The Ice Plant, a cold-hardy succulent hailing from Africa of which you’ll find lots of varieties.
The most cold resistant species come from the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa’s Western Cape.
Other very cold resistant varieties come from the Great Karoo desert’s cold plateaus.
This hardy, versatile plant was introduced to the United States early in the 1990s by Panayoti Kelaidis who works for Denver Botanic Garden.
The first variety, introduced Delosperma cooperi, or Purple Ice Plant was a runaway hit with Denver gardeners straight off.
Since that time, Kelaidis worked with Colorado’s Plant Select program to introduce more varieties. Today gardeners looking for an extraordinarily vigorous and cold resistant colorful garden addition can choose from a wide variety of colors including:
Along with many variations on these shades.
Perfect For An Carefree, Water-Saving Garden!
If you want to create a drought-resistant and attractive landscaping plan, you simply must include the ice plant. This hardy, little, low maintenance succulent is known also as the “sea fig” or the “sea marigold.”
More formal titles include:
- Mesembryanthemum crystallinum
- Oscularia (Lampranthus)
- Carpobrotus edulis
- Drosanthemum floribundum
By any name, these enthusiastic easy-care, cold-hardy perennials can transform even the driest and most inhospitable patch of land into an attractive and inviting garden.
It is of particular interest to gardeners who wish to grow plants which attract butterflies, bees and other pollinators.
Some of the very best choices in pollen and nectar providing Ice Plant can be found among the Delosperma varieties.
Best Locations For Growing Ice Plant
Ice Plant can grow as an annual or a perennial groundcover depending upon the setting, even an evergreen in very temperate climates.
In USDA hardiness zones 6-8, it grows as a perennial garden plant. In very cold, wet climates (zones 4 and 5) it grows as an annual.
In such a setting, grow the plant as a container plant instead of growing it directly in the ground.
The ice plant will spread easily. In fact, in coastal California, the plant has become invasive.
When choosing Ice Plants and planning their care, keep in mind they will be less cold hardy in wetter areas.
Factor in a reduction of one or two zones in making your preparations. This is typical of drought-tolerant plants. A wet climate reduces their ability to tolerate cold.
Though an exceptionally hardy ice plant like sansevieria trifasciata and cold resistant as we find many cacti and succulents, it isn’t named the ice plant for that reason.
The appearance of ice crystals on their leaves, which glisten in the sun and are semi-transparent account for the common name of the plant.
Surprisingly the leaves can be eaten and make an interesting addition to salads or steamed or stir/fried veggie dishes. However, it appears deer resistant for their dining palette.
Ice Plant Care – Smart Tips To Help You Grow The Healthiest Plants
Although ice plants are carefree and fairly foolproof plants, you can do things to enhance its health and beauty. To help you out, check out these Top 10 Tips:
- Always plant these succulents in bright sun and sandy, sandy loam or even gravelly well-drained soil. Always avoid clay soils.
- In colder climates, get your Iceplants in the ground by mid-summer. That will give them of time to get established before winter arrives.
- In very hot climates (e.g. Southwest US) plant in the autumn.
- Although drought tolerant, remember that every living thing needs some water. During the hottest months of the summer, water deeply once a week. This will mimic the rain patterns in South Africa where rain comes mostly in the summertime.
- Don’t water your plants in the late autumn and through the winter. You don’t want the leaves plump with moisture which make them susceptible to freezing.
- In very cold areas, consider planting a “row crop” to shelter your ice plant from freezing temperatures.
- If you live in areas where snow lingers, cover your plants with a frost blanket during the coldest months.
- “Mulch” around ice plants with gravel. This helps both stems and roots as the gravel holds a correct amount of moisture around the roots but allows good air circulation around the stems.
- If gravel isn’t available for mulch, bark chips of a medium texture will do. Pine needles can also be a good choice.
- In mid-autumn, stop watering your plants to help prepare them for winter. Without water, they will shrink back and harden to better resist freezing temperatures.
- Don’t worry about fertilizing. To enhance your plants’ foliage and flowers, fertilize with a natural, organic fertilizer one time in the autumn. Fertilizing more may cause plants to die off during the winter due to the moisture freezing in their plump leaves.
Ice Plants – Versatile And Rugged
Ice plants produce lovely, daisy-like flower in several cheerful flower colors. Plants grow as a ground cover outdoors (doubles for erosion control) and as a trailing plant when kept in pots. They also make wonderful additions to rock gardens, and make very fine potted plants.
These tough little hardy succulent plants reach a height of about three to six inches. Individual plants spread from two to four feet in width. They are hardy in USDA Zones 5 -9.
Their bloom time throughout the summer and into the fall and stay green year round in a temperate setting. In colder areas, foliage dies back in the winter time, but new plants will grow from seed in the spring.
Attractive Ice Plant Varieties Include:
Delosperma cooperi or Cooper’s Ice Plant the first variety introduced to the US. It produces deep purple flowers and the variety most people know.
