Delosperma Ground Cover: Is the Hardy Ice Plant Right for Your Garden?
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.
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.
- Are the summers in your area extremely hot?
- Do you need a ground cover for dry, full-sun areas?
- Do you like low-maintenance perennial plants?
- Do you prefer plants with showy flowers?
- Are you looking for plants that will grow in poor soil?
- Do you live in Zones 5-10? (If you don't know your zone, click here to find it.)
Good Reasons to Grow the Hardy Ice Plant
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.
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.
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.
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.
© 2011 Jill Spencer