As I write this post, I admit I have a lot of trouble reconciling that a succulent preferring hot and dry conditions has the common name ice plant. It simply does not compute! However, after researching a bit I found the reason the beautiful varieties of ice plant (Delosperma) “grew” to be known as such is because their stems and starburst-like blooms appear to glisten in the sun, as though covered with a thin sheet of frost. Apparently tiny calcium crystals form on the plant’s stems, creating this illusion. Makes a little more sense now . . .
Aside from the ironic name, there is nothing puzzling about adding this strikingly beautiful perennial, native of South Africa, to your landscape. If you live in US Zones 5 -9 and have an area that needs a low-growing, moderately-trailing, full sun ornamental – ice plant is a good choice. In fact, it is a great choice for rock gardens, sloped areas that need erosion control, and those hard-for-anything-to-grow areas between fences and cement. It is also ideal for sunny hanging baskets and containers. A bonus is that while it may not flower year ’round, ice plant is evergreen – providing flower beds, slopes and containers with a little greenery during the short days of winter.
One word of caution is while this amazing little plant can survive in the sunniest of locations and in the poorest of soils, it does not do well under long-term damp conditions. Probably the most important thing to remember when placing the ice plant in your beds or containers is to ensure it is placed in an area that drains well. It may not completely die out during consecutive days of rain or overwatering, but it could develop stem rot where pieces of it disengage, leaving holes in an otherwise beautiful carpet of blooms. Since we’ve had an unusually wet spring here in north Texas this year, my ice plant in fact has developed a few holes from this very situation. Not to worry . . .
I took the three or four pieces that rotted from the mother plant and transplanted them nearby onto slightly higher ground and they’ve already taken hold. This is another amazing property of this succulent – it can be easily propagated via cuttings (or in my case, stem rottings!) Although some varieties are touted as being fast-spreading, I have not found this to be the case with my variety and thus, taking advantage of transplanting tiny pieces that sometimes dislodge is a good manner to more quickly expand the plant if you wish.
As hinted above, there are several varieties of Delosperma available with a color or two that surely speaks to you. The most common colors found in nurseries are the vibrant pink and purple hues, but yellow, orange, white, bi- and tri-colored varieties are available if you are fortunate to find them. Of course, any variety to your liking can most likely be found online, such as the mixed variety here.
I hope you can think of a place or two for the ice plant in your landscape or decor this summer. You’ll be pleased with its beauty, its resiliency and the many compliments it brings!
Until next time,
June 6, 2016