Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi) Care – How to Grow

Unique, beautiful, and low-maintenance: the ice plant succulent is one of the best choices when assembling succulent rock gardens or just adding a new succulent to your home!

They’re incredibly hardy, produce colorful flowers and make both great container plants or succulent ground cover!

Let’s take a closer look at how to care for this succulent plant in this ultimate care guide!

ice plant care tips and tricks

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Ice Plant Background

Native plants to South Africa, the ice plants are a hardy drought-tolerant plants often grown as a perennial in warm weather. The common name “ice plant” is an umbrella term for a variety of different species and genera. The two most popular genera you’ll find are either Delosperma or Lampranthus.

Identifiable by their fleshy, succulent leaves and beautiful daisy-like flowers, these plants are a top choice among those who grow succulent gardens. They can come in a variety of different colors – orange, purple, pink and yellow flowers. Their bloom time is usually between late spring through fall.

These plants get the name ice plant from the shimmery dots that coat their leaves, making it appear as if they are covered in frost or ice crystals. These are relatively small plants, only growing somewhere between 12-24 inches depending on their variety.

The hardy ice plant is a good choice for those in locations with dry climates. They’re great for erosion control and are even deer resistant. These plants don’t do the best in moist, humid climates such as Florida.

Ice Plant Care

Sun & Light

For ice plants, the sun determines how much they flower. For maximum flower growth, please place your ice plant in full sun. They can sometimes do ok with partial shade.

ice plant outdoors

These plants will do best if given at least 6 hours of growth on a daily basis. A lack of sunlight will result in leggy growth.

Water

Your mature succulent ice plants should be watered sparingly during the growing season (or spring and summer). During droughty periods, a watering once every two to three weeks will be sufficient (unless the temperatures are extremely hot, in which case once a week is best).

Prior to entering its winter dormancy period, please allow the soil to dry out. If your weather forecast calls for snow, layer a dry mulch on your plant to keep the soil dry throughout the winter.

Soil

Similar to succulents, the ice plant requires a dry, well-draining soil types. Avoid dense and moisture-retaining soils, as these will completely suffocate your plants.

The ideal potting mix for ice plants should be a sandy soil and gravelly soils, containing ingredients such as perlite, sand, and pumice. Aim for a soil with a neutral pH level.

Also be sure to put your ice plant in a pot with good drainage with drainage holes.

Fertilizer

While the addition of fertilizer is always helpful to encourage foliage growth, it is not a requirement for the ice plant. If you do opt to fertilize your plants, you can do so by either working in organic compost to the soil, or applying a slow-release fertilizer that is meant for flowers.

ice plant with orange blooms

Ice plants that are grown in containers are more likely to need fertilizer compared to an in-ground ice plant. If your ice plant’s flower seem to be weak, then perhaps a fertilizer is needed.

Temperature & Humidity

All types of ice plants are extremely sensitive to cold temperatures. If you keep your plant inside, you don’t need to worry about this.

However, if you’re using this outside as ground covering, check your hardiness zone prior to planting. If you live in colder climates, you’ll need to cover them during the winter months. Winter mulching can also help retain some warmth in the soil during cold weather.

Pests

The two most common pests associated with ice plants are aphids and mealybugs. These are two nasty pests that latch onto your plants’ foliage and suck the nutrients out. Prevention is key to stopping devastation among your plants; checking your plants weekly will aid in early detection of pests.

ice plant with purple flowers

You might not find the pests themselves, instead you might find residue left behind. Sticky residue on foliage, or even damaged leaves and stems are signs of a pest infestation.

Luckily, aphids and mealybugs are very easy to control. Small infestations can easily be controlled by dabbing your plants with rubbing alcohol. Aphids are a weak pest and can often be dislodged from the plant by spraying your plant with water.

Diseases

While ice plants aren’t prone to too many diseases, overwatering is going to be your worst enemy when it comes to caring for an ice plant. As we’ve discussed previously, ice plants thrive on droughty conditions and do not enjoy living in a wet soil. Overwatering your ice plant opens them up to root rot, a disease caused by standing water that corrodes the root system.

Signs of overwatering in your ice plant include yellowing and leaves falling from the plant. If you notice either of these symptoms, check your plants’ roots for any sign of disease. A healthy root is firm and off-white in color. A diseased root is corroded; dark brown in color and mushy to the touch.

If you’ve caught root rot early enough, there are some steps you can take to reverse the problem. Pruning the rotted roots and repotting your plant in a clean container with fresh, dry soil can help remedy the problem, but please be aware this is only if you’ve caught it early.

ice plant with yellow blooms

The best way to prevent disease is properly watering your plant, making sure not to overwater. In addition, planting your ice plant in a soil that is sandy and well-draining is important for expelling excess water.

How to Propagate Ice Plants

Ice plants are fast growers; they will spread and multiply with no outside intervention from gardeners. However, you can still propagate these plants via division. Division propagation is when you separate plants by splitting up the root system and replanting. Follow these simple steps to propagate your ice plants.

1.    The best time to propagate your ice plant is during the springtime. Dig up your ice plant, please be careful as to not damage the root system. Lightly moistening the soil beforehand helps the root ball slide out easily.

2.    Take a gardening spade and separate the plant in two or more sections at the roots.

3.    Replant each section of the plant separately at the same depth the original plant was growing. Pat the soil down and keep the soil lightly moist to alleviate the risk of transplant shock. Care for your plant and you should eventually see new growth within a few weeks.

Popular Ice Plant Species

Here’s some of the most popular species of ice plants:

  • Delosperma cooperi (Hardy Cooper) – this ice plant flowers are hot pink
  • Delosperma nubigenum (Hardy Yellow) – this plant type has yellow blooms
  • Delosperma floribundum (Starburst Hardy Plant) – this ice plant blooms pink flower

Frequently Asked Questions

Will Ice Plants Come Back Every Year?

Yes, but with exceptions. Ice plants are classified as a perennial plant. A perennial plant is meant to come back every year, but this is dependent on the hardiness zone.

ice plant with purple blooms

Ice plants are hardy to USDA zones 6 through 10; they enjoy warm weather conditions and their return is dependent on a medium to mild winter. To ensure your ice plants come back every year, please confirm which hardy zone you live in and plant accordingly.

Do Ice Plants Spread?

Yes, most variety of ice plants are rapid growers and spread. In fact, they spread so quickly they are classified as an invasive species in the coastal regions of California.

If you’re looking to use ice plants as a ground cover for your outdoor succulent garden, it will only take a few ice plants before they spread!

Should I Cut Back My Ice Plant?

While ice plants are a relatively low-maintenance plant, some light pruning is beneficial to encouraging healthy growth. In the fall, after the flower blooms have started wilting, use a pair of pruning shears to cut off these flowers.

In addition, you may want to cut back the ice plant’s growth to an even height. Any dead or damaged foliage should be pruned; not only is this done for aesthetic purposes, but damaged foliage poses a hinderance to your plant’s development.

In particularly cold winters, your ice plant will start to die back. Cut your ice plant down to the base; growth should return during the spring.

Where to Buy

If you’re looking for a plant that has both the uniqueness of a succulent, combined with the beauty of a daisy, then look no further! The ice plant is the ultimate addition to your succulent garden.

Not only are they low-maintenance and drought-tolerant, but they are gorgeous. Give ice plants a try in your garden won’t regret it!

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