Succulents

Guide to Pleiospilos Nelii Plants: How to Grow & Care for “Split Rock”

Read our complete guide to Pleiospilos Nelii for everything you will ever need to know! Tips for growing and caring for the “Split Rock” succulents.
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Pleiospilos Nelii is a unique-looking flowering succulent from South Africa that belongs to the Aizoaceae family, so it is a type of mesemb (a leaf succulent that grows in hot, arid regions, in nutritionally-poor soil).

Split Rock is usually small and it doesn’t grow more than a few inches in height. It has two to four gray-green or purple opposite leaves that have a hemispherical shape. The stone-looking leaves are separated by a crack or a cleft, so you’ll often find this succulent labeled as Living Rock Cactus, Mimicry Plant, or Cleft Stone, or Liver Plant.

Growing Split Rock is a bit tricky and some succulent experts even say that mesembs are the hardest succulents to care for. Read on to find out how to grow and care for these adorable egg-shaped succulents.

Spilt Rock succulents are generally non-toxic to humans or animals, which is great if you love pets as much as you love tiny plants.

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About Pleiospilos Nelii

  • The Pleiospilos Nelii or the “Split Rock” is a stemless, perennial succulent native to South Africa where it thrives in dry, arid, and semi-arid areas with bright and unpolluted light.
  • The South African names for Pleiospilos Nelii are kwaggavy (Quagga mesemb) and klipplant (stone plant).
  • Its growing season is Spring-Autumn and it doesn’t like cold temperatures.
  • In warmer regions, the Split Rock can be grown outdoors (zones 9-11 USDA). If you live in a colder area you can grow the succulent in a container that will allow you to bring it indoors during the colder seasons.
  • Like most succulents, Split Rock needs well-draining soil that’s relatively poor in organic matter and nutrients and just a little water.
  • Most Split Rock succulents flower in spring, but it is not uncommon for them to flower in autumn (like Lithops).
  • As mentioned above, Pleiospilos Nelii is sometimes labeled as Lithops as the two are quite similar. However, there are a few major differences between the two. Pleiospilos Nelii succulents are larger than Lithops, they do not grow buried in the ground, and they can produce more than one flower at once, while Lithops can only produce one.

Pleiospilos Nelii Royal Flush Succulent, From Amazon

Pleiospilos Nelii Features: An Overview

  • Split Rock succulents look like greenish or brownish speckled stones with raised dark dots.
  • These dots or specks are like little windows that attract sunlight and encourage photosynthesis.
  • They have a unique feature – a perfectly-straight cleft that separates the opposing sets of leaves.
  • It only grows one or two pairs of leaves, and each year and the old leaves are consumed by the new ones.
  • If the plant gets more water during the regeneration season, it might keep the old pair of leaves.
  • Split Rock succulents grow to 2-5 inches (5-13 cm) in height and 3-4 inched (10 cm) across.
  • Their flowers are quite spectacular – colorful, large, daisy-like, with a coconut smell.
  • If we consider the size of the succulent, its flowers are quite large 2-3 inched (6-7 cm) across.
  • The flowers of Split Rock succulents are usually yellow or orange, but they can also be white or pink.
  • The beautiful flowers open their petals in mid-afternoon and close them back up by dusk. This pattern will be repeated for a few days, after which the flowers will eventually dry up.
  • Pollinated Pleiospilos Nelii flowers make a seed pod.
The Split Rock succulent
The Split Rock succulent

Growing Pleiospilos Nelii

As mentioned above, Pleiospilos Nelii is also known as the Mimicry Plant. This is owed to the fact that to survive, this succulent has learned how to mimic its surrounding environment. In other words, Pleiospilos Nelii succulents can blend in with the soil and create a camouflage by looking like rocks.

In their natural habitat, Pleidospilos Nelii succulents grow in arid and semi-arid areas. Therefore, they are used to predictable rainfall patterns with relatively low quantities of water. They get most of their water seasonally, through condensation or fog. As a result, they don’t like irregular rainfall or extreme drought.

Growing and caring for Split Rock plants is quite easy, especially if they get plenty of sunlight and natural light, enough ventilation, well-draining soil, and regular watering in small amounts during the growing season.

When it comes to choosing the right type of soil for Split Rock succulents, keep in mind that they don’t need a lot of organic materials. The best type of soil should be as similar to their natural habitat as possible, so you should use sandy soil that doesn’t hold water.

