Underwatered Lithops – Signs and How To Revive

Underwatered Lithops - Signs and How To Revive

Lithops are small, split succulents native to South Africa. They are commonly known as flowering stones, living stones, sheep hooves or cattle hooves. The latter names are due to their split, hoof-like appearance. They grow in very arid regions and are therefore drought-resistant, but are nevertheless prone to the effects of underwatering if neglected for too long. 

Underwatered lithops – Signs and how to revive

Signs of underwatered lithops

The common signs of underwatered lithops are shriveling and the appearance of horizontal wrinkles across the plant. These wrinkles look like drawings of waves. You may have not watered the plant enough, or the sun may be drying it out faster than you can keep up with watering. 

Lithops plants can go without water for several weeks up to several months, depending on the type of lithops you are growing. The season of the year will also play a role, since hotter months require more water. In winter, not only is the weather cooler, but the plant is also semi-dormant and will not use up as much water as during its active growth phase. 

How to revive underwatered lithops

To revive an underwatered lithops, place the pot in a bowl or saucer with at least eight to 14 ounces of water to provide the plant with a deep watering. Allow sufficient time for the water to be absorbed into the soil through the pot’s drainage holes. When you finally remove the pot from the water, allow any excess water to drain off before returning the plant to its usual spot. 

Underwatered lithops, as with most underwatered succulents, are much easier to save than overwatered ones. Succulents are used to surviving for long periods in absence of water. These plants’ dry, flat and crinkly leaves can still recover if the plants are given a thorough soak.

Provide your lithops with adequate water and place it in a location with less direct sunlight. After some time, the wrinkles on your plant will slowly disappear and it will make a full recovery. 

Interestingly, shriveled leaves on your lithops could also mean good news. Your plant may be trying to grow new leaves, especially during springtime. This is why the old leaves are shriveling, since they are making way for the new ones. If this is the case, the shriveling is not a cause for concern. You can remove the old leaves or just let them be, as they will fall off naturally once the new leaves have grown.

How often should you water your lithops?

Water your lithops once every two weeks during its growth period in the warmer months. Make sure that the soil is dry before the next watering. This plant prefers most of its water during late spring and summer, and just an occasional watering during winter. 

Most of this plant grows underground, since it does not have stems. This allows it to retain moisture more easily and you do not need to water it constantly. It is also important to use a pot with good drainage for your lithops.  

Interesting facts about lithops 

Lithops can survive in arid areas by storing water, and the entire plant is devoted to this purpose. Each plant has two succulent leaves that combine to form an inverted cone, although some may also produce multi-headed plants. The division between the two leaves forms a fissure at the top of the “cone”. The plants have no stem, and the tap root joins the base of the leaves.  

The thick leaves can store water and can survive months without rain. During extreme drought, the plants can even shrivel and shrink below the soil level. 

These succulents are partially subterranean and may grow from a half-inch to an inch high and one to three inches wide, flush with the ground. By staying small, these plants minimize the effects on them of the intense heat and sunlight. There are at least 37 species of lithops, all of which look fairly similar. There are slight differences in their markings, shape, color and texture. 

Their colors may be gray, green, pink, rust or brown. The varying patterns could be dots, lines or patches, and there may also be dimples or indentations. 


Lithops are commonly grown indoors and are popular for their unique shape and appearance. These small, split succulents can survive for long periods without water, but they are still prone to underwatering nonetheless. You can easily tell that your lithops is underwatered if it appears shriveled and wrinkled.  To revive an underwatered lithops, give it a thorough soak in a bowl or saucer of water until all the soil has been properly moistened. Allow the soil to dry out before watering it again. 

Image: istockphoto.com / tylim