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How to Grow and Care for Ice Plants

Ice Plant with a Painted Lady

Ice plant is a stunning succulent, perennial groundcover with vibrant, daisy-like flowers that bloom in a rainbow of colors. Despite its delicate appearance, this resilient plant is drought-tolerant and can thrive in a variety of conditions.

Ice plant is a versatile plant that can be used in various garden settings. It thrives in rock gardens, coastal gardens, and even containers. Its trailing habit makes it an excellent choice for hanging baskets or cascading over retaining walls.

Consider combining different ice plant varieties with other drought-tolerant plants to create a visually stunning and water-wise garden.

Interestingly, the term “ice plant” refers to a variety of genera and species. Lampranthus and Delosperma are two of the most well-known genera. These are warm-weather perennials with brightly colored flowers that return year after year.

The name ice plant comes from the plant’s tiny hairs, which reflect light in a way that resembles ice crystals. The foliage is fleshy and succulent-like, and it darkens as the temperatures drop in the fall. Many types of ice plants are evergreen in warm climates.

Ice plants bloom in the spring and continue to do so throughout the growing season. In cooler climates, these fast-growing plants should be planted by midsummer, but in hot climates, fall planting is preferable.

As a master gardener, I’ve grown many ice plants over the years and helped countless others do so too! And so, in this guide, I’ll share everything you need to know about ice plants to help you easily grow them in your garden.

carpet of pink ice plant (delosperma cooperi) in bloom

Delosperma Cooperi – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Botanical Name: Delosperma spp., Lampranthus spp.

Common Name: Ice plant

Family: Aizoaceae

Plant Type: Herbaceous, perennial

Hardiness Zones: 6 – 10 (USDA)

Sun Exposure: Full

Soil Type: Sandy, well-drained

Soil pH: Neutral

Height: 3 – 6 inches tall

Bloom Time: Spring, summer, fall

Flower Colors: Pink, red, purple, yellow, orange

Native Area: Africa

Ice Plant Care

The Ice Plant is a stunning succulent that adds a touch of whimsical beauty to any garden or indoor space. With its vibrant flowers and unique foliage, it’s no wonder that many plant enthusiasts are drawn to this plant.

Ideal for sunny slopes or rock gardens, ice plant quickly forms a low carpet of succulent foliage that provides texture and visual interest even when these sun-loving perennials are not in bloom.

Each flower has a diameter of only 1-2 inches, but can contain up to 100 petals! These icy, long-blooming petals are long and slender. They surround white centers containing stamens with a hairy appearance.

In colder climates, plants must be planted by mid-summer in order to establish themselves for the winter. In the hot summer climates of the American Southwest, planting in the fall is recommended.

Depending on the species, ice plants can range from a spreading ground cover to a bushy subshrub. Ice plants are utilized in sunny but sheltered desert gardens, rock gardens, slopes, ground cover, and edging plants.

Typically, individual plants spread about 2 feet, but occasionally they can spread even further. They also perform well as container plants, filling the container quickly and eventually spilling over the sides.

Make sure the area where you plan to plant has plenty of sunlight and quick-draining soil. Plants should be placed 15 to 18 inches apart because they will quickly spread to fill the void. Remove any stems that were killed by the winter each spring.

It’s worth noting that these plants are also drought and deer resistant and attract butterflies.

Light

When it comes to light, the Ice Plant is a sun-loving plant. It thrives in full sun, but can also tolerate partial shade. In fact, providing it with at least six hours of direct sunlight daily will ensure optimal growth and blooming.

However, it’s important to note that too much direct sunlight can sometimes cause the leaves to become sunburned, so finding the perfect balance is key. Experimenting with different exposure levels can help you determine what works best for your Ice Plant.

Soil

The Ice Plant has specific soil preferences that are crucial to its overall health and well-being. It appreciates well-draining, sandy, and gravelly soils.  The plant will suffer in consistently moist conditions, and it will not grow at all in dense clay soil.

