According to the horoscope, the zodiac sign Capricorn (December 22 - January 20) corresponds to plants: dracaena deremskaya and fragrant; yucca elephant; fan palms (squat hamerops, Fortune trachikarpus, Chinese Livistona, Washingtonia threadbearing); the fat woman is silvery and sickle-shaped ("money tree", "monkey tree"); laurel noble; coniferous crops; ficus (rubber, Bengal, Benjamin, lyre); "living stones".
How diverse the world of indoor plants is! What kind of their forms you can not find among amateurs and professionals! You never cease to be amazed at the variety of natural "surprises". I was especially amazed when ten years ago I had to see amazing plants (only 2-5 cm in size) in a flower shop for the first time.
Their appearance was so unique, it was simply impossible to believe that these stones were living plants. But it is precisely because of their appearance that they received such a nickname - "living stones": the plants literally "copy" polished pebbles, small pebbles and just fragments of rock.
Some growers consider them the most unusual of the green inhabitants of our planet. "Living stones", or "stemless" succulents, as they are sometimes called, grow in a relatively small area among the fragments of stones, imitating them in shape and color. It is said that one naturalist of the South African flora discovered a new species only when he accidentally leaned against these plants, mistaking them for a scattering of ordinary stones.
Some experts believe that nature has endowed these plants with such a peculiar appearance that this feature, in the conditions of the sandy and rocky deserts of South Africa, their natural habitat, would help them survive, keeping them from being eaten by animals.
Like many succulents, this plant has a large taproot that goes deep into the soil from where it gets its moisture. But even such a root does not save "living stones" in the driest periods of the year, and it happens that the above-ground mass of plants dies off. But after the last rains, they resume the growth of their leaves.
Outwardly, this plant is two thick (fleshy) modified accrete (V-shaped) leaves, the color of which may differ slightly depending on the soil on which it grows. In these leaves "living stones" accumulate moisture.
In desert conditions, this succulent has flat leaf surfaces sprinkled with sand, which, due to the peculiarities of the plant, allow only part of the ultraviolet light to pass through, so it does not "burn" in the sun. During the rainy season, the plant dissolves bright inflorescences that resemble chamomile. The flowers of these stone plants are characterized by a very wide variety of petal colors (from carmine and lilac to yellow, white and cream).
At home, these succulents require very careful care, it is important to find a location for them so that the plant is illuminated by direct sunlight all year round and is regularly ventilated. Window sills of western, eastern or better southern orientation are suitable, and in winter you cannot do without backlighting. The plant is thermophilic, but in winter it requires a temperature of no more than 10 ... 15 ° C.
It is very important to water the "living stones" properly. It is known that in their homeland for three quarters of the year, they are usually content with the moisture of fog and dew. They need to be well watered only at the time of the beginning of spring growth at the suggestion of the plants themselves: they will have replacement leaves.
During active growth and flowering, these succulents are watered moderately (once every 3-4 weeks): the clod of earth should be slightly moistened. But some experienced cactus growers advise not even to water these plants, but in the morning or late in the evening to spray them from a spray bottle.
According to experts, the best option would be to expose "living stones" for a period of active growth in fresh air, carefully protecting these "sissies" from raindrops. Top dressing is given by "feeding" a complete mineral fertilizer from a tray with a weak aqueous solution. At rest, these plants are not watered at all (in a warm room they are only sprayed). If during this period their leaves begin to wrinkle somewhat, then you should not rush to water, as this is a completely natural process.
"Living stones" are transplanted in the spring (March-April) using a soil substrate consisting of leafy earth and sand (1: 1). You can use the soil that is offered in cactus growing stores.
It is quite problematic to propagate "living stones" from seeds, so it is more practical to buy plants at a flower shop. Having a small root system, they can be content with a small pot (5-7 cm). But with an increase in growth, the dishes are taken a little more, increasing gradually.
Recently, in home floriculture, "living stones" are rapidly becoming fashionable. The most common are two species, somewhat differing from each other in morphological and physiological characteristics - Litops and Conophytum. In the first, more common among indoor gardening lovers, the depression between the leaves is distinct (deep). Its tightly closed leaves are like a hoof. It is watered less often, the dormant period is January-April.
Plants of the Conophytum group are characterized by the accretion of leaves, as a result of which there is a tiny hole at the top of the rounded "stone" (sometimes it looks like a dent or wrinkle) - a place for flowers and leaves of the next season. He has a rest period - October-March.
Argyroderma, so named for the silvery skin of the leaves, usually mimics the sharp shards of stones. This "stone" has paired leaves slightly pointed at the top and loosely adjacent to each other.
According to experts, due to the ease of crossing species with each other, there are a huge number of forms and varieties within each genus. Therefore, for those who want to deal seriously with this group of succulents, before purchasing a "living stone" (better from collectors), it is important to find out what species it belongs to and how to correctly name it.
For design, you can fill the potted soil around the plant with small colored stones. Then the pot with "live stones" will look quite original.
When you observe these plants, you never cease to be amazed at nature, which, even through the paradoxical beauty of ugliness, creates such wonderful forms of plants!
A. Lazarev, Senior Researcher, All-Russian Research Institute of Plant Protection