by David Salman

Delosperma_Fire_Spinner-web
Delosperma Fire Spinner

I've been in the greenhouse business long enough to remember when Purple Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi) was first introduced to the gardening community in the early 1990's by Panayoti Kelaidis of Denver Botanic Garden. It was a groundbreaking new plant introduction, the first of its genus to be discovered as cold hardy. This beautiful plant was a huge hit with Front Range Colorado gardeners. We now have many outstanding cold hardy ice plant selections to enjoy and their use as succulent groundcovers has extended well beyond Colorado.

Ice Plants are native to Africa, with the best cold-hardy species originating from South Africa's lofty Drakensberg Mountains, mountains of the Western Cape and the cold plateaus of the Great Karoo desert. And thanks to the continuing efforts of Mr. Kelaidis and Colorado's Plant Select plant introduction program, the cultivars now available provide a wide range of colors from which to choose, including yellow, orange, purple, scarlet, pink, magenta, bi-color and many colors in between. For those interested in providing garden habitat for pollinators, Delosperma are an exceptional nectar sources for honeybees.

Where Ice Plants Grows Best

Ice Plants are most reliably perennial in the drier, less humid climates of the western US. Delosperma tend to be annuals in cold, wet zone 4 and 5 climates like Madison, Chicago and Cincinnati, but will be longer lived in the zone 6-8 areas of the Appalachian mountains and Eastern Seaboard. (Remember that many drought tolerant plants are one or two zones less cold hardy in wetter climates.) It should be mentioned that in regions where Ice Plants are annuals in the ground, they should be used as container plants as they are fast growing and colorful when cascading over the edges of their pots.

Delosperma-ashtonii-Blut-Delosperma-nubigenum-in-Santa-Fe-garden-web
Delosperma nubigenum and Delosperma Blut in a Santa Fe garden

Cultural Advice for Healthy Ice Plants

The keys to successful cultivation of Delosperma are as follows:

  • Plant them in a sunny spot with fast draining soil. Sandy, sandy loam or gravelly soils are best. In drier climates, garden loam is fine, but avoid clay in all regions.
  • Plant by mid-summer in colder climates to establish themselves for winter. Fall planting is recommended in hot summer climates of the Southwest US.
  • Water them regularly (weekly) during the heat of the summer, as Delosperma come from areas of South Africa that get summer rains.
  • But keep them dry over the winter months. In regions where snow stays on the ground over winter, I recommend covering the plants with a piece of row crop cover (frost blanket) to keep their foliage and crowns dry.
  • Ice Plants love gravel mulch and do best when the stems grow over the top of the gravel which keeps their roots moist and their leaves and stems dry (by not sitting in contact with wet soil over the winter). Other fast drying mulch materials like pine needles or medium textured bark chips are also suitable.
  • Let them dry out in the fall by stopping or greatly curtailing their irrigation. They need to shrink down and harden off for the cold winter to come. Lush, actively growing plants in late fall often are killed by the first hard frost.
  • Prune out any winter-damaged stems in mid-spring.
  • Only fertilize once in the fall using organic or natural fertilizers. Ice plants are very prone to winter kill when fertilized frequently during the growing season as they keep growing into the fall and stay plump with water in their leaves.
  • To cover larger areas with Ice Plants, space new transplants 15-18" apart (closer for smaller rock garden varieties) with a minimum of soil preparation. A handful of Yum Yum Mix and a little compost in each planting hole is enough.
Delosperma-Alans-Apricot_Alan-Tower-web
New for spring 2016: Delosperma Alan's Apricot
Recommended Varieties

New! Delosperma 'Alan's Apricot'- 2016 Plant Select winner. A new hybrid introduced by Alan Tower of Denver, CO is long blooming and very cold hardy. Possibly the most cold hardy next to D. congestum , D. nubiginum and 'Lesotho Pink'. The plant blooms all summer with large pink-fading-to-apricot flowers. Some afternoon shade shows off the pastel colored flower best.