Ice plant Delosperma or ‘Alan’s Apricot’ an all-new hybrid available in 2016. It’s extremely cold-hardy, long-blooming and a variety developed by Alan Tower from Denver CO. It blooms vigorously throughout the summer and presents bi-colored flowers of pink/apricot.
Delosperma dyeri or Red Mountain® Flame, discovered by horticulturist David Salman. An accidental hybrid producing large reddish-orange flowers in the springtime that literally dazzle the eyes. Recommended for very hot, dry regions, and very cold hardy to zone 6.
Delosperma brunnthaleri or Hardy Yellow produces masses of pretty yellow flowers.
Delosperma ashtonii or ‘Blut’ -a long-blooming variety discovered by Kelly Grummons in Arvada CO, with striking dark green foliage and deep magenta flowers. The foliage puts on a show of autumn color by transitioning to a deep purple shade as the weather cools. Like Red Mountain, Blut is both drought and cold resistant and does well in hot, dry climates.
Delosperma Lavender Ice – a long lived variety developed by Perennial Favorites Nurseries of Rye CO. Its pinkish-lavender flowers make a lovely counterpoint when mixing this plant ‘Blut’. Like Blut, Lavender Ice’s evergreen foliage provides deep purple autumn color.
Delosperma floribundum or Starburst – pink blooms with white in the center.
Delosperma sp. or ‘Lesotho Pink’ – bright green leaves and cheery pink flowers appear early in spring. One of the native plants to the mountains of South Africa and does best in cooler climes and at higher elevations.
Delosperma Fire Spinner® – a real dazzler sporting blossoms combining bright orange and deep purple. The plant blooms in the late spring and provides marvelous visual appeal. It does not do well in areas with warm winters as it needs cold weather to generate vibrant flowering. Best planted USDA Zones 5 – 8.
Delosperma herbeau or Hardy White produces very beautiful flowers in pure white.
Lampranthus blandus – Midday flower, easy care, bright pink daisy-like flowers which open during the day close at sundown.
Follow These Guidelines To Grow Beautiful Ice Plants
Placement is exceptionally important with these tough little succulents. Although some types can tolerate light shade, by and large all ice plants love the full sun and good drainage.
You can think of ice plants as cacti. They do not like to stand in water, and they don’t like rich soil. They will do best in dry, sandy soil type where they can spread freely. If planted in moist, rich soil they could succumb to root rot. This is especially true during the winter.
Keep Your Plants Under Control
Very poor, dry soil is such an excellent substrate for the ice plant. You actually must proceed with caution if planting it in a true desert setting. The reason… plants can spread so rapidly and aggressively that it becomes invasive.
This is why they do so well as landscaping plants along road embankments in temperate climates. They do a grand job of controlling erosion. In your garden, do not allow them to spread entirely unchecked. As invasive species, they will smother out natural plants and other desirable garden plants.
Methods Of Propagation
It goes without saying that in dry, poor soil ice plant will re-seed itself year after year and not much is required (if anything) to propagate your plants. If you are starting out with just a few plants, you may wish to establish some starts. Easy propagation can be done using seeds, cuttings or by division.
Division: If you grow ice plants in pots, division them easily when you re-pot.
- Remove the original plant from its pot
- Divide the roots to form two or more separate plants
- Place these in new pots with a coarse, sandy potting mix that provides good drainage
- Propagating in Springtime is best
Cuttings: If propagating with cuttings, you can start at any time. If you live in an area that gets very cold, take cuttings in the autumn to bring inside and enjoy during the wintertime.
Seed: Planting ice plant from seed is very easy.
- Rake the soil to expose it
- Give it a moderate watering and scatter the seeds lightly
- Press the seeds into the soil so they do not blow away (optional)
- No need to cover them
- They need light to germinate
No matter which propagation method you choose, remember ice plants love to live and thrive. It’s almost impossible to keep them down!
Once they established themselves, they do need much to keep them happy. They thrive in drought-like conditions, need very little moisture and don’t really need any fertilizer.
Should You Prune Ice Plants?
Although famous for being absolutely carefree, a bit of judicious pruning will encourage even healthier and more vibrant growth in iceplants. Follow these tips to prune your plant:
- Prune in the fall after blooms fade.
- Use sharp, clean pruning shears to cut the plant back to a uniform height removing all wilted ice flowers. This will discourage seed production and help plants conserve energy for a more vibrant appearance.
- Whenever you notice dead foliage, trim it off. This will help keep your plants tidy looking.
- Very cold weather can cause iceplants to die back. If this happens, go ahead and trim it down to the ground. It will return in the spring.
Collecting Ice Plant Is Fun!
Regardless of its chilly name, Ice plant adds a touch of warmth to any garden setting. Its foliage, lush and dense, and its blooms, saucy and bright.
It works beautifully as a ground cover for challenging settings. In fact, being salt tolerant it does well in sandy, seaside settings.
The plant provides welcome spots of color in rock gardens, and absolutely luxurious as a cascading, trailing potted plant.
While this charming succulent likes any gardener, if you are a careless or absent gardener you’ll love these carefree beauties!