Delosperma Ground Cover: Is the Hardy Ice Plant Right for Your Garden?

Updated on October 22, 2017
The Dirt Farmer profile image

Jill volunteers at community gardens and learns about gardening through the MD Master Gardening and 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. It's 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. | Source

My husband bought our Delosperma cooperii 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. | Source

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. | Source

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.

Source

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. | Source

Poor Soil, Good Drainage

Hardy ice 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

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

    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.

  • 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?

    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.

© 2011 Jill Spencer

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    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      5 years ago from United States

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

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      5 years ago from sunny Florida

      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

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      7 years ago from United States

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

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      7 years ago from Wales

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

      Take care

      Eiddwen.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      7 years ago from United States

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

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      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.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      7 years ago from United States

      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

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 

      7 years ago from Citra Florida

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

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      7 years ago from United States

      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!

    • profile image

      gogogo 

      7 years ago

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

    • quester.ltd profile image

      quester.ltd 

      7 years ago

      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

    • tsadjatko profile image

      7 years ago from now on

      Thanks much for the info!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      7 years ago from United States

      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 profile image

      Tuesdays child 

      7 years ago from In the garden

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

    • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Spencer 

      7 years ago from United States

      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 profile image

      Deborah-Diane 

      7 years ago from Orange County, California

      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!

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