Mesembrianthemum and Friends

So there exists this really cool family of plants out there that I just LOVE to KILL. After enough attempts I think I’m starting to catch on and I’m here today to relate you you my trials.



(This is my friend Alex’s Pleiospilos, not sure on the full name)

Can you imagine a plant that seemingly detests water, needs lots of sun, and for the most part look grotesque? These little guys are known as mimicry plants for you common tongue folk. They come from old world deserts and are not true cactus but a HARDCORE form of succulent that imitate their surroundings they grow in naturally. Most of them lack a stopping signal in the root the halts water absorption and that means only ONE over watering at any time of the year where they don’t want water, witch is pretty much all year, will kill it. The real cruel part is though, after you kill the roots it can take up to a year for any sign of stress to appear. So in short you’ve wasted all that time worrying about a plant that, LOOKS FINE, but is already condemned to certain death because of that one time you accidentally let it rain on it for 5 seconds when it was outside A YEAR AGO!!!

*Deep breaths Gary*


You can see where the right one rotted away from too much water, I got super lucky.

The first group I’ll discuss are Lithops. Oddly enough, that’s not short for anything. Lithops or “Living stone” (But in Latin actually translates to “Stone Face”) are found in south Africa and mostly occur naturally in thousands of individual, mostly separated populations that have evolved to live happily in their secluded niche. They live most of the year in dormancy when it is hot, but, once a season the plant undergoes a truly drastic chance. The new leaves begin to grow on the inside of the old two leaves. When this happens the Lithop pulls water and energy out of the old leaf and starts to transfer it into the new. When the younger leaf begins to grow and swell, the older leaves split open and eventually are deteriorated into a mere husk. When temperature is lowered and  daylight is shorter, the Lithops begins to flower, this is one of the times it needs water. Remember though, that there are so many different kinds and some come from deserts that have nearly zero rainfall a year to places that get nearly seven-hundred millimeters.


So here are some of mine, keep in mind, these are the ones I kill the most. I’ve managed to keep these ones alive for at least two years now though, so I must be doing something right, right?


Next we got one of my favorites, pretty much because its the first Mesemb. that I’ve actually gotten to survive (From 2014-Present) with only a few little screw ups on my part. It’s name is Aloinopsis schooneesii and it sure is a fun little guy. Like most Mesembs the flowers open in the afternoon and close in the evening, I’ve gotten some amazing time-lapse videos but I don’t think WordPress lets people upload videos so looks like you miss out this time.


Aloinopsis is the green one one on the top.

Finally, the last one I have is rather new, rare and from what I’ve read, difficult to grow.

Challenge accepted.


Its came without a tag but I’m fairly certain its Gibbaeum dispar. I’ve named him Gibbers (pronounced Jib-bers) and I hope I don’t kill him instantly. I hear Gibbers is unlike the others because the little thing will croak if you give it water with a routine. So basically:

Concerned plant parent: “When do I Water it?”

Cruel world: “When it needs water”

And that advice REALLY pisses me off. It grows in some of the same places as the Lithops and Conophytums because it is a Mesembrianthemum. So how could it be more difficult?

How can anything about these little bastards be more difficult?

Thanks for reading


Author: garesgarden

ISA Certified Arborist, Amateur Botanist, and future Agricultural Engineer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: