Yes, the ice plant, or Delosperma, is succulent. It is native to the African continent and prefers sandy, well-draining soil.
It is typically used as a perennial ground cover because it is quite hardy to cold weather, although this is not the reason for its moniker; rather, it gets its name because its foliage resembles ice crystals when they shimmer in the light.
In this article, we will discuss more about the ice plant and what makes it succulent, as well as its proper cultural care. So, if you want to add the ice plant to your garden and wish to learn more about it, just keep reading.
What is an ice plant?
The ice plant, or Delosperma, is a warm-weather perennial succulent that produces beautiful orange, yellow, purple, red, pink, bi-color, or tri-color flowers. Its foliage is fleshy, like that of most succulents, which means it is able to absorb and store water for use in the event of drought.
It is called an ice plant because of how the tiny hairs on its surface reflect light at certain angles, making them look like ice crystals.
The leaves become darker as the temperature gets colder, especially in areas with cold winters. If you live in a place with no winters and a warmer climate, the ice plant will be evergreen.
This plant is typically used as a spreading ground cover. It blooms in the springtime, continuing throughout the growing season.
The best time to plant it is in the middle of summer in cooler climates, while fall planting is best for those in warmer regions.
The plant can grow up to six inches high and 24 inches wide, at the most.
It can tolerate cold temperatures from hardiness zones 6 to 10.
Ice plant care
Ice plants can grow both indoors and outdoors, but wherever the plant is kept, it still has the same requirements; that is, full sunlight.
Your outdoor ice plant will probably not have any problem growing in your outdoor garden, because it will get exactly the light that it likes, but indoor plants might not. They may be able to grow in partial shade, but that does not mean they will be completely happy.
For an indoor ice plant, make sure you place it next to the sunniest window in your house. Try to get it as close to full sunlight as you can, despite being inside the house.
Also, make sure you rotate the plant every week so that all sides of it get their time in the sun.
If you live in a place where natural sunlight may be scarce for several months of the year, you might need to get a grow light to help the plant during the colder months.
Ice plants do have a preference when it comes to soil type. They do not like heavy soils, such as clay, that are dense and compact; these retain too much moisture and can cause root rot, which we will discuss later in this article.
The ice plant likes soil that is loose and well-draining, with a neutral pH. The best soil mix for this plant is one that contains loam, gravel, and sand.
The container or pot that the ice plant is in should also have drainage holes at the bottom so that, even if you accidentally pour too much water in the soil, the excess water will simply flow out, lessening the risk of overwatering.
Ice plants, like most succulents, are tolerant – or even resistant – to drought. They can go for long periods without water because they can store water in their leaves for use during dry spells.
But, even though the plant can survive water neglect, that does not mean you can just forget to water it all the time. It can still suffer from the effects of underwatering, in which case it will dry out and turn brown from lack of water. Remember that a plant does not need water only for the moisture, but also because it uses water to transport nutrients and minerals from the soil into its roots.
Because the ice plant is succulent, it is more susceptible to damage from overwatering than underwatering. Overwatering can come about from giving the plant too much water every time you water it, watering it more often than you need to, using soil or a pot that has poor drainage, or not adjusting your watering habits to changes in the weather, season or climate.
An overwatered ice plant will have yellowing, mushy leaves which may start to droop. This is because the plant’s roots are standing in soggy soil and are thus unable to function properly.
Overwatering can also lead to a more serious problem, which is root rot.
Root rot is a condition caused by prolonged exposure of the roots to waterlogged soil, leaving them unable to dry out completely between waterings, and thus unable to absorb oxygen. If they cannot absorb oxygen due to the soggy soil, the roots will drown and start to rot.
The rot will attract opportunistic pathogens, such as fungi and bacteria in the soil. The pathogens will cause the rot to become more aggressive and spread even faster to the rest of the plant. By the time the rot has reached the leaves of the ice plant, there is a high possibility that the plant will die.
If you think that your ice plant is overwatered, stop watering it immediately and let the roots and soil dry out completely before watering it again.
If you suspect root rot, you will need to check the roots. Remove the plant from its pot and wash the soil from the roots. Inspect the roots closely and look for sections that have turned brown or black. Remove these rotten roots using a sterile knife or pair of scissors.
Then, let the roots air-dry on a dry surface for a few hours while you prepare a new pot. This should have drainage holes at the bottom, and be filled with a well-draining potting mix. Place the plant in the pot and cover the roots with more soil. Position the pot in a spot where the plant can get plenty of sunlight.
