All About Growing & Caring For Ice Plant (Delosperma)

What Would You like to Learn About Today?

Create a sea of low-growing sunny blooms with ice plant!

Hardy ice plant (Delosperma) is a flowering ground cover with glossy, succulent foliage and colorful frilled flowers. This perennial is truly carefree; it thrives in poor soils, isn’t bothered by deer, requires no pruning, and goes without constant watering. Plant in any well-drained garden with plenty of sunlight, like rock gardens or gravel, and watch your landscape light up with a sea of vibrant blooms. Here, we’ll show you how to grow and care for ice plants and answer frequently asked questions about this versatile ground cover.

Multi-colored ice plant blooms in orange, pink, and purple colors, lining along a garden hedge
Pictured above: Fire Spinner® Ice Plant

How to grow & care for ice plant (Delosperma):

There is no need to fuss with ice plants to achieve vibrant blooms. This powerful, low-growing perennial will thrive and spread in full sun, intense heat, periods of drought, and neglect! Just a few things to remember to keep your ice plants blooming reliably for many years.

  • Soil: Dry, well-drained soils in full sun. This plant will grow poorly or die in any soil that is not well-drained. Generally, avoid clay soils unless properly amended. Tolerates average to lean soils, including sandy and gravelly ones.
  • Light: Ice plants thrive in full sun (> 6 hours sun). Shade or even part sun will diminish flowering and foliage.
  • Water: Water lightly until established, then sparingly during the growing season. Plants have a good tolerance for heat and drought, in fact, they prefer it!
  • Fertilizing: No fertilization is required.
  • Winterizing: North of Zones 7, it is semi-evergreen and is not reliably winter hardy. Adding a light layer of mulch when temperatures drop below freezing should protect flowers and foliage from the snow. 
  • Maintenance & pruning: No pruning is needed. Once established, it can divide clumps in spring, or grow from stem cuttings. If foliage appears to be turning brown and dry, this may actually be a sign of root rot due to overwatering. To mitigate this, let soil fully dry out between sparse watering.
Close up image of pink ice plant
Pictured above: Pink Ice Plant

What are the benefits of ice plant in the garden?

These perennials can handle the heat

Not only do they produce colorful blooms through periods of intense high temperatures, but they also prefer it! This tough-as-nails succulent thrives in the heat, where many other flowers wilt and fade. Hailing from South Africa’s sunny shores, ice plants are adapted to high temperatures. The succulent foliage stores water, helping them easily weather dry spells putting on a dazzling display of blooms throughout the hottest months.

Vibrant color lasts all summer long

Ice plants are renowned for their long-lasting bloom times. They carpet your garden with cheery colors and succulent foliage from late spring through summer. Some varieties, like Fire Spinner® or pink ice plant, may even bloom through early fall or the first frost in warmer gardening zones!

A staple perennial in rock gardens

To make your landscaping more waterwise, create a rock garden! Rock gardens incorporate rocks, stones, and gravel (natural or manmade) as structural elements and then use plants to fill the nooks and crannies. Rock garden soil dries out very quickly, making Delosperma and other drought-tolerant plants like lewisia, fescue, stonecrop, and mangave excellent choices.

Holds strong on slopes & hillsides

Delosperma has strong roots that take hold of dry soil and build a dense mat of succulent foliage that anchors to the ground. Because its root system is fast to spread and take hold, ice plants can effectively stabilize the ground and prevent erosion alongside slopes, hillsides, and coastal areas. In states like California, ice plants were planted to stabilize the soil under newly constructed railroad tracks in the mid-1800s. It is essential to consider containing ice plant once they spread through your intended area to keep it from smothering native plants in the process.

A sea of ice plant blooms planted along a sunny hillside

Frequently asked questions about ice plant:

How fast does ice plant spread?

Ice plant is a fast-spreading perennial used for gardeners who need to cover a dry, sunny area with bright blooms and succulent foliage, and fast! One ice plant will typically double in size in’s first year, and its roots will spread by wind. During its second year, the ice plant can be expected to spread even further, choking out weeds in the process. Plant Delosperma at least 1ft apart to prevent overcrowding.

How do I keep ice plant dry in the winter?

If you live in a location with harsh winters, you can still grow and protect these heat- and sun-loving plants during colder zones. Cover your ice plants with mulch to keep them dry throughout the winter, or if you’re growing ice plants in containers, you can bring them inside or in a heated garage. Some ice plants, like Fire Spinner® or Ocean Sunset™, are more cold-tolerant than other varieties and hardy down to zone 5.

Is ice plant deer-resistant?

No need to worry about your nearly neon blooms getting destroyed; ice plants are exceptionally deer-resistant! Though they may not eat it, we can’t stop deer from walking on them. This shouldn’t worry you; these plants bounce back after some light traffic.

Can you grow ice plant in pots?

Yes, delosperma fills out pots and containers quite nicely! It will spread throughout the bottom of the container and fill in any gaps between perennials or shrubs with vibrant pinwheel-like flowers. Just be sure to pair with other full-sun plants that prefer dry soil, like lavender, tickseed, or even heat-loving mangave.

Is ice plant invasive in some states?

The ice plant is native to South Africa’s coast and is considered invasive in coastal California and northern Mexico. It has been shown to spread rapidly and easily choke out native plants along the coast north of Humboldt County to Baja California.

However, it is not considered invasive in other areas.

Shop ice plants for sale:

Wheels of Wonder® Hot Pink Wonder Ice Plant

Wheels of Wonder® Fire Wonder Ice Plant

Pink Ice Plant

Fire Spinner® Ice Plant

Kaleidoscope™ 'Razzle Dazzle' Ice Plant

Wheels of Wonder® Golden Wonder Ice Plant

Written by: Lindsey Griffith, click here to read bio.

Questions, comments, or concerns? Let us know! We have an experienced, knowledgeable staff ready to make sure your garden turns out perfect. Or check out our other blogs, here.