Visit to Steve Hammer – the Lithops houses


Written ByJen Greene

Posted: November 17, 2022

I had the fortune to visit Steve Hammer earlier this year, right at the start of fall, and was able to see some incredible plants. Here’s the lithops I was most enchanted by!

These are grown in San Diego, in a North County area that is excellent for lithops cultivation. Cool nights in winter, but not quite freezing, combined with hot summer days closely mimic natural conditions. They are grown in not-quite-greenhouses; they have greenhouse roofs, but open screen sides, allowing for plentiful air flow and movement. 

While the labels say something else, I believe these below are some variant of lithops karasmontana “red top” 

lithops optica lateritus
lithops karasmontana red top
lithops red top

Note the tiny seedlings in the pot, almost replacing the pebbles as top dressing. 

lithops gracilidelineata

The Lithops gracilidelineata at left was sown in 1989, making it a whopping 33 years old! 

The species does not commonly clump, so the single head is fairly typical of the type. Just one new set of highly textured top leaves, year after year. 

These caught my eye in particular with the deep grooves and the red veining in the caverns, making it a very striking plant. The age was also incredible. 

lithops karasmontana

Lithops karasmontana (?) C82 

Every chance this is incorrect; it does not match the color of the Mesa Garden mother plant with the same collection number. The VR is probably indicative of why. 

lithops olivacea

Lithops olivacea

I have the green form in my own collection. Simple, striking species. 

lithops marmorata

Lithops marmorata 

Pretty little cluster. Like most of Steve’s collection, seeing this clump made me want some of my own. I’ll have to try growing from seed, as I find my seed grown plants much more forgiving of our weather than those I buy online or elsewhere. 

lithops verruculosa blue

I loved the texture on these – Lithops verruculosa “blue”. With time, these like to clump, and the species is known for a variety of flower colors. 

lithops localis

Lithops localis “green” – AKA Lithops terricolor. One of the most widely distributed lithops species, and highly variable. Tend to bloom exclusively yellow. 

lithops localis

Another variety of Lithops localis AKA Lithops terricolor, this one showing a beautiful speckled pattern. 
This species is generally smaller than other lithops, and slow to grow. 

Lithops schwantesii

Beautiful clump of Lithops schwantesii, a yellow blooming species that looks almost velvety in the pattern. Not all specimens are so beautifully marked, while some may be more vivid.  

Lithops hybrid

Based on the tag, I believe this is a hybrid Lithops, psuedotruncella crossed with… something latin. It’s a striking plant, no matter the heritage. 

lithops hybrid

Another hybrid, significantly older. If you peer closely at the tag, it appears this plant was sown in 1993, making it old enough to drink or rent a car. 

lithops gracilidelineata waldroniae

I was mildly obsessed with the texture and color of Steve’s Lithops gracilidelineata var. waldroniae and the brain-like texture. I wish I’d grabbed photos of the super-deeply grooved seedlings he had growing. These things looked unreal, and I couldn’t help but reach a finger out to gently feel the bumps and grooves in the leaves. 

lithops gracilidelineata waldroniae

Can you believe the Lithops above is the same species as the one to the right? Above is waldroniae and to the right is brandbergensis

I’ll admit to being partial to the richly textured variety! 

lithops gracilidelineata brandbergensi
lithops verruculosa rose of texas

Another Lithops verruculosa, but this one is called the “Rose of Texas”. A subtle variety, pretty, and striking with the tops against the slate gray hues of the sides. 

lithops erniana var aiaisensis

Lithops karasmontana var. aiaisensis

lithops erniana var aiaisensi

Lithops karasmontana has a huge number of attractive varities, and aiaisensis was not one I’d heard of until visiting Steve Hammer. It’s amazing. It’s beautiful. I need 20 of them. 

lithops karasmontana var aiaisensis
lithops freds redhorn

Lithops “Fred’s Redhorn” is a specific color cultivar I’m growing from seed, so I had a selfish interest in seeing how these did. For me, it was also helpful to see that these were sown in 2020, and as of 2022, were just barely at a size that might be okay to sell. I have a few years to go with my own seedlings. 

lithops opalina cross julii cross opalina

A beautiful Lithops opalina hybrid crossed into Lithops julii and back into opalina to create…magic. Once you figure out how to pollinate and then collect seed, lithops hybrid options are yours to imagine. I haven’t figured it out, yet, but this year might be the year I do. 

Lithops pseudotruncatella ssp. groendrayensis

These Lithops pseudotruncatella ssp. groendrayensis were attractive for their monotone hues. They looked almost too perfect to be real plants, and the variation in a single seed batch was fascinating. 

Lithops pseudotruncatella var. riehmerae

Same species (I think), but instead, these are Lithops pseudotruncatella var. riehmerae. Lithops vary wildly depending on their environment, so texture, color, even willingness to develop into clumps is heavily influenced by the microclimate of soil and weather a given population experiences. 

These were sown in 2016, and some are just beginning to divide into dual heads. Slow growing indeed!

lithops ruschiorum
lithops ruschiorum

Both pots above are Lithops ruschiorum, a species that I love in part because it’s so challenging for me to grow. They’re slow, they’re small, and subtle in appearance. It’s their challenge that’s attractive, as well as their distinctive little yellow blooms. 

lithops opalina

I’ll wrap this up with a Lithops opalina that’s older than I am – sown in 1986, this plant is 36 years old!  

Some of my biggest takeaways from visiting Steve were to both water less, and water more. 

Water less in the dormant season. I worry too much, I try too hard, and baby my plants more than I should when the weather is not ideal (ie, too hot). That being said…my greenhouse is pretty toasty. I should consider watering during hot weather if I notice my plants pruning too much. 

Conversely, during the prime growing season that we’re just starting to enter, I should be watering them and watering them well. Maybe some fertilizer, if I feel generous, but these plants thrive on benign neglect. 

Lithops are enjoyable for their relative ease of cultivation, rainbow colors, and small size. If you aren’t already growing some, you should try! 

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