Time to Celebrate Ice Plants!

– Posted in: Succulents

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I showed this photo recently at one of my presentations. In the back of the room, a little girl stood on a chair to see better. I understood; as a child growing up in Southern CA, I also was captivated by brilliant ice plant blooms.

Iceplant

Those colors! As blindingly bright as ever a flower could be.

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Vivid shades of pink, purple, red, yellow and orange. A crayon box that buzzes. Because it attracts bees, you may hear ice plant before you see it.

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Ice plant grows readily on slopes and depending on its location may be visible for miles.

Drosanthemum floribundum2

Most ice plant blooms brilliantly in early spring, then has a smattering of flowers throughout the year. Once lumped into the genus Mesembryanthemum, ice plants have been reclassified into Aptenia, Oscularia and Delosperma, among other genera. Mesembryanthemum now is limited to ice plants that are native to California coastal bluffs and seldom are seen in cultivation. They’re nondescript plants, but I do enjoy their crystalline stems.

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New ice plant cultivars, like ‘Fire Spinner’ combine more than one color. Heavenly!

Fire Spinner Do you grow ice plant? If so, where do you live, and how does it perform for you?

My goal is to share the beauty of waterwise, easy-care succulents in gardens, containers and landscapes via blog postsnewsletterspublic speaking and workshopsphotosvideosmerchandise, and social media (Facebook and Pinterest). My books: Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardensand Succulents Simplified.  www.debraleebaldwin.com 

Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored the Timber Press bestsellers Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified. Debra is a regular contributor to Sunset and other publications, and her own half-acre garden near San Diego has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens. Debra specializes in showing how to use architectural, waterwise and easy-care succulents in a wide variety of appealing and creative applications. www.debraleebaldwin.com.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin

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Jenny March 8, 2013, 12:37 pm

Wow, wow and wow! Jewel box indeed. We grew Mesembryanthemums when I was growing up on the north west coast of England. They had such pretty colors and those characteristic icy leaves and stems. In fact I saw a wonderful display of them in a walled garden In Norfolk this summer. As for my garden; I have Delosperma which does quite well in my rock garden but does not like the hot summer nights.

Jeannine March 8, 2013, 1:16 pm

I remember seeing ice plant for the first time when I moved to San Diego. Stunned! It is a beautiful sight to see every year!

Michael Romero March 8, 2013, 4:30 pm

We grow Oscularia deltioides (pink flowers) and variegated Aptenia ‘Red Apple’.
I would like some of that Fire Spinner. Can you reccomend a source?
Brilliant photos!

Hi, Michael — Thank you! Plant Delights has it for sale. — Debra

Belinda March 8, 2013, 7:22 pm

Hi Debra- Beautiful images. My brother in California grows ice plants on the small hill by the street in front of his house in Whittier and my aunt and uncle planted an entire hillside behind their home in Rancho Palos Verdes many years ago-because they loved the look and the low maintenance.

Candy Suter March 8, 2013, 11:24 pm

I am growing a few more varieties of ice plant this year. I put it in places that gets tons of sun because other things burn. They are doing nicely and I have some yellow flowers already! Super beautiful photos Debra!

Judy Tillson March 9, 2013, 10:13 am

Hi Debra: I, too, grew up in SoCal & have vivid memories of the hillside about a block behind my house full of COLOR — beautiful ice plant. When it wasn’t blooming (& when my parents were gone for the morning) my sister & I & friends used to make cardboard “sleds” and slide down the hillside. I hate to think of the destruction we may have caused. Today in my new-to-me home in San Diego, I’m planning on planting a border of ice plant around the perimeter of my back yard. Perhaps add a sign for my grandkids “no sledding.” LOL

Judy! Now that you mention it, I remember doing that too. Your words dredged up a long-forgotten moment in my childhood. The neighbors had a bank of Drosanthemum floribundum (rosea ice plant) and lots of kids. It’s a wonder it survived to bloom another day, ha. — Debra

Vidya Sury March 9, 2013, 11:44 am

They look so gorgeous – almost unreal. Except nature is miraculous.

Thank you. What a treat!

Gareth March 9, 2013, 1:33 pm

Wow they look so good!! The colours are something else your photos are amazing !!

meli March 9, 2013, 5:36 pm

I am iceplant collectors. lol. just to love it, to enjoy their beautiful color and love to cut and replant them, not as a professional gardener. I live in Victorville, Inland Empire. Yes we do have snow in winter. So far, delosperma tufted ice plant, nubigenum and floribunda, those 2 are hardly, do not dormant in winter. They even bloom in winter. Two other, aptenia cordifolia and cooperi also doing great here, but they dormant in winter..

Sandie Anne March 10, 2013, 8:41 am

These are very beautiful flowers! The lilac carpet of flowers is amazing. Thanks for bringing my attention to these. I would like to plant these also! I wonder if they are available in Maryland?

AB March 10, 2013, 11:55 pm

I was just reading on the California Invasive Plant Council site that Crystalline iceplant (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum) is a real problem in coastal areas of California, because it competes with native plants, and takes over. It is probably native to South Africa. Perhaps one of the other iceplants listed would be a better choice if there is a chance it could “escape” from your garden. Love those colors.

Wow, good to know! Thanks so much for the info. It’s not for sale in any nurseries that I know of. Another “ice plant” that takes over is Carpobrotus (pickle weed). Too bad these two invasives give the whole category a bad rap! — Debra

sloan March 15, 2013, 7:10 am

We love these here at our garden center! Very popular with our customers because of the beautiful blooms as you show here! Popular in hanging baskets too!

Beth March 20, 2013, 3:14 pm

Of course, one way to combat the “invasive invasion” is to…use them. Seriously. Rather than just destroying them, for example, that Caprobotus plant that does carpet the sand dunes along the Sn Mateo coast of California is considered an edible and medicinal plant over in its native South Africa.
PlantZAfrica has a good webpage on this species and its usefulness at http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantcd/carpobed.htm with a monograph on its scientific, medicinal properties at http://www.plantzafrica.com/medmonographs/carpobrotedu.pdf Another website which discusses and rates the edibility and usefulness of a huge number of plants is PFAF. It has this monograph on Caprobotus: http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Carpobrotus+edulis And then there’s a lady who through trial and error discovered how to eat the “figs” so they were a tasty, not tongue-tying, treat: http://www.pennilessparenting.com/2012/07/foraging-ice-plant-fruit-hottentot-figs.html
I find it’s fun to discover ways to not merely get rid of “weeds” but to derive a beneficial benefit from them. Heck, if I’m going to remove it to put in a plant I want, mayswell get something more then a backache from it!

Lenore March 23, 2013, 10:53 am

Gorgeous photos, especially enjoyable today here at 6000ft west of Denver, Colorado where we’re having a snow blizzard. I grow several ice plants including Spinner which overwinters quite well here and is spectacular in bloom.