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Plant Know-How: Pleiospilos nelii (aka 'Split Rock')

Split rock succulents, one green, one purple in color, sitting inside pale pink pots with white brick wall behind

These interesting looking succulents are Pleiospilos nelii, otherwise known as 'Split Rock' plants, because they resemble a stone that's split open. They are part of a group of succulents referred to as mesembs or mimicry plants- due to the ways in which they appear to mimic the rocks they grow in- an effective camouflage! As each pair of leaves emerge, the previous pair of leaves should die off- with the new leaves essentially absorbing the old ones- and their nutrients and stored water.

There are two commonly available Pleiospilos- Pleiospilos nelii which has silvery green leaves and a warm yellow bloom, and Pleiospilos nelii 'Royal Flush', a purple toned cultivar with a bright pink bloom. 

Mesembs can be harder to care for than other types of succulents- mainly due to how infrequently they require water- but Pleiospilos are the easiest mesemb to care for, so they're a great starting point for anyone interested in these unique, low-water, sun-loving plants. 

Split rock succulents, one green, one purple in color, sitting inside pale pink pots with white brick wall behind


Light requirements for Pleiospilos nelii: 'Split Rock' plants do best in direct sun indoors. They should ideally be on a windowsill in a south or west facing window that receives at least 3-4 hours of direct sun, and is very bright the rest of the day. If kept outdoors, partial shade to full sun is best. 

Watering tips for Pleiospilos neliiWatering is the trickiest part for mesembs like 'Split Rock' plants. Wait until the leaves start to look a bit shriveled/puckered before watering. This may mean the soil has been very dry for days, weeks, or months, but the leaves are the best indicator of when to water since overly wet soil can doom this plant. If you need some help knowing how wet or dry your soil is, a moisture meter is a helpful tool that can take out some of the guesswork! A pot with drainage is especially important for succulent plants since they store water in their leaves and have very shallow roots. If your 'Split Rock' is starting to grow in more of a pile formation, rather than each new pair of leaves absorbing the previous pair, this is usually a sign that the plant has had too much water. 

The Best Soil for Pleiospilos nelii:  For best results with Pleiospilos, mimic their native South African soil by ensuring good drainage and high mineral content. Our Desert Potting Mix, with some extra pumice mixed in is ideal, but even our Desert Mix alone will be adequate. Other cacti/succulent potting mixes, with extra pumice added at a 1:1 ratio will also work.  

Is Pleiospilos neliii pet-safe? 'Split Rock' plants are non-toxic to pets! If you're looking for other pet-safe plants, be sure to check out the Pet Safe category of the Plant Care Compendium

How to style Pleiospilos nelii: Though it may be tempting to add a 'Split Rock' to a 'dish garden' or other succulent arrangement- these plants are best kept in pots either by themselves, or mixed only with other mesembs with the same water requirements. We love them top dressed with chunks of quartz or other natural stones- to mimic their natural environment. 

Did you know? 'Split Rock' plants bloom once a year, with a fun flower that resembles a daisy with skinnier petals. The classic species has a warm yellow-orange bloom, while the 'Royal Flush' cultivar has a bright pink bloom. The blooms only open in the afternoon and close by sunset. 

Split rock succulents, green in color, with a bright, warm yellow bloom coming out between the leaves

Looking to take on the challenge of Pleiospilos nelii? We have 2" and 4" plants in stock online and at our Eagle Rock shop.