Inspired planting: how to look after living stones
Plant of the week in focus: living stones (lithops)
The idea of having plants growing in pieces of art really appeals to me. Having gotten a fantastic selection of succulents at Johnstown Garden Centre (johnstowngardencentre.ie) I searched for someone who would create some custom-made ceramic pots for me.
There are many ceramic artists all over the country creating beautiful work, and in my local area of Drumcliffe, Co. Sligo I found Ian Carty (iancartyceramics.blogspot.com). Ian's subtle pieces reflect the landscape surrounding him in the North West of Ireland.
I asked Ian to make a collection of three planters to suit three different succulent plants. The planters that he created have a beautiful coppery raku-fired shine on the outside and have not been glazed inside as succulents like a dry pot and gritty soil.
Into the larger pots I planted some Zebra plants and some Moonstone plants but it's the Lithops - or living stones - that really caught my eye. In nature they grow in this unique shape to blend in with their stony surroundings - hence the name. In fact, this plant has the incredible ability to adapt using a phenomenon called 'mimicry' which allows it to blend in totally to its surroundings, making it virtually impossible for predators to detect.
If you look these plants up online you'll see hundreds of varieties and colours which makes it understandable that there are many collectors out there who are drawn to the easy-to-care-for plant, which gives a wonderful flower display under the right conditions. As a bonus, the autumn flowers are often sweetly scented. A fascinating plant for sure.
The most important thing about caring for a living stone is to avoid it getting too wet. The key is to keep them barely watered, so a coarse, well drained soil is key to the health of these plants. This extremely fleshy plant, which is 90pc water, can actually burst if over-watered!
As a rule, only water living stones every couple of weeks, you will know if the plant is too dry when the leaves appear wrinkled.