Cool name, heat tolerant – the ice plant
The ice plant is an unusual succulent groundcover that can be grown in our area. This perennial plant is very heat-tolerant and makes a great addition to your plant palette. The ice plant was another item of interest that I found growing at the Nature Park in Punta Gorda. The beautiful flat green spreader is topped by florescent pink flowers with yellow centers making this plant a real conversation piece.
There are a number of species of ice plants, but the main one of interest here is in the genus Carpobrotus. Reminding you of its relative, the baby sun rose, Ice plants are originally from Africa and are adapted to desert-like areas. The literature indicates that this plant is called the “ice plant” because some species secrete calcium crystals on the leaves giving the plant a frosted appearance. The less than two-inch long leaves are evergreen, lance-shaped and succulent. These are attached oppositely on green, thick sprawling stems barely making the plant six to twelve inches in height. Ice plants are fairly fast-growing and aggressive although I could not find them on any lists or assessments denoting them as invasive in Florida. They just require a very sunny area with excellent drainage. Although drought-tolerant, they will benefit from occasional watering with sufficient time to dry out between irrigation. Too much water and poor drainage can result in root rots developing. Consider Including ice plants with other drought-tolerant plants that like similar conditions.
Almost reminding you of a cactus bloom, the flowers on ice plants develop regularly from spring through fall and are bright purple-pink with a yellow center. Although the ice plant is a great groundcover, consider also using it for rock gardens or for retaining walls where they can cascade over the edge. Plant about two-feet apart for best overage.
Ice plants are only occasionally available in box store garden centers. As such, check local family-run nurseries or even on-line for a better selection.
Stop by the Nature Park in Punta Gorda to see ice plants in the landscape. I am sure you will like them – they are really cool! For more information on all types of perennial flowering plants, or to ask a question, please visit https://www.facebook.com/CharlotteMGLifeline/ . Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gilman, E. F. (2014) Carpobrotus edulis Ice Plant. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Landre, C. (2011) Ice Plant (Sea Fig) https://www.south-florida-plant-guide.com/ice-plant.html .
Klingaman, G. (2013) Plant of the Week – Ice Plant. The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.
Wikipedia (2021) Carpobrotus edulis. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpobrotus_edulis.