Pleiospilos Nelii: Split Rock Succulent Growing and Care Tips


Pleiospilos nelii (plee-oh-SPIL-os) is a flowering succulent plant hailing from South Africa.

The genus Pleiospilos plant name comes from two Greek words: first ‘pleios’, means many and the second part, ‘spilos’ means spot.

It is a member of the Aizoaceae (ay-zoh-AY-see-ee) family and often confused with Lithops (living stones).

potted Split Rock Plantpotted Split Rock Plant

Pleiospilos nelii has several common names including:

  • Split Rock Plant
  • Mimicry Plant
  • Cleft Stone
  • Living Rock Cactus
  • African Living Rock
  • Pleiospilos nelii “Split Rock”
  • Royal Flush Split Rocks

Pleiospilos Nelii Care Tips

Size & Growth

The US Department of Agriculture recommends the split rock plant for USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11.

This stemless plant only attains a height and spread of a couple of inches.

These ancient plants can spread to several inches as they produce offshoots to form a group.

Each Pleiospilos nelii produces two to four spherical, and also deep fissure leaves.

The leaves range in color from grayish-green to brown and patterned with spots.

The living rock succulent produces new leaf-pair annually and absorbs its old leaves.

Pleiospilos should never have more than four new pair of leaves at a time.

If the split rock produces more than four new leaves, it means you are watering too much.

Pleiospilos nelii cactus flowering in the gardenPleiospilos nelii cactus flowering in the garden
soniabonet | Adobe

Flowering & Fragrance

Split Rock Plant blooms in the springtime after a winter dormancy period.

Flowers are usually orange or yellow. Occasionally a plant will produce a pink or white blossom.

The daisy-like flowers smell like coconut.

The blooms are large considering the small plant size and are held aloft by the short body of the plant.

Light & Temperature

Mimicry succulents love lots of light and warm temperatures.

It does best indoors in a south-facing window in winter.

In the summertime, allow Pleiospilos to enjoy bright outdoor light.

Protect the split rock against very harsh afternoon full sun.

Beautiful succulent Pleiospilos nelii royalBeautiful succulent Pleiospilos nelii royal
nanihta | Adobe

Watering & Feeding

Mimicry plants need little water so water sparingly!

Some successful growers water only twice a year or depend on water from rainfall.

Water once in the early spring and again in the early fall.

Water the plant allowing the potting mix to become moist and until it runs through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot just like any other cacti.

Do not water again until the potting soil becomes completely dry and the plant begins to wither a bit.

Soil & Transplanting

Remember, the size of the split rock succulent allows them to grow naturally among pebbles, sandstone, and quartz gravel, and require an exceptionally sharp well-draining soil.

Avoid organic material in the soil mix. A mixture of one part succulents potting soil and three parts pumice works well.

Grooming & Maintenance

P. nelii requires no grooming.

If the plant fails to completely absorb its old leaves by the end of the winter, consider removing them. Be careful, though.

If they do not come off easily, leave them alone as you do not want to damage the plant.

If you like Pleiospilos check out Lapidaria margaretae and Lithops pseudotruncatella.




Pleiospilos nelii sp, Split Rock, Living Rock, Succulent

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Pleiospilos nelii sp, Split Rock, Living Rock, SucculentPleiospilos nelii sp, Split Rock, Living Rock, Succulent

How To Propagate Pleiospilos

Although these plants do occasionally produce offsets, it is rare.

Growing from seed is the most common method of propagation.

Most growers scatter the seed over coarse sand and keep it slightly damp works best.

Hand sow seed early in the spring and keep the seedling tray in a warm place with bright, indirect light.

First and foremost, it can take a very long time for these plants to sprout.

Be patient.

Split Rock Plant Pests and Disease Problems

Overwatering is the main problem with Split Rock succulents. It is very prone to rotting from excessive water.

Along with other succulents, an overwatered/rotting plant is more attractive to common pests, especially aphids and scale.

Is The Split Rock Plant Considered Toxic or Poisonous?

It is common for people in South Africa to gather these plants for the moisture they contain.

According to the ASPCA, they are not toxic to dogs, cats, or horses.

Pleiospilos is slow-growing and not invasive.

Split rock succulent growing in the gardenSplit rock succulent growing in the garden
soniabonet | Adobe

Suggested Mimicry Plant Uses

Pleiospilos rockplant are interesting and unusual plants.

They make excellent houseplants in small containers.

Outdoors the Cleft stone plant makes an attractive conversation plant for a bright patio, deck, or balcony in summer.

Provide a pot with a depth of 3″ – 5″ inches to accommodate the plant’s long tap root.

In hot, dry climates, this extremely drought resistant plant is an excellent, year-round addition to a rock garden or outdoor cactus collection.

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