Lampranthus ice plants (Lampranthus spp.) are succulents that are either trailing, low-growing plants or erect-stemmed, short mounding plants. They have bright, showy, daisy-like flowers in colors of red, purple, white, orange and yellow primarily in late winter to spring. Native to Africa, there are over 100 species of Lampranthus. They are members of the ice plant family, or Aizoaceae, and other genera in this family are also commonly called ice plants. Used to cover slopes, in rockeries and succulent gardens, and as potted plants, Lampranthus are generally hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11, but this varies depending on the species.
Soil and Planting
Lampranthus thrive in well-drained, poor soils and are suitable for soils with a sandy or rocky texture, although they'll grow in almost any soil type. They tolerate exposure to salt and grow in coastal conditions. Plant rooted cuttings in spring after the possibility of frost has passed. Space the cuttings 6 to 24 inches apart for trailing species, using closer spacings for quicker coverage. Dig a hole just a little larger than the roots at the cutting's base. Put the roots in the hole, cover them with soil and tamp the soil firmly in place. For erect or mounding species, space them according to the mature dimensions for the particular species. For instance, "Orange Form" (Lampranthus aureus "Orange Form," USDA zones 9a through 11) grows 2 feet wide and tall, so space about 2 feet apart. "Pink Kaboom" (Lampranthus "Pink Kaboom," USDA zones 9a through 10b) is 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide.
Watering for Establishment
Water the plants immediately after planting, but then let the top inch of soil dry before watering again. Water the plants in this manner through the first spring and summer they are in place. They are drought-tolerant once established, when they will need watering only during extended dry periods.
Light and Other Considerations
Lampranthus need full sun to keep the growth from becoming leggy and for best flowering. They don't need fertilizing, as that causes overgrowth of softer, weaker branches. After plants flower, prune off the old flowers and any developing fruits. Lampranthus are short-lived perennials and may need replacement after several years.
For container Lampranthus, use a cactus and succulent potting mix. Containers need watering throughout the year whenever the top layer of soil dries out. Plants can grow almost year-round in mild climates. Prune as needed any time of year to keep the plant to size. Bring containers indoors before the first frost is predicted.
Cathryn Chaney has worked as a gardening writer since 2002. Her horticultural experience working in the nursery industry informs her garden articles, especially those dealing with arid landscaping and drought-tolerant gardening. Chaney also writes poetry, which has appears in "Woman's World" magazine and elsewhere. Chaney graduated from the University of Arizona in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.