Delosperma cooperi (Purple Ice Plant) is a mat-forming succulent with trailing stems, needle-like leaves, and daisy-like flowers. It grows…
Size and shape vary among the species within the Lampranthus genus, but most of the commonly grown ice plant varieties reach up to 2 feet tall and have a spreading habit. Ice plants thrive in sunlight and poor soil, and they make a wonderful alpine or rock garden plant. They also can be tucked into stone walls. Their spreading habit means they quickly fill a container and spill over, so they are nice in hanging baskets and free-standing pots.
You can grow ice plants by division, cuttings, and seeds. If you’re dividing established plants, do so in the spring. Cuttings can be taken and rooted at any point during the growing season, though they are best planted outdoors as early in the season as possible. If you’re growing by seeds, simply scatter them over the soil in the spring, but don’t cover them, as they need light to germinate.
During the summer months, ice plants are decorated with yellow, purple, or pink blooms reminiscent of daisies. When the flowers fade, the low-growing, six to eight inch tall plant retains its ornamental value with its interesting succulent-like foliage. Ice plant gets its name from the tiny, shimmering dots that appear on its leaves which resemble ice crystals. Once established, the ice plant is one of the easiest plants in the garden to care for.
Though ice plant is rarely cultivated for consumption in the United States, in its native Africa, it has a long history of culinary and medicinal use. The leaves and stems can be eaten raw or cooked similar to spinach. The flavor is described as tart, acidic, and slightly salty. The leaves can also be pickled or used as a garnish, and the whole plant can be consumed as a cereal. Medicinally, ice plant has been used to treat tuberculosis, cardiovascular problems, minor skin conditions, mouth sores, constipation, and more.
Ice plant is also commonly called fig marigold, frost plant, diamond plant, dew plant, diamond ficoides, glacier lettuce, and sour fig. It is also referred to as highway plant in some regions, due to its frequent placement alongside highways, where it is planted to help reduce erosion issues.
There are many different varieties of ice plant to choose from, with a wide range of colors and foliage types. Picking out which cultivars of ice plants are right for your garden can prove challenging. To make your decision a bit easier, we have gathered some of the best cultivars here to narrow the field a little. Here is our short-list:
Orange Ice Plant – This spring blooming variety produces bright orange blooms with yellow centers and has deep-green leaves.
Redflush Ice Plant – This ice plant cultivar is slightly frost tolerant. It displays bright red flowers that seem to last all season.
Purple Vygie – The purple vygie is known for its blue-green foliage and its pink or purple flowers.
Trailing Ice Plant – A voracious spreader, the trailing ice plant can easily become invasive if not contained by strong borders. Produces white, pink, and purple flowers.
Tresco Cultivars (Orange, Red, Purple) – The tresco cultivars are a series of hybrid ice plant species that were created at the Tresco Abbey Garden on the Isles Of Scilly. These lovely ice plant cultivars are distinguished by their gray-green foliage and voluminous blooms.
Ice plants are hardy to USDA zones five through nine. Outside of these zones, it can be grown as an annual or brought indoors as a houseplant. Every variety of ice plant will grow more voraciously and bloom more prolifically when grown in full sun locations. The plant’s summer flowers, which open in the morning and close after sundown, will open more fully in sunny conditions. Plenty of sun exposure will also help keep the plant from drooping and becoming leggy.
The best soil to grow ice plants in is a sandy or gravelly soil medium that is well draining and as close to a neutral pH as possible. Ice plants will grow well in most well-draining mediums, even if the soil is depleted and low in nutrients. Ice plants will not tolerate standing water, and will rot and die if left in standing water for long periods. Ice plants will not grow well in clay-based soils for this reason, unless they are amended with lots of organic material and sand to improve drainage.
Don’t let their name fool you, as ice plants are not fond of cold weather, nor will they survive in prolonged frosts. Most cultivars will only grow well in warm climates, though the hardiness does vary somewhat between species. A few species can tolerate minor frosts, but if you live in a cold climate area, it is better to grow ice plants as annuals or to bring them indoors to decorate your home. Ice plants are also quite fond of dry growing conditions and will suffer from overly damp or humid conditions. Prolonged exposure to humidity can lead to rot.
The recommended way to grow ice plants is to start seeds indoors and transplant seedlings into the garden after the threat of frost has passed. Using a small container for seed starting tray and a seed-starting soil formula, sow ice plant seeds four to six weeks prior to the last frost. Lightly press seeds into the soil but avoid covering completely, as seeds require light to germinate. Keep the container or tray moist until germination, which should occur within 15 to 20 days.