Delosperma dyeri Red Mountain® Flame -2015 Plant Select® winner. This is my introduction that I discovered in a batch of seed grown Delosperma dyeri plants that had accidentally hybridized with an unknown variety. The large scarlet-orange flowers cover the plant beginning in mid-spring for about 4 weeks. This selection is reliably cold hardy to zone 6. I'm not kidding when I recommend sunglasses for viewing the brilliant flowers in the mid-day sun. Flame has excellent heat tolerance and is recommended for hotter, drier planting sites.

Delosperma_dyeri_Red_Mountain_Flame-HBLM921-web_
Delosperma dyeri Red= Mountain Flame

Delosperma ashtonii 'Blut' - The very best long blooming selection that covers its dark green, slightly flattened leaves with a blanket of dark magenta flowers. The handsome foliage is reliably evergreen and it turns a nice plum color over the winter months for additional ornamental interest. Good cold hardiness and xeric, this is an exceptionally long lived ice plant. Discovered by nurseryman Kelly Grummons of Arvada, CO.

Delosperma-Lavender-Ice-Delosperma-species
Delosperma Lavender Ice

Delosperma Lavender Ice - 2009 Plant Select® - A wonderful, long blooming selection that covers itself with huge pastel lavender-pink flowers for much of the growing season. I recommend mixing 'Lavender Ice' with 'Blut' and other magenta or pink flowered ice plants to show off its superb flowers. The reliably evergreen foliage turns purplish in color over the winter. Introduced by Perennial Favorites Nursery in Rye, CO.

Delosperma sp. 'Lesotho Pink' - I selected this superb variety from seed collected at an elevation of 11.000 ft. in the high peaks of Lesotho (the mountainous, landlocked country in the middle of South Africa). The bright green foliage forms a tight growing, mat that covers itself in early to mid-spring with a carpet of bright pink flowers. Very cold hardy, this is often the first of the cold hardy Ice Plants to bloom in spring. Does best at higher elevations and areas with cooler summers; not a good choice for hot climates. Needs water in the summer heat.

Delosperma Fire Spinner® - 2012 Plant Select® winner. The flowers of Fire Spinner® are an incendiary combination of orange and purple that cover the plant in late spring. A big planting of it will be the highlight of your late spring garden. Note: Fire Spinner® should not be planted in regions with warm winter weather, as it will not chill the plant sufficiently to flower. Best flowering occurs in zones 5-8.

Text and Photos by Founder and Chief Horticulturist David Salman.

© All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without written permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.

Learn how to grow and care for Ice Plant (Delosperma)

by David Salman

I've been in the greenhouse business long enough to remember when Purple Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi) was first introduced to the gardening community in the early 1990's by Panayoti Kelaidis of Denver Botanic Garden. It was a groundbreaking new plant introduction, the first of its genus to be discovered as cold hardy. This beautiful plant was a huge hit with Front Range Colorado gardeners. We now have many outstanding cold hardy ice plant selections to enjoy and their use as succulent groundcovers has extended well beyond Colorado.

Ice Plants are native to Africa, with the best cold-hardy species originating from South Africa's lofty Drakensberg Mountains, mountains of the Western Cape and the cold plateaus of the Great Karoo desert. And thanks to the continuing efforts of Mr. Kelaidis and Colorado's Plant Select plant introduction program, the cultivars now available provide a wide range of colors from which to choose, including yellow, orange, purple, scarlet, pink, magenta, bi-color and many colors in between. For those interested in providing garden habitat for pollinators, Delosperma are an exceptional nectar sources for honeybees.

Where Ice Plants Grows Best

Ice Plants are most reliably perennial in the drier, less humid climates of the western US. Delosperma tend to be annuals in cold, wet zone 4 and 5 climates like Madison, Chicago and Cincinnati, but will be longer lived in the zone 6-8 areas of the Appalachian mountains and Eastern Seaboard. (Remember that many drought tolerant plants are one or two zones less cold hardy in wetter climates.) It should be mentioned that in regions where Ice Plants are annuals in the ground, they should be used as container plants as they are fast growing and colorful when cascading over the edges of their pots.

