The Karoo rose is probably one of the most unique plants you will encounter in your gardening journey, so distinctive that it is the only one of its kind.
Currently considered as a rare succulent, it is making a name in the ornamental scene for its peculiarly attractive leaves and growth habit. If you enjoy the beauty of lithops, the Karoo rose is absolutely worth your attention too.
What is a Karoo Rose?
Lapidaria is a genus under the Aizoaceae family originating from South Africa. A monotypic plant genera, it only has one species, Lapidaria margaretae which is more commonly known as Karoo Rose.
The quaint plant has undergone several name changes so some literatures may refer to it as Mesembryanthemum margaretae, Argyroderma margaretae, and Argyroderma roeatum (1).
As the Latin name suggests, this stemless plant has leaves that resemble columns of crystal-like stones emerging from the ground. Stone crevices, loose stones, and rocky deserts serve as the natural habitat to the Karoo rose.
Each thick greyish-white leaf is pinkish at the base and has 3 sides. The leaves grow in several pairs, stacking up perpendicularly one after another. In autumn to early winter, the Karoo rose surprises with an impressive fragrant golden daisy-like flower (2).
What is the Difference Between Lithops and Lapidaria?
Although both Lithops and Lapidaria belong to the same plant family and bear a resemblance to rocks and stones, they have several distinguishing characteristics.
Lithops have rounded leathery leaves with flat colored tops and appear one pair at a time. On the other hand, Lapidaria has pyramid-like leaves that appear in 2-4 pairs (3).
Is the Karoo Rose Toxic?
The Karoo rose is a fairly safe plant to grow indoors. It is not considered toxic to pets but they may swallow the plant and choke on it. Considering the worth of this plant, it is best to keep it out of pets and toddlers’ reach.
How to Grow and Care For Your Karoo Rose
Similar to growing other succulent species, we need to understand the important factors such as water, moisture, light, pest control and propagation techniques.
Light and Water
The Karoo rose thrive where there is bright light, it is accustomed to the sunny deserts of South Africa that it will require a north-east or east-facing window when brought indoors. Make sure that there is enough and even sunlight exposure to maintain the form and color of the plant. Keeping them under shade will cause the leaves to turn yellowish and elongated.
Watering the Karoo rose should be at minimum. Their thick leaves allow them to survive long days of drought and overwatering will only cause the smooth leaves to burst. Water once every two weeks and if in doubt, it is safer to refrain from watering instead (3).
Temperature and Humidity
Although this plant likes it warm and humid, the extreme heat of summer leads to dormancy. As an opportunistic grower, the plant will postpone its growth and reproduction when it gets too hot and resume development once the weather is more favorable. When it comes to cold conditions, the Karoo rose can tolerate short periods of up to -4 °C but extended exposure will lead to its decline (3).
Pests and Diseases
Aside from the occasional bursting and rotting of leaves due to overwatering, the Karoo rose doesn’t have any serious problems when it comes to diseases and pests. It may experience mealy bug and spider mite attacks from time to time but this is nothing a simple horticultural spray couldn’t solve.
Propagation and Maintenance
The Karoo rose plant forms a compact head and rarely produces clusters from a single plant. Reproducing from cuttings is possible but is risky since the plant heavily relies on its fleshy leaves which may be vulnerable to rotting and water loss when wounded.
The best way to propagate is by seed using the same method as growing Lithops. Cultivation is not very difficult as long as the seeds are sown in a coarse well-draining medium, usually made of pumice, sand, and grit. A regular succulent or cactus mix will do once the seedlings are ready for transplanting.
Bring out the beauty of Karoo rose by planting it individually in a decorative pot, in clumps with two or three more plants for a multi-floral display in the fall or with different lithops to add color and variety (3).
See more: How to grow succulents from seeds
(1) Hartmann, H. Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Aizoaceae F-Z. Springer Science and Business Media. 2002. P. 422.
(2) Afra, A. The Succulent Manual: A Guide to Care and Repair for All Climates. Andrea Afra. 2018. P. 211.
(3) Lapidaria margaretae. The World of Cacti and Succulents. 2010.