How To Care For Aptenia Cordifolia

Aptenia cordifolia (ap-TEE-nee-uh kor-dif-FOLE-ee-uh) is a succulent perennial and member of the Fig-marigold family Aizoaceae along with mid-day flowers and baby toes succulent

The Aptenia cordifolia plant hails from South Africa in the rainfall regions and the coastal areas in the Eastern Cape of Africa. 

Bloom of the Aptenia cordifolia - baby sun rose
Bright pink bloom and heart shaped leaves of Aptenia cordifolia – Baby Sun rose

It is also found growing wild in KwaZulu-Natal.

The plants’ genus name, Aptenia, comes from the Greek, apten, which means wingless. This is a reference to the wingless seeds of the plant. 

The specific epithet is a derivative of the Latin, cordi, which means heart, combined with folium, which means leaf.

Common names include:

  • Heartleaf Ice plant
  • Baby Sun Rose
  • Red Aptenia

The Baby Sun Rose is also known by the synonym “Mesembryanthemum cordifolia”. the is also a variegated version of the plant – Aptenia cordifolia variegata.

Aptenia Cordifolia Care

Size & Growth

Aptenia cordifolia is a low-growing ground cover forming a dense mat very close to the soil surface. 

Individual plants grow to be no more than 6″ inches high and 1′ or 2′ feet across.

The stems of the heartleaf Ice plant may be rounded or four-angled. 

They grow very close to the ground, making contact with the soil and setting down roots as they creep along.

The green leaves may be heart shaped or oval. 

When well-watered, they are quite fleshy. 

When water is scarce, they flatten.

Because the plants’ water cells are located close to the surface, both the stems and the leaves have a shiny appearance.

Flowering & Fragrance

  • The colorful flowers come in shades of bright pink, red, yellow, and purple and are very attractive to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. 
  • When grown in a hanging basket, they will also attract hummingbirds.
  • The small flowers appear individually, in clusters at the ends of stems and also in the forks of the plants’ branches. 
  • Lengthy bloom time extends from late summer through early spring. 
  • The flowers open during the sunniest part of the day and close in the evening. 
  • Flowers transition into four-chambered, black/brown seeds.

Light & Temperature

Aptenia cordifolia likes full sun but can survive in semi-shade. 

If kept in the shade, the plant blooms less.

Heartleaf Ice plant is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 10. 

It can survive in slightly cooler settings, but the plant will die back to ground level in freezing temperatures.

Keep this attractive succulent indoors as a houseplant year-round. 

It is especially attractive when kept in a hanging basket.

Watering & Feeding

The hardy Aptenia cordifolia plant can tolerate high rainfall and extreme drought, so it can do quite well even with irregular watering. 

Even so, for best performance, water the plant regularly as you would any cactus or succulent. 

Wait until the soil is almost completely dry and then water deeply.

Use a controlled release fertilizer to feed the plant two times annually, once in the early springtime and again late in the summertime.

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Soil & Transplanting

Red Aptenia is tolerant of almost any pH level in the soil. 

The best choices for soil consistency include sandy and loamy mixes.

To plant outside, be sure to prepare the garden bed thoroughly. 

Till the soil and incorporate a slow-release fertilizer along with ample compost. 

Your goal is to have well-draining soil feeding your plant steadily.

Place the plants 2′ or 3′ feet apart to provide ample space for them to spread. 

If planting near a driveway or a sidewalk, remember to leave a couple of feet of space between the plant and the drive or walkway. 

The plants will grow to fill in space without encroaching.

Grooming & Maintenance

Prune or trim Aptenia cordifolia as needed to help maintain the shape you want and to prevent having Baby Sun Rose ramble over driveways, walkways, and other areas where it is unwanted.

Early in the springtime, trim plants to remove any stems damaged during the winter.

How To Propagate Baby Sun Rose

It’s easy to grow Heartleaf Ice plant from either cuttings or seeds. 

To grow from cuttings, press the stems from pruning into soft soil. 

They will soon set roots and begin to grow.

To plant from seed, sow the seeds into a well-prepared garden bed during the summer months.

It’s also possible to propagate this plant through division.

Baby Sun Rose Main Pest or Disease Problems

For the most part, Baby Sun Rose is a problem-free plant as long as you don’t overwater. 

If left standing in water, this succulent plant is sure to develop root rot. 

This will cause chlorosis and poor growth, and it will eventually kill the plant.

Is Aptenia Considered Toxic Or Poisonous?

Heartleaf Ice plant is not toxic, but the sap is mildly irritating. 

It’s best to keep kids and pets away.

Is The Aptenia Plant Considered Invasive?

Red Aptenia does have quite a bit of weed potential because it spreads easily. 

It has been naturalized in Oregon, California, and Florida.

In Florida, it is not currently considered a problem species, but it does bear watching. 

It’s a popular groundcover in southern Florida and could easily escape the garden setting and become a problem.

In California, Heartleaf Ice plant grows very vigorously in moist areas and near wetlands. 

It is considered invasive.

It is also considered invasive in Australia, where it has escaped from garden settings and poses threats to the coastal dune areas and native groundcovers.

Suggested Aptenia Cordifolia Uses

Aptenia cordifolia requires little care and thrives in the hottest, sunniest, full sun areas in your garden. 

If you need a succulent groundcover for an open, exposed area, it makes an excellent choice. 

As an added benefit, it provides very good erosion control.

The rambling growth habits make Aptenia cordifolia a lovely choice for your rock garden or tumbling over a rock wall. 

This salt-tolerant heartleaf iceplant does well on roadside embankments, terraced slopes, and in seaside gardens.

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