January 4, 2009

Hardy Ice Plant Won't Melt in the Heat

For hot, dry sites in the garden, delosperma cooperi (hardy ice plant) is an easy edger. This xeriscape plant grows in very poor, lean soil and thrives on heat.

I'm using this evergreen perennial to edge my walkway. I started this project two years ago with three plants. During the spring and summer, I pinch off sprigs and plant them along the walkway.

Planting is simple -- I just stick the sprig in a tiny hole that I poke in the soil. My little propagation projects are timed with rainfall so that I don't have to water the sprigs to get them to root. I usually do this just after a rain when the soil is moist. This is a lazy way to garden, and it works well. If you prefer, sow seeds of ice plant in the spring.

Hardy ice plant has shallow roots and can seed out. While I've not had a problem with aggressive or invasive behavior in my garden where most of the soil is rich and moist, it is possible in areas with a lot of dry, sandy soil.

I've seen ice plant growing in France and California in places where it probably wasn't supposed to be growing. This plant doesn't burn easily, so after a wildfire, it is a survivor that can seed and grow before native varieties can make a come back.

That said, I've also seen ice plant being used as an edger in gardens in those hot, dry areas. Therefore, it is always best to check the invasive list before growing a non-native. The origin of ice plant is South Africa.

Ice plant blooms in summer here in my zone 7 garden. It is rated for zones 6-9 in full sun with dry, sandy or rocky soil. The height is only 3-6 inches, making it a neat little edger. It cannot withstand foot traffic as the plant foliage is the consistency of aloe. It is deer and rabbit resistant.

The purple-pink flowers work well with many other colors in the garden, too. Since ice plant is so easy to propagate, I may be using this in a harsh, full sun site with salvia.

Photo and story by Freda Cameron
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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