size of the pot. Once you’ve given the plant water, you shouldn’t need to water it again for a couple of weeks.
Check periodically by observing if the plant is wrinkling or sinking further into the soil. These may be signs that your Lithops are due for more water. Consult a gardening professional if you aren’t sure about the best way and time to water your Lithops.
Recognize the Signs of Overwatering
Knowing how to recognize when you’ve been overwatering seems like an obvious step. Yet, many plant owners find themselves completely confused when their Lithops begin to wilt and die. Knowing the subtle signs helps you to recognize overwatering well before it begins to kill your plant.
A Change in Color
One of the first signs of overwatering is a change in leaf color. Overwatered succulents will often begin to turn a lighter shade, usually yellow. The leaves may also become more translucent and sickly.
Regularly observe the color of the Lithops, noting any changes in color or translucency. Although there may be different gradients and shades as the plant grows, the plant shouldn’t look drastically different.
Leaves from overwatering will often be fragile and may fall off after being gently touched. The leaves may also be mushy and soft because of too much water or rot spreading from the roots.
Now and then, you may want to gently tap the leaves to make sure they’re healthy and robust. A healthy Lithops will have leaves that are stout and sturdy.
Overwatering can cause a fungal disease to begin growing in the roots of your plant. This disease can be fatal to your poor succulents. A significant shift in texture or color near the bottom of the Lithops may mean that damage has already begun beneath the surface.
Rotting will usually appear as blackened leaves and stems, starting from near the bottom and moving upwards. Leaves may feel mushy or even disintegrate upon touching. If you see the stem browning or starting to look decayed, you may need to prepare to deal with some root rot.
Lithops can be a fun yet tricky plant to own. Their watering needs are different from other succulents. You’ll need to know your plant as well as how to respond if you accidentally overwater them.
Here are some simple ways to save your overwatered Lithops:
- Stop watering the plant.
- Remove the plant and allow it to dry some.
- Prune away any roots that have begun to rot.
- Discard the old soil and replace it with fresh, dry medium-grade soil.
- Determine the best way and time to water the Lithops.
- Wisconsin Horticulture: Living Stones: Lithops
- Sucs for You: Lithops 101 – What you need to know to keep them alive
- BrightView: How to Rescue Overwatered Plants
- Gardeners’ World: How to Grow Lithops
- The National Gardening Association: The Main Plant Entry for Living Stones (Lithops)
- Plant & Soil Science eLibrary: Soil Texture
- Indoor Plant Care: How To Treat Root Rot In Houseplants
- USGS: Evaporation and the Water Cycle