Mesembs, also known as Mimicry Plants, are succulents known for the unusual patterns, textures, and leaf forms that help them camouflage among rocks. Masters of recycling, these plants use water from their old leaves to inflate their new leaves. This helps them survive drought conditions that would kill many other plants.
Mesembs are succulent plants in the family Aizoaceae, a very large plant family that contains roughly 1900 species. Mesembs get their bizarre name because they used to make up the, now defunct family, Mesembryanthemaceae. Despite the scientific change in family, many collectors continue to use the old family name. A compromise is to colloquially call them mesembs, for short.
The variation in climates is quite dramatic, with some preferring beaches, others high mountains and still others deserts. Despite this environmental variation, the vast majority of mesembs are native to South Africa and Namibia. The only common trait their habitats share is that they have seasonal and predictable rainfall, even if the total amount of precipitation is small.
The family Aizoaceae contains some of the most challenging, and some of the easiest, plants to grow in cultivation. In general, they require very little water, lots of light, and gritty soil that dries quickly. Many mesembs go dormant during the dry season (summer or winter, depending on their native habitat) to conserve water. A dormant mesemb should not be watered at all. Most Aizoaceae plants can't tolerate frost but a few (i.e. Delosperma cooperi) are frost hardy down to -20°F.
Lithops Specific Care
Lithops are specific mesembs that are very popular but notoriously difficult to grow. Your greatest enemy when growing a Lithops is yourself, as they're very easy to overwater.
- Transplant into deep pots with drainage holes. We recommend looking for a pot that's narrow but 4" or deeper and only planting one Lithops per pot
- Use gritty, well-draining soil, such as 80% mineral grit and 20% organic matter
- Grow in full sun or on a very sunny window sill
- Water in the fall and spring growing seasons, waiting for deep wrinkling before watering again
- Do not water in winter or when a Lithops is splitting
- Begin spring watering only when the older, outer leaves have shriveled into paper-thin sheets
- Water very sparingly in summer ONLY if you notice severe wrinkling on the top; wrinkles on sides are a normal part of their annual cycle and not an indicator that they should be watered