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Growing & Caring for Ice Plant Ground Cover

If you are looking for a vibrant way to fill up space in the garden, ice plants (Delosperma) are an easy to grow and prolific blooming ground cover option. Native to South Africa, these heat-loving perennials may draw a lot of attention in the landscape, but they thrive on some degree of neglect.

They are fast-growing and produce continuous bursts of bright, cheery, daisy-like blooms that make lovely additions to rock gardens, borders, containers, and ground covers.  These carpets of flowers are deer resistant and draw in the butterflies, bees, and other beneficial pollinators.

Follow our tips for growing and caring for ice plant ground cover and enjoy mounds of gorgeous color year after year!

Ice plants spilling over garden wall.

Ideal Soil Composition & pH for Growing Ice Plants

These vigorous plants thrive in poor to average, well-draining soil. Soil that is sandy, gravelly, and dry is optimal for ice plants. They will not succeed in moist or dense, claylike soil. Aim for pH-neutral soil upon planting.

Ice Plant Light & Temperature Requirements

Ice plants crave direct sunlight and thrive in hot, dry conditions. Plant them in an area that receives a minimum of 6-8 hours of full sun. If they do not receive enough sunlight where they are planted, they will stretch their stems out in search of it, often causing leggy and nonproductive plants.

Ice plants are easy and low maintenance, but they can be temperamental if the growing conditions are not optimal. Always check your ice plant variety for their recommended hardiness zones if you plan to grow the plant as a perennial, particularly if you are looking for a spreading ground cover.

  • Overall, Delesperma is mainly grown as an annual plant in Zones 4 and 5 and will have a better chance for perennial life in Zones 6 through 9.
  • Mulch them heavily in colder climates and stop feeding and watering in the fall for the best chance of overwintering.

How To Water Ice Plants

Ice plants are very drought-tolerant plants, and they need minimal watering. Assess the rainfall in your area and consider watering this low-maintenance ground cover only twice a month, more frequently if temperatures are really soaring.

Cease any watering as fall approaches and allow them to dry out. This will protect them when a hard frost hits during the winter months. Plants that are not allowed to enter into a dormancy period may succumb to winter temperatures.

Pink ice plant with bee in the middle.

Nutrients Needed for Growing Ice Plants

Growing ice plants won’t require much feeding. You might be surprised to learn that these vibrant and prolific bloomers can produce quite readily with no fertilization at all.

  • Upon planting, it can be beneficial to mix well-decomposed compost with your native soil and add a slow-release organic fertilizer before placing the plants into the ground.
  • Ice plants grown in planters may need more frequent feedings of fertilizer.
  • Never fertilize the plant into the fall months, as the plant needs to wither a bit to protect itself for winter.

Caring For Ice Plants: Pruning

As the plant starts to awaken in mid-spring, inspect the plant for any dried-up or winter-damaged foliage. These areas should be pruned from the plant.

Where to Grow & When to Plant Ice Plants

  • Growing ice plants is best done in sandy and gravelly soil, so rock gardens are a great place to plant them.
  • Ice plants make a dramatic statement on sunny slopes and hillsides.
  • Plant ice plants in an area where you don’t mind it spreading. It can be invasive and really take over.
  • For best success as a groundcover, plant individual plants 15-18 inches apart.
  • If growing as an annual, plant ice plants in a full sun container garden, where they will spill out over the planter’s edges in a display of vibrant color. They also make excellent border plants.
  • Get ice plants into the ground by mid-summer in colder regions, so plant root systems have a chance to establish themselves before winter.
  • If you live in hotter climates, plant ice plants in the fall.
Colorful ice plants in bright sunlight

Common Ice Plant Pests & Disease

Ice plants are relatively pest and disease-resistant plants. The most common issues for ice plants are pests like aphids and mealybugs. Should you encounter these pests, they can be easily knocked off of plants with a strong spray of water from the hose.

Recommended Varieties of Ice Plants to Grow

Delosperma comes in a wide array of varieties that produce a large spectrum of vibrant colors that spread vigorously. Varieties are cold-hardy, provided they are allowed to dry out throughout the winter. Mix and match your plantings for a breathtaking rainbow of color in your landscape.

  • Wheels of Wonder Hot Pink‘ – Produces an abundance of vibrant pink blooms.
  • Jewels of the Desert Peridot‘ – Produces carpets of bright-yellow blooms and white centers.
  • Red Mountain Flame‘- Produces mounds of garnet red-colored blooms.
  • Stardust‘ – Produces firework-like blooms of purple petals with white centers.

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Ice plants growing on stone wall
Close up of pink ice plant.

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