Overwatered Lithops (Signs and How to Fix It)

An overwatered lithops is something I’ve seen more often that I’ve wanted to.

In fact, some, shops including big box stores, don’t take care of them properly that you end up with sick or weak looking lithops.

To me, that’s just sad given that these are little beauties that are amazingly unique.

Part of the reason for this that lithops are succulents. As such, they don’t like being overwatered. Instead, they do better when kept on the dry side.

They store moisture in their leaves and have tiny, fragile root systems.

As such, it is easy to overwater them.

Yellowing and mushy leaves are common signs of an overwatered lithops. You’ll also see rotten roots once you’ve unpotted the plant.

To save your lithops, you’ll need to take the plant out of its pot and let it dry out. This is assuming there is no root rot. If there is root rot, you’ll need to remove the rotten roots and disinfect the healthy roots.

Then repot the plant in fresh, dry soil.

Signs of an Overwatered Lithops Plant

Yellow Leaves

Overwatered lithops will develop yellow leaves. But this will look different depending on the color of the lithops you have.

Since they come in many different shapes and colors, the appearance of leaf discoloration varies significantly.

However, one thing you’ll instantly notice when your lithops is overwatered is that they leaves will feel swollen.

Since they are succulents, they store moisture in their leaves.

This is what gives them form. And when healthy, the lithops will look and feel like rocks. That’s how they get their name.

Each one will feel solid, firm and strong.

But when overwatered, lithops will look puffy and bloated. They will also feel mushy as they’re now storing more water than that should be.

Once you feel the leaves, you can instantly tell the difference.

If this happens, stop watering for a while and let the plant dry out. It will take a while but you’ll see the plant settle back to its original, healthy looking shape.

On the other hand, if you keep watering the plant as it, the roots will keep absorbing moisture and worsen the issue.

In some cases, you’ll see the leaves rip or split open because they cannot expand anymore to hold the moisture.

 

Brown Spots on Leaves

When a lithops succulent is overwatered, you may also see brown spot.

These are not brown spots like you would see in leaves of other plants. Instead, they are caused by membranes that have burst.

The damage resulting from this is what gives you brown spots.

To explain, lithops, like other succulents will store water in their leaves. But when overwatered, the roots will keep drinking the water from the soil.

Some of which will eventually end up stored in the leaves.

Unfortunately, the leaves can only expand so much. This is why you see edema or bloating in the leaves.

When the leaves run out of room, some of their tissues will break and burst.

As such, the brown leaves are the result of the damaged membranes and less so spots as you see in other plants’ foliage.

 

The Plant is Splitting

If this is the first time you’ve seen this, it will look frightening.

As a plant owner, a splitting lithops will look like it is a goner. But that’s not the case.

Depending on how bad things are, the wound or split can be small or big. Basically, the puffy lithops will just split or rip because there’s too much water that it cannot hold.

 

Your Lithops is Deteriorating or Dying

One of the reasons why overwatering is dangerous to succulents is that it can outright kill them.

And this is something you may notice.

You’ll see your lithops change color and it will start looking unsightly.

Sadly, there are some cases where you just need to let it go.

Note that if you have several lithops planted as one plant, you may see one “head” look much weaker or die faster.

If this is the case, you can repot the other one while letting the dying one go.

Because lithops are fairly easy to find and they are very affordable, many owners will just go out and get a new plant in case they lose their lithops.

However, if you do, make sure to make the proper adjustments to avoid the same problems from happening again.

 

Root Rot

Root rot is on the defining signs of an overwatered lithops. And it is something that you need to address as soon as possible upon detecting it.

Why?

Root rot will keep spreading.

And rotten roots mean the roots are dead. Thus, they do not function anymore.

Finally, the more roots that have rotten, the less likely you may be able to save the plant.

Therefore, it is very important to spot the problem as early as possible.

And if you do notice root rot happening, immediately begin treatment.

To do so, remove all the excess soil from the roots after you unpot the plant.

Then remove the rotten roots. You can carefully cut them off or use your fingers to do this.

Make sure to disinfect the remaining healthy roots using a fungicide solution or a hydrogen peroxide solution. I like to soak them in there to make sure every part is disinfected.

Allow the roots to dry. Usually this takes several hours. But you can do so overnight as well to ensure the roots are completely dry.

Once the roots have dried, you can repot the plant in a new, clean pot with dry, well-draining soil.

 

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No Roots

Another unique sign of an overwatered lithops is it may have no roots.

Don’t panic though.

This is something that’s happens every now and then.

More importantly, it does not mean that your lithops is dead. Nor does it mean that you cannot save it.

However, it does mean that it is suffering from too much water.

One of the weaknesses of lithops plants is its small, fragile root system. And the tiny roots can dissolve when there is too much water.

The longer they stay in that wet or damp environment, the higher the likelihood that some or all the roots will disappear.

Therefore, if this happens, take the plant out of the pot and remove the wet soil.

Then repot the plant in fresh, dry well-draining soil. Make sure the soil has good drainage. Additionally, the pot has to have drainage holes as well.

