Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Northern Climate Ice Plants

Ice plants sound like something that should grow in our northern short-season garden, don't they? Actually, most of these plants are succulents associated with hot areas, yet I've had success with a few of them. The "ice" refers to the glistening appearance of salt crystals secreted by the leaves of these plants of largely African origin.
My alpine garden, with ice plant at center:

I have three types of iceplants, though the common name doesn't really distinguish between the great diversity of "ice plants". This year, I grew several Mesembryanthemum criniflorum from seed (bought from Thompson & Morgan). This was a bit difficult to do on my light shelf, because the plants are sprawling and limp and tend to rot if the foliage gets wet (when the plant sprawls into the drip-tray I keep under my pots). Outdoors though, they have a more upright and robust appearance.

These plants are naturalized along the California coast, and I have fond memories of running around barefoot on these when I was a kid. We loved the sensation; it was something like walking on tiny pickles. This plant won't survive the winter here, however. I wonder if I can keep some cuttings indoors though?
First flower of Mesembryanthemum- a bit deformed and squarish:

I was inspired to try these annual flowers after rooting some cuttings of an "ice plant" in Arizona last winter. I think one of the plants I saw in Arizona was actually Malephora crocea, the "Copper Ice Plant". It was very easy to root from cuttings and had beautiful flowers that opened when the sun was shining. My legacy in my parent's Arizona yard will be an expanse of ice plants, though I hear the rabbits are good at keeping them under control.

The two other (and perennial) plants are Delosperma nubigenum and Delosperma deleeuwiae. At first I was impressed with the dense mat of yellow flowers that D. nubigenum makes in June and July, though I'm even more happy with D. deleevwiae, because it spreads its purple blooms over the entire summer. Both have nice pebble-like succulent foliage that spreads to form a dense, shiny mat that looks good all year round.
Delosperma nubigeum in July of this year:

Delosperma deleeuwiae in late August:

I got the D. deleeuwiae from Wrightman's alpines, if you're looking to get one for yourself. D. nubigenum sails through our winters without any problems (its foliage just turns reddish), so I imagine that D. deleeuwiae might do the same.


Rosey Pollen said...

The pink Delosperma you mentioned do well in my garden, I think I need more!
I did not know why they were called "ice" plants, thanks for the info!
I want to try some of those other succulents you mentioned as well.
And less watering. YEAH!

Clayton said...

Your pictures and planting are always inspiring! My certainly need organization. And I am losing track of whose who!
Way to go.

jack said...

Mind Blowing Blog!!!!! I like this blog very much.....I especially like this particular post.This show is very fabulous and awesome. I love it very much...I Watch Nothern Exposure show last night....

easygardener said...

I can grow Mesembryanthums as annuals but Delosperma always fail as they get eaten by slugs or snails. Why I can't imagine as the leaves don't look very tempting. I do like the intense colours of the flowers on both plants.

Sigrun said...

The perennial ice plants winter in your zone? I've never tried them because they are rated zone 4 or 5. And I'm lucky enough to be in zone 2b-3. They are so pretty.