Am I the only one who finds it hard to be trapped in the house all day when it’s just so gorgeous outside? As a matter of fact, I can’t even tell you the last time I even turned on my computer! This past weekend we drove the truck down to one of the creeks here on the farm to get some river rocks for our split rock succulents. They needed a little top dressing for their pots because although the white pumice is pretty, I wanted something a little more natural to add to their unique “beauty”.
Mimicry plants (sometimes called mesembs) are my favorite out of all the succulents but can also be some of the hardest to care for. If you even LOOK at them wrong, they’ll die. Seriously. (Split rocks are a type of mimicry plant.) Mimicry plants are true succulents in that they store water and can go many, many months without even a drop. It’s crucial that they have a well draining soil without much in the way of organics (i.e. no peat-based bagged succulent mix) and they do best when planted alone or with other carefully selected mesembs.
Generally speaking, I grow most all of my succulents in a mixture of pumice, calcined clay particles, and granite grit with the exception of lithops which are actually grown in pure pumice. (I get all of my pumice from General Pumice Products without exception!)
How to Care for Your Split Rock Succulent:
This little guy is a Pleiospilos Nelii aka “Split Rock” or “Living Stone”. This particular species can be found in beautiful shades of green and purple and both are native to South Africa. They grow in arid desert-like regions that get very little rainfall (like 6″ TOTAL per year!). They love sun so make sure they are in a south facing window (or grow lights like I have to do) and when summer rolls around, let them get plenty of filtered light outdoors (protect from excess rain).
The split rock has beautiful flowers that appear in fall to late winter and smell of fragrant coconut.
The plant blooms in the mid afternoon and closes its petals by dusk. The flowers will repeat this pattern for a few days and then they will start to dry up and (hopefully) make a seed pod.
When to Water:
Forget what you know about watering plants with this one. Hold back water during the hottest weeks of summer and also in the dead of winter while the plant is dormant. Slowly resume watering in late winter to bring on the blooms. The key is not to over water and make sure that it is totally dry before giving it any more (it could be weeks between watering or even months). Watering will 100% completely depend on where you live so the best advice I can give is as follows: If the old leaves are still present in summer, it may be getting too much water. If the plant rots and dies, it may be getting too much water.
In other words, you might just have to kill a few plants – while watching the cycle of growth in your own region – to determine what works and what doesn’t. Just kidding.
If grown correctly, Split Rock succulents should only ever have 1 to 2 sets of leaves. Each year a new set of leaves grows up through the center and replaces the ones from last year. When a split rock has too many leaves, it is called “stacking”.
The split rock in the top left of this image had a third massive set of leaves (due to it’s previous owner’s negligence) but since I began restricting its water, I enabled the plant to use it’s own water reserves. This allowed the extra set of leaves to dry out and at the same time, the plant pretty much watered itself and even provided its own nutrients too! (You can still see the brown little piece of the leaf that’s still attached to the side of the plant.) Speaking of nutrients, these plants don’t need fertilizer.
Now that it’s spring and the old leaves have withered away on this one, I can resume normal watering. Another sign that it’s time to begin watering is that it is growing a new set of leaves from between the cleft – this means it is no longer dormant.
All three of these plants are on different watering schedules. When in doubt – DON’T WATER.
Royal Flush Split Rock
Here’s another good example of leaf stacking. The royal flush split rock in the foreground actually has 4 sets of leaves (there are two growing up through the middle) and is how I received it from the seller. Not seeing a plant before purchasing it is one definite drawback of ordering plants through the mail.
When it arrived, all of the leaves were bright purple but since I started holding off on watering, you can see how it’s starting to lose some of its color on the oldest set (and it’s definitely lost a ton in size!) It shouldn’t take long now for the outer leaves to wither away. As long as the two center leaves are solid, it’s okay for the others to be soft. This is a sign that it’s using its own water – which also means you don’t need to give it any either.
The reason stacking is such a bad thing is a: it’s not natural and b: it eventually leads to rot.
Okay, back to our trip down to the creek…
After filling our bucket full of sand from the creek bottom, I brought it up to the house where I could screen out all the fine particulates using a fine mesh sieve and the water hose. This is what was left and is what I wanted to use as a top dressing for the split rock succulents. I (kinda) sorted everything out by size so that I could see what I had. Too bad I didn’t find any gold.
I filled the bottom of my vintage terracotta pot with a mixture of pumice (thanks Lexi!), chicken grit, super course sand (NOT play sand) and a little bit of turface. I gently added the little split rock succulents (with their roots completely cleaned of any peat) then filled it in some more with the gritty mixture. (As a matter of fact, the little split rock on the top of the pot here is the same one in this post with the big yellow flower!) Once they were nestled in their new home, I added some rocks from the creek to “try” to make it look like they are in their natural habitat. In the wild, they can be hard to see since they blend in so well to their surroundings. This is their defense against thirsty predators!
They also grow among rocks which is like an extra layer of protection.
Not only do the rocks help them to blend in to their surroundings in their natural habitat, they also protect them somewhat from the blazing sun. As the little split rock blooms, changes leaves, and pretty much does its own little thing, those rocks stay there and offer great protection – just like God.
HE is our rock – our cornerstone – completely unmovable. No matter what happens around us, He will always be there to protect us.
Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an Everlasting Rock