To fix an underwatered ice plant, on the other hand, all you need to do is to give the plant a good soak. It should bounce back after a few days.
The best way to avoid both overwatering and underwatering is to develop good watering habits. There is no set schedule to follow when it comes to watering your ice plant. Instead, the best way to tell when the plant needs water is by feeling the top two inches of the soil. If the soil is dry to the touch, water the plant, but if the soil is still a bit damp, wait one or two days before checking again. Learn to adjust the volume and frequency of watering according to changes in the weather, season, and climate.
The ice plant is quite hardy to cold temperatures and can even survive in hardiness zone 6, despite being native to a warm climate.
As long as the plant is not exposed for long periods to temperatures lower than 10 degrees Fahrenheit, it should be fine.
If you have harsh winters with temperatures that drop below freezing, you might have to take your outdoor ice plants into your house during those times.
The ideal temperature around the plant should be between 35 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Because the ice plant is native to dry regions in Africa, it does not do well in places with high humidity. High humidity also creates a favorable environment for fungal growth and may even increase the likelihood of root rot.
Refrain from placing your plant in parts of your house that are humid, such as the bathroom or the kitchen. Also keep it away from other plants that like humidity, because they might create a microclimate around the ice plant that it will not like.
The ice plant produces flowers that can be orange, pink or yellow; in fact. they can even be a mix of two or three different colors. For the plant to bloom properly, it will require nutrients that its soil may not be able to provide, so you might have to fertilize it.
Using a balanced fertilizer in the spring, when the plant is actively growing, will help your plant to produce flowers. But, if it is blooming fine without the aid of fertilizer, there is no need to feed it.
Ice plant growth
The ice plant is a shrub, so it does not really grow very large. It can reach about six feet high and 24 inches wide, and rarely any wider.
If you care for the plant well and provide it with ideal growing conditions, it can grow quickly and reach its full size after a month.
If you are growing the ice plant as a ground cover, do not be afraid of trimming it to suit your preferred height, size or shape.
Repotting the ice plant
As long as the plant is well cared for and the roots are healthy, it should not really need to be repotted. These plants stay small throughout their mature life and their roots rarely if ever, get crowded.
The only time the ice plant may need to be repotted is if it has root rot, in which case the soil and the pot will have to be replaced to salvage the plant.
How to propagate the ice plant using stem cuttings
With a sterile knife or scissors, cut a healthy stem from the parent plant that is two to four inches long.
Remove the leaves nearest the bottom of the cutting, leaving only two or three leaves at the top. This is so that no leaves are accidentally buried under the soil, which would cause them to rot.
Leave the cutting on a dry surface, preferably overnight, to let it callus and air-dry.
Prepare a small container with fresh succulent potting mix. Make sure the container has drainage holes at the bottom. Moisten the soil with some water before planting the cutting.
Push the bottom end of the cutting into the soil until it is about two inches deep.
Add more water if you need to until the soil is properly soaked. The cutting may need more water than a regular ice plant, but you should still be careful not to overwater it.
Place the container in a spot where it will get indirect sunlight only. The growing cutting is more sensitive to light than a mature ice plant, so protect it from too much sun or you risk giving it sun damage.
After a few weeks, check the roots’ integrity by tugging on the cutting. If you can feel resistance, it means that the roots are well-established and have anchored themselves in the soil.
You can now transfer the plant to another, bigger pot, and care for it as you would any regular ice plant.
Yes, the ice plant is succulent. It is a low-growing, low-maintenance, flowering succulent native to the African continent. It has fleshy leaves that can store water for use in times of drought.
This plant is hardy to zones 6 to 10, and as long as the outdoor temperatures do not drop below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, you can grow the ice plant as a ground cover in your outdoor garden.
This plant may be able to survive low light conditions, but it is best to avoid keeping it in the shade because it is much happier in full sunlight.
Water the plant water when the top two inches of soil around its roots are dry. Use soil that is loose and sandy, because this is what the plant knows in its natural habitat.
The ice plant does not like humidity, so do not keep it in your bathroom or kitchen.
You do not need to fertilize it unless the soil is lacking the nutrients that the plant needs to produce flowers.
This plant does not grow very big, so repotting is not necessary and is usually only done if the plant has root rot.
You can propagate your ice plant using stem cuttings.
Image: istockphoto.com / sakura bunn