Hoffman Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix is Perfect

Split Rock succulents that are healthy and happy won’t grow more than one or two sets of opposing leaves. Each year, these succulents grow a new set of leaves that will replace the old ones. You might be tempted to remove the old leaves manually, but you shouldn’t do that because the new ones will use their water and nutrients until they are completely dried out.

In a way, Split Rock plants fertilize themselves, so they do not require external fertilizers. But, if you want to, you can add some fertilizer during the growing season.

Split Rock succulents cannot withstand cold temperatures. So, if you live in an area with low temperatures during the winter, you’ll have to move them indoors. That means that you should grow them in containers and not in outdoor flowerbeds. Additionally, if you move your succulents outdoors during the warm months, make sure rainwater won’t get to them.

Like most succulents, Split Rock plants need partial to full sun. Indoors, they will get enough light if you place them near a south-facing window. If that’s impossible, you might want to get some grow lights.

Watering Pleiospilos Nelii

Most succulent growers have a hard time finding the perfect conditions for the Pleiospilos Nelii plant because their water needs are unique. They need less water than most succulents as they grow in desert-like regions, arid or semi-arid, that don’t get a lot of rainfall.

Ideally, Pleiospilos Nelii succulents should only get water during the growing season, in spring and early fall. If you are a succulent lover, then you already know that the soil should always dry completely before rewatering the plants. In extreme temperatures that usually happen in summer (July and August) and in winter (January and February), you should hold back the water.

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Split Rock uses consumes its old leaves and uses them as fertilizer. So, if your plant hasn’t shed its old leaves by the end of summer, it means that you’ve been overwatering it. This succulent doesn’t like damp soil, so too much water can easily kill it.

Transplanted Pleiospilos Nelii plants should be watered regardless of the time of year or number of leaves. Watering a freshly transplanted succulent will encourage root growth. The plant won’t acclimatize to the new container if the soil is too dry. After watering it for the first time, allow the soil to dry completely, water it once more, and then resume the watering routine that’s appropriate for the season.

Some Split Rock growers and sellers water the succulents excessively to force the plants to grow more sets of leaves. However, this process isn’t natural for the plants and it can lead to rot. If you buy a Split Rock succulent that has more than four sets of leaves, avoid watering it until the old leaves are consumed by the new ones.

Propagating Pleiospilos Nelii

Like most succulents, Split Rock can be propagated by division or seeds. It’s quite rare for these succulents to produce offsets, so growers will generally choose the second option.

If you want to propagate Split Rock through seeds, you’ll have to harvest them from flower pods in the summer. As mentioned above, pollinated Split Rock flowers will produce a seed pod.

  • To get the best results, make sure you keep the freshly sowed seeds in water for one day before planting them in damp sandy soil.
  • Keep the soil moderately damp throughout the germination period. When it comes to growing Split Rock from seed, patience is the key as it will take a long time for these tiny succulents to sprout.
Pleiospilos Nelii flowering
Pleiospilos Nelii flowering
  • To propagate your succulents through division, use a sharp sterile knife to remove a clump in the spring before the succulent had the chance to grow a new set of leaves.
  • Leave the freshly cut plant to callus for a few days, and replant it in high-quality sandy soil with good drainage.

It is worth mentioning that Split Rock succulents have pretty long roots, so you should plant them in containers that are at least 3.5 to 4 inches (8-10 cm) deep. Succulent containers should always have drainage holes and you should never add rocks at the bottom as this can encourage water retention.

The best type of soil for Split Rock succulents is a combination of cactus mix and pumice. If you mix the soil yourself, aim for a ratio of 25% cactus mix to 75% pumice. You can also use mineral mix, but you should avoid anything that contains sphagnum peat moss which is way too nutritious.

In Summary

Pleiospilos Nelii or Split Rock is a tropical succulent, native to South Africa that thrives in arid and semi-arid environments.

These adorable succulents only grow two to four leaves and they don’t grow more than a few inches tall and wide. But, the greatest thing about them is that they produce beautiful flowers that have a coconutty smell.

To grow happy and healthy Split Rock succulents, make sure you give them a lot of light, you protect them from dampness, rain, and cold temperatures and you allow the soil to dry before you rewater them.

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Miruna Secuianu

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

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