Dictionary of Flowers: Delosperma (Ice Plant)

Delosperma (Ice Plants) grow really well in containers. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Stuart and Flickr
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Delosperma (Ice Plants) grow really well in containers. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Stuart and Flickr

  • Delosperma
  • Common name: ice plant
  • Family: Aizoaceae
  • Category: perennial in USDA zone 5-10
  • Height: 4” to 8”
  • Width: 12" to 24”
  • Sun
  • Blooms: mid spring to early fall
  • Attracts: butterflies
  • Growth: mat forming, draping. Used as a filler or spiller in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: average, well drained. Drought tolerant. Water regularly if grown in containers. 
  • Garden uses: containers, mixed border, rock garden, groundcover
  • Diseases: none if kept dry
  • Pests: aphids, mealybugs

Delosperma is a large group of succulent perennials native to South Africa.

It grows low to the ground, with fleshy leaves and bright daisy like multi-petaled single flowers in bright colors, ranging from white to yellow, pinks and reds.

Their common name 'ice plant' refers to the frosty appearance of the leaves, which produce calcium crystals that are deposited on the leaves.

Flowers close at night and open during day hours. It is similar in appearance to dorotheanthus bellidiformis (annual, Livingstone Daisy).

Ice plant is best suited for dry soils, or soils with excellent drainage if planted in areas that receive a lot of rain. They are excellent for xeriscaping. It is not particular about soil, growing in sandy to clay soils if the drainage is good.

It does require full sun.

It is a fast growing plant that can be used as a groundcover, but it doesn't handle foot traffic.

Delosperma doesn't require a lot of fertilizer. Add slow granular slow release fertilizer to the soil in spring or top dressing with compost and water well.

Delosperma is available in nurseries as starter plants. They are easy to grow from cuttings as well. 

Ice Plants come in pinks, reds, and vibrant yellows. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Scott Akerman and Flickr
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Ice Plants come in pinks, reds, and vibrant yellows. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Scott Akerman and Flickr

Cut off pieces of stem, remove lower leaves, dust with rooting hormone and place the stems in moist potting mix. Place in part shade until roots form.

The seed can be wintersown or started indoors. If indoors, press seeds onto moist starting medium. Do not cover the seed. Kept at 70F, seedlings appear in three weeks.

Place in their permanent location after danger of frost. They can be wintersown in late winter or early spring.




Brilliant pink explosions of Ice Plant! Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Dan Kristiansen and Flickr
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Brilliant pink explosions of Ice Plant! Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Dan Kristiansen and Flickr

Improve growing conditions to avoid disease or pests. If these appear, treat with insecticidal soap.

Popular varieties:

  • Delosperma cooperi - pink flowers, heat tolerant. Trailing habit. The most commonly sold species
  • Delosperma floribunda - six inch tall plants, violet blooms. Clumping form
  • Delosperma congestum - one inch yellow flowers. One of the most cold hardy species
  • Delosperma basuticum 'White Nugget' - white blooms. Hardy to zone 5
  • Delosperma P0015 'Fire Spinner' - unnamed new species, bright orange and magenta petals. Mat forming

Yellow Delosperma make a fine contrast against dark backgrounds. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Bryant Olsen and Flickr

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