Excellent for ground cover and to add brightness to a rocky landscape, ice plant flowers are summer flowering plants that make an interesting sight. They can be seen in bright green succulent leaves and perky small flowers that range from bright pink to red, sometimes yellow to orange or purple flowers sprouting upright.
Ice plants belong to the Aizoaceae family, which consists of over 135 genera and about 1,900 species. However, not all are favored as ornamental garden plants. The ones that have ornamental value are the ones whose flowers are pretty to look at. Since ice plants can withstand difficult climatic conditions, they require relatively less maintenance as compared to other plants.
How to Plant and Grow Ice Plants
There are many varieties available under these species that grow, no more than six inches; hence, making them excellent for ground cover. Ice plants bloom all through summer to early fall. They can be grown just for their flowers or retained for ground covering foliage throughout the year. The smooth textured, succulent foliage are great for alpine and rock gardens.
Ice Plant Seeds
Ice plant seeds are available with local nurseries or one can harvest their own from last season's dried flowers. Once the flower begins to wilt, allow it to dry on the plant. The petals will fall to the ground exposing a seed pod. Let the seed pod dry completely on the plant itself; however, keep an eye as the seed pod may crack and seeds will fall to the ground. Being very tiny seeds, their retrieval will be difficult. Place a sheet of paper and break open the seed pod on it. Collect seeds, and lightly blow away the debris that comes with it. Store ice plant seeds in a clean jar and store in a dark dry place.
Planting Ice Plants
Start ice plant seeds indoors after the last frost date, and bring the seedlings out only after the weather becomes warm. To sow seeds, use light well draining moist soil, sprinkle seeds evenly and do not cover with soil. The seeds will sprout in a fortnight, transplant only when they have reached a six leaf stage. Most ice plant seeds are sowed directly in the intended location after the onset of summers.
Ice plants can also be propagated through woody stem cuttings in spring. Space plants between 9-12 inches. They are not soil-type fussy, they will grow in drought tolerant, arid dry soils, or with very little water. They do not like too much watering. Maintain soil pH between 6.1 to 7.8. Ice plants need full sun to bloom and will simply not open even in partial shade. Plant them in a location where they can be easily accessed from; being ground covers, make sure they are not stamped upon. They are mostly found growing in garden areas where traffic is minimal.
Caring for Ice Plants
Although hardy, they do need their amount of attention to thrive well. Full sun and 'just enough' watering is the start. Some have never found weeds growing around or in between the plant's spread. This has been attributed to the plant's invasive and competing for nutrient capacity that inhibits growth of other plants. Fertilizing is not needed, just some organic compost will do. The plant needs pruning, from getting too invasive or leggy. A hard prune or a complete pull out hardly makes a difference to its rigorous re-growth capacity.
Ice plants can be grown not only in flower beds, as edgings, as ground covers or between rocks and alpines, but even in pots and containers where they can trail down. Irrespective of where they are grown or not, ice plant care remains the same.