Dry soil with great drainage is ideal for ice plants. This type of soil allows excess water to flow through easily, preventing waterlogged conditions that could lead to root rot. To enhance the aeration of your Ice plant’s roots, consider adding a touch of perlite or pumice to the soil mix.

This addition will increase porosity and minimize the risk of overwatering, which is a common issue with succulents.

In addition to proper drainage, the Ice Plant also benefits from a slightly acidic soil pH. Testing the pH level of your soil and making adjustments if necessary can help ensure that your Ice Plant is getting the nutrients it needs to thrive.

Delosperma nubigenum yellow flowers

Delosperma Nubigenum – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Water

While the Ice Plant is known for its superb drought tolerance, it still requires regular watering, though in moderation.

During the growing season, which is typically spring and summer, it’s important to keep the soil slightly moist. This can be achieved by watering the plant once every two weeks or when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.

However, it’s crucial to avoid overwatering, as this is one of the main causes of plant stress and root rot.

A good rule of thumb is to allow the soil to dry out between waterings. This mimics the natural conditions that the Ice Plant would experience in its native habitat, where rainfall is sporadic.

In the winter months, when the plant is in a dormant state, it’s important to reduce watering frequency to prevent water accumulation, which could lead to root rot.

During the growing season, water your ice plant sparingly once it has become established. A once-every-two-weeks watering should be sufficient during dry periods, though a weekly watering may be required during hot weather.

Temperature and Humidity

The Ice Plant is a hardy succulent that can tolerate a wide range of temperatures but grows best in dry climates. It is typically hardy in zones 6-10, which means it can withstand both hot and cold temperatures.

However, it thrives in an ideal temperature range between 50°F (10°C) and 75°F (24°C). Extreme temperatures, especially frost, can damage the plant, so it’s important to protect it during harsh weather conditions.

When it comes to humidity, the Ice Plant appreciates low to moderate levels. It is capable of withstanding dry air, making it an excellent choice for indoor cultivation.

However, if you live in a particularly humid climate, providing some air circulation around the plant can help prevent issues such as fungal diseases.

Fertilizer

The Ice Plant is not a heavy feeder, so it typically only requires an annual dose of fertilizer. Applying a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer during the spring or summer months will provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and blooming.

It’s important to follow the package instructions and avoid over-fertilizing, as this can lead to leggy growth and fewer blooms.

If you prefer a more hands-off approach, you can also consider using a slow-release granular fertilizer. This type of fertilizer releases nutrients gradually over time, providing a steady supply for your Ice Plant.

Regardless of the type of fertilizer you choose, it’s important to maintain a balanced ecosystem by not overdoing it.

How to Get Ice Plants to Bloom

Ice plant blooms differ depending on the species. In general, ice plants have showy, daisy-like flowers with many narrow petals in a variety of vibrant colors. They begin blooming in the spring and can last for several weeks. Some species may bloom again later in the summer.

Deadheading, or removing spent flowers, usually has little effect on ice plants in terms of encouraging more blooming. Giving ice plants plenty of light does encourage blooming. And while they do not require rich soil, if you have very nutrient-poor soil, you may need to supplement it with flower fertilizer or compost.

Orange Ice Plant flowers

Lampranthus Aurantiacus – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Types of Ice Plants

With over 150 species to choose from, the world of Ice Plants offers an array of captivating options. Each variety boasts its own unique features, including flower color, foliage texture, and growth habit. Here are a few remarkable Ice Plant variations to inspire your garden:

  • Delosperma cooperi: Known for its vibrant pink-purple flowers and trailing habits, this variety adds a splash of color to rock gardens or hanging baskets.
  • Delosperma nubigenum: Sporting bright yellow flowers and compact growth, this Ice Plant is ideal for ground cover or container gardening.
  • Delosperma echinatum: Exhibiting fascinating cylindrical leaves adorned with tiny white spines, this Ice Plant creates an intriguing focal point.
  • Delosperma floribundum: With a profusion of orange-red flowers, this variety adds warmth and charm to any garden or xeriscape.
  • Lampranthus aurantiacus: Showcasing bright orange flowers and an upright growth habit, this variety is a stunning option from the Lampranthus genus.
  • Lampranthus haworthii: Another great Lampranthus variety, it sports blue-green foliage and pink or purple flowers.

