Delosperma Ground Cover: Is the Hardy Ice Plant Right for Your Garden? - Dengarden - Home and Garden
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Delosperma Ground Cover: Is the Hardy Ice Plant Right for Your Garden?

Jill likes cooking, writing, painting, & stewardship, and studies gardening through MD Master Gardener & Master Naturalist programs.

A Hardy Ground Cover

The hardy ice plant (Delosperma) is a succulent ground cover that blooms from late spring into fall. It blooms in many colors, including white, pink, yellow, orange, red, and purple, producing daisy-like flowers that close at night and open as the sun rises.

Although an ice plant sounds like a cold climate plant, Delosperma is actually a heat lover. Its common name is probably derived from the little hairs on its stems, which refract and reflect light, sparkling in the sun like ice.

My favorite hardy ice cultivar is Delosperma cooperi. Commonly called the hardy purple ice plant, it too is rather misnamed, producing flowers in a vivid shade that's more pink than purple.

The flowers on the hardy purple ice plant open as the sun rises.

The flowers on the hardy purple ice plant open as the sun rises.

My husband bought our Delosperma cooperi at a plant sale at his place of work. It's super easy to care for and easy to share by division in the spring.

We've given divisions to my mother, his mother, and several friends, and our hardy purple ice plant is still going strong along the foundation of our home.

Is the Hardy Ice Plant Right for You?

If you answer yes to one or more of the questions below, then the hardy ice plant is probably a good choice for your yard.

  1. Are the summers in your area extremely hot?
  2. Do you need a ground cover for dry, full-sun areas?
  3. Do you like low-maintenance perennial plants?
  4. Do you prefer plants with showy flowers?
  5. Are you looking for plants that will grow in poor soil?
  6. Do you live in Zones 5–10? (If you don't know your zone, click here to find it.)
In the heat of the day, ice blooms are so perky and bright they almost seem unreal.

In the heat of the day, ice blooms are so perky and bright they almost seem unreal.

Good Reasons to Grow the Hardy Ice Plant

Heat-Loving

A South African native, Delosperma boasts water-retentive leaves that not only make it drought-resistant, but also fire-retardant.

If you live in an area that experiences hot, dry summers, it's the plant for you. Other plants may melt in the sun, but the hardy ice plant keeps going strong.

If the weather's excessively hot and dry, you may have to water Delosperma occasionally—but not too much. It doesn't like a lot of water.

Delosperma plants require little maintenance.

Delosperma plants require little maintenance.

Long-Blooming

The hardy ice plant develops blooms in late spring, and it continues blooming until the first frost.

It's not only a long bloomer, but it's a prodigious one as well, producing blankets of flowers. In locales with mild winters, Delosperma will stay green year round.

the-hardy-ice-plant-a-garden-favorite

Low Maintenance

Unlike wave petunias and other trailing flowering plants, you won't have to clear away Delosperma's spent blooms. They're virtually unnoticeable. You won't have to water frequently, either, but you will have to weed sometimes. The hardy ice plant doesn't develop a thick mat of greenery that chokes out weeds like some heat-loving ground covers.

Alone or with other ground covers, Delosperma adds a splash of color to your landscape.

Alone or with other ground covers, Delosperma adds a splash of color to your landscape.

Poor Soil, Good Drainage

The hardy ice plant doesn't mind poor soil, but it does demand good drainage. Plant it on sunny banks where little else will grow, but don't plant it in soggy, boggy locales. Delosperma hates wet feet and will die.

Questions & Answers

Question: What should I do during the Michigan winter to protect a hardy ice plant?

Answer: I looked up Michigan's hardiness zones on the USDA's website: Zones 3-6. I'm not sure where you are, but if you're in a 3-5 zone, Delosperma cooperi grows as an annual there and, as a drought-hardy plant, would have difficulty surviving a cold, wet winter. You could grow it in pots and bring it inside, but, it's not a good choice for you if you're looking for a ground cover. If you're in Zones 4-6 and want a Delosperma that's more winter hardy; you might try a newer variety than cooperi, such as Delosperma Alan's Apricot, which is hardy in Zones 4-10. Alan's apricot doesn't have the dazzling color of cooperi, but it's more cold hardy.

Question: Will the ice plant help choke out English ivy? I have cleared a flowerbed of the ivy, but I know some of it will resprout. Will this help to keep the ivy from growing?

Answer: English ivy is an invasive where I live, and it sounds like it is where you live, too. The ice plant won't choke it out because it's not invasive. You'll probably have to clear the bed of ivy every year. This is something I do in my beds with Vinca major. The good news? It gets easier each year, and eventually, I won't have to do it. On the bright side, the ice plant certainly won't hurt your efforts. Keep at it! I'm rooting for you.

Question: How tall does ice plant get?

Answer: It's a ground cover and doesn't get tall at all. Four inches maybe when it blooms? Something like that.

© 2011 Jill Spencer

Comments

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 21, 2013:

Always nice to hear from you, Patricia! Thanks for you kind comments. I hope you're staying cool!--Jill

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on July 20, 2013:

I love coming here. You do all of the homework for me...all I have to do is go to the nursery and find what you offer. Thank you ...thank you Angels are on the way ps

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 19, 2011:

You're welcome, Eiddwen! Thanks so much for reading. --Jill

Eiddwen from Wales on July 18, 2011:

A beautiful plant that I had not heard of before so thank you for sharing and I vote up.

Take care

Eiddwen.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 17, 2011:

You're welcome, Peggy W. Thanks for stopping by!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 17, 2011:

I remember seeing banks of ice plant in bloom along the famous 17 mile drive in California. Absolutely beautiful! Never thought about growing it in our garden. Thanks for the idea.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 17, 2011:

Thanks for commenting, chefsref. Hope it works for you. Ice, creeping thyme and blackeyed Susan--a large chunk of our landscape would be bald without them! Take care, Jill

Lee Raynor from Citra Florida on July 17, 2011:

Excellent, I've been wanting something to plant that didn't require watering or mowing and ice plant just might fit the bill.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 17, 2011:

Tsadjatko--you're very welcome!

And Q, I'd recommend spring or (if you live in Zone 8 or above) now OR spring.

Thank you, gogogo. I've been working on my photography skills, particularly macro shots. Getting the exposure right is so tough!

Happy gardening all!

gogogo on July 17, 2011:

Beautiful photos, enjoyed the article, we used to have Ice plants, they are easy to care for

quester.ltd on July 17, 2011:

Thanks for this - I had totally forgotten this marvelous plant - guess I will be putting in the ground early next spring - or when do you suggest?

q

The Logician from now on on July 17, 2011:

Thanks much for the info!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 17, 2011:

Thanks, Lori. Hope you give it a try. I'm thinking about adding a few cuttings to a living wreath, wondering if it will bloom well. Take care! Jill

Tuesdays child from In the garden on July 17, 2011:

A very beautiful and informative hub! I will certainly look into trying these plants. Thank you for the info. Lori

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 16, 2011:

Thanks for commenting Deborah-Diane. Wow, ice must be extremely common where you live. Here, the common plant is crape myrtle. It took me a while to want one in our yard because they were so prolific--and then I had to find a less common one. Take care! DF

Deborah-Diane from Orange County, California on July 16, 2011:

Although I would not like to have ice plant in my back yard, I love having it in the greenbelt areas of my community, and along the highway!