As soon as seedlings begin to emerge, place the container or tray on a sunny windowsill. If you don’t have a very sunny indoor spot to place your ice plant seedlings in, you may need to use fluorescent plant lights. Keep seedlings three to four inches under lights and run lights 16 hours per day, resting for eight hours in the night time. Plants require darkness to grow, so don’t forget to give your ice plants a significant dark period each day. As plants grow taller, raise lights up to keep them at a distance of three to four inches above plants. Do not use incandescent bulbs, as they get far too hot and can burn your plants.
Feed seedlings once when they are three to four weeks old with a starter solution. Starter solutions are typically a half strength dose of what is given to mature indoor houseplants. Before planting in the garden, harden your seedlings off by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions, increasing the exposure time a bit each day. Be sure to protect young plants from high winds and extremely hot sun while hardening them off. Gradually exposing your plants to the outdoors will increase their cell structure and reduce the chances of transplant shock.
Prior to transplanting, prepare the beds by tilling the soil to a depth of six to 12 inches, removing any rocks, clumps, or plant debris in the process. Choose a full-sun location with sandy, well-draining soil, and transplant your seedlings on a cloudy day or in the late afternoon to reduce the chance of transplant shock. Space plants 18 inches apart and water thoroughly just after planting. Lay out a light, one to two-inch layer of mulch around your seedlings to deter weeds and improve moisture retention.
Once ice plants are established, there is very little care required for them to thrive. Though ice plants are extremely drought tolerant, they can still benefit from regular waterings in times of prolonged heat and drought. Water ice plants once per week when rainfall is minimal. Potted ice plants may require additional watering. Allow the top two inches of soil to dry out between waterings during the summer when the plants are in dormancy.
Though fertilizers are not necessary for ice-plants grown in the ground, it may be an answer to minimal blooming issues. Plants grown in containers are quick to deplete their nutrients and could benefit from an occasional boost from a balanced fertilizer.
Though ice plants can be propagated by seed, cuttings, and division, cuttings are the recommended propagation method, as it is the fastest and easiest way to make more ice plants. Take your cuttings when the plant is quickly growing between spring and autumn. Take three to six inch pieces of shoot and remove all leaves other than the topmost set. Allow the cuttings to dry and form calluses from exposing them to several hours of air overnight. Root your cuttings in a well-draining container using a succulent potting mix. Keep the substrate moist until your cuttings start to root. Gently tugging on the cuttings will let you know whether roots have formed or not. If the tugging is met with resistance, it means the roots have formed and the plant is ready to be moved into a larger container or into the ground during the spring.
Damp conditions, cold spells, and other weather issues are typically the most pressing problems to cultivating ice plants. Overly moist soil conditions can cause fungal infections that can kill your plants, including botrytis, damping off, root rot, and sooty mold. Aphids, mealybugs, and scale pests can sometimes trouble ice plants, though providing a healthy growing environment will likely keep your plants healthy enough to ward off these pests.
If you need a low-growing carpet of succulent-like foliage and lots of colorful, daisy-like flowers throughout the summer, ice plant is the plant for you. Ice plants will also help control erosion and strengthen the soil structure wherever it is planted.
To determine if a plant is sufficiently cold hardy, the USDA created numbered zones indicating winter low temperatures the lower the zone number the colder the winter.
1-2" tall x 15-18" wide. Delosperma cooperi (Cooper’s Hardy Ice Plant) spreads to form a low mat of succulent foliage and blooms much of the summer with large magenta-pink flowers. This is the original Cold Hardy Ice Plant introduced in the early 1990s through the Denver Botanic Garden. Its introduction started the keen interest in Ice Plants for use in the Intermountain and western areas of the US. An excellent groundcover, it likes summer irrigation in dry climates to bloom and grow well. Use gravel mulch to keep the branches and crown of the plant dry in winter.
Tips for Growing Cacti and Succulents
Cacti shipped early in the spring may be dormant. As the weather warms, these cacti will expand and green-up. Remember, after an initial watering to settle the soil around the roots, no further water should be applied until the weather warms up. If plants are dormant and the spring weather is rainy, protect the plants from too much moisture by covering them with a gallon plastic milk container with the bottom cut out. Leave the top off the jug so heat build up isn’t excessive in sunny weather.
All the species of hardy cacti and succulents require fast-draining soil.
Planting in the ground
Put the plants on a slope or raised area of the garden, not in a low spot which collects water. Select a bed with full sun exposure, preferably next to a south or west facing wall. These areas will provide extra winter warmth. In heavy clay soils, it is essential to replace half or more of the soil from a 10”x 10” or larger hole with coarse sand and gravel mixed thoroughly with the remaining soil to ensure adequate drainage. No compost should be added, only a small handful of Planters II and Yum Yum Mix®.
