Ice Plant: How To Care For Iceplants

Here is the deal on Ice Plant Care – it is pretty easy!

The Ice Plant is a cold-hardy succulent hailing from Africa, of which you’ll find lots of varieties. Other very cold-resistant ice plant 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 has worked with Colorado’s Plant Select program to introduce more Delosperma cooperi varieties. 



Today gardeners looking for an extraordinarily vigorous and cold-resistant colorful garden addition can choose from a wide variety of colors, including:

  • Purple
  • Scarlet
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Bi-Color

Along with many variations of 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 also known as the “sea fig” or the “sea marigold.”

More formal titles include:

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 that 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.

Ice Plant Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Mesembryanthemum crystallinum
    Common Name(s): Ice plant, Iceplant, Hottentot fig, Sea fig, Sea Marigold
    Synonyms: None
    Family & Origin: Aizoaceae family, native to South Africa
    Growability: Easy to grow
    Grow Zone: USDA zones 6-8
    Size: Grows up to 6′ inches tall and 24′ inches wide
    Flowering: Blooms in summer with white or pink flowers
    Light: Full sun to partial shade
    Humidity: Tolerates low humidity
    Temperature: Tolerates high temperatures but prefers cooler temperatures
    Soil: Well-draining soil
    Water: Drought-tolerant, water only when soil is dry
    Fertilizer: Not necessary, but can be fertilized with a balanced fertilizer once a month during the growing season
    Pests & Diseases: Generally pest and disease-free, but can be susceptible to root rot if overwatered
    Propagation: Propagated by stem cuttings or by seed
    Plant Uses: Ground cover, erosion control, ornamental plant, edible plant (leaves can be used in salads)

Best Locations For Growing Ice Plants

Ice Plants can grow as an annual or perennial groundcover depending on the setting, even an evergreen in temperate climates.

In USDA hardiness zones 6 to 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 in well-drained soil 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 and 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, accounts 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 carePin

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 their health and beauty. 

To help you out, check out these Top 10 Tips:

  1. Always plant these succulents in bright sun and sandy, sandy loam, or even gravelly well-draining soil. Always avoid clay soils.
  2. In colder climates, get your Ice plants in the ground by mid-summer. That will give them time to get established before winter arrives.
  3. In very hot climates (e.g., Southwest US), plant in the autumn.
  4. 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.
  5. Don’t water your plants in the late autumn and through the winter. You don’t want the leaves plump with moisture, which makes them susceptible to freezing.
  6. In very cold areas, consider planting a “row crop” to shelter your ice plant from freezing temperatures.
  7. If you live in areas where snow lingers, cover your plants with a frost blanket during the coldest months.
  8. “Mulch” around ice plants with gravel. This helps both stems and roots as the gravel holds correct moisture around the roots but allows good air circulation around the stems.
  9. If gravel isn’t available for mulch, bark chips of a medium texture will do. Pine needles can also be a good choice.
  10. In mid-autumn, stop watering your plants to help prepare them for winter. Without water, they will shrink back and harden to resist freezing temperatures better.
  11. 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.
Bright pink flowers over green foliage.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @farmerkang

Ice Plant Succulents – Versatile And Rugged

Ice plants produce lovely, daisy-like flowers in several cheerful flower colors. Grown as an ice plant ground cover outdoors (doubles for erosion control) and as a trailing ice plant when kept in pots. They also make wonderful additions to rock gardens and make very fine potted plants.

These tough little hardy ice plant succulents reach a height of about 3″ to 6″ inches tall. Individual plants spread from two to four feet in width. They are hardy in USDA Zones 5 -9.

Their bloom time is throughout the summer and into the fall, and they stay green year-round in a temperate setting. In colder areas, the foliage dies back in the winter months, but new plants will grow from seed in the spring.

Vibrant purple flowers and green succulent leaves.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @stewwertgarten

Attractive Ice Plant Varieties or types of ice plants Include:

Delosperma cooperi, or Cooper’s Ice Plant, was 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,’ was an all-new hybrid available in 2016. It’s extremely cold-hardy, long-blooming, and a variety developed by Alan Tower from Denver, CO. Its vivid blooms grows vigorously throughout the summer and presents bi-colored flowers of pink/apricot.

Delosperma dyeri or Red Mountain® Flame was discovered by horticulturist David Salman. An accidental hybrid is 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 shows an 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 a 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 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 plant hardiness Zones 5 – 8.

Delosperma herbeau or Hardy White produces very beautiful flowers in pure white.

Lampranthus blandusMidday flower, easy care, bright pink daisy-like flowers which open during the day and close at sundown.

Corpuscularia lehmannii – a compact type rarely exceeding 12″ inches in height. A good choice for a succulent garden and looks great in a small pot.

Follow These Guidelines To Grow Beautiful Ice Plants

Placement is exceptionally important with these tough little succulents. Although some types can tolerate light or partial shade, by and large, all ice plants love the full sun and good drainage.

Remember, these ice plants need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight in a sunny spot.

You can think of ice plant flowers as cacti. They do not like to stand in water and don’t like rich soil. They will do best in dry, sandy soil types where they can spread freely.

Vibrant orange flowers with lush green leaves.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @thatgrobro

Moreover, gravelly soils are also ideal for this plant.

If planted in moist, rich soil with poor drainage, they could succumb to root rot. This is especially true during the winter. This

Moreover, it’s best to bring your plant indoors or provide a cold frame for protection, especially if you live in an area with cold winters.

Keep Your Plants Under Control

Very poor, dry soil is such an excellent substrate for the ice plant. You must proceed cautiously 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 landscaping plants along road embankments in temperate climates. These succulent plants 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.

Succulent ice plant plant with small, round leaves and pinkish-purple flowers blooming on tall stems.Pin

Methods Of Ice Plant Propagation

It goes without saying that in dry, poor soil, the 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 ice plant seedlings, cuttings, or by division.

Vivid colorful succulent flowers in a tray.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @heemans

Division: If you grow ice plants in pots, divide them easily when you re-pot.

  • Remove the original plant from its pot
  • Divide the roots to form two or more separate plants from the parent plant
  • 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 plants 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
Vibrant purple daisies in bloom.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @gardener_in_pnw

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 establish themselves, they do need much to keep themselves happy. They thrive in drought-like conditions, need very little moisture, and don’t really need any fertilizer.

However, you may use a slow-release fertilizer if you want to help your ice plant to bloom. You can also fertilize it with a balanced fertilizer during the growing season.

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. 

Vibrant orange and purple flowers with lush green leaves.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @heemans

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 a 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 Plants Is Fun!

Regardless of its chilly name, the Ice plant adds a touch of warmth to any garden setting. Its foliage is 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.

Vibrant orange-pink daisy flowers, ideal for nature themes.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @hey.ram29

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!

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