What is an Ice Plant?

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Ice plant also known as Ice fig is a native plant of South Africa. It grows in dry weather conditions due to which it is one of the best options for rock garden landscaping. It also thrives in coastal environments where the surroundings are salty. This plant loves summer and bears bright purple to magenta colored flowers resembling daisy. The leaves are green and succulent. That’s the reason why you can see them on the banks of sea shores, sunny walkway, and rock gardens where they add more color to the surrounding ambience. The plant requires dry and well drained soil for thriving.



What is the Classification of Ice plant?

  • Scientific Name: Delosperma cooperi
  • Genus: Delosperma
  • Family: Aizoaceae
  • Common Name: Ice plant
  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Growing Zones for Ice Plant: Hardy to zone 6



What are the different types of Ice plants?

Ice plants come in three different varieties:


  • Purple Hardy Ice Plant: It is the most common and popular plant of the ice plant family and is biologically known as Delosperma cooperi. It is regularly cultivated in nurseries for using it in dry areas as it is a drought resistant plant. The leaves are small and finger like and are jade green in color. When the sunlight falls on these leaves they sparkle as if small ice crystals are shining and hence it is known as ice plant. The flowers grow to 2 inches and are rosy purple to magenta in color. The flowers shine in bright sunlight as their petals contain reflective cells which give them neon sign like effect. The flowers start blooming during June and continue to blossom till the fall. The plants do not grow well in wet areas or in flowerbed with regular water supply. It grows profusely in ideal conditions and grows to a height of 6 inches and spreads up to 2 feet.
  • Yellow Hardy Ice Plant: This plant is biologically known as Delosperma nubigenum and simply resembles its name. The plant bears bright yellow flowers during the late spring for around a month and can survive temperature downfall as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit. It is more tolerant to wet soil than D.cooperi and is also comparatively smaller in size. Its leaves change to red color during the fall at their tip. The plant grows to a height of around 2 inches and spreads to a width of 3 feet.
  • Orange Ice Plant: It is prominently found in California as the ground cover lining the Golden State Highways. It is biologically termed as Lampranthus aurantiacus and is very different from Purple hardy and yellow hardy ice plants. The leaves of Orange ice plant are silver-green in color and bear yellow, orange and gold colored flowers in spring and late winter. It grows to a height of 10 inches and spreads to a width of 3 feet.



What are the planting requirements for the Ice plant?

It is an evergreen plant and although native to South Africa, it can grow easily in different planting zones from 5 to 9. This plant requires well drained soil for sustenance and if it is to be planted in clay soil, the cultivators should improvise the percolation by making soil amendments. Although it is a drought resistant plant, it needs occasional watering during extreme summer with superb drainage facility.


How was Soda prepared from Ice plant in the 19th Century?

Crystalline Ice plant and Common Ice plant are the two other names of Ice plant. At the start of 19th century, Ice plant was popularly used to prepare soda by drying it and burning it to produce 40 percent of sodium carbonate from its ashes. Since ice plants produced sodium carbonate in much higher quantity than other plants when burnt, it was preferred for making soda, especially in the neighboring islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. The climate in these areas is very hot and dry and highly conducive for the growth of Ice plant. The process of preparing soda from ice plant was stopped in the late 19th century when other techniques of soda making came into existence.


What are the uses of Ice plant?

Fresh Ice plant sap is used as a remedy to treat minor skin problems and is added to baths for refreshing skin. Its extract can be used to prepare ointments and creams for treating skin problems such as neurodermatitis and psoriasis. It is also used in cosmetics for protecting skin from the harmful UV rays and helps to heal and repair the damage done by sunburn.


What are the negative aspects of Ice plant?

Ice plants are known to invade the territory of other plants like grasslands and bluffs close to the oceans and  destroy the  local species. It holds the movement of sand soil which is very necessary for the growth of native plants growing in sandy dunes.


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