Its name may fool you but the Drosanthemum Floribundum, most commonly known as ice plant, is not all icy. Driven from the fact that the plant’s tiny hairs leaves, in many species, secrete small salt crystals which in bright light or reflected with light, look much like gleaming ice or may resemble ice crystals thus being named as such.
Ice plant mixes well with other desert-adapted plants as a filler in containers or as ground cover. From herbaceous to semi-woody, this wonderful plant is a short lived perennial, prostrate, and spreading to 6 inches high and out to some considerable length. Biologically, this succulent ground cover is most active during winter months with little growth occurring during the summer. Its stems can form adventitious roots upon contact with soil. Its leaves are small, greenish gray, nearly cylindrical with crystalline papillae which causes the ice crystals effect on the plant. Briallian masses of its flowers can be seen during late winter and spring. They bloom to ¾ inch wide in different colors such as yellow, purple, and red (being the most popular). Their fruits though are inconspicuous.
This beautiful plant is listed as one of the plants that will thrive in your Phoenix, Arizona landscape. Alongside Deer Grass, Wooly Butterfly Bush, and Blue Palo Verde, Phoenix Arizona’s climate is characterized by low to medium moisture during wet months and hot dry summers. Making it difficult for homeowners to choose which proper plants they can plant on their landscape. But, Arizona’s climate is perfect for nurturing an ice plant as it’s USDA hardiness zone comes to a 9-11. They are mostly tolerant to heat, being best grown under full sun. Be careful though they still experience heat stress in full sun/ exposure Phoenix locations during summer.
In Arizona, they are best grown on lower desert landscape soils that must be well drained. Ice plants cannot handle wet soil. Wet soil, especially during the winter months, can likely kill the plant. In areas where the soil stays consistently dry is the best place for planting the succulent. Once established, ice plants require little maintenance. Though it is a tough season succulent, the ice plant must still be irrigated occasionally during summer months to insure survival.
Though non-toxic to our furry friends, the ice plant, when poorly drained, can cause root rot. Root rot is a disease that attacks the roots of trees growing in wet or damp soil. Despite the summer heat, though tempting, water in moderation to prevent this from happening.
The ice plant has many other uses aside from being an attractive plant. It was originally used for erosion control and to compact loose coastal soils in Southern California. Homeowners today, who are planning or have planted this on their property, don’t know that they have been helping reduce erosion. This plant was also used for medicinal purposes.The gelatinous juice inside the plump ice plant leaves has been used for decades as an alternative style of medicine.