Covering the ground with a solid mass of brilliant fuchsia-purple flowers, Hardy Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi) demands a second look. The succulent green leaves glimmer in the sun, giving the plant its common name, while the flowers have glistening thin petals surrounding a yellow center. Waves of bloom carpet the foliage from late spring until late summer. The show even continues in winter, when plants turn a deep burgundy-red. Other species of Delosperma, with yellow or salmon-pink flowers, are also now available.
Hardy Ice Plant is very easy to grow in full sun. Well-drained soil is essential; the roots will rot if kept constantly damp. If rainfall is inadequate, add enough water to thoroughly moisten the root zone, then let dry completely before watering again. Fertilize sparingly. Plants should survive temperatures to -20° F. New plants may be started from cuttings, or buy plugs at a garden center.
With it’s ground-hugging habit, ice plant is well-suited for rock gardens, where it will spill over ledges and grow into crevices. Give it room to spread; you may have to restrain it occasionally. It’s also an excellent groundcover for small-to-medium areas, particularly next to walkways. Consider companions with gray foliage that won’t compete with Delosperma’s intense flower colors—or look for equally vivid flowers in complementary hues.
Article and photos by Leslie Holzmann, Certified Colorado Gardener.