Planting in an outdoor pot or planter
Use a planting mix of 3 parts garden soil + 2 parts coarse sand + 2 parts coarse perlite (or similar material). When growing plants indoors in pots, use a good quality potting soil to mix with the sand, and expanded shale instead of garden soil.
1. Cacti, agaves, and tap-rooted succulents (Aloinopsis, Titanopsis, Nananthus) should be transplanted bare-root. Let the soil in the pot dry out for a few days. Then remove the pot and gently loosen the soil so it falls away from the roots. Trim off any broken roots. Bare root plants should then be planted into a shallow hole. Spread out the roots evenly and sprinkle the soil into the hole until full. The base of the plant should rest on top of the soil. Mulch with a 1⁄2”-1” thick layer of pea-sized gravel around the base of the plant to protect it from contact with soggy soil over the winter months. (See planting diagram on page 12 of our Planting Guide.)
2. Succulents with fibrous roots (Ruschia, Delosperma, Sedum, and others) need not be transplanted bare-root, instead, the root ball should be scored and roughed out like other perennials.
1. Bare-root cacti and tap-rooted succulents must not be watered right away, but should sit dry for a day or two to allow the roots to callus over any broken or damaged areas. Other succulents can be watered in right away. Water thoroughly with a mixture of SeaCom-PGR and Superthrive to stimulate strong new root growth. Water again with this mixture two weeks later.
2. Outdoor beds with new plants should be initially watered once every 5 to 7 days for the first month or so after transplanting. Cacti and succulents enjoy regular watering during the heat of the summer and will grow vigorously. After the first year, most cacti species need a good soaking only once every 2-4 weeks during the spring and summer if there has been no rain.
3. Potted plants require more frequent, regular watering, especially if the weather is hot and dry.
4. To prepare cacti and succulents for the approach of winter, begin withholding water in the fall so the plants can begin to dehydrate and shrivel. Plump, well watered plants are ripe for cold damage when temperatures plunge in late fall/early winter.
Cacti and succulents are very modest in their fertilizer requirements. When planted in the ground, fertilizing in spring with SeaCom-PGR and Yum Yum Mix® will encourage plentiful flowers and good stem growth. When planted in pots, remember to feed monthly with the same mixture as above, beginning in late summer.
Garden plants: Many cacti and succulents are quite cold hardy if kept dry in the cold winter and spring months. In areas that receive a lot of winter and spring moisture (especially rain), it is strongly recommended that plants be protected from cold, wet soil conditions. For example, a temporary cold frame can be constructed using pipe or PVC hoops covered with a clear plastic sheet to cover the entire bed. Or individual plants can be covered with plastic gallon milk jugs with the bottom cut out to keep the ground around the plants dry. Leave the top off the jug so heat build up isn’t excessive in sunny weather. Problems will occur if plants are in wet soil all winter or sit under melting snow for extended periods.
Potted plants: Should be moved under a roof overhang on the south or west side of the house or placed in a well ventilated cold frame. Water pots and other containers lightly a few times over the winter during warm spells.
All our cacti, agaves and succulents are seed-grown or cutting-grown in our greenhouses. Cacti and agave plants are 2-4 years old succulents are 1-2 years old. Please, never collect cacti from the wild unless it’s to rescue plants from construction sites. Many species are close to extinction in their native habitats due to irresponsible collectors.
|Zone 2||Shipping begins the week of May 17th, 2021|
|Zone 3||Shipping begins the week of May 17th, 2021|
|Zone 4||Shipping begins the week of May 17th, 2021|
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|Zone 6||Shipping begins the week of April 19th, 2021|
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|Zone 10||Shipping begins the week of April 5th, 2021|
As soon as your order is placed you will receive a confirmation email. You will receive a second email the day your order ships telling you how it has been sent. Some perennials are shipped as potted plants, some as perennial roots packed in peat. The ‘Plant Information’ section describes how that item will ship. All perennials and spring-planted bulbs are packaged to withstand shipping and are fully-guaranteed. Please open upon receipt and follow the instructions included.
Perennials and spring-planted bulbs are shipped at the proper planting time for your hardiness zone. Perennial and spring-planted bulb orders will arrive separately from seeds. If your order requires more than one shipment and all items are shipping to the same address, there is no additional shipping charge. See our shipping information page for approximate ship dates and more detailed information. If you have any questions, please call Customer Service toll-free at (800) 925-9387 or contact us by email.
This spreading selection forms a low carpet of succulent foliage. The leaves are speckled with glistening dots that look like tiny ice crystals. Brilliant purple, daisy-like flowers bloom from mid-to-late summer.
Perfectly sized for rock gardens and border fronts. A reliable groundcover for any location. Tumbles beautifully over rocks, slopes, and banks.
Allow soil to dry between thorough waterings.
Gritty, sharply drained soil.