As with other succulents, lithops do not do well if left sitting in liquid.

Additionally, their ability to store moisture in their thick, fleshy leaves and small root system makes them susceptible to overwatering.

 

How to Save Overwatered Lithops

In this section, I’ll discuss how to save an overwatered lithops.

Honestly, this is the most important part of the article. After all, once your lithops is overwatered, the goal is to save and revive it.

Because these plants are small with tiny root systems, it becomes even more essential that immediate action is taken.

Their small roots means that they’re easily overwhelmed by lots of excess water.

 

Unpot Your Lithops

Before you can do anything, the most important thing is to assess what’s happening.

In order to do so, you’ll need to take the plant out of its container.

Be careful while doing this as the plant is very delicate. Its small roots can easily be damaged as well.

The good news is that the small size of the plant makes it easy to clear out the soil. However, if you have fat fingers like I do, you’ll need to handle things with care.

Once you have your lithops out of the container and removed most of the soil, take a close look at the roots.

How the roots look as well as what the leaves and the plant look like will give you a better idea of what state the plant is in.

 

If There is No Root Rot

The best case scenario is there is no root rot. You’ll need to take a close look at the roots and the state of your lithops.

If you’re not sure, go online and ask some folks in boards like reddit. They’ll help you out.

Make sure to take a good photo of the lithops as well as its roots.

Sometimes, the plant may look like its in bad shape. I remember a store that overwatered a lithops to the point where the plant just split open.

It was a wide wound.

And the plant looked bad.

But the roots were still fine.

If this is the case, and there is no root rot, the goal is to dry the root system.

Rotten roots can easily be identified as they are mushy and dark brown or black in color. On the other hand, healthy roots are light brown or brown-white in color.

Healthy roots are also flexible with each strand feeling a bit firm.

If there is no root rot happening, place the unpotted lithops in a secure place with medium to bright indirect light and good ventilation.

This will help it dry out in order to recover.

Avoid direct sunlight or full sun. Similarly, don’t put it in a very hot location or one that’s windy.

As longs as there is good lighting, air circulating and the temperature is moderate to warm, it will dry out in a few hours. How long will depend on how saturated it had been.

Don’t try to help out the plant either.

Never use a hair dryer or any other appliance to try and speed up the drying process.

Just let it dry naturally.

 

Prune the Damaged Roots

In case some roots are rotten, then you need to take more drastic action.

In this case, you’ll need to remove any diseased roots.

The tricky part here is the size of the plant and its roots. You’ll need a small pair of scissors to cut precisely.

The important thing is to get all the rotten roots (dark brown or black ones that are mushy) while leaving the healthier lighter colored roots.

Don’t cut all the roots.

Your lithops will need the healthy roots to save itself and recover.

Make sure to sterilize the cutting tool before you cut. You can also remove the roots using your fingers.

 

Disinfect the Remaining Healthy Roots

After you remove all the diseased roots, the next step is to disinfect the remaining healthy roots.

This is important since root rot is sometimes caused by fungal diseases.

In this case, if you repot the plant without disinfecting it first, the same pathogens may resurface later on and cause the same rotting to happen.

Therefore, it is important to disinfect the roots first before you repot.

To do so, you can soak the roots in fungicide solution.

Don’t dunk the entire lithops in the solution. Instead, just dip and soak the root system.

Note that some lithops have small roots which others have very thick, long roots.

Therefore, how much solution you’ll need will depend on the size of your plant’s root system.

After soaking, allow the roots to dry.

Again, place the lithops in a secure place where it can dry for several hours. You can put it on top of some old newspapers to help absorb the moisture.

As for the soil, I just like to throw it away. But discard it properly.

You don’t want to reuse that soil for other plants.

As for the container, sterilize it using a light bleach solution or hydrogen peroxide solution. Then allow the pot or container to dry.

Never reuse the same container for your lithops or other plants without disinfecting it first.

 

Repot the Plant

Once the roots have dried, you can repot the plant.

Make sure you use a new pot that is clean. It also needs to have drainage holes to prevent overwatering and waterlogging in the future.

Similarly, have enough well-draining soil on hand.

Then repot your lithops on the fresh, dry soil.

I like to wait for a few days before I start watering the plant. This allows it to recover from its overwatered state.

In case you’re doing this during the colder months (fall or winter), then you can wait until the things warm up in spring before you start watering.

 

If You Cannot Save Your Overwatered Lithops, Propagate It

Sometimes an overwatered lithops will be in really bad shape.

This means that the plant itself is deteriorating and on its way out and the roots are rotting.

Since saving the plant is less likely is some scenarios, you may opt to play it safe.

You can do this by propagating your lithops.

Note that the earlier you do this, the better chance you have of successfully propagating the plant.

Why?

That’s because lithops are usually propagated by seed or division.

Obviously, at this point seed propagation is out of the question.

But for lithops propagation by division to work, you’ll need at least some healthy roots to pull things off.

Therefore, if there is root rot, the longer you wait or the later you detect the problem, the smaller your chances of getting enough healthy roots.

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