How to Propagate Ice Plant

Propagating Ice plant is a fulfilling process that allows you to expand your garden and share the beauty of this succulent with others. Here are two common methods for propagating Ice Plant:

Propagation via Division

When propagating Ice Plant through division, it is important to choose a healthy parent plant. Look for a plant that has vibrant, well-established roots and a good number of stems with leaves. This will ensure that the divisions you make will have a higher chance of success.

Before you start dividing the Ice Plant, make sure to clean your knife with rubbing alcohol or bleach. This will help prevent the spread of any potential diseases or pests. Once your knife is clean, gently dig around the base of the Ice Plant clump, being careful not to damage the roots. Lift the clump out of the ground and place it on a clean surface.

Using your clean, sharp knife, carefully cut through the root system, dividing the clump into smaller sections. Each division should have a healthy root system and a few stems with leaves intact. Avoid dividing the plant into too many small sections, as this can weaken the plants and reduce their chances of survival.

Once you have made your divisions, it’s time to plant them in their desired location. Choose a sunny spot with well-draining soil. Dig a hole slightly larger than the division and place it in the hole, making sure the roots are spread out. Gently backfill the hole with soil, firming it around the division to ensure good contact between the roots and the soil.

Water the divisions thoroughly after planting, making sure the soil is evenly moist. Continue to water regularly, keeping the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so it’s important to find the right balance.

Propagation via Stem Cuttings

When propagating Ice plants through stem cuttings, it’s important to choose a mature stem that is healthy and disease-free. Look for a stem that has a few sets of leaves and is not too woody or too succulent. This will give the cutting the best chance of rooting successfully.

Once you have selected a suitable stem, use a clean, sharp knife or pair of scissors to make a clean cut about 2-3 inches from the tip of the stem. Remove any leaves from the bottom half of the cutting, leaving a few sets of leaves at the top. This will help reduce moisture loss and encourage root development.

After taking the cutting, allow it to dry for one to two days. This will help the cut end callus over, reducing the risk of rot when you plant it. Place the cutting in a warm, dry location with indirect light during this drying period.

Once the cutting has dried, it’s time to plant it in well-draining soil. Choose a pot or container with drainage holes to ensure excess water can escape. Fill the container with a well-draining soil mix, such as a cactus or succulent potting mix.

Make a small hole in the soil with your finger or a pencil and gently insert the cutting, burying the bottom half in the soil. Firm the soil around the cutting to provide support and ensure good contact between the stem and the soil.

After planting, mist the cutting with water to provide some moisture. Place the container in a location with bright, indirect light. Avoid placing it in direct sunlight, as this can scorch the cutting.

During the rooting process, it’s important to keep the soil slightly moist but not overly wet. Overwatering can cause the cutting to rot, while underwatering can lead to dehydration and poor root development. Find the right balance by checking the soil moisture regularly and adjusting your watering accordingly.

With proper care and patience, both the divisions and stem cuttings of Ice Plant have the potential to root and grow into beautiful, healthy plants. Enjoy the process of propagating Ice Plant and watch as your garden expands with the vibrant colors and unique textures of this succulent.

Starburst ice plant (Delosperma floribunda)

Delosperma Floribunda – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Potting and Repotting Ice Plant

Choosing the right potting medium and regularly repotting your Ice Plant are essential for its long-term health and well-being. Here’s a step-by-step guide to potting and repotting your Ice Plant:

Potting Ice Plant

Selecting the right pot and potting medium is crucial for the successful growth of your Ice Plant. When choosing a pot, opt for one with adequate drainage holes to prevent water accumulation, which can lead to root rot.

Additionally, consider the size of the pot. While it’s tempting to choose a large pot to accommodate future growth, it’s important to select a pot that matches the current size of your Ice Plant. This will help prevent overwatering and ensure the plant’s roots have enough room to breathe and grow.