Tolerates poor soil, heat, and drought. Best if planted in gritty, sharply drained soil. Allow soil to dry between thorough waterings. Remove faded flowers for best display.
Perennials can be planted anytime from spring through fall.
Prepare the garden by breaking up the existing soil (use a hoe, spade, or power tiller) to a depth of 12-16” (30-40cm). Add organic matter such as manure, peat moss or garden compost until the soil is loose and easy to work. Organic ingredients improve drainage, add nutrients, and encourage earthworms and other organisms that help keep soil healthy. Give plants an extra boost by adding a granulated starter fertilizer or all-purpose feed that encourages blooming (for example fertilizers labeled 5-10-5).
Check the plant label for suggested spacing and the mature height of the plant. Position plants so that taller plants are in the center or background of the landscape design and shorter plants in the foreground. To remove the plant from the container, gently brace the base of the plant, tip it sideways and tap the outside of the pot to loosen. Rotate the container and continue to tap, loosening the soil until the plant pulls smoothly from the pot.
Dig the hole up to two times larger than the root ball and deep enough that the plant will be at the same level in the ground as the soil level in the container. Grasping the plant at the top of the root ball, use your finger to lightly rake the roots apart. This is especially important if the roots are dense and have filled up the container. Set the plant in the hole.
Push the soil gently around the roots filling in empty space around the root ball. Firm the soil down around the plant by hand, tamping with the flat side of a small trowel, or even by pressing down on the soil by foot. The soil covering the planting hole should be even with the surrounding soil, or up to one inch higher than the top of the root ball. New plantings should be watered daily for a couple of weeks to get them well established.
Plan ahead, for plants that get tall and require staking or support cages. It’s best to install cages early in the spring, or at planting time, before the foliage gets bushy. Vining plants require vertical space to grow, so provide a trellis, fence, wall or other structure that allows the plant to grow freely and spread.
Finish up with a 2” (5cm) layer of mulch such as shredded bark or compost to make the garden look tidy, reduce weeds, and retain soil moisture.
New plantings should be watered daily for a couple of weeks. After that, depending on the weather and soil type, watering may be adjusted to every two or three days. Clay soils hold moisture longer than sandy soils, so expect to water more frequently in sandy settings.
Different plants have different water needs. Some plants prefer staying on the dry side, others, like to be consistently moist. Refer to the plant label to check a plant’s specific requirements.
Ideally water should only be applied to the root zone - an area roughly 6-12” (15-30cm) from the base of the plant, not the entire plant. A soaker hose is a great investment for keeping plants healthy and reducing water lost through evaporation. Hand watering using a watering wand with a sprinkler head attached is also a good way to control watering. If the garden area is large, and a sprinkler is necessary, try to water in the morning so that plant foliage has time to dry through the day. Moist foliage encourages disease and mold that can weaken or damage plants.
Thoroughly soaking the ground up to 8” (20 cm) every few days is better than watering a little bit daily. Deep watering encourages roots to grow further into the ground resulting in a sturdier plant with more drought tolerance.
To check for soil moisture, use your finger or a small trowel to dig in and examine the soil. If the first 2-4” (5-10cm) of soil is dry, it is time to water.
Incorporate fertilizer into the soil when preparing beds for new plants. Established plants should be fed in early spring, then again halfway through the growing season. Avoid applying fertilizer late in the growing season. This stimulates new growth that can be easily damaged by early frosts.
Fertilizers are available in many forms: granulated, slow-release, liquid feeds, organic or synthetic. Determine which application method is best for the situation and select a product with a nutritional balance designed to encourage blooming (such as 5-10-5).
Reduce the need to fertilize in general by applying a 1-2” (3-5cm) layer of mulch or compost annually. As mulch breaks down it supplies nutrients to the plants and improves the overall soil condition at the same time.
Depending on the flowering habit, snip off faded blooms individually, or wait until the blooming period is over and remove entire flower stalk down to the base of the plant. Removing old flower stems keeps the plant’s energy focused on vigorous growth instead of seed production. Foliage can be pruned freely through the season to remove damaged or discolored leaves, or to maintain plant size.
Do not prune plants after September 1st. Pruning stimulates tender new growth that will damage easily when the first frosts arrive. Perennial plants need time to prepare for winter, or “harden off”. Once plants have died to the ground they are easy to clean up by simply cutting back to about 4” (10cm) above the ground.
The flowering plumes and foliage of ornamental grasses create a beautiful feature in the winter landscape. Leave the entire plant for the winter and cut it back to the ground in early spring, just before new growth starts.
Perennials should be dug up and divided every 3-4 years. This stimulates healthy new growth, encourages future blooming, and provides new plants to expand the garden or share with gardening friends.
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