Pleiospilos vs Lithops: Spot the Differences

Today we will address a question we receive quite frequently in our emails: “Pleiospilos vs Lithops: are they the same?”

We thought of writing this post so that in the future, we simply have to include a link to this page to make it very clear that no, the Pleiospilos and Lithops are two very different plants.

pleiospilos vs lithops
Left: Pleiospilos | Right: Lithops

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Pleiospilos and Lithops are two different genera, belonging to the same family, yes, but different! Therefore, as they belong to the same family, they have some characteristics that make them relatively similar. However, they actually have more differences than similarities.

There are many plants, of different genera, within the Aizoaceae family, for example, we can talk about the genera:

  • Lithops
  • Pleiospilos
  • Conophytum
  • Argyroderma
  • Opthalmophyllum

And so on, until we list about 120 different genera and about 2,500 species in total.

All these 120 genera of the family Aizoaceae are different from each other but have some similarities in appearance. Talking about similarities, the Lithops look more like Conophytum, with which, in some rare cases, they can even hybridize. On the other hand, the difference between Lithops and Pleiospilos is so great that hybridizations cannot take place.

If we want to find clear differences between the genera Lithops and Pleiospilos we can look at many important things, in addition to the impossibility of hybridization that we talked about before:

  • The first of these significant differences is simply their physical appearance. Although it is true that both genera change in a similar way (opening a fissure between the leaves of the previous season, from which the new leaves emerge), their size, much larger in the case of Pleiospilos, and the appearance and color of the flowers are easily distinguishable. To such an extent that it is aesthetically inadvisable to grow them together, since if, for example, we put a Pleiospilos nelli together with any kind of Lithops in the same pot, the Pleiospilos nelli will visually “consume” the Lithops.
  • It is not only the aesthetic aspects that make mixing plants of the Lithops genus with plants of the Pleiospilos genus inadvisable, there is another aspect that is even more important than the previous one. It is the significant differences between their life cycles: some (the Lithops), in general terms, bloom in autumn-winter, while others (the Pleiospilos) do so in spring-summer.
  • Another very clear difference between the plants of the Lithops and Pleiospilos genera is the coexistence of the leaves of one season with that of the previous season. This coexistence, in the case of Lithops, rarely occurs, since the molt ends when the new leaves are fully developed and the old ones are completely dry. On the other hand, in the case of Pleiospilos, leaves from two different generations, sometimes even from three different generations, can be kept over time.
  • Neither the requrements of both genera is similar, since the Lithops require far less water than Pleiospilos. This difference is accentuated in the winter season, in which, in the case of Pleiospilos, although it is true that the waterings must be reduced considerably (let's say that to a single monthly irrigation), in the case of the Lithops the reduction is much more drastic (say several months, four or five, without watering of any kind).

Pleiospilos vs Lithos: Photo Comparisons

pleiospilos nelii
Pleiospilos nelii

An adult specimen of Pleiospilos nelii, easily identifiable by its shape, size and pattern.


lithops terricolor
Lithops terricolor

In my opinion, the only Lithops species that has a relatively similar pattern is the Lithops terricolor.
In any case, as you can see in this photo, a Lithops terricolor is very different from a Pleiospilos.


pleiospilos
Pleiospilos flowers

The difference becomes more evident when the plants bloom. The flowers of the Pleiospilos are very attractive and quite large, compared to the size of the plant. They are orange-yellowish in color (although some specimens may have pinkish segments) with the innermost region whitish.


lithops verruculosa
Lithops verruculosa flower

Flowers of Lithops are always white or yellow clearly. Except in the case of the Lithops verruculosa, which have orange flowers but, in any case, very different from the flowers of the Pleiospilos.


pleiospilos
Pleiospilos

Very often, in the genus Pleiospilos, the flowers coexist with several pairs of leaves of different generations.


lithops fulviceps
Lithops fulviceps v. Fulviceps ‘Aurea'


On the other hand, in the case of Lithops (in this case it is a Lithops fulviceps v. Fulviceps ‘Aurea' ) when the plants bloom, there is usually no trace of the leaves from previous generations.


pleiospilos nelii royal flush
Pleiospilos nelii ‘Royal Flush'


In the case of the cultivar Pleiospilos nelii ‘Royal Flush', there is a certain resemblance to Lithops optica ‘Rubra'. In this sample it can be seen that there are notable coincidences both in color and size.


lithops optica rubra
Lithops optica ‘Rubra'


But, if we look closely, there are also distinctive features that differentiate them, such as the mottling that can be seen in the previous photograph and that does not exist in this Lithops optica ‘Rubra' .


lithops
Lithops optica ‘Rubra'


And, if there is any doubt, just wait for our Lithops optica ‘Rubra' to bloom, since their white flowers have nothing to do with the characteristic flowers of the Pleiospilos nelii.


lithops gracilidelineata
Lithops gracilidelineata

Except for the few similarities that we have seen in the previous photographs, in the rest of the Lithops species, the differences are more than evident, as can be seen in this beautiful Lithops gracilidelineata, which looks like a Pleiospilos like an egg to a chestnut.


lithops

These differences in appearance are equally evident when the plants bloom.


Conclusion: Pleiospilos vs Lithops

That’s all the tips I have! Do you have any other methods of telling the difference between Pleiospilos and Lithops?

Now that you have learned the differences, it is time to pick out your favorite here!

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