Once you have selected the perfect pot, it’s time to prepare the potting medium. For Ice Plants, a well-draining soil mix is essential. You can either purchase a succulent or cactus-specific blend from a gardening store or create your own by combining equal parts of potting soil, perlite, and coarse sand. This mixture will provide the necessary drainage and aeration that Ice Plants thrive in.

Now, it’s time to pot your Ice Plant. Gently remove the plant from its current container, being careful not to damage the delicate roots. If the plant is root-bound, meaning the roots have wrapped around the inside of the pot, gently tease them apart to encourage outward growth.

Place the Ice Plant in the prepared pot, ensuring that the roots are evenly spread out. Avoid burying the stem too deep in the soil, as this can lead to rot.

Once the plant is in position, backfill the pot with the soil mixture, gently pressing it down to eliminate any air pockets. Be careful not to compact the soil too much, as this can hinder water drainage.

After potting, give your Ice Plant a thorough watering, allowing the water to soak through the soil and drain out of the bottom of the pot. This will help settle the soil and ensure that the roots make good contact with the new potting medium.

Repotting Ice Plant

As your Ice Plant grows, it may eventually outgrow its current container. Signs that it’s time to repot include roots growing out of the drainage holes, stunted growth, or the plant becoming top-heavy and tipping over. When this happens, it’s important to provide your Ice Plant with a new home that offers enough space for continued growth.

To repot your Ice Plant, start by carefully removing it from its current pot. Gently tap the sides of the pot to loosen the soil and roots, making it easier to lift the plant out. If the plant is root-bound, you may need to use your fingers or a small tool to gently loosen the roots.

Once the Ice Plant is free from its old pot, select a new container that is slightly larger in size. This will give the plant room to spread its roots and grow. Make sure the new pot has drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.

Before placing the Ice Plant in its new pot, prepare fresh potting soil. You can use the same succulent or cactus-specific blend mentioned earlier. Fill the new pot with enough soil so that when the plant is placed in it, the base of the stem is level with the top of the pot. This will help prevent water from pooling around the stem and potentially causing rot.

Gently place the Ice Plant in the new pot, making sure the roots are spread out evenly. Fill in the gaps with the potting soil, pressing it down lightly to eliminate any air pockets. Avoid compacting the soil too much, as this can hinder drainage.

After repotting, water the Ice Plant thoroughly, allowing the water to flow through the soil and out of the drainage holes. This will help settle the plant in its new pot and ensure that the roots establish themselves in the fresh soil.

Delosperma echinatum close up

Delosperma Echinatum – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Common Pests, Plant Diseases, and Plant Problems for Ice Plant

Although the Ice Plant is known for its resilience, it is not entirely invincible. Here are a few common pests, plant diseases, and problems that may affect your Ice Plant:

  • Aphids: These tiny insects can cause damage by sucking the sap from Ice Plant leaves. Use insecticidal soap or a neem oil solution to control and eliminate aphid infestations.
  • Root rot: Overwatering or planting the Ice Plant in a poorly draining soil mix can lead to root rot. Ensure the soil allows for proper drainage, and adjust your watering practices accordingly.
  • Mealybugs: These fuzzy white pests can infest Ice Plants, causing stunted growth and yellowing foliage. Treat mealybugs by dabbing them with rubbing alcohol or using a neem oil solution.
  • Slugs and snails: These slimy creatures enjoy feasting on Ice Plant foliage, leaving behind a trail of damage. Remove any hiding spots near the plant, such as rocks or debris, and consider using organic slug and snail repellents as a deterrent.

By staying vigilant and monitoring your Ice Plant regularly, you can prevent, control, and overcome these pests, diseases, and problems. With proper care and attention, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful and thriving Ice Plant to enjoy for years to come.

Other Ground Cover Guides from Planet Natural:

Top Low-Maintenance Grass Alternatives for Your Backyard

Creeping Thyme Lawn (Pros and Cons and How to Plant)

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