Planting Ice Plants, if and when

kodozAugust 10, 2005

We have a strip of marginal ground between our turf (which we'll eventually convert to mostly xeri) and chip-sealed road. Basically it's a mix of sandy soil with gravel spilled over from the road. Weeding it is a painful task (welcome to puncture vine country), the alternative being regular visits from the county's herbicide-filled truck. We'd like to get something on the ground quickly to reduce the weed growth; grass is not an option. We've sterilized the ground (solarization) and put on a light coating of a pre-emergent (it's compatible with ice plants) to stave off the weeds until we can get something else in place.

Ice plants look like a good choice (tolerate direct blazing sun and drought, and survive marginal but well-drained soil). Since it's a large area we'd be starting from seed, and given that the county is liable to dump a load of gravel on that patch at any time, low maintenance and cost are key. We're in eastern Washington (intermountain, low desert with hot dry summers, zone 6a "winters").

--Anyone with experience with this species: are they really as hardy as advertised? Don't mind coddling them while they're getting established, but having to soak them regularly or if they don't thrive we'll be left with the same mess.

--How long do we have to wait to seed? Can we start now (daytime temps will be in the 90-100s for 1-2 more months probably) or should we wait until temps come down (nights, fortunately, have been mild)? Or do we have to wait for an early spring seeding?


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I know very little about the details of growing the plant but in our desert it handles heat very well and it will appreciate good drainage. Our drainage is terrible and a major cause of it's demise.

Good Day ....

    Bookmark   August 10, 2005 at 11:14PM
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sjv78736(austin texas)

i love my ice plant! i started with one small $2 plant and it is in all those once-bare patches now. i snip off a runner from the mother plant and scratch up enuff dirt to stick the starter at least 1/2" into the ground and water every day or so with liquified seaweed for about a mo. then only water it once, maybe twice a month after that. it grows! i have the one that has a fuschia bloom, it doesnt get as leggy as the yellow while establishing. i have done this even during 100 temps and drought, tho i wouldnt recommend it. I have also done this with hispanicum, blue spruce, and mexicana sedums - they give better weed control quicker, will tolerate all the direct sun given them. in areas where the ice plant gets some tlc or shade in late afternoon and a little more moisture, it becomes very lush.
if i had to cover a large area quickly, i would locate a sedum hispanicum in a one gal container; cut it up into 1 1/2-2" sections; soak it all in a bucket 6-8 hrs in liquified seaweed mixed 12 oz (whatever the smaller size is - 'Maxcrop') in a five gal bucket; spread it around the area just like seeds, just before sundown; and spray it in, spray it every day for a week, every other day for a week and then once a week for the rest of the first growing season - you do not need to soak the ground, simply get the surface ground moist. in about one week you will start to see the sections growing hair (roots). the stuff is amazing! in late winter/early spring it will be covered in tiny star shaped blooms. white w/hispanicum and blue spruce, yellow w/mexicana. it will grow profusely with next to no care. if you fertilize at half strength (i use miracle gro) once a month as soon as it begins blooming til may and again sept-oct you will be greatly rewarded. it is my understanding that these sedums grow in rocky, dry mountainous areas. i gave an established containered hispanicum a hair cut in march, it produced about 2 lbs worth of sections, i used the method i described to you and tossed into a 3X10 raised bed for ground cover. i watered once a week thru may, 2X/mo since and today the bed is covered. incidentally, i gave the mexicana a haircut at the same time and clumped patches of it here and there amongst the hispanicum, i cant wait for the show in late feb/early mar! while this plant is a fast grower, i do not consider it to be invasive as it is very easy to trim or contain.
hope this helps some. happy gardening!


btw - dont waste that leftover seaweed - you can use it on any plant w/o harming it...tho, it will not hurt at that strength, i would go ahead and dilute to regular strength just to get your money's worth - or use at that 'heavy' strength for any other stressed plants - or use a garden sprayer and give that sedum an extra boost!

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    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 7:58AM
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raybccul(z9 Southern CA)

Kodoz: I'd like to add a little to sjv78736's post. Ice Plant is very common as a groudcover here in southern california and I've found it to be so hardy as to be practically indestructable. What 'sjv' says is true, all you need to do is snip off a sprig and remove the leaves from a couple joints and plant it. Moderate water is all it requires to grow like mad.

Personally I didn't care much for the color and texture of the standard ice plant so we've replaced much of ours with a variety called Candy Apple. A quick search reveals the official name Aptenia cordifolia (see the link below). It's a much richer green with small red flowers and it's just as hardy. Good Luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Candy Apple (heartleaf) Iceplant.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2005 at 6:42PM
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sjv78736(austin texas)

oh, oh! raybccul! thank you so much for that link!!! i have been looking for the correct name for my ice plant! and it was here at GW all along. LOL. i, too, prefer this variety (and for the same reasons) to standard ice plant.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2005 at 1:59PM
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terran(zone10/Sunset20 CA)

Candy Apple Ice Plant is listed as an invasive in CA. If you can keep it contained, I suppose it is OK, but it climbs into trees, over rocks, and through the crown of shrubs. I've been tearing it out and composting, or burying it with abandon and still have tons of the plant. It can be a weed.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2005 at 9:05PM
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scrub_sage(9b So. Calif.)

I'd not recommend ice plant because there are better choices. In our most recent home, previous owners covered a large dry slope in "Candy Apple" ice plant with a row of oleanders at the top edge. Neighbors to the left have the same plants. Neighbors to the right have these same plants. These invasive non-natives have been removed from our yard and replaced with natives. Perhaps you could use low Coyote Bush groundcovers such as "Pigeon Point" instead of ice plant. Nectar of Coyote Bush is used by many of our native insects and butterflies. Ice plant, on the other hand, attracts snails.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2005 at 2:00AM
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We have a small iceplant on a front slope that when in bloom looks like a patchwork quilt. the problem...after blooming it looks green just dead looking sticks and dry flowers. Is it dead? If not am I supposed to do something??

    Bookmark   June 17, 2007 at 5:03PM
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We recently vacationed in San Francisco, and this beautiful plant was all over a hill by our hotel. I broke off a piece, put it in a ziplock with a washcloth and water, and checked it in my luggage. I put it in a glass of water at home, and it rooted! Just planted it 2 days ago, and didn't know what the name was. We had a friend over for dinner, and he immediately recognized it as iceplant, and said while living in California, he hated it! He said it took over, and was out of control! Go figure! lol! I think it's beautiful, and I'm keeping it in a pot indoors. I knew it had to be hardy to survive all I put it through!
Another thing I loved in California were the rosemary bushes that were EVERYWHERE! I love the smell of rosemary! I just planted some this past weekend to enjoy this summer, but that's all I'll get out of it here in Kentucky!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2009 at 6:25AM
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petzold6596(8b southern NM)

How about using native wild flowers for the area. They grow in the most inhospitable environs. Contact your state highway dept. for a list of plants they use for roadside reclamation.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 8:46PM
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