The ice plant, also known as Lampranthus, produces attractive, daisylike flowers in shades of red, orange, yellow, pink, purple or cream, depending on the variety. This succulent perennial's common name refers to its blossoms, which seem to sparkle in the sun and cover the foliage completely. Originating from South Africa, ice plant performs well with only minimal care in many temperate areas of the world. The plant rarely reaches more than 2 feet in height with an unlimited spread, making it ideal for ground cover.
Site and Soil
Ice plant requires full sun or the flowers will not open. Indoors, the bright, direct light of a south- or west-facing window will suffice. Outdoors, the plant needs full sun throughout the day or, in hot climates, full morning sun and partial afternoon shade. Light, well-drained soil provides the best growing medium for ice plant. Plants grown in containers require high-quality potting soil combined with an equal amount of coarse sand to provide adequate drainage. Space outdoor plants at least 12 to 18 inches apart to allow room for growth, and grow indoor plants in containers with drainage holes in the bottom.
Ice plant adapts to a wide range of warm climates where winter frost is not a danger. In areas where temperatures drop below 36 degrees F, grow the plant indoors in a container to prevent cold damage. Temperatures in the range of 50 to 75 degrees F produce the best results, although ice plant will tolerate slightly higher or lower temperatures for short periods.
Watering and Fertilizing
Lampranthus requires very little supplemental watering after becoming established. A thorough soaking immediately after planting helps initiate new growth. After this initial application, water only during prolonged dry periods in summer, or whenever 2 weeks have passed without any natural rainfall. In winter, allow the soil to dry completely before watering again. Indoor plants benefit from watering once every 2 weeks throughout the year. Too much water results in crown or stem rot. Ice plant requires no supplemental fertilizing, as it flowers best in tough conditions.
Plants grown indoors usually require repotting once per year in early spring, just before new growth begins. In most cases, ice plant grows less vigorously in winter, so it's best to repot before this break ends. Outdoor plants benefit from mulching if winter temperatures drop below 50 degrees F. Apply a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch to the soil surrounding ice plant and remove when temperatures rise above 50 degrees again.
Gardeners often propagate ice plant from cuttings in spring or summer, although plants will grow from seed under the right conditions. If you take cuttings from a mature plant, let them dry out for several hours before potting to allow a protective skin to form over the cut ends. When placed in moist, sandy soil in filtered sunlight, the cuttings form roots very quickly. Once roots have formed, pot up the new plants or transfer them outdoors to a suitable location. Seeds germinate in a few days when placed in sandy, well-drained soil and kept in filtered light at 55 degrees F.