Trailing Iceplant; aka,
Hardy Iceplant, or
a glamorous succulent
"Though all the Gods their garlands shower,
I too may bring one purple flower."
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
Though Trailing Iceplant (Delosperma cooperi) is hardy on Puget Sound, it is from hot & dry South Africa, & it will succumb to heavy watering.
To remain cold-hardy it requires maximum drainage. They're a good choice for neglectable container gardening. Ours grew originally along the top of a stacked-stone ledge that got maximum drainage, & hooboy were they ever happy.
But they were growing near a collection of Lewisia cotyledons which appreciate the same sharply draining soil & almost-never-watered conditions. Lewisias don't spread rapidly, so the Iceplant needed very often to be weeded back or it would overwhelm the Lewisias. After weeding them back, & tossing handsful a little distance away, the succulent leaves resting amidst weeds on packed soil took root & started speading in new areas, teaching me to be more careful about discarding extra iceplant pieces.
In 2003 I made the decision to move the by-then extensive area of iceplant, as it was too much a threat to the lewisias. When spading big clumps of this succulent, it was interesting to see the extensive thick white root system.
The shock of the move made it look scruffy for a while, but by May & June of the following year, it had adjusted to its new location & was spreading like mad. It now has lots of room over which to run amock.
Its fleshy finger-like leaves rapidly form an excellent groundcover outcompeting even the most aggressive weeds. In some warmer climates such as in California it is an invasive weed, but in the coastal Northwest it is restrained because it cannot spread into wet areas.
I've learned to be careful where I toss the weeded bits of the Trailing Iceplant. It's apt to take root wherever a fistfull of succulent leaves are dropped. Stuffing weeded bits into gallon pots of soil means there's always something to hand I can give away to visitors who'd like to return home with an easy plant.
Because Puget Sound lacks harsh winters, Trailing Iceplant is evergreen to semi-evergreen here. Even in climates where it dies back from cold, it will return in spring, so long as it does not experience too many wet winter days, which will cause the dormant roots to rot. It is also tolerant of salt spray conditions for coastal gardens.
As if the succulent foliage weren't pleasing enough, it produces flowers galore. And such flowers! They are a shining-bright pink-purple, rather daisy-like or aster-like, with a sheen verging on metallic.
Every evening they fold up their blossoms, & open again when the sun is high. It begins with a few flowers in May, then by June it is thickly covered with blossoms. These don't let up even a little until October!
At Autumn's end when there are no more flowers, it is not even then finished showing off. The succulent leaves put on an autumn show of color, as the fat green fingers turn golden yellow with flushes of pink at their tips.
The species was named for the English botanist & bold plant explorer Thomas Cooper, who studied & collected plants in the mid to late 1800s in Zulu territory & in the Drakensberg Mountains, eastern South Africa. Other South African plants that bare his name include Aloe cooperi, Cyathea cooperi, Haworthia cooperi, Ledebouria cooperi & so on.
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