Faux Living Stones (Lithops)

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About: Wife and mother, and jill-of-all-trades. I can garden and grow things, crochet, knit, embroider, cross-stitch, sew, make hairbows, cook, make bread, woodburn, craft jewelry, hula hoop, belly dance, and prob...

Living stone plants are unique succulents that look just like pebbles or rocks. I adore them, but they are hard to find, and when you do find them, are heinously expensive. So I figured out a cheap, easy way to make foam look like plants that look like rocks!

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

XPS foam, also called insulation foam or foamular

X-acto knife, or straight edge knife

fine grit sandpaper

matte mod podge (not pictured)

pure acetone (optional)

paintbrushes

dull stick to make impressions in the foam

toothpicks

various acrylic paints

planter or something to display your lithops in

Step 2: Carve the Foam

Cut off small chunks of foam, no more than 1 inch across.

Carve into a rounded cone shape.

Google pictures of lithops to give you a better idea of the variations in size and shapes, but ultimately, like my children are fond of saying, "they look like butts!"

Here I am making each one different, but a pot full of the same "variety" would also be very striking.

Step 3: Smooth With Sandpaper

Be very gentle with it, even smooth sandpaper can snag and tear the foam.

Fold the sandpaper over and use that folded edge to carve away the midline.

Step 4: Mark the Top

Use a dull pointed stick to doodle marking on the top of the lithops. I used a hairstick, but the end of a paintbrush will also work.

Step 5: Optional : Brush With Acetone

This step can potentially ruin your piece, so it's fine to skip it, but I think it smooths the foam and gives it a thin shell that makes it a bit more durable.

Pour acetone into the cap, you won't need much.

Use a large, soft brush and dip it into the acetone.

WIPE OFF most of it, until it's barely damp, and brush over the foam.

The acetone will MELT the foam, so you want just the tiniest bit. Excess acetone will melt too much of the foam, and might deform your lithops. If that happens, just sand it smooth and try again.

Step 6: Cover With Mod Podge

The mod podge will help the paint stick to it, and also make it a little more durable. Add a toothpick to give you something to hold. You can glue or hot-glue the toothpick in place if you have time.

Step 7: Paint Them Up!

This is the fun part! You really can't go wrong because there's nearly infinite variations in the real lithops, so get creative!

Pick any color.

Mix it 50/50 with white paint, and paint the whole piece. Let dry 10 to 15 minutes.

After it's dry, take the original color and thin it out with water. Use this color to paint the indentations at the top of the lithops, and also the midline crease.

Step 8: Add White to Tone Down

This step is optional, but it adds to the realism.

Mix a tiny bit of white paint and mod podge and wipe most of it off your brush.

Dab all over the surface of the lithops, and if you get too much on there, dab with paper towel. The point is to cover with faint layer of white dusty-ness to tone down the brightness of the paint.

Step 9: Seal With Mod Podge

Cover the whole piece with mod podge again and let dry.

Step 10: Set Up Display, and Done!

Use whatever planter and toppings you like, just make sure that the raw edge at the bottom of each lithops is covered. You can also glue or hot glue them if you want them more permanent.

Good luck, and happy making!

(If anyone has tips for painting these things, by all means, please chip in your cents. Thanks!)

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3 Discussions

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PaulChau

3 months ago on Introduction

I can already feel the hair on my back standing on their ends when I somehow get to visualize the sound it makes when you are cutting the styrofoam. Nevertheless, I guess the eery experience would definitely be worth it as those pebble plants are really so costly indeed.

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I've never seen real lithops to begin with but from your pictures I don't quite understand why they would cost that much! I reckon that making actual stones into plant looking things would be something awesome to do though!