Conophytum obcordellum, also known as the living pebble plant, is the most common of the living pebble plants and one of the easiest succulents to grow indoors, in part because of its resistance to pests and diseases.
Lately, you may have noticed an increased demand for the living pebble plant. Originally from South Africa, this succulent plant with sharp teeth-like leaves has seen a tremendous spike in popularity over the last year or so and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Once you learn the basics of conophytum obcordellum, caring for these succulents will become second nature to you! With proper care, your living pebbles will grow and reproduce successfully, and you’ll have a successful garden in no time!
Origin and distribution
Conophytum obcordellum is indigenous to rocky outcrops and mountain slopes in southern Africa, including South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Namibia. It has been introduced to Europe. Conophytum obcordellum can be found at elevations from 1,200 feet to 7,000 feet in mild climates.
Their hardiness zones are 8b-10. They prefer dry weather, with a minimum of 12 hours of sunlight per day. A common mistake for beginners is to water them too much; over watering will lead to the plants drying out quickly and dying. They need very well-drained soil because they like their roots to stay cool.
They also require full sun to partial shade. Watering should only be done when the soil is dry, not every time it rains or if you think it needs more water.
One important thing that many people don’t know about this plant is that if you let the top inch or so of potting mix go completely dry, then moisten again gradually before letting it go completely dry again, your plant will grow more than twice as fast!
Conophytum obcordellum propagation
Conophytums are typically propagated by seed, but occasionally you may find a plant that produces offsets. To propagate conos, take a leaf and cut it into segments (on average, cut off one segment per leaf) with healthy leaves and roots attached.
Remove all of the old leaves from these segments before repotting them in the soil. If they’re starting to wilt or shrivel up, don’t wait until they die; they will rot instead of regrowing. You can also divide up clumps of plants.
Again, remove any old rotted roots as well as any debris on the surface of the potting medium before dividing plants. Then carefully tease apart some offset clusters and gently put them in new pots with fresh potting mix. Make sure that the roots stay moist at all times and keep an eye out for root rot.
Conophytum obcordellum care information
Conophytum obcordellum care is relatively easy, but they do have some very specific requirements. All you need to do is provide it with bright light, preferably filtered through sheer curtains or glass. They can handle direct sunlight for a few hours each day, but make sure that you turn their pots occasionally so that they don’t cook on one side.
Conophytum obcordellum prefers bright light, not direct sunlight. Remember pebbles don’t live underwater. If they receive too much water they’ll rot and die. It’s a good idea to remove your pebble plant from bright light during peak sun hours if you have a sunny window sill or if you have your plant outdoors and it gets full sun all day. This will help prevent moisture build-up in your pebble plant, making sure it doesn’t wilt.
Conophytum obcordellum is from South Africa and grows in very sandy, acidic soil. In order to replicate that, use a combination of long-fibered sphagnum moss and coarse sand. (The sphagnum will absorb excess water and acidity from your pebble plant.)
Sand should make up between two-thirds and three-quarters of your potting mix; put it in a medium mixing bowl, then add about one-quarter sphagnum moss. Wet the whole thing with warm water and let the soil/sand mixture rest for at least an hour before filling your pot with it.
If you want to get fancy, decorate the top layer of your pot with bits of broken pots or glass shards for a more authentic look.
Conophytums are fairly easy to care for as long as you make sure that they are never allowed to dry out. Water them by placing their pots in a saucer or tray filled with water.
Make sure that all of the plants’ roots are submerged and allow it to absorb as much water as possible from the saucer before removing it. You should then allow excess water to drain from their pot before returning it to its place on your windowsill.
If you notice that any droplets have accumulated on the plant, use a damp cloth to wipe them away. These plants can be watered once every 2-3 weeks during periods when they are actively growing, but during winter months, watering may only need to be done once every 3-4 months.
When growing Conophytum obcordellum, it’s important to make sure that you use a fertilizer high in potassium. If you can’t find a fertilizer that specifically says it has a high concentration of potassium, another option is to use a fertilizer with a higher than normal amount of phosphate.
Be careful not to get these confused! Phosphate works well for flowering plants like roses and lilies. It does not work for succulents. Other things to note when fertilizing your conophytums are the soil composition and water content.
