DecorativeHouseplants

How To Grow a Split Rock Succulent?

split rock succulent

Split Rock Succulent is a unique-looking and flowering succulent with many name variants: Living Rock Cactus, Cleft Stone, or Mimicry Plant. Its botanical name Pleiospilos nelii comes from two Greek words: first, ‘pleios’, means many and the second part, ‘spilos’ means spot.

Split Rock Succulent has two to four gray or green stone-looking leaves separated by a cleft down the center. This appearance is a great example of mimicry in botany: a plant evolves to resemble something else found in its surroundings.

As the name indicates, mimicking a split rock helps the plant to blend into its environment on stony desert ground. Camouflage provides the water-filled succulent with protection from thirsty predators. Growing near rocks also gives the Split Rock Succulents some shade from too harsh sunlight.

Basic Care

Though Split Rock Succulents can be hard to notice in the wild because they blend in so well with their natural habitat, they make a great decorative houseplant.

The plant grows yellow, orange, white or magenta colored and coconut-like-smelling blooms, usually a little larger than the plant itself. But even during their dormancy period, they are an eye-catcher with their set of plump leaves.

The slow-growing Split Rock Succulent doesn’t grow more than two sets of leaves at a time. Each year a new set of leaves replaces the ones from last year, sprouting through the center cleft.

The plant grows up to 5 inches (13 cm) in height and 4 inches (10 cm) wide, making it a convenient-sized container plant. The Split Rock Succulent is generally non-toxic to humans and animals and is therefore a safe plant for a home with kids and pets.

split rock succulent
Split rock succulent Source: Maja Dumat

Climate

Split Rock Succulent is native to South Africa and thrives in arid desert-like regions. It can be grown outdoors in USDA zones 9 to 11 with enough bright light. Since their natural environment is extremely dry, getting only up to 6 inches of rainfall per year, it is imperative to protect the plant from heavy rain and harsh sun.

Consequently, the Split Rock Succulent is not cold hardy. If you want to keep it outdoors in a zone where the temperatures can drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (below 0 degrees Celsius), it is recommended to grow it in a pot or a container, so it could be brought inside for colder days.

Water

The rule of thumb, when it comes to your Split Rock Succulent would be: when in doubt, don’t water. This succulent is extremely self-sufficient and can last on its own water supply stored in the leaves for months if needed. 

Split Rock Succulent’s growing seasons are in spring and early autumn. During these months, give your plant a good soak once the soil has completely dried out. Another indicator for watering routine is the hardiness of the leaves: when the leaves are firm and not showing any signs of wilting, it is not necessary to water, even if the soil may be dry. 

Also, keep in mind that as long as the two center leaves are solid, the outer ones may be softer – this means that the plant is using its own water reserves and does not need more.

During extremely hot periods in summer as well as colder winter months, your Split Rock Succulent lays dormant. The watering schedule should then be reduced to once every few weeks. 

flowering split rock succulent
Flowering split rock succulent Source: 阿橋 HQ

Soil & Fertilizer

Split Rock Succulent thrives in a desert-like soil and hence likes it mineral and poorly constituted in terms of organic matter. A combination of 25% cactus mix and 75% pumice would be an optimal blend. In any case, avoiding soil mixes that contain sphagnum peat moss would be recommended.

Good drainage is crucial for the plant’s health: provide loose, well-draining soil in a pot with a wide enough hole in the bottom. Split Rock Succulents grow a long tap root and would hence appreciate a pot at least 3,5–4 inches (9–10 cm) deep.

When potting your succulent, cover only a third of its stem in the soil and leave a bigger part above the surface – the same way that a rock would lay on the ground. Also, adding stones on top of the soil will make the environment more natural to your succulent.

As these plants store water and can provide their own nutrients, they don’t necessarily need additional fertilizer.

Light

In their natural environment, Split Rock Succulents get plenty of sunlight. To ensure similar, partial shade to full sun conditions at home, make sure you accommodate them near a south-facing window.

If you live in an area with low sunlight or don’t have much natural light at home, grow lights will provide the necessary lumens for your desert plant.

If you live in a warm enough climate, Split Rock Succulent can also live outdoors, enjoying rather filtered sunlight, as the mid-day direct sun can be too intense.

split rock succulent royal flush
Split rock succulent ‘Royal Flush’ variegation Source: Doris

Propagating

Split Rock Succulents can be propagated by division of the plant or by growing a new plant from a seed. Seeds can be harvested from the flower pod. For germinating seeds, first soak them in water for 24 hours before sowing them in a thin layer of sandy soil. Keep the potted seeds in warmth and the soil damp until the seeds start sprouting.

There are a few more things to remember when propagating your Split Rock Succulent by division. It is best to do this in early spring: when the plant is waking up from dormancy but has not started its blooming cycle and growing new leaves yet.

Remove a cluster of leaves from the plant using a sharp and sterile knife. Give the separated cluster a few days to form a callus, a hard, dry “crust” at the base of the cutting, before planting it in a well-draining mineral soil.

Watering a newly transplanted Split Rock Succulent has to be even more scarce than usual. Holding back water during the first week encourages the freshly potted plant to grow new roots. After a week, give the plant a gentle tug: resume the normal watering schedule only after it feels secured in the surface. 

Growth Problems

As desert succulents are very resistant to extreme heat and drought, water can mainly contribute to growth problems. Luckily, Split Rock Succulent has some obvious indicators for being overwatered. 

Once your plant starts to develop more than two sets of leaves simultaneously, you need to cut back on the watering. The same goes for the old leaves still being present at the end of summer instead of having withered away. 

Rapid leaf growth can also be caused by over-feeding your plant since Split Rock Succulent does not necessarily require additional nutrients from fertilizers. Stacking leaves may not look dangerous, but it is unnatural to the plant and will eventually lead to rot.

Also, the surface of the plant can be informative: when you see even the slightest cracking on its epidermis, you are likely over-watering it and should give it at least a week to dry.

Conclusion

Split Rock Succulent is a relatively low-maintenance plant to grow at home. What makes it even more gratifying, it does not need notable feeding or pest control since it is resistant to disease and pest attacks.

As long as you remove the old leaves that the plant does not absorb, it also doesn’t require any other grooming. Some attention to Split Rock Succulent’s water and light conditions rewards you with a quirky looking and long-lived houseplant.

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