Why Are My Lithops Shriveling?

Why Are My Lithops Shriveling

The most common reason your lithops are shriveling is that they are underwatered.

Signs that your lithops are underwatered include horizontal wrinkles across the plant and if it looks shriveled. Underwatering can be a result either of not giving your plants as much water as they need each time you water them, or leaving the plants out under the sun for too long so that the soil dries out too quickly.

Other reasons your lithops are shriveling may be overwatering, or simply because your plants are trying to grow new leaves.

In this article, we will discuss more the different reasons your lithops may be shriveling and how you can fix this. So, if you are experiencing this problem and wish to learn more about it, just keep on reading.

Why are my lithops shriveling?


Your lithops are most probably shriveling due to you underwatering them. You will be able to tell if you have underwatered your lithops because they will look shriveled and there will be horizontal wrinkles on the top of the plant. The wrinkles will look like waves drawn across the plant.

Underwatering can be a result of you not giving the plant the water that it needs or leaving it out under the sun for long periods, which causes the soil in the pot to dry out faster than the plant would like.

Succulents have the ability to store water in their leaves which they can use in the event of a drought. This means they can go weeks without water, but that does not mean you can simply neglect to water them entirely.

The ideal watering frequency for your lithops is not constant; you need to adjust it according to the climate where you live as well as the season of the year. Lithops will not need as much water during the fall and winter as they will during spring and summer. 

Temperatures are higher and the sun shines brighter during the spring and summer, which means that the plants’ soil will dry out much faster. Conversely, the cold weather during the fall and winter will allow the soil in the pot to stay damp for longer, so you will not need to water the plants as often. Lithops also become semi-dormant during the colder months and will not be actively growing, so they will not use up as much water.


Another reason your lithops are shriveling could be that you are overwatering them.

A healthy lithops plant will have plump, taut leaves, so if there are wrinkles and waves on the leaves, that means that there is something wrong with your plant that you will need to address before it becomes too serious.

As we mentioned above, an underwatered lithops plant has horizontal wrinkles on its leaves. An overwatered lithops, on the other hand, have vertical wrinkles on its leaves.

Yellowing leaves that are soft and mushy to the touch is the first and most obvious sign that you are overwatering your plant. This is a result of you not allowing the plant to dry out between waterings.

Another sign that your lithops are overwatered is when there are brown spots on the leaves. If you do not notice the yellowing of the leaves, the next sign will be brown spots due to edema. This can happen to most houseplants when they are overwatered, but since succulents are more sensitive to overwatering, it is more commonly observed in them.

Edema happens when there is too much water in the soil around the plant’s roots and the plant cannot help but keep absorbing the available moisture. This leads to the plant taking in more water than it can actually store in its leaves.

The roots keep drinking water that the plant cannot use up fast enough, and eventually the cells in the plant tissue run out of space and the membranes in the tissue burst, which is what creates the edematous brown spots on the lithops’ leaves.

Splitting is another sign of overwatering. Because of the overload of water in the leaf, the leaf can literally split as it tries to compensate for the large volume of water. The split in the leaf will look like a jagged cut on the surface.

One condition that can mean life or death for your lithops, and is also due to overwatering, is root rot.

Root rot happens when the soil in the plant’s pot is not allowed to dry out between waterings, and the waterlogged soil causes the plant’s roots to drown and die. The dead roots become susceptible to opportunistic pathogens like bacteria and fungi, and these will make the rot in the roots more aggressive until the entire plant is afflicted with rot.

If you do not catch root rot immediately, it can also cause the roots of your succulents to disintegrate. 


If you suspect that your lithops are overwatered, the first thing you need to do is to immediately stop watering them.

Remove the plants from their old pot and wash off as much of the old soil as possible from the roots. Do this gently, as the roots can be fragile and easily damaged.

Inspect the roots and see if there are sections that have turned brown or black. These roots are rotten and will need to be pruned off with a sterile knife or scissors. Make sure that only healthy, white roots remain. Place the lithops on a dry paper towel and allow them to air dry for several hours.

Prepare a new pot that has drainage holes at the bottom, and fill it two-thirds of the way with a well-draining potting mix. Place your lithops in the middle of the pot and cover the roots with the rest of the potting mix.

If the new potting mix is still damp, do not water your newly-repotted lithops yet.

What is the correct way to water my lithops?

As mentioned above, be more vigilant about the water in the soil during the warmer months, because the soil will dry out more quickly in the heat.

The best way to know whether your plant needs to be watered is to feel the top of the soil.

If the top two inches of soil are dry to the touch, water the plant, but if the soil is still damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.

Make sure you only water the soil around the roots and never water your plants from above. Water can get caught between the leaves and this can lead to fungal growth that could negatively affect the plants.

If you are able to collect rainwater, that is the ideal type of water to use. If you do not have access to rainwater, you can use distilled or filtered water. Tap water contains minerals that will accumulate in the soil and could be detrimental to the roots’ health.

If you see leaves splitting on a plant, do not water it; the plant will simply use up the water from these damaged leaves to recover or to produce new leaves.

How much water should I give my lithops?

When the soil in your lithops’ pot is completely dry, give it a good drink. Bottom watering is a great option because it provides water directly to the roots so you do not risk getting water onto the plant’s leaves.

You will know that bottom watering is done when the moisture has reached the top level of the soil. Remove the pot from the water source immediately when you see moisture in the top layers of soil, and let any excess water drip out so that the soil does not retain it.

When top watering, you will know you have given the right amount of water when the excess water drains out of the bottom of the pot.

Is it normal for my lithops’ leaves to shrivel?

If you are sure that you are neither underwatering nor overwatering your lithops, then the shriveling may be due to another reason entirely.

Your lithops could be trying to grow new leaves. This is a definite possibility, especially if the shriveling happens during the plants’ growing period in the spring.

In this case, the old leaves on your lithops are shriveling to make space for the new leaves to grow into.

You have the option of removing the old leaves yourself, but be gentle about it. You can also just leave the old leaves to fall off on their own.

So, if it is the plant’s growing season and you know that your plant is being watered properly, then the leaves are most probably only falling off because they are getting old.


The most common reason your lithops’ leaves are shriveling is because of underwatering. If your plants are not getting the water they need, especially during the warmer months, their leaves will dry out, shrivel and develop horizontal wrinkles.

Other reasons your lithops might shrivel include overwatering, or the plants’ natural process of getting rid of older leaves to make room for new leaves.

Image: istockphoto.com / PitchyPix