For example, if your soil composition is made up of peat moss or leaf litter, then use potting soil as your base. If your soil mixture is sandier or clay-like then stick with regular potting soil.
Conophytum obcordellum can survive in a variety of temperatures, but they prefer to be around 60 degrees or above. If your home gets below 65 during colder months, keep your living pebble plant inside until spring arrives.
After that, you can put it outside during warm days and bring it inside when it’s cold again. You can also place your conophytum on a sunny windowsill and leave it there throughout winter.
Conophytum obcordellum are extremely sensitive to humidity, and you’ll want to keep a conophytum in a room that has no drafts or direct sunlight. Because of their sensitivity to humidity, it’s not advised that you grow these succulents in an outdoor garden or in a home with many air conditioners.
Humidity between 45 and 60 percent is ideal for living pebble plants; however, you should use your own judgment based on the current weather in your area.
Pots don’t have to be small to keep a pebble plant healthy. A pebble plant in a large pot will thrive with regular pruning and repotting. Since it grows slowly, you can leave it in one pot for up to two years, but if you do so, be sure to prune it regularly so that its root system doesn’t become overwhelmed.
Cut back on watering after winter ends. Once spring arrives, use the same care as any other succulent. When your plant reaches the end of its life cycle (after 10-15 years), cut off the top third of the bulbous roots and place them in a new pot or outdoors.
When to repot
Conophytum obcordellumare not terribly demanding when it comes to potting and repotting. They require well-draining soil, though, which means only using potting mixes with a particle size of 4 mm or smaller.
To prevent root rot, add some coarse gravel to your container mix (1/4-1/2 inch). If you’re starting with a new pebble plant, use a 2-3 inch container so that you can be sure there is plenty of room for growth.
When the pebble has outgrown its container, move it into one that’s 1 gallon in size. Be careful not to overwater this plant–it prefers drier conditions than many other succulents–and make sure the drainage hole is open at all times to avoid root rot.
Keep soil slightly moist but do not overwater. During dormancy, keep the plant in a very bright room with no direct sunlight (low light). If given too much light or too much water during dormancy, your plant may die. After all danger of frost has passed in spring, begin watering and moving to a brighter location.
Over time move back outside, sun permitting. Eventually, leave outdoors year-round in warm climates. Keeping Conophytum obcordellum in a state of moderate dormancy is one way to encourage flowering. It’s also the best way to store the plants for winter.
Just before they enter dormancy, you should provide a cool spot for them, about 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) day and night, with high humidity levels.
Then place them in an even cooler spot where they’ll experience temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) for 10 weeks. Make sure the soil never dries out; check every few days and water as needed.
Flower & fragrance
The flowers of conophytum obcordellum are brown and have little fragrance.
Conophytum obcordellum is slow-growing and usually takes 4 to 6 years to get big enough to bloom. To encourage fast growth, keep it in a warm location (65–75°F) and out of direct sunlight. During cooler months, put it somewhere with indirect light.
Feed your pebble once every 2 months using an all-purpose fertilizer mixed at half strength. Be sure to water it only when dry; too much water can cause root rot or mold issues for your pebble plant.
Conophytum obcordellum has no toxicity effect reported is therefore considered safe around children and pets.
USDA hardiness zones
Conophytum obcordellum thrives best in USDA hardiness zones 8b-10. It does not like to be watered or fertilized, so it is often used as a rock garden plant.
Pests and diseases
Conophytum obcordellum are low-maintenance plants in general, but they do have their fair share of pests and diseases. Most infestations can be prevented with proper care and a few preemptive measures. One common pest is mites; you’ll notice yellow spots on your plant that could indicate an infestation.
These can be removed by simply using a damp cloth to wipe them off the leaves. Scale insects also often attack Conophytum obcordellum, and while they’re easier to see than mites, it’s important to remove them as soon as possible because they excrete honeydew – which will eventually lead to sooty mold growing on the leaves and flowers.
Mealybugs are another insect that sometimes attacks these plants. You’ll know if you have mealybugs when you see the white or pink fuzz on the underside of your plant’s leaves or clusters of brown eggs around the base of the stems.