Cultural Advice for Healthy Ice Plants

The keys to successful cultivation of Delosperma are as follows:

  1. Plant them in a sunny spot with fast draining soil. Sandy, sandy loam or gravelly soils are best. In drier climates, garden loam is fine, but avoid clay in all regions.
  2. Plant by mid-summer in colder climates to establish themselves for winter. Fall planting is recommended in hot summer climates of the Southwest US.
  3. Water them regularly (weekly) during the heat of the summer, as Delosperma come from areas of South Africa that get summer rains.
  4. But keep them dry over the winter months. In regions where snow stays on the ground over winter, I recommend covering the plants with a piece of row crop cover (frost blanket) to keep their foliage and crowns dry.
  5. Ice Plants love gravel mulch and do best when the stems grow over the top of the gravel which keeps their roots moist and their leaves and stems dry (by not sitting in contact with wet soil over the winter). Other fast drying mulch materials like pine needles or medium textured bark chips are also suitable.
  6. Let them dry out in the fall by stopping or greatly curtailing their irrigation. They need to shrink down and harden off for the cold winter to come. Lush, actively growing plants in late fall often are killed by the first hard frost.
  7. Prune out any winter-damaged stems in mid-spring.
  8. Only fertilize once in the fall using organic or natural fertilizers. Ice plants are very prone to winter kill when fertilized frequently during the growing season as they keep growing into the fall and stay plump with water in their leaves.
  9. To cover larger areas with Ice Plants, space new transplants 15-18" apart (closer for smaller rock garden varieties) with a minimum of soil preparation. A handful of Yum Yum Mix and a little compost in each planting hole is enough.
Delosperma nubigenum and Delosperma Blut in a Santa Fe garden

Recommended Varieties

New! Delosperma 'Alan's Apricot'- 2016 Plant Select winner. A new hybrid introduced by Alan Tower of Denver, CO is long blooming and very cold hardy. Possibly the most cold hardy next to D. congestum , D. nubiginum and 'Lesotho Pink'. The plant blooms all summer with large pink-fading-to-apricot flowers. Some afternoon shade shows off the pastel colored flower best.

Delosperma dyeri Red Mountain® Flame -2015 Plant Select® winner. This is my introduction that I discovered in a batch of seed grown Delosperma dyeri plants that had accidentally hybridized with an unknown variety. The large scarlet-orange flowers cover the plant beginning in mid-spring for about 4 weeks. This selection is reliably cold hardy to zone 6. I'm not kidding when I recommend sunglasses for viewing the brilliant flowers in the mid-day sun. Flame has excellent heat tolerance and is recommended for hotter, drier planting sites.

Delosperma Alan's ApricotDelosperma Alan's Apricot
New for spring 2016: Delosperma Alan's Apricot

Delosperma ashtonii 'Blut' - The very best long blooming selection that covers its dark green, slightly flattened leaves with a blanket of dark magenta flowers. The handsome foliage is reliably evergreen and it turns a nice plum color over the winter months for additional ornamental interest. Good cold hardiness and xeric, this is an exceptionally long lived ice plant. Discovered by nurseryman Kelly Grummons of Arvada, CO.

Delosperma Lavender Ice - 2009 Plant Select® - A wonderful, long blooming selection that covers itself with huge pastel lavender-pink flowers for much of the growing season. I recommend mixing 'Lavender Ice' with 'Blut' and other magenta or pink flowered ice plants to show off its superb flowers. The reliably evergreen foliage turns purplish in color over the winter. Introduced by Perennial Favorites Nursery in Rye, CO.

Delosperma sp. 'Lesotho Pink' - I selected this superb variety from seed collected at an elevation of 11.000 ft. in the high peaks of Lesotho (the mountainous, landlocked country in the middle of South Africa). The bright green foliage forms a tight growing, mat that covers itself in early to mid-spring with a carpet of bright pink flowers. Very cold hardy, this is often the first of the cold hardy Ice Plants to bloom in spring. Does best at higher elevations and areas with cooler summers; not a good choice for hot climates. Needs water in the summer heat.

Delosperma Fire Spinner® - 2012 Plant Select® winner. The flowers of Fire Spinner® are an incendiary combination of orange and purple that cover the plant in late spring. A big planting of it will be the highlight of your late spring garden. Note: Fire Spinner® should not be planted in regions with warm winter weather, as it will not chill the plant sufficiently to flower. Best flowering occurs in zones 5-8.

Text and Photos by Founder and Chief Horticulturist David Salman.

Delosperma dyeri Red Mountain FlameDelosperma dyeri Red Mountain Flame
Delosperma dyeri Red Mountain Flame
Delosperma Lavender IceDelosperma Lavender Ice
Delosperma Lavender Ice

Shop Delosperma

  1. Red Delosperma Jewel of the Desert Garnet, Delosperma Jewel of the Desert Garnet, Garnet Dwarf Iceplant

    Delosperma Jewel of the Desert Garnet is dwarf hybrid Ice plant with a profusion of eye catching, dime sized flowers of scarlet and lavender. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant...

    Learn More
    Jewel of Desert Garnet Ice Plant Jewel of Desert Garnet Dwarf Ice Plant Delosperma Jewel of Desert Garnet
    As low as $8.99
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Delosperma Jewel of the Desert Garnet is dwarf hybrid Ice plant with a profusion of eye catching, dime sized flowers of scarlet and lavender. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
    Learn More
  2. Delosperma cooperi, Cooper's Hardy Ice Plant

    Delosperma cooperi (Coopers Hardy Ice Plant) is covered with large magenta-pink flowers for much of the summer. A perfect groundcover where easy-care, high color is on the wish-list....

    Learn More
    Cooper's Hardy Ice Plant Cooper's Hardy Ice Plant Delosperma cooperi
    As low as $6.99
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Delosperma cooperi (Coopers Hardy Ice Plant) is covered with large magenta-pink flowers for much of the summer. A perfect groundcover where easy-care, high color is on the wish-list. It grows vigorously, creating a succulent carpet of color.
    Learn More
  3. Jewel of Desert® Peridot Ice Plant (Delosperma) with lemon-yellow open blooms

    A gorgeous ground-covering solution for your driest, sunniest spots, Jewel of Desert Peridot Ice Plant (Delosperma) is a long-blooming perennial that shines in two-toned color from l...

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    Jewel of Desert® Peridot Ice Plant Jewel of Desert® Peridot Ice Plant Delosperma Jewel of Desert® Peridot
    As low as $8.99
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    A gorgeous ground-covering solution for your driest, sunniest spots, Jewel of Desert Peridot Ice Plant (Delosperma) is a long-blooming perennial that shines in two-toned color from late spring until early fall. Bright yellow blossoms with white centers cover the succulent green foliage. This plant will thrive as long as conditions are dry. Peridot is great for waterwise rock gardens, green roofs, and attractive erosion control. (Delosperma)
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  4. Granita ® Raspberry Ice Plant, Delosperma Granita Raspberry flowers close up

    Granita Raspberry Ice Plant (Delosperma Granita Raspberry) is a hybrid Ice Plant that blooms in late spring with stunning raspberry-red flowers. The plant is very cold hardy with eve...

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    Granita® Raspberry Ice Plant Granita® Raspberry Ice Plant Delosperma Granita® Raspberry
    As low as $8.99 Sale $8.09
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Granita Raspberry Ice Plant (Delosperma Granita Raspberry) is a hybrid Ice Plant that blooms in late spring with stunning raspberry-red flowers. The plant is very cold hardy with evergreen stems and foliage.
    Learn More
  5. Delosperma Granita® Orange, Granita® Orange Iceplant

    Granita® Orange Cold Hardy Ice Plant (Delosperma) blooms in mid- to late spring with stunning pure orange flowers which sit right on top of its tidy mat of evergreen foliage....

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    Granita® Orange Ice Plant Granita® Orange Cold Hardy Ice Plant Delosperma Granita® Orange
    As low as $8.99
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Granita® Orange Cold Hardy Ice Plant (Delosperma) blooms in mid- to late spring with stunning pure orange flowers which sit right on top of its tidy mat of evergreen foliage.
    Learn More